Hari Dhillon moved to London from LA to play smooth-talking consultant Michael Spence in Holby City. It was a stroke of luck that changed his life.
How did you get the role in Holby City?
I ran into a casting director walking in the street in London and she mentioned I might be right for something in Holby City. However, I was living back in America and about to fly home. I sent a tape over from the States and the next day I got a call asking if I was interested. It was crazy, me and my wife Lara were about to have a child and the writers’ strike was going on in America so she said, 'If we’re not working in this city we’ve got to get out'. So, out of nowhere, this beautiful stroke of luck kind of picked me up. I was like, 'Yes please, thank you'.
Your daughter Arya is three-and-a-half, do you consider London home now?
Lara, my partner, also asked me that. I’m happy here, although I’m sure at some point my time here will finish and I’ll have to go back to LA to work. I feel very comfortable in California, and also in India where I lived for a year when I was younger.
Is your daughter showing any signs of following in your acting footsteps?
I hope not! I’ve all of a sudden become like my dad, the Indian parent – dancing is for playtime, not for a lifetime! But she’s certainly loud enough and she’s got a sense of humour.
What’s been your personal experience of doctors and hospitals?
I’ve been lucky so far, touch wood. My father’s had two or three major operations and a stroke so I’ve experienced it on an American level, but it’s a very different system to here. When my daughter was born I’d take her to the GP. He would write a prescription for me to take to the pharmacy and I couldn’t believe you didn’t have to pay! We had private insurance when we first arrived, but then I realised it was ridiculous and there was no point. People have their problems with the NHS, but I’ve nothing but good things to say about my experience.
Did you have a career in America before becoming an actor?
Yeah, for a while after I left university I worked as an Aids educator in prisons and juvenile detention centres in California and Hawaii. The California penal system’s not the world’s kindest place and Hawaii has lots of juvenile detention centres. After a year I definitely burnt out and I knew I couldn’t do it any more. I was too young.
What’s your view of Michael Spence?
He has a self-destructive perverse streak in him and his world is limited in a way. He knows his work and his family, and if you took one of those things away, you would cut out half of his personality. There’s not much outside of that. He’s very muscular in his medical intellect but his emotional depth, or range, has almost withered. He’s learning life's lessons late and in a hard way.
By Mary Comerford