Still on the fence about whether or not to check into OFF THE MAP in lieu of the flurry of somewhat-less-than-stellar reviews? Well, in an effort to give equal time, we thought it was only fair to let stars Jason George and Martin Henderson have their say. What follows is their take on why you should give ABC’s newest medical series a shot, starting tonight at 10PM on ABC (GlobalTV in Canada)
Just how important a factor was OFF THE MAP’s setting in terms of differentiating itself from the likes of GREY’S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE?
Jason George It all kind of stems from the location. Because the reality of the situation is that people who go off the land to do “Doctors without Borders,” or got to Africa to run clinics is that…. yes they’re doing this altruistic thing but they’re also checking out of society for a reason, something has gone wrong in their life. They may be trying to remember why they wanted to be doctors in the first place or they’re actually running from something, so there’s this great character stuff that automatically comes from what brought them to this location. The other aspect of it is that being in this environment, it’s not like practicing medicine in the states, so you’re making up the rules as you see fit. If you need to punch the patient to check him out long enough to get the job done to save his life, then that’s what you do.
Martin Henderson: What really distinguishes this show is the fact that they’re not in a hospital and they don’t have access to the resources that you normally would as a doctor. The characters are forced to improvise and be way more creative with their solutions and even their diagnoses. We don’t have the machine to even diagnoses someone correctly. Sometimes you have to go with a hunch, like a mechanic would diagnose something wrong with a car. You start with the radiator, if it’s not that you look at the fan belt. So there’s something very almost primitive about the kind of medicine we’re having to perform down there which is why I think the show is unique.
Was it easier to commit to a Shonda Rhimes series having just come off a stint on GREY’S ANATOMY?
Jason George: Shonda is pretty much one of the best bosses you could ever ask to work for. In addition to being an incredibly creative talent and knowing what she’s doing in the television world in terms of really knowing how to put a show together, she’s real good people and she takes care of you. Because at the end of the day you’re not just buying into the idea, you’re buying into the people. We actually both had the benefit of meeting Shonda having done a pilot for her a couple of years ago [INSIDE THE BOX] and then she wrote the role on GREY’s for me. So i didn’t mind coming to play “Shonda-land” for a couple of years and hopefully it will be a few more years after this.
The show opens with a big splash, literally, as the two of you jump off a very picturesque cliff in an effort to save a life. Would it be safe to assume that the production wasn’t about to let their two leading men attempt a stunt like that?
Jason George: We did it all ourselves! Every single cliff dive, every single explosion, just us!
Martin Henderson: In my twenties I was like, “I’ll jump off anything!”
Jason George: We actually wanted to do the cliff dive, but Jenna Bans, the creator of the show pretty much shut us down. And somewhere about the moment when we were at the cliffs that you’ll see in the opening scene, we went down and saw the plaque dedicated to the people who had died jumping off of it, and we thought, “Maybe not the best idea.”
Jason, earlier you alluded to the question surrounding what might bring a doctor to such an exotic locale. Will we find out what brought your and Martin’s character OFF THE MAP?
Jason George: Definitely. Otis is ex military and as the episodes go on you find out there’s a reason why he’s “EX” military. In other-words, it wasn’t necessarily by choice, practicing medicine is still very much a part of him and he’s still very much a doctor through and through. So this is where he gets the opportunity to still help people and at the same time wrestle with his own demons out here where he can do has little damage as possible. You find out that everyone has their demons. Ben [Martin Henderson's character], from the founding of the clinic has his own issues that come back to haunt all of us at some point.
Martin Henderson: That’s one of the themes of the show, looking at what is it that would drive someone to go leave their life that is somewhat comfortable with all the luxuries and benefits that come from practicing medicine in the first world like the United States and go down to somewhere like the Amazon. Often we think of these people as purely humanitarians where there is often something in their personality or in their past that drives them to do it that is not as heroic as it may seem.
Does being thrown together on location in Hawaii help contribute to a more cohesive cast both on and off screen?
Martin Henderson: Possibly yeah. I think we’re all in the same boat, we’re all away from home, Jason has a young family and he’s fortunate that they schedule it that he can come back pretty much every weekend to be with his family. But all of us are pretty much over there for the long haul and I think there is something to be said for that. I mean I personally love that we really are on a location. We don’t have any sound stages, we have this set that’s built right in the middle of a farm in the middle in the middle of an island in Hawaii. We’re really getting down in dirty, getting into the rivers, the ocean, mud and personally I like doing it, it’s fun and I think it makes the show look gritty and real. I really am grateful that we got to shot in Hawaii. Plus, I get to learn to surf!
It’s a lot harder than it looks, I’ve tired!
Martin Henderson: It is hard, but it’s worth persevering.
OFF THE MAP premieres on Wednesday January 12 at 10PM on ABC (GlobalTV in Canada)