It won’t be easy adding yet another medical show to the mix, but Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah (Freaks and Geeks, 90210) are giving it a go with their comedy-drama hybrid, The Night Shift.
While on the show’s Albuquerque set, Sachs himself even admitted that it wasn’t easy finding someone to give them a shot. “We would go in there and pitch and it would be like, ‘That’s so great. So anyway, so they’re in high school …’” He continued, “And then we said, ‘Well, we want to do a medical drama that has this intensity, but also adds some humor into it,’ and it was just so foreign.” Fortunately the concept wasn’t foreign to everyone because come Tuesday, May 27th, The Night Shift begins its run on NBC. Hit the jump for our full report from visiting the set of this unique new series.
First off, watch the trailer for The Night Shift below:
The show takes place at San Antonio Memorial Hospital and focuses on the staff working the night shift with newly appointed boss, Dr. Jordan Alexander (The Good Wife’s Jill Flint), at the helm. Trouble is, Jordan still has to answer to her own superior, the hospital’s senior manager, Michael Ragosa (Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez), and with adrenaline junkies, irreverent doctors, diehard pranksters, and folks who’ll do absolutely anything to save a life on staff, it’s nearly impossible to adhere to Ragosa’s rules. The result is a unique combination of playful behavior and rousing drama that will hopefully make The Night Shift a standout.
Back in October, Collider got the chance to spend a full day on the show’s Albuquerque set, which could pass as a full floor of a working hospital – just built on a sound stage. The benefits of having all of your resources, nearly every location, the production offices and trailers in a single place are astounding. There was essentially instant access to just about every department, the crew could switch set-ups in a flash and, best of all, the fluid workflow allotted us ample time to observe filming and speak to the entire Night Shift line-up.
We’ve got full interviews with the cast coming your way soon, but to start, here are the basics on the Night Shift’s main players and key things to know about the show:
Meet the Cast
Position: Doctor, Head of the Night Shift
Jordan is as skilled, dedicated and determined as they come. As described by Flint, “There’s not a problem that she doesn’t feel she can solve, and she loves a challenge and she’s a go-getter.” In the first episode, that attitude motivates her to approach Ragosa and insist on being put in charge of the night shift. “She really wanted to take on the challenge of repairing the night shift because it was starting to fall apart at the seams.”
Eoin Macken is TC Callahan
For lack of better terms, TC is the night shift bad boy. He’s a brilliant Army doctor who just got home from Afghanistan and isn’t used to playing by Ragosa’s rules. TC knows how to save lives and he’s going to do just that no matter what, even if it means stepping on toes, ignoring hospital policies and putting his job on the line. Macken noted, “As a doctor, he’s very passionate and certain about saving everybody because for him, saving lives and saving people is more than just a job; it’s kind of what he has to do because it’s cathartic for himself because of his own history.”
Topher is TC’s buddy from Afghanistan. He doesn’t have as much of a disregard for the rules, but he does know how to bend them to best serve his patients. Leung explained, “We’re able to use a lot of the friendship that we forged over there and just our improvisational medical methods to this work.” However, there could come a time when Topher doubts those methods and his abilities because Leung teased, “He’s a very capable doctor, [but] there’s a personality shift with that that I didn’t really anticipate.”
Brendan Fehr is Drew
Position: Second-Year Resident
Drew served as an Army lieutenant overseas, but now he’s in the second year of his residency at San Antonio Memorial. However, he’s still indebted to the Army because, as Fehr explained, “He made a deal essentially with the army, which is kind of a real program where they offer to pay for all his medical training in order to become a surgeon and then after that, he owes them 10 years of service.”
JR Lemon is Kenny
Kenny is a night shift nurse – or rather “murse” as Lemon insists. “Kenny is the bartender of the ER.” Lemon continued, “He brings levity to the ER. A lot of bad things are happening and Kenny, being the practical jokester that he is, tries to brighten things up and lift them a bit.”
Robert Bailey Jr. is Paul
Position: First-Year Resident
Paul comes from a family of surgeons and is eager to follow in their footsteps. Bailey Jr. calls him “a really eager guy, a little bit squeamish perhaps, which is not necessarily the thing to be in an ER, but he’s so used to being in the books that it’s a new thing for him.”
Position: First-Year Resident
Goossen calls Krista “a real A-gamer.” Scoring top grades in her class earned her the opportunity to get first pick for her residency – the night shift at San Antonio Memorial. Goossen further explained, “She is a bit of a perfectionist, a bit of a prankster, likes to roll with the boys, is a bit of a tough girl, but on the flip side of that, is very emotionally involved, occasionally with patients, and definitely very invested in the idea of saving lives.”
