Derek Luke as Cameron Boone and Kevin Rankin as Tyler Briggs in the season one Trauma episode "All's Fair." Photo by Paul Drinkwater and copyright of NBC
FROM executive producer Peter Berg (NBC’s Friday Night Lights) comes Trauma, the first high-octane medical drama series to live exclusively in the field where the real action is. Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, Trauma, is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco City Hospital is first on the scene, traveling by land, sea or air to reach their victims in time. From the heights of the city’s Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the San Francisco Bay, these heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives – and give meaning to their own existence in the process.
Starring in Trauma are Cliff Curtis (Push) as daredevil flight medic Reuben ”Rabbit” Palchuk; Derek Luke (Notorious) as stoic paramedic Cameron Boone; Anastasia Griffith (Damages) as strong-willed paramedic Nancy Carnahan; Aimee Garcia (George Lopez) as tough rookie helicopter pilot Marisa Benez; Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights) as edgy EMT Tyler Briggs; Taylor Kinney (Fashion House) as rookie EMT Glenn Morris and Jamey Sheridan (law & Order: Criminal Intent) as mentor Joe Savino. Peter Berg, Sarah Aubrey (The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights0, Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights), Peter Noah (The West Wing) and series creator Dario Scardapane serve as executive producer. The pilot was written by Scardapane and directed by Reiner.
Last week, Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin and Dario Scardapane spent some time chatting with myself and other journalists about the series. The following is an edited version of our Q & A. Enjoy!
I wanted to know if any of you were aware of the online following that you all have as far as a save the show campaign and backing the show with social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook?
DARIO SCARDAPANE - We’re very aware of it, and watching the show’s Facebook fan page grow by about 1,000 people a week over the last few weeks has been amazing. And being a Facebook addict myself, I’ve had a lot of contact with a number of the fans. It’s been kind of a strange rollercoaster to be on, with the show on and off the schedule [due to the recent 2010 Olympic coverage], with more episodes ordered and a lot of strange things that have happened. But it’s been pretty great to hear such positive feedback and to see people doing things like sending Band-Aids and calling the network on our behalf. It’s a great way to get direct feedback from the audience.
KEVIN RANKIN - With the Internet and these kinds of things, you’re not powerless as a viewer any more. At least you feel like you can do something, even if it doesn’t work, you know, at least you can have some sort of closure. A lot of shows get yanked after a couple of airings, so we’ve been very lucky and I would love to think that it has something to do with the great fans we have out there who are spreading the word.
DEREK LUKE -Wow, this is funny, because my wife has been asking me to get on Facebook. But for me, I’ve been getting so much word of mouth from people on the street who have been asking me, ‘Where’s Trauma?’ And I tell them, “The Olympics,” and they’re like, ‘Man, we’re waiting for your show to come back.” So I think word of mouth is working as well as things like Facebook and Twitter.
This question is for Derek and Luke – can you tell us a little bit about the audition process for your respective roles and some of the challenges you guys initially found stepping into these roles?
KR - I previously worked with Jeff Reiner and Peter Berg on Friday Night Lights and then Trauma came up. I got a phone call, came in and met with Dario. We hit it off immediately and just started spit-balling ideas for the character. So it was nothing but a golden process for me. Of course, I did have to come in and test for the network, but probably my biggest challenge with the show has been a lot of the medicine and medical terminology. At the beginning of the season, though, it’s finding your character and something that’s going to speak to the people and just trying to tell this story of Tyler Briggs.
DL - Kevin and I have a lot in common as far as behind-the-scenes. I’d worked with Peter Berg before, and then I met Jeffrey and Dario in the initial [audition] meeting. I was excited about playing Boone just because when I read the script there was so much meat and integrity in the words. Again, having worked with Peter on Friday Night Lights, this role was, like Kevin’s, a straight hire. One of the challenges for me besides the medicine was when I asked Pete, “What’s the difference with building a character on TV as opposed to in a movie?” He said, “You just have to play it moment by moment.” So I came in with a lot of questions, but I love the fact that we’re in different situations week-to-week.
Dario, where did your inspiration for the series first come from, and what, for you, were some of the challanges getting Trauma off the ground?
DS - Well, I’ll flat-out say that the inspiration was Emergency and the generation that grew up on that show. When Pete came to me about redoing or coming up with something that had the same kind of emergency medical adrenaline, it was just like, “Yeah, I have to.” I’d worked with NBC as well as Sarah Aubrey and Pete Berg quite a bit over the years, and this just seemed like something perfect. I’d never done a medical show before, and being the son of a doctor, the grandson of a doctor, the son of a nurse, the nephew of a doctor, and coming from an Italian American medical family where I am without a doubt the black sheep, it seemed like the right way to come up with a little off-center medical series. As far as the challanges of getting the series off the ground, they were the same ones that face just about any TV show. Our pilot was huge and perhaps kind of mis-sold as something about explosions and car wrecks, and now it’s a show about characters and this amazing group of people who go into the fray when others would run away.
