by Murtz Jaffer (Jun 7, 2012 – Inside Pulse)
Saving Hope is a new, hour-long drama series that stars Erica Durance (Smallville), Michael Shanks (Stargate Atlantis), Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries) and Huse Madhavji (Call Me Fitz).
When charismatic Chief of Surgery Charlie Harris (Shanks) at Hope-Zion Hospital ends up in a coma, he leaves the hospital in a state of chaos and his fiancée and fellow surgeon Alex Reid (Durance), in a state of shock. Along with newly arrived star surgeon, Joel Goran (Gillies), Reid races to save Harris’ life. As the action unfolds, the comatose Harris explores the hospital halls in ‘spirit’ form, not sure if he’s a ghost or a figment of his own imagination.
I had the opportunity to interview Erica Durance at the NBC Summer Press Day in Pasadena, CA in April in advance of the series premiere tonight on NBC and CTV. I also ran into her last week at CTV’s upfront presentation in Toronto. We chatted about the concept of the show, whether there is room on the TV schedule for another medical drama and if she prefers playing Lois Lane or Alex Reid.
Murtz Jaffer: Tell me about Saving Hope and how you got involved in the project?
Erica Durance: They approached me just after I had finished Smallville, and I was looking at a couple of other things. The heart of it really spoke to me. The medical drama, which I have always been fascinated by and I think people are continually fascinated by that. I think it’s because it deals with our own sense of mortality and life and death. It’s relatable on so many levels. I think what I really loved about it is how well-rounded they made this female character and the voice they gave her. She had such strength in traumatic times. I think the overall theme of it is holding onto your own sense of hope and often times, I think we lose it as we get older because of all the stuff that goes on in our lives and all our losses. I think that’s the greatest tragedy… when you start to lose your own sense of hope. I was at a place in my life where I was trying to hold onto my own sense of hope and belief for something I wanted desperately and I was having a lot of setbacks. Somehow, it really really spoke to me and its just this love story between these two people that are separated.
MJ: How do you think the show is going to establish its own identity given the prevalence of medical dramas on TV. Grey’s Anatomy, A Gifted Mind, Awake…
ED: Because of all those things being out there, there is a theme but it is something that people love, right? I think that it is all about an audience member giving time to fall in love with the characters. The twist or the aspect where this is really different in my opinion is because it brings in the element if… it is not specifically about the medical. ‘What happened this week in this medical drama?’ What it really is talking about is thematically more of that human look at life and what do we do when we’re faced with real challenges. How are our belief systems shattered? For example, my character’s life is great. She’s a doctor, she’s in love. She has all this stuff and then they are in an accident and he is taken away from her in a coma. He’s in a coma and she is trying to bring him back. She has relied so much on Western medicine and the tangible in her real life and yet she is willing to do anything to bring him back…
MJ: To pray or find faith?
ED: And it is. It’s about her coming back to that sense of faith and belief and you can see these wonderful little nuggets that the writers have put into each episode where it raises the question she asks… ‘did I see him?’ ‘Is he there?’ ‘Did I feel him?’ ‘Do I sense his presence?’ I think that is relatable to everybody because we have all lost somebody and we all hope for them to be back or to have some sort of connection with them. It’s about them trying to come back to it. What I love is their parallel journeys. They are both trying to find each other again but they are also both trying to figure out what this new world and new life is like. She is trying to hold onto her everyday world while breathing this. I think of her as this walking loneliness and yet he is there too and he is trying to hold everything together. My way of looking at it is that it is a story about a life and humans and love and hope and all that kind of stuff. Then you have it interfused with medical stuff and that’s kind of the doorway that opens it up.
MJ: Why do you think we’re so obsessed with the supernatural element on television today? The Smallville’s. The Awake’s. The idea of exploring whether somebody is alive or dead. Why can’t we just do a straight drama anymore?
ED: I believe that as a society, we kind of go through phases of things. I think it’s a certain type of escapism that’s so unique. It brings us out of whatever’s going on in our real lives. We’re in a state right now where there a lot of fears and a lot of realities and there are a lot of painful things that have been happening. We’re all still reeling from it and so I think to turn on that TV and go into some kind of mythical place or some kind of place where love does conquer all… those ideas that we had when we were five or six years old. Superman is real! Or for the little girl, the idea that even if I died, they would still love me. It’s this whole romantic notion that we have and we go through phases with that. This is our modern day Jane Eyre and Sense & Sensibility. We have just taken our own view on it.
MJ: What about the mechanics of the show? Is it just going to work like Grey’s Anatomy, where you are working on other cases but at its root, there is really only one core storyline which is how you are going to bring him back?
ED: I guess one would say that similarities are bound to happen because they are both medical dramas. I think it is just about getting to know these characters. What I found interesting about this is that they have kind of gone with this concept of how do we hang onto our own sense of hope and that’s the big umbrella. Then each episode kind of showcases in the real world and in the supernatural world, different things that we do as human beings to hold onto our sanity and keep going forward through tragedy. One of them is called ‘The Fight’ and you literally see somebody fighting to get back into their body. You see somebody fighting… he’s a hockey player and he is a fighter. So in real life you see that tangible. Then you have my character who is kind of putting it all together and she is kind of fighting that. Then there’s ‘Contact.’ What do we do to get the briefest bits of contact with another human being at whatever level.
MJ: You keep saying ‘hope’ over and over again. Is that fundamentally what the show is about? I am sure you have heard critics say that it is ‘just another medical show.’
ED: I laugh at that because there’s part of me that goes ‘yeah, you know why there are so many medical shows? It’s because people love them! People love that… why? It’s because it’s something we all will deal with as human beings and we’re all fascinated by our own mortality. The difference is that I feel that in this situation, it’s specifically pulled from the story of Alex’s need to (in whatever way possible) to bring back the love of her life. There’s a Dylan Thomas quote that talks about ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’ (that’s the end of it). I kind of liken it to this show in the sense that I think that the worst thing in life is a wasted life. It happens when you start to feel hopeless. What this show has done is taken hope and brought it into a very critical hyper-intense world of tragedy. It’s relatable to other people because guess what? You’re messed up when you have small things that are happening in your life and you have to kind of keeping getting through them and you have to keep believing in things.
MJ: Is it cooler to play Lois Lane or Alex Reid?
ED: It’s different.
MJ: I knew you were going to say that!
ED: I am sorry! It’s just so so different. I think that it [Smallville] just came along in my life when I was at a different place and so it will be different in that sense as well. But they are both badass chicks?
MJ: And finally, why should people watch this show?
ED: To fall in love every week.
MJ: With you?
ED: With the characters.
MJ: That’s awesome, thank you so much.
ED: Thank you.