Daniel Gillies in SAVING HOPE - Season 1 - "Heartsick" | ©2012 NBC/Ian Watson

Daniel Gillies in SAVING HOPE - Season 1 - "Heartsick" | ©2012 NBC/Ian Watson

In NBC’s new drama SAVING HOPE, which has its season finale tonight at 9 PM ET/PT, 8 PM central, a spirit walks the halls of Toronto’s Hope-Zion Hospital. Not to fear – it’s not malevolent, nor even technically a ghost. When the hospital’s Chief of Surgery Charlie Harris, played by Michael Shanks of STARGATE SG-1 fame, gets into a car crash on the way to his wedding, he goes into a coma and finds himself able to speak to the spirits of fellow unconscious patients at the hospital.

Erica Durance, who portrays Charlie’s fiancée and colleague Dr. Alex Reid, and Daniel Gillies, who plays fellow surgeon Joel Goran, both have previous supernatural fare on their resumes. Durance actually did a guest role on STARGATE SG-1 and recently played a plaintiff who believed she was (and dressed as) Wonder Woman on HARRY’S LAW, but she is still best-known to most TV viewers for her seven years as Lois Lane on the CW’s SMALLVILLE. Gillies has been on MASTERS OF HORROR and TRUE BLOOD and has a recurring role as the ancient vampire Elijah on the CW’s THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.

At a party thrown by NBC, Canadian actors Durance and Gillies (who was raised inNew Zealand) are hanging out together, happy to talk about their shared new acting gig.

ASSIGNMENT X: How would you describe the mystical aspect of SAVING HOPE?

ERICA DURANCE: The mystical angle comes through the character of Charlie Harris, who is my character’s fiancé. In the pilot episode, we get into a car accident and he is going into a coma, and so he’s kind of thrust into this world where he’s obviously not dead, but he’s not back, and so having that character there opens up this other dimension, in the sense of just being able to see and those questions of what’s going on and he sees into that other world, what that would feel like.

At this juncture, he’s viewing the hospital as he was right before his coma, so he’s walking around in his tuxedo he was wearing when he went to our wedding, which actually visually is quite beautiful, because he’s in this tuxedo walking around and he’s just walking the halls and he’s actually having interactions with some of the patients who come in and it really kind of knocks it all on its ear and makes it really interesting.

Daniel Gillies and Erica Durance at the NBC Universal Summer Press Day | ©2012 Sue Schneider

Daniel Gillies and Erica Durance at the NBC Universal Summer Press Day | ©2012 Sue Schneider

AX: So your characters don’t interact with him?

DURANCE: Maybe, maybe not [laughs].

DANIEL GILLIES: That’s part of the beauty of this show – Charlie seems to be trying to reach across this ravine of the non-living to the living in order to get to his beloved, and the story is essentially this great romance. That’s what makes it so beautiful. It’s this kind of metaphysical romance.

AX: What sort of medical practitioners are your characters, and what is their attitude about what they’re doing?

DURANCE: My character is the Chief Surgical Resident – she basically runs the hospital underneath the Chief of Surgery. Not the specific doctors that come in, like the Joel Goran character, but all the residents that are there, she gets everything [organized]. She’s a general surgeon, so she operates on everything from the chest down, with the exception of the heart. So she deals with the abdomen, the colon, if there is breast cancer, she would deal with that. As far as Alex is concerned, she thought it [surgery] was her greatest passion until Charlie was taken from her, and then she starts to question all of those things.

GILLIES: Joel Goran is an orthopedic surgeon. He’s taken a bit of a pay cut, actually. He was at Sloane-Kettering, but he’s come to this hospital, because he’s able to conduct his research there, which is probably very costly to the hospital itself. There’s a whole lot of storyline, but he’s able to essentially do stem cell research there. But he’s also a former lover of Alex Reid, Erica Durance, which creates a whole other dimension of drama.

AX: So your character is waiting to see how much help she needs in coping with her crisis?

GILLIES: It’s not that cloak and dagger. I think his intentions are pure as the driven snow [laughs].

AX: In terms of how your characters are with  the patients, are they more House, are they more John Carter on ER?

DURANCE: I think for Alex’s character, what is interesting is how her life starts to slowly unravel, given what’s going on with Charlie, so there are a couple of moments that are slightly HOUSE-esque, but it’s just because of everything else falling apart, just part of her humanity, so you see different ways that she deals with people.

GILLIES: Yeah, it’s case-specific. Each doctor has a different method. So we don’t universally approach each surgery the same way. For Joel, he does the slightly more glamorous surgeries, but he’s also willing to pull the trigger on the thing that you would want the most from a surgery. He’s the guy who wants to shoot the highest. Which isn’t always in the best interest of the patient, which is why he needs an Alex Reid in his life, to sort of remind him, to sort of be his Jiminy Cricket in a sense.

DURANCE: [laughs] I’m like Jiminy Cricket.

GILLIES: She is, she’s his conscience. She reminds him to be empathetic, and I think that Alex’s character can be a little bit more empathetic to the patient than Joel is. I’m a lot more hasty and wanting to make the decision that’s going to get the greatest outcome, but it also might come with the greatest risk.

AX: Where does SAVING HOPE film?

DURANCE: We film inToronto – actually, we live inToronto, but it’s actually just outside ofToronto, a place calledMississauga.

AX: So you’re still in working in Canada, where you made SMALLVILLE, but the other side of Canada now.