Kevin, what’s been the best argument Tyler and Boone have had so far, or which one is your favorite?
KR - It’s just one continuous argument of who’s going to drive, who’s going to clean the rig, and just these little nit-picky things between friends. I really don’t think it bothers Boone and Tyler too much. It’s just part of their MO [modus operandi]. However, you’re going to see in the next couple of episodes that when they do have arguments, that some lines will be drawn in the sand, but you can wipe those lines away real fast. So they’re always going to butt heads, but thing always come out in the wash and it’s always a good time with them. These guys are great friends and it’s a great friendship to see play out. I love it.
DS - And their friendship will face a very, very big challenge in the final two episodes of the seasons.
Dario, with so many medical dramas out there, what do you think might set Trauma apart from those and make people curious to tune in?
DS - The bulk of our action takes place before you hit the double-doors of the emergency room, and I also think that we’ve avoided a lot of the tropes and clichés of many other shows. This is faster, funnier and a little bit weirder, and I mean that in a good way. Trauma also deals with street medicine; it deals with the medicine on the sidewalk, the medicine inside the cab of a rig. More importantly, what sets it apart from a lot of the medical shows out there, some of which came out of the same developmental season as us and have not stuck around, is that most of them rest on guest-star patient stories. So and so comes in and there’s a guest-star who has a horrible thing happen to him or her and it’s resolved at the end of 42 minutes. Our show rests on the job and the toll of the job and how it affects our core ensemble cast of characters. Trauma has a pretty unique tone, unlike most other medical shows.
KR - We said right from the get-go that this was, you know, punk rock, not Burt Bacharach. I’ve definitely had that in the back of my mind from the beginning.
DL - I love the energy and the current relationships. It seems like Trauma is very current and I think it takes a look at how our world affects us and how we affect our world.
Kevin, how did you approach playing a gay character? Was it something that you were really conscious of, or did you not even think about it?
KR - With any character, things like that are costuming to me. It’s wardrobe, because with every character that you play, you’re playing the human, and the heart of the character. I said from the beginning when I was approached to play a gay character that, like anything else, he’s going to be a guy who happens to be a paramedic who happens to be gay. I thought it was a unique opportunity to play it differently as opposed to putting this character into a stereotypical box that network television and a lot of other TV has done over the years.
People see a very flamboyant, homosexual character on TV and then they go home and think, “Oh, I don’t know any gay people because that’s how gay people are.” But what they have to understand is that everyone knows someone who’s gay. They may not throw it in your face, they may not tell you about it, but I just thought this is a really unique way to get the message out there that, hey, we’re all the same. So I don’t think I approached this any differently than any other character I’ve played. In Friday Night Lights I was a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. If you saw me wheel into a scene, you forgot about that chair pretty quickly. You just saw the human, and I thought this is really great because we introduce Tyler at the beginning of the season and you don’t know he’s gay.
Dario, you said earlier that maybe the show was sold incorrectly in the beginning, with it being about explosions and what not. Do you wish you had a do-over?
DS - Not at all. The pilot process is kind of crazy and so breakneck, and way back when, even at the [network] upfront, I remember saying something, and thank God it’s still in print, about the fact that this isn’t a show about explosions, this is a show about people. In the cascade of 30-second soundbites and what you see in the first few minutes, it became evident that, wow, this show has a lot of crap blowing up. Now, though, we’re 10 episodes in – we’re shooting the 17th episode – and there’s a lot less stuff blowing up as far as cars and tankers, and more stuff blowing up amongst people, which I feel is more compelling. So I really hope that audiences give it a chance and dig in with these guys. I don’t think people come to television for spectacle. I don’t really have much fun writing spectacle for television. I’ll do that in features.
Are you able to tease us a little bit as to what might happen should there be a season two of the show?
DS - Well, season two will see all of our characters in a different place, quite literally and figuratively. Some will remain where they are in terms of inside the box – again, literally, the medical rig – while others are going to have to forge new paths, to sound really vague. Let’s just say that all bets are off in season two. You’ll notice by the end of the first season, that one of the characters isn’t around, and what happens with that and the ripples that that has for everybody’s lives are going to play out in season two. I’ve got the first three episodes of the second season kind of sketched out in my head, and I really hope we have the opportunity to make them.
Dario, at one point we’d heard the show was cancelled, and then it was back and you were given more episodes. What has this been like psychologically for you and the cast to go through as far as we’re on again, off again, we’re here, we’re there, etc?
DS - Honestly, it’s been amazing because it’s brought us together. It’s made the actors speak up about what they want to do and they’ve been our partners in this. And I have to say that we’ve got the best crew ever. I was on-set a week ago when we were at the end of a 14-hour day and I looked around and the entire cast was there. We were filming some additional footage for our very first episode back [after the 2010 Olympics] and it felt wonderful. We’ve survived the odds, you know? We thought we were off the air after 10 episodes and here we are getting ready to do 20. Talk about a great feeling.
As noted above, photo by Paul Drinkwater and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!