If you’ve been watching This Is Going To Hurt on BBC One, you’ll already know that 26-year-old actress Ambika Mod is going to be a huge star. Adapted from Adam McKay’s bestselling memoir of the same name, it's a devastating yet fascinating insight into the reality of working on the NHS frontline. Ambika stars as Shruti, a junior doctor working under Dr Kay (Ben Whishaw) on a busy obs and gynae ward. Overworked and under an enormous amount of pressure, Ambika’s powerful portrayal of Shruti has been universally praised by viewer and critics alike.
As the series has unfolded, we’ve watched Shruti battle to find her feet, revise for exams and struggle with her mental health, all while caring for her patients and facing gruellingly long shifts. In last night’s gut-punching episode, Shruti dies by suicide.
‘Before we started filming I knew what was going to happen,’ Ambika tells Grazia. ‘I was very worried about portraying that aspect – just because of the massive responsibility of it. Suicide is something that can be sensationalised in TV. I think what is different about our portrayal in This Is Going To Hurt, is it’s as grounded and realistic as the experience is for so many people.
‘I did as much research as I could – about being a doctor, about depression and suicide,’ she adds. ‘That really helped me. It’s something that I didn’t take lightly at all. It had to be done respectfully and with a lot of care.’
The incredible response to the show has been a lot to take in, says Ambika. ‘I’ve been blown away. You have an inkling before the show comes out but I never expected this reaction. And to hear from so many people in the NHS who say: this is what it’s actually like, that is the best compliment we can receive, it’s amazing.’
‘Yes, it’s a TV show but represents 1.5 million people who are working in the NHS. As much as you can take liberties with “art” it was really important that we got the experiences right. Because these people are fucking heroes. To represent them with anything less than they deserve would be doing them a disservice. We were cognisant of that throughout filming process.’
For the role, Ambika and co-star Ben Whishaw had a crash course in obs and gynae from real doctors and there were medical advisors on set throughout filming. ‘Also, the extras in the surgery scenes are real scrub nurses, real doctors, so it felt like there was no room to cut corners because someone would have said: actually, that’s not right!’ The most memorable scene she filmed? ‘The forceps scene. I was literally pulling out a real baby from a prosthetic vagina.’
Ambika’s performance is all the more impressive given it’s her first-ever TV role. ‘I was really shitting myself – it’s a big TV drama. I didn’t really know what I was doing!’ she admits. With a background in stand-up comedy, during the pandemic work ground to a standstill as live comedy venues closed down. But then, fortuitously, she was sent the script for This Is Going To Hurt. ‘It was like nothing else I ever read. Shruti specifically, as a young South Asian character is so well written, so complex. She exists in her own right; she doesn’t just exist for the plot or for other characters. That’s such a rarity.’
Watch This Is Going To Hurt on BBC One and BBC iPlayer