Daniella Alonso is Landry de la Cruz
Landry is the night shift’s sole psychiatrist and while that means she’s responsible for attending to every single patients’ psychiatric needs, the staff tends to confide in her as well. Alonso also teased, “You kind of see in episode five and six where she comes from, her family, her background, and then you realize why she is the way she is. But at work, she’s very professional, very put together, and so you can guess that when she’s not at work, she’s not as professional and put together.”
Freddy Rodriguez is Michael Ragosa
Position: Senior Manager
After working his way up at different hospitals, Ragosa scores his gig as the head of San Antonio Memorial. Even though Ragosa wants to save lives as much as anyone, he’s also responsible for hospital policy and financing, and often, his staff doesn’t agree with what he considers to be the top priority. Rodriguez explained, “You want to help everyone that comes through the door, but then your job dictates that you make those tough decisions to keep the hospital afloat and that’s always the balance.”
We first meet Scott in episode four. Wolf ran through his character’s current situation and explained, “I still live in Dallas and I’m in a long-term relationship with Jordan and I come to visit a few episodes into the show.” Upon his arrival, Ragosa goes after him, hoping that Scott might want to join the team and take over the hospital’s trauma department. Wolf added, “I’m a daytime trauma surgeon in Dallas and, you know, I don’t think I really have any idea of what the night shift is about until I get thrust into it.”
Click over to Page 2 for the full rundown of what we learned while on set.
10 Things We Learned on the Set
- The creators once thought The Night Shift wasn’t going to happen. It took Sachs and Judah quite some time to get The Night Shift off the ground. After Sony gave them the opportunity to develop the show, they were shocked when NBC actually took it. However, NBC then let it sit. Sachs recalled, “We went in there and they bought it and then we wrote it and then everyone was excited about it and they didn’t shoot it.” NBC didn’t give them the go-ahead to shoot it the next season either. But then the time came. “Out of the blue, last October, [we] got a call from Sony and they said, ‘Could you possibly get this done in six weeks?’”
- Even then, the creators didn’t think The Night Shift was going to happen. After wrapping, NBC told Sachs they’d have an answer by January 7, 2014. That didn’t happen. Sachs continued, “Then it gets time the Friday before Upfronts and we’re watching everything die.” Regardless, Sachs and Judah still had to interview writers because if the show did happen, they had to be prepared. “And so we’re interviewing writers, because you have to interview writers whether it goes or not in preparation, and then it comes out on Deadline that Night Shift is dead.” After a few phone calls, they were told a decision hadn’t really been made yet. However, at that point, Sachs and Judah had submitted to the idea that it must have been a leak. Someone somewhere really does know and that’s that. “And then we were just depressed very quickly and then we started writing the letter to Sony, ‘Thank you so much. We really appreciate all your support.’” Sachs laughed and continued, “We literally wrote this long letter on and on, and then an hour later it said, ‘Night Shift’s picked up.’”
- There really is tension between hospital administrators and their staff. Just as Ragosa butts heads with his staff over limiting hospital policies, so do employees and bosses in reality, too. Sachs laughed and recalled one doctor telling him, “He wears his scrubs inside out because [then] there’s no pockets, because the day shift is always handing you forms and he doesn’t want to put anything in his pockets.” Sachs also added, “The night shift, what they do is they move like a Ragosa into their department where it’s just sort of like, every little thing is a cost and you’re hearing about it all the time.”
- The writers are always watching. When asked if real life personalities had any influence on the characters in the show, Lemon recalled, “When we got here for the pilot, we had a dinner together, like kind of a social, impromptu dinner before we had our first table read and immediately after the dinner, I would say the next day, we got a new revision of the script that had the different kind of things that you saw at the table.”
- The night shift love triangle – or square, rather. TC used to date Jordan, but as Macken pointed out, “Their relationship is incredibly flawed,” and it came to an end. Now, TC is busy hooking up with Landry while Jordan is in a more serious long distance-turned-not long distance relationship with Scott Clemens.
- One of the writers is a working doctor. Zach Lutsky is credited as the show’s story editor and happened to have written the episode being shot the day we were on set. He started working in the industry as a technical advisor on ER and continued doing that until he got the opportunity to become a full-blown writer. However, even though he’s working on The Night Shift five days a week, he’s still a practicing doctor, too. Lutsky explained, “Believe it or not, I do both at the same time. I often do shifts. I’ll do a shift on an evening or on the weekends and then I’m in the writers room Monday through Friday.”
