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.