Doctors are taught to react instantly to sudden and tragic circumstance because decisions regarding life and death surrounds them every day. But when Dr. Alex Reid’s fiance, a fellow surgeon, is left comatose, it shakes her world to the core. What does a person do when science does not give them the hope they need to believe that all is not lost? In a special story, SAVING HOPE gives us a window into Alex’s world and introduces us to the heart-felt challenges she faces. In a recent press conference call, star Erica Durance shared what drew her to such a fascinating role and the trials that her character Alex will face as the series unfolds.
Can you talk about how you got involved with SAVING HOPE?
ERICA: Sure. I was approached last May with it, and it came through with a few other scripts .I just fell in love with it right away. There was lots of banter back and forth about what we wanted to do with it, and they were allowing me to step in a have a producer credit, which was exciting for me because I’ve always wanted to educate myself a little bit more about the other side of the biz, and then we shot our pilot in July. So it’s a very interesting process given that we weren’t sure what was going to happen, and finally we came around to March and got our pickup notices and away we’ve been going. It’s been fun.
Can you talk a little bit more about your character Alex?
ERICA: Well, she’s this very driven pragmatic person. She believes only in what she can see and touch and the tangible. She’s come from basically nothing and she’s a self-possessed woman that basically works her way through school, and this is has been what she’s wanted to do her whole and she’s fascinated by it. So, like her brain just kind of thinks in the here and now and the present. There’s not that extra belief in anything else that’s going on. Then she finds herself in this hospital situation as a doctor, ends up falling in love with the Chief of Surgery, who is opposite to her and starts to kind of bring out other sides to her, and then you just kind of see where it leads as it goes along. What’s interesting about this particular season that I’m working on is that because of the fact that her fiance’s gone into this coma, she’s forced to really look at what she really believes about life. The whole concept of: we can have all these set morals for how we feel about things, but when tragedy comes into our life what would or wouldn’t you do to bring that person back to you? So you see that she slowly throughout the season starts to change those initial parameters and feelings that she had, and she’s grasping at straws. Plus, she’s an incredibly loyal and she’s just this really awesome chick.
What role does Charlie, Alex’s fiance (Michael Shanks) who is in a coma, have to play as the series unfolds?
ERICA: Well, besides just standing around? Basically what you have happening is — depending on the cases and the things that are going on — it’s an interesting thing because they have a parallel things going on. So as he’s working on somebody; she’s usually trying to work on the patient herself. She’s dealing with trying to keep her own job and she could potentially lose her job. That’s where I find it really interesting. She starts out in this kind of black-and-white, “This is how I see the world,” and as the season goes along you start to see these moments where she starts to slowly believe that there’s other things potentially out there, because it’s almost like she feels his presence, or does she? You know, does she know that he’s there? Is he with her? And it’s an interesting and wonderful love story, this trying to connect between the two worlds, intermingled with many, many other things that are going on.
What the show is going to look like on a weekly basis? Like what range of emotions is Alex going to be going through over this first season?
ERICA: Well, you know I should have asked that question of myself before I took it, because it’s been a real roller-coaster. Most shows work up to a point like this, and we started at this just high octane place. So, as an actress, it’s been very interesting to try to find different levels and different ways to experience this huge emotional stake, and she’s always been at this high stakes of emotion. It was interesting. We were talking to grief counselors and those kind of people – and they help us with all the different kind of avenues that you go through: grief, rage, despair, denial — all of those things. So you see all of that happening and you see glimpses. What I love about what they’ve done is — so that you don’t always find Alex in this sense of cataclysmic despair — is they do these wonderful flashbacks to her and Charlie’s relationship. You get to see the kind of woman that she was before this happened, and then just how tragic it is that. You know all of that other stuff is going on and how it’s kind of changed her. Then along with that particular storyline, the overall theme of it is about saving and holding onto hope in your own life and looking for positivity — and what do we do in our own ways to reach for human contact. So having the Charlie character in this kind of in-between world has allowed us to use the backdrop of a medical drama, which brings in a lot of those high stakes situations, and basically give another perspective to it. So you’ve got little vignettes of fun, quirky, light stuff going on, and then you have the main course of what’s happening with me. I think that they’ve tied it really beautifully together. It’s a beautifully shot show.
Outside of the medical jargon and the emotional tolls there, any other aspects that you found challenging about this role?
ERICA: Oh, I think it’s just something that’s so different for me. It is those emotional high stakes. I think that it’s also just, to speak as an actress, the fact that I’m doing the lead in it and I’m in every day and almost all the scenes. How do you to keep it fresh, how do you keep interesting and new? And that’s been one of our biggest concerns. The biggest things that we work really hard to change is that I can’t really leave the hospital that much. Because I’m stuck in there, they need to find reasons for me to be there and ways for me to keep it all fresh. And so, from just that kind of worker-bee side of it, that’s been quite challenging. I’d say one of the most interesting things was learning more about the medical side of things. I did go shadow and see surgeries. You’re constantly trying to learn a little bit more, but it’s also that she’s supposed to a very good doctor. So it’s not just, “Do I have to do these surgeries?” But I have to be good at what I’m doing, which it takes years for people to figure out how to do that. So that was really, really challenging. A lot of the OR scenes and the surgeries and getting all of that right is like crazy. You almost feel like you’re doing a play because there’s all those actions and everything that’s going along with it.