- TC is named after a real guy. Sachs pointed out, “Jeff’s friend from childhood, his name is TC. He’s not the real TC, but we named the character after him because he helped us so much.”
- Landry is based on a real woman. Alonso noted, “My character’s actually based on a real psychiatrist who works at Cedars.” She added, “One of our writers, Nick, he’s actually friends with her and so I get to talk to her every week.”
- The butt box is a very real thing. Not only will you meet the entire staff of the night shift in episode one, but you’ll also get an introduction to a trauma center staple, the butt box, a special box for items that have been pulled out of all the wrong places. Sachs discussed show elements with working doctors and even asked them how often butt box-filling really happens. He explained, “Doctors look at us like, ‘You have no idea.’ Because this is like almost an every night or every couple of night thing.” There’s actually a book dedicated to this type of accident and it’s filled with x-rays showing a disturbingly wide variety of objects right where they shouldn’t be, inside the human body. If you’d like to check it out, it’s appropriately titled, Stuck Up.
- The real reason the tailgate gets shut down. San Antonio Memorial has a break room, but there’s no better place to unwind after a long shift than the tailgate, a rooftop deck with basketball, an inflatable swimming pool, beer, sunshine and more. Trouble is, eventually, Ragosa deems it a hazard and shuts it down. The thing is, that decision didn’t come from Ragosa alone; it was a production decision that then had to be written into the show. Sachs explained, “The issue is, at the hospital, it’s impossible to get there. The elevator broke four times.” They considered building the tailgate on a stage, but when that didn’t pan out, Ragosa had to take care of it himself. Sachs continued, “We do a thing where Ragosa shuts it down and then they have it out in the parking lot because it was just completely impossible to get to a roof deck.”
While we were on set, the cast and crew were busy working on episode seven, “Blood Brothers.” The scene features Paul and Drew consulting with a patient, a stripper named Candy. Sachs offered a little background on the moment, pointing out that Candy ends up in the hospital after hitting her head, and then they roll right into their first rehearsal.
Candy asks Drew if she’s okay, but Drew insists that Paul take the lead on this one, as he’s the one in training. Clearly taken by his bra, panty, neck brace and high heel-clad patient, Paul stumbles through his assessment before a completely composed Drew steps back in to inform Candy that they’re just waiting on her lab workup and then she can be on her way. Candy declares she’d rather go back to work to finish out her shift, so Drew puts Paul in charge of keeping an eye on her while he attends to another patient. That’s when things get awkward.
But before they get too awkward, director Martha Coolidge shouts, “I feel like there’s too much shoes!” She hops out of her chair and onto the set to readjust the shot and frame out some of Candy’s heels. When satisfied, she calls for another rehearsal.
They go again and eventually get back to the part where Drew walks out. When he’s gone and Candy tries to leave the hospital again, Paul stammers and barely spits out, “How much money would it take you to stay?” It’s an uncomfortable question and Paul knows it. He tries to recover by explaining that his girlfriend is due to arrive for a visit tomorrow and that she’s never spent the night, so he could really use some help. Candy replies, “You’re a virgin! That’s so cute,” and then she snaps, “But I’m not a hooker. You know, there is a difference.” Paul clarifies and explains all he wants to do is pay her for her time so that he can ask her some questions, the cast and crew giggle and the scene comes to an end.
While waiting to shoot, Coolidge and the cast relax by the monitor, discussing siblings and Flavor of Love. (Yes, really.) They eventually make their way back to their start positions for a take. They’re only shooting for a few seconds before Bailey Jr. accidently takes one of Fehr’s lines and Fehr playfully calls him out on it. Coolidge gets a kick out of it, quickly swoops in to poke some fun at him too before rearranging some props and readying herself for another take.
And that’s the general workflow on The Night Shift. In all honesty, this might be one of my most enjoyable set visits. We got an incredible amount of access, were allowed to walk around and take pictures as we pleased, spoke to almost every key cast member one-on-one and, best of all, got the opportunity to soak in a particularly supportive, passionate and very friendly work environment. You could feel it while you were standing there on set and I think you can see it in the final product, too.
The Night Shift season premiere will air on NBC on Tuesday, May 27th at 10/9c. Keep an eye out for more from our set visit soon.