DURANCE: Yeah, the more I try to get down into the States, to my mother’s country, it seems to just be eluding me, but it’s such a great group up there and they work so hard. It’s a fun city, I’m just starting to explore it.

AX: Any difference in working for NBC versus the CW?

DURANCE: Actually, I don’t see a difference as of yet. But again, I think when you work with somebody as long as I worked with [the SMALLVILLE company] and I worked with [executive] Peter Roth at Warner Brothers, I’ll always have a really special place in my heart for him and I’m super-loyal to him, so it was a splendid and wonderful experience. I think there are times when I’m like, “I miss him,” he’s lovely and wonderful, but I like getting to know other people, and everybody seems very supportive of the project [SAVING HOPE] and that’s really what it comes out to. So within NBC, you have everybody that’s very excited. CTV [the series’ Canadian network] is very excited.

Daniel Gillies in SAVING HOPE - Season 1 | ©2012 NBC/Rafy

Daniel Gillies in SAVING HOPE - Season 1 | ©2012 NBC/Rafy

AX: Have the two of you compared notes on acting on CW genre shows?

DURANCE: We haven’t compared notes, but we definitely have talked about that whole experience. I know for myself, I like anything that’s new and different, I loved my show [SMALLVILLE] and I love the genre and, not to speak for [Gillies], but we did speak about the idea of the characters that you get to play, the world you get to be in and how fun that is and the characters you get to create are so different and kind of out there and that’s been really fun.

GILLIES: Yeah, it’s interesting for us, both stepping into a new world where the consequences of our actions are more like the life that we know. We’ve both been in very heightened realities. Both SMALLVILLE and VAMPIRE DIARIES are magic realism. It has its own truth and its own resonance, but stepping into SAVING HOPE is a gear change for us. Although it has that mystical quality to it, through which Charlie Harris looks at the world, we have to obey the laws of the universe that are much closer to your or my universe.

AX: When you got SAVING HOPE, did either or both of you do research into playing a surgeon?

DURANCE: Yes, I did. We all did. I actually saw some surgeries and stuff like that. We’ve had a chance to talk to people that actually do the specific type of surgeries that we do, and follow them a little bit, and we’ve also been reading the books.

GILLIES: Yeah, lots of stuff. Luckily, we also have a staff of people who are nurturing us in that direction, too. We have researchers who work on behalf of the show. Maggie, for example, she’s one of our consultants and she ushered us into a direction that was like, “Okay, you should read this guy, this guy, this woman and this woman, and if you read these people, you’re going to learn about your place in medicine, what it’s like to begin as a doctor, how it’s going to feel to do your residency, how difficult their lives are, how hard they work.” More and more and more, every day, Erica and I feel a deeper sense of respect for people in the medical profession.

Tom Welling and Erica Durance in SMALLVILLE - Season 10 - "Finale Pt. 1 & 2" | ©2011 The CW/Jack Rowand

Tom Welling and Erica Durance in SMALLVILLE - Season 10 - "Finale Pt. 1 & 2" | ©2011 The CW/Jack Rowand

AX: Actors on other medical shows where they’re playing doctors have talked about having to practice by doing things like sewing orange peels together. Have you had to do things like that as practice?

GILLIES: [joking] I did some laparoscopic surgery with some gorgeous pieces of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment – laparoscopic on a red pepper, a bell pepper.

DURANCE: Apparently, that’s very authentic, a red pepper. One of the doctors I was following, he used a heavy-weighted paper clip and he put the [stitching] thread with it and he showed me how to do that. Basically, you hold it between your knees and then you try to practice the stitching.

AX: After playing one character consistently for seven years, is it a shock to the system at all to be playing a new regular character?

DURANCE: It’s exciting to embark on something new, but I think everybody has a sense of feeling trepidation. You want to make sure that you’re servicing that character well. I think that it’s been an easy transition, in that it’s such a different world and it’s a different role, and it’s visually so different, so when you step in and start working with different people and different actors, it makes it a little easier, but I remember saying to Daniel when we were first starting, “Sometimes it feels like you’re still trying to fit in a different skin.” And so it’s a little bit crazy, but it’s been a really positive experience.

AX: Are you going back and forth now between SAVING HOPE and VAMPIRE DIARIES?

GILLIES: Potentially. I mean, it’s all going to be up to the creators of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and where they’re going to take the show. We have sort of a blessing in our calendar in that, while we’re shooting this [SAVING HOPE], THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is on hiatus, so we’ll see. This is the show that I’m a regular on, so this show takes precedence. I’m still available for that show [THE VAMPIRE DIARIES], let’s just say that.

AX: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?

GILLIES: I have a film called BROKEN KINGDOM, which is my directorial debut. So we’re doing anL.A./New York limited release and then we’re going to do a DVD/Netflix/DVR release after that, so yeah, I’m excited about it..

DURANCE: I just finished a movie [last year] in Malta called GEMELLE. It’s about twins and it’s kind of an Alfred Hitchcock-esque type of feel and it was really lovely.

AX: Anything else either of you would like to say about SAVING HOPE?

GILLIES: It’s just a really exciting chapter in medical television. That’s what I want to say. I mean, I think that people who enjoy this kind of show, who enjoy a show that has heart, humor and kind of hard-hitting drama, they’re in for a ride.

DURANCE: I think that people should tune in and watch it. They’ll have fun and I’ll be very grateful.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with SAVING HOPE stars Erica Durance and Daniel Gillies on SMALLVILLE and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

 

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