MILLIONS of viewers fought back tears when Tara Lo died in Holby City.

But one person who hadn’t realised how emotionally draining the storyline and death of the character would be was Jing Lusi who played her.

The Southampton actress admits that although she knew when she joined the cast of the BBC1 flagship drama that her character was going to die she had no idea how difficult she would find it.

“It was a surprise that it was so tough to play Tara,” says the 28-year-old who was born in Shanghai but came to Southampton when she was five.

“I always knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant to play someone dying but I didn’t realise how much it would stay with me and how deeply it would affect me.”

She says that she couldn’t shake the role off – which saw her character die of surgical complications related to a brain tumour – when she went home at the end of a day’s filming and adds that it stayed with her for months after filming finished.

“Just because the cameras had stopped rolling, the emotions didn’t stop. It was really painful.”

The actress, who has shot a film with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman and been in two plays since she left Holby, admits that the experience will make her think more carefully about the roles she takes in future.

“Most actors really want to play characters like that – someone who suffers. It’s always interesting but now I’ve done it, there is a lot more to consider than just saying ‘yes, that sounds exciting,’ because actually you do take a massive hit, both physically and emotionally.”

Jing had been planning to take a break – ‘to go up a mountain and do lots of yoga and meditate’ – but says she has had lots of meetings lately, adding life, especially as an actor who goes from job to job, often gets in the way of her other plans.

In fact, she was all set to move to America to pursue and acting career there when she got her break on Holby and stayed in the UK – not that she minded.

“I had such a structured plan when I was younger,” says the former St Anne’s schoolgirl.

“It was ‘I’m going to be in America by the time I’m 25 and I’m going to have children when I’m 30,’ and then you get a bit older it’s like ‘um, that hasn’t happened!’,” she laughs.

One thing that has happened that Jing planned, however, is her becoming a successful actress.

She first got a taste for the limelight when her school, Highfield Church of England Primary, was chosen to supply children to be in Joseph, starring Phillip Schofield, at The Mayflower.

“It was a fantastic experience and so great to be part of it. The Mayflower is amazing. We danced around and did harmonies. I was really proud because I was given the Southampton plaque to carry on stage.”

After that Jing attended some Saturday school acting classes but they faded out and she went on to pursue an academic career, studying at Peter Symonds College before going on to University College London where she got a law degree.

But she realised she was following her parents’ dreams for her rather than her own and decided to give acting a go.

After a couple of years spent temping as a legal secretary and taking unpaid acting jobs, paid work began to come in, including a big film overseas, Clash of Empires: Battle for Asia, which broke box office records in Malaysia. But it was Holby that she considers her big break.

For work reasons Jing lives in London, but loves Southampton, and comes back to visit her parents a lot.

“Growing up in Southampton, I’m pretty sure the weather was better than it is now and there were a lot more outdoors activities,” says Jing, who lived on The Avenue in central Southampton before her family moved to Highfield and then West End.

“When I was at St Anne’s a few friends and I had a section of the old wall near the Bargate that we used to hang out on.

“We also went to the Common quite a lot, and I don’t think I’ve ever fully explored it because it’s massive.

“I remember Power in the Park on the Common too.

That’s the first time I got drunk. I was 13 and someone sold me some beer and I got off my face. My dad went mental!” she laughs.

She hopes to return to Southampton Common to take part in a Race for Life in the future. She is currently in training for a 10K Race for Life in Blackheath on July 7.

“I was inspired by my role in Holby and especially when it was aired and people started writing to me with their stories of cancer,” she says.

“Also a close friend who is 25 is currently going through chemotherapy for leukaemia.

“Raising money for Race for Life is an investment in all our futures because so many people are affected by cancer that even if you aren’t, someone you know might be.

“I’d like to do the race in Southampton another year,”

she adds.

“I’d like to do it with my mum, although I might have to leave her behind because she’s a bit slow!”

Clearly Jing’s roots in the city are important to her.

“I’m proud to come from Southampton. When you think of Southampton the things that come to mind are the Titanic and Craig David. I want to help put it on the map!”