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Interview: Lu Corfield

We have a chat with the actress who plays Freya on BBC drama Doctors

Eden Carter Wood

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 14:02:31 GMT | Updated 5 years today

DIVA: For those readers who aren't familiar with it, what kind of show is Doctors?

Lu: Doctors is a BBC Drama Series set in a Midlands GP practice. It's on Monday to Friday at 1.45pm, so set those "series record" buttons!   


It strikes me as more overtly "issues-based" than evening soaps like, for example, Coronation Street...

The Doctors "formula" is that each episode has continuing storylines surrounding the main cast but also a "story of the day", usually centred around a patient. As a result, we can tackle scripts that reflect the "issues" that a doctors' surgery might encounter. This set up is one of the show's strengths. It allows us to mix things up. A story of the day can be hard-hitting and topical, or we can go off on a complete comedy tangent. I've already been dressed up as an Octopus and Dolly Parton so the sky's the limit.


Do you think TV can change the way people view minorities and/or social issues?

I think it can certainly go some way to "normalising" what might seem unfamiliar or threatening to people who haven't encountered these things in their own life. And, in my mind, that's a major positive. On the flipside, however, some viewers will see, for example, a gay character in a soap and complain its being 'rammed down their throats' so the key is to find the right balance.


Tell us about your character, Freya, and what's happened to her on the show to date. 

Freya made a big impact when she arrived and has already been pigeon-holed by a lot of her colleagues. She is a passionate women's activist but, underneath, isn't as together as she makes out. She comes across as the eternal sloppy student - jeans, trainers, never making any effort with her appearance. She'd argue this is because she doesn't want to conform to social conventions, but she hides behind her baggy jumpers, like we all do. I don't think she truly believes she'll ever find herself in a meaningful relationship.


On screen, up until now, Freya has been seen as a reactor and an accomplice - pushing along other character's storylines. This month, that changes in a big way. The scripts start to focus on finding out who she really is... underneath all of those checked shirts.  


When did you join the cast?

I started filming on the show at the end of February. I came in at the same time as Simon Rivers, who plays Kevin. It was great having someone to hold hands with as we stepped over the threshold, and we hit it off from the word go. Si is brilliant to work with and we have stupid amounts of fun playing sparring partners. We had a documentary team following us when we started, and there's a lovely short on the Doctors website about us joining the team. I look back at that first week and remember feeling there wasn't time to blink. Launching straight into "triple banking" (9 episodes being shot at once) and having a documentary crew stalking us on every break? It was madness. Brilliant; but madness.


How has it been joining such an established group of actors and crew?

I won't lie; I was petrified when I first joined. But I couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome. It'll sound like a cliché, but I've never worked with a friendlier bunch of cast and crew. Genuinely. I've already made friends here that I know I'll be propping up a bar with when I'm old and grey. But it has to be like that, or the show wouldn't work. We're a small group. Unlike other soaps, there are only 11 of us in the regular cast. It would be a bloody nightmare if we didn't get on, but the producers are extremely careful when it comes to picking their team, and I'm not just talking about the actors. Whether you're working in the production office, on the floor, or behind the scenes, Doctors is a team effort. We do what the others soaps do, but with a third of the budget and within a third of the time. It wouldn't work if there were egos on board. It's a case of jumping in feet first and learning how to swim pretty damn quickly. There's no treading water.


 A few things will be revealed about your character over the next few months, starting with today's episode. What can you tell us about "Parts and Fitters"?

"Parts and Fitters" is a really fun ep and the start of a major storyline for Freya. The catalyst is the arrival of someone from her past who, without giving too much away, isn't what people expect. Even her best mate Cherry (played by the gorgeous Sophie Abelson) is going to find her jaw hitting the floor. It's a great "up yours, world" moment for Freya, which I think she deserves. It lets her stick two fingers up at the assumptions people have made about her and smacks home the lesson that you should never judge a book by its cover.


How similar are you to the character you play?

People say we look alike, but I can't see it myself. Sorry.


I'd like to think I look before I leap. Freya doesn't. She thinks with her heart first, head second. When provoked, it's like lighting a firework. The best thing is to step back until she's finished fizzing.


I know there are people who would argue I do the same and, thinking about it, maybe they're right... but I'd still maintain that Freya has a shorter fuse than me... and I think my wardrobe is a little more varied. (I'm pretty sure I'll never buy another checked shirt as long as I live). 


What do you like most (and least) about Freya)?

I love Freya's passion and loyalty but she can sound like a broken record. When allowed to leap onto her soapbox, she will describe the atrocities imposed on suppressed women with alarming (and often repetitive) detail. Whilst I actively share her belief in sexual equality, I'd love her to get the same message across without the portable statistics and pie charts. I think more people would listen to her if that happened, instead of smiling and thinking "here she goes again". She also has no taste in shoes.


How much input have you had into the development of Freya's character and story lines?

I've been involved in Freya's development since day one. Before I joined, Doctors had just said goodbye to a gay character who had been with the show for years. Because of this, the introduction of Freya might be dismissed unfairly as a way of re-ticking the diversity box - replacing "a gay with a gay". But that's not what we've done. It would have been the easier option but, with Freya, we've chosen a less obvious route. I can't say much more without giving the game you'll just have to keep watching.


Where might we have seen you before (previous roles)?

Things kicked off for me properly a few years ago when I did a show at The Royal Court Theatre called "The Girlfriend Experience".


Since then, I've been really lucky. I've continued to do bits of theatre, but have mainly worked in TV. I've done the rounds : "Casualty", "Holby City", a stint on "Eastenders" but, besides Doctors, "Candy Cabs" (shown on BBC1 in April) is what I get recognised for the most.


More recently, "Random", a short film for C4, came out in August and I've got the second series of "Rev" launching on BBC2 this month. "Threesome" (that I nipped out of Doctors to do a cameo for) is also running on Comedy Central at the moment.


Last week I finished recording a voice for the new "Woman in Black" film (that should be released in February) and you'll also see me popping up in a BBC2 sketch show called "Watson and Oliver" that airs in the New Year.


This year has been amazing. It's meant lots of midnight motorway driving (and not much sleep) to make it all work, but I've loved every second.


Any hints about what's next in store for Freya?

Between now and February, a lot will be revealed about Freya. Kevin helps to unravel a thread exposed in "Parts and Fitters", Cherry and Freya hit some turbulence and I've just started filming with someone who is going to turn Freya's life upside down. I want to say more but, like any good doctor, have to practice a code of confidentiality. For now, at least...



If you missed today's episode, Parts & Fitters, watch it on BBC iPlayer

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