Saving Hope is a new hour-long NBC drama series, premiering on June 7th, that follows the doctors and patients of Hope-Zion Hospital. When the Chief or Surgery, Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks), ends up in a coma, it leaves the hospital in chaos and his fiancée, Alex Reid (Erica Durance), in a state of shock. While he explores the hospital in the spirit form, his fiancée, along with her fellow doctors, press on to save his life and those of the other patients around them.
During this recent interview to promote the series, actress Erica Durance (previously known for her portrayal of Lois Lane on The CW series Smallville) talked about what it was that attracted her to this show and character, her anxieties about being the lead, what the day-to-day shooting schedule is like, the medical research that she did, filming in a real hospital for the pilot, and how badly people need hope in their lives. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: What brought you back to TV and why this show?
ERICA DURANCE: Well, I love TV, and I love a good script. I had been given a bunch of different choices, and I kept coming back to this one because of the heart that’s in it and because of the love story. Yes, it has the medical side of it, and I think that there’s something in me that loves that side and all the angst and drama that can happen within that, but really at the core of it is the title. It’s about holding onto hope or refining hope within yourself. And, as far as the character went, it was about what you do when your world is falling apart. How do you hold onto the real, the rationale and the tangible, and how is she going to push through and bring him back to her? I think that it’s universal, and I think it’s really relatable for people because, if you want to demoralize somebody’s spirit, you take away their hope.
Was it important not to do another action or sci-fi show?
DURANCE: You know what? I didn’t even consider that. I just really fell in love with this, and that’s where we are right now with it. I think it has a little bit of something for everyone.
How is this show different, compared to Awake?
DURANCE: I think that that theme actually comes up and gets recycled in different formats, and you end up falling in love with the characters in each show, depending on how you relate to them. I know, for myself, I’m constantly drawn back to stuff like that. I can never get enough of that, and I’ll tune into what’s going on in their relationships and cheer for their love and their questions, and all that stuff. It’s like, “Okay, that’s fine, you’re there, but we’re here, too.” I think people will really engage in it and love it.
Are you filming in an actual hospital?
DURANCE: The pilot was filmed in an actual hospital, and then, given how difficult it was to be in, a hospital because you have to give deference to what’s really going on there and you don’t want to be in the way, they actually set up a whole studio for us that is a hospital. When we were in the actual hospital, we shot in a specific wing of it. What was strange and a little bit off-putting is that we would be in the middle of shooting a scene, and then you would hear, “Code Blue!,” and you would know that that was somebody actually experiencing a very specific, painful tragedy. We would get caught in that world, so it did have some of those elements to it, and that feeling. I’m constantly taking my own blood pressure, because they have machines in there, just to see how I’m feeling. We’re all becoming hypochondriacs.
How do you feel about the day-to-day shooting schedule and do you have any anxieties about being the lead of the show?
DURANCE: I constantly have anxiety about being the lead of the show. I don’t talk about it because it scares me, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of something where I could work on a character in such a big manner, and you get offered that with all the trappings of being the lead of the show. I’m really excited. There is a lot of really good balance of male and female voices writing her, and I think that’s really great because you get a full scope of the way women think, which is really, really lovely. The day-to-day schedule is crazy. We shoot seven-day episodes. We’re shooting nine pages a day. We’re shooting eight or nine scenes a day. I’ll start off in the morning, weeping and wailing over Charlie, and then I will be cutting into somebody’s abdomen later. I feel like one of the guys because I really get into all the prosthetics and the crazy side of it. It has been pretty insane, and it feels like a roller coaster. I’m really grateful I get an opportunity to do it for a little while again.
What kind of medical research did you do? Did you talk to any medical advisors?
DURANCE: I’m always learning jargon. The medical jargon is a little bit silly. I went to a hospital and I watched about six or seven surgeries, of the type of surgeries that my character does. She’s a general surgeon, which means I’m learning everything. That was a real, tangible thing that I was able to do. We have consultants and medical advisors that are actually there. They are gracious, and they come and give you advice, and tell you things that they would or wouldn’t do, so that’s been really, really good.
Were you squeamish at all, the first time you went to the hospital?
DURANCE: I wasn’t. I don’t know if I was compartmentalizing. Within the hospital realm, there was that sense of awe and respect that I had for the folks that were signing off to let a schmo in there to watch the surgery. But, I just was trying to take in everything that the doctors were doing. On set, I’m a bit of a silly monkey.
How important is the fact that Charlie is in a coma? If you get a second season, will you have to keep him in the hospital?
DURANCE: One of the things I love about the show is the idea that they have taken this overall theme of hope and positivity, and believing in something better than yourself, and they have used the situation with Charlie going into a coma to push it there. And then, with each episode, they pick some of the things we, as human beings, do to hold onto the hope that we fight desperately for. Are we blind to the reality of what’s going on? Because she needs, so badly, to believe in something, you see that interwoven throughout the show. And then, what you have is Michael’s character, who is able to view all of this going on. It’s a very non-judgmental thing, but it puts out those questions.