‘This is Going to Hurt’ Finds Dark Humor on the Maternity Ward


Despite the message at its heart, Kay and the show’s two lead actors — Whishaw and Mod — said in interviews that the series was a joy to make. Whishaw said in an email that when he got the script it immediately “rang out with a truth.” The dark comedy “was exactly the type of humor people use when faced with awful things,” he added, “and I liked the awkward, flawed, troubled person at the center of it.”

Mod, in her first major role, said that the two actors received a “crash course” in obstetrics and gynecology before filming, including learning how to deliver babies with forceps and how to perform cesarean sections. On set, real doctors, scrub nurses and anesthetists appeared as extras, she added, while prosthetics helped give the show its realism.

She said that she was surprised by viewers who called the show’s operations gory and intense in posts on social media. “I didn’t think about that at all when we were filming as we would just be surrounded by pools of blood and amniotic fluid talking about what we were going to have for lunch,” she said.

Kay said that, despite the show’s focus being on Britain’s health service, he hoped it would touch a nerve in the United States, too. He imagines that “a labor ward’s a labor ward, wherever it is,” he said. After his book came out in 2017, he got messages from doctors in countries including Chad, Belarus and Venezuela, he added, saying that the themes also rang true for practitioners in those countries.

“This Is Going to Hurt” was written as a one-off series, and Kay said that he had no plans to do a follow-up. He knew he would hit his “shelf life as a writer” at some point, he said, and when that happened, he expected to return to medicine, to teach or to try and change health policy.

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