In what ways do you think Alex is a product of her past — as far as her growing up and her prior relationship with Joel (Daniel Gillies)?
ERICA: I would say just the fact that she came from nothing and did this all on her own. She just wanted to do something more in her life and she’d always wanted to help people. I think that I made up my own personal little back-story about what’s driven her to the point of needing to physically be there and helping people. I made my own specific tragedy that she came from that’s made her such an achiever. And her relationship with Joel is very, very tumultuous. It was very painful for her. So it did shape and shut her off a little for a while, and then of course she meets Charlie (Michael Shanks). So I think it’s like in any person’s life, or in any character’s life, all those pieces do shape you to be the person you are at the moment.
If your character had a music contract what would be three of the songs that you would listen to, you know in your character as Dr. Alex Reid?
ERICA: In my character? My gosh. Okay. Well, unfortunately, my character’s had some pretty blue moments, so “Run to You” by Lady Antebellum, “The Light,” by Sara Bareilles, and Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman.”
How has it been doing something that’s a little more grounded in reality than what you’ve been doing the last several years of your career?
ERICA: I always said when people were like, “show isn’t very grounded.” I was like, “Well, it’s a certain kind of reality, that’s for sure.” But there’s a similarity, I suppose. Part of it is just you’ve got the same actress working, right? Both of my characters are both very strong people, but the thing with Alex’s character is that she works more from the brain, more from her head, less from her heart. For me to kind of come in a situation, it’s isn’t just for me the fact that it is based in real life stuff, it is that it’s also to be a lead – it is how to have this consistency and carry this main story. It’s such a high stakes entry into the season and into the series that you find yourself going, “Okay. Wow, this is completely different. This feels so different.” But, what I like about it is I suppose is that I strip away a lot of the other things that you have your arsenal because it’s just you. I’m standing there in some scrubs, my hair is back, there’s barely any makeup on. So, for me, it’s been really interesting and different. I do love that they added the other portion to it to give us that window into the spiritual realm, because it allows us to ask a lot of questions throughout the whole series. So there is no judgment either way because there’s always that battle: Is it a scientific thing or is there something else out there? And I think people are fascinated by that conversation, so we just we keep finding different things in each episode to ask a question. I’m really excited about the way the creators have done it.
You spent so many years on SMALLVILLE, which was great obviously, what is it like leaving something, a home that really and to venture out into doing a new show? Is it refreshing? Is it kind of scary? What are your feelings about it?
ERICA: Well, gosh, it was really bittersweet for me. I feel that I basically wrung out every bit of excitement that I could when I was on [SMALLVILLE]. I always know when I go in it’s going to end, so I just go for broke and I enjoy myself the whole time. So when it ended I was quite sad. But I knew that I had enjoyed everything as much as I could in that time. It’s always a little bit daunting, I think, when you’re coming to a new show. You have to try to figure out who everybody is, they have to try to figure out who you are, especially in a first new season. I mean even in your first few episodes everybody’s still trying to find their way. They’re trying to find their look of it, and so you feel passionate. So you have those nerves because you feel really good about the show, you think that, “Yeah, it has a good story to tell,” and you hope that people will also understand too when you’re starting a show that everybody’s just finding their way. So sometimes it takes a while to get the total pace going, and that sort of thing. So I think that something that kind of hits me is like, “Can I do this justice? Am I going to be able to step into this role? Am I going to be able to feel what I need to feel and all those things?” It’s also really amazing because you get these great new surprises and you meet a bunch of wonderful talented people. It will always be that way for me, because whenever I partner something, I dive in and love everybody, and then I’m always really excited to see when it’s done.
You said you were excited to be a producer on this show. What has that entailed and what have you learned so far working on SAVING HOPE as a producer?
ERICA: What it did first was just allow me to have an opening into the room where the door closes and the actors go away and we wonder what happens in there sometimes. And it’s just more access to things. Some of my fellow creators are like, “Are you sure you want all these emails, because it might be a little dry,” and I was like, “No, I want to understand this.” So whether it’s licensing or why things get changed and script analysis and just seeing it all. I do it with great respect to the people that are doing the really hard work. I would say that it’s almost like the producer title gave me the ability to go in and shadow and just learn and try to get into the editing room and see how that whole process works — and I now have just to get a newfound respect for what everybody does.
To see how the world of Dr. Alex Reid changes following the tragedy involving her fiance and the transformation it brings about in her life, be sure to tune in for the premiere of SAVING HOPE on Thursday, June 7th at 9PM on NBC (CTV in Canada). With a little faith, all hope is not lost.