I had the privilege of speaking with Jill Flint (Jordan Alexander), Freddy Rodriguez (Michael Ragosa), Brendan Fehr (Drew), and Gabe Sachs, the creator, of “The Night Shift” at a press roundtable this past weekend at ATX Festival. “The Night Shift” airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. central on NBC.
Q: What sets The Night Shift apart for you guys from every other medical show?
Gabe Sachs: We wanted to get the craziness of the night shift. Like how do we create a show that, you know, we get a little military, we get, you know, the night shift, we get San Antonio, Texas, we get all these flavors being contributed and that’s what we wanted to have the show be like you look at it and go, what is going on? And also make it an action show, you know, something that has heart. It’s one of these things that…and it in the pilot, the reason that it’s so crazy is that you are trying to get picked up. I mean really you’re like, like how many stories can we shove into this thing where it gets, you know, people go, wow this is a different kind of show, and that’s sort of that’s where it came from. Hopefully that sets it apart. We’re just trying to tell a lot of stories, and we have these amazing actors and amazing characters, and all season you sort of learn about each one of them.
Why did you pick to set The Night Shift in San Antonio?
Sachs: I think it’s the proximity to the military bases, and I think that’s really important to our show because we’ve got three doctors – two of them are vets, and Brendan’s character Drew is currently still in the army. You know, that is sort of a backdrop. That’s exactly why because everyone’s seen, you know, New York, LA, Chicago. We sort of wanted to get a different feel, a rural kind of feel, and so we can, that helps us in storytelling. You get different kinds of characters in those environments that you don’t see usually.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed is Ragosa’s relationship with Landry. They are both very closed off people. What do you think it is that causes the two of them to open up to each other and can you share anything about what’s to come for Ragosa and Landry?
Freddy Rodriguez: Well you know Landry’s there for people to talk to, right? And we established early on that my character is going through some pretty heavy stuff, and she was always encouraging him to come and talk to her. And in the process, I think, the same thing happened in reverse, where she opened up to me [You will see this in a future episode. FYI]. Will there be any love interest going between them? This is the man [Gabe Sachs] to ask right here.
Jill Flint: I mean there is some chemistry there. Am I right?
Sachs: The connection is, for us as writers, and to have two actors like that where you can see an emotional connection – it doesn’t have to be romantic. It is just an emotional connection – is gold to us. We try to mine that and sort of do as much as we can, and we see how it unfolds. But it is the fact that there is a character like Ragosa who, on the surface, feels like a guy, oh he’s going to be that guy no one likes and on and on, and then we see he can open up, and there’s a lot of layers. I think that’s what excites me about it.
What is it like portraying a gay military character?
Brendan Fehr: I mean it’s interesting. It’s, that was the challenge that when I read the script, it was something that just struck me. I felt like I had something to offer to that role. You don’t want to take a role that you don’t feel that you can kind of elevate and have something to offer. It was the struggle. Whether you agree or disagree, it was the pain of this character that you just saw on the page that he couldn’t be who he wanted to be, you know, or who he is. I think for anyone, that’s just something that is everyone can kind of sympathize and empathize with. And so, it was just wanting to tell his story and making that available to not only the LGBT community to kind of hold on to, you know what I mean? And to be someone there where they can be, that’s yes, I get that, and to just something that, um, for them to hang onto a little bit or to relate to. But also just on a bigger, on a human level, to have other people who might not have understood it or might not agree with it, to give them just a different perspective. To, as an actor, try to tell this guy’s story in such a way that was so well written that other people will just be like…I never saw that part. You know what I mean? I just read it in newspapers and I just see it, and I just get a little news clip of, you know, the gay and the military and this and equal rights and marriage, and then to have them sit there and watch it actually. Because when you see something with your own eyes, when it’s part of an experience, you are always going to view it in a different light, you know what I mean? There’s something there of being there instead of just reading about it. I think that was kinda my challenge, and I was excited to live up to that and to bring everybody into his story.
In episode 104, we get a new head of trauma, played by Scott Wolf, who has a personal connection with Jordan. How does Scott’s official first day play out and affect everyone?
Flint: Well he and TC get a long immediately. [laughs] Immediately, making things so easy on Jordan.
Sachs: That is the craziest thing. Again on paper, he is perfect for Jordan. Jordan knows that, but I think when they are both in the same room in the same area, it’s like she’s like, wow maybe this wasn’t a good idea. There’s so much conflicting things. It’s, again, it’s gold for stories. The more conflict that Jordan has with this situation, the better, and you can’t hate Scott Wolf. He’s like the greatest guy, you know, and so that made it even more exciting and fun for us, is just to have that kind of personality come on into the show. It’s great.
You have had some pretty crazy cases on the show so far. Is there anything that you have kind of been like, wait are you serious?
Rodriguez: Actually the majority of the stories that are on the show are all true.
Sachs: Yeah, they are all from real cases. That’s why we love when people say they’re over the top.
Fehr: Are they the most extreme? Yes. Do they happen every day? No. You know what I mean?
Sachs: Which is the point, yeah.
Fehr: But we’re also here to entertain you guys.
In 104, we get more background on Landry. Can you share or tease anything that we are going to learn about your characters in future episodes?
Sachs: I think you get a bunch of background in this next episode as a person, you get, you know, Drew there’s a lot a stuff. You get MMA. You’ll see how it’s sort of, we learn more about Drew. We learn more about their relationship, you know, Jordan and Jordan as a boss, and how she deals with that with also being friends with these people, which is always a weird mix.
Fehr: We filmed it so long ago now. Robert’s [who plays Paul] got an episode where you get a little glimpse into his family.
Flint: I have an episode, you see why I got into the medical profession in the first place.
Fehr: Yeah, yeah that’s right.
Flint: And why she’s so motivated to, why she’s such a problem solver, and why she wants to do what she does.
Sachs: And the thing about Freddy’s character [Ragosa] is you continually every episode are learning something that’s like, what? Like what in the world?
Flint: Who is this guy?
Sachs: It’s just interesting because little, you know, personalities…One of my favorite things, it’s so silly. It’s a tiny moment. But it’s where Landry is sincerely asking a question, and he’s like, I know what you’re doing. You know? To me that’s just such a funny thing. It’s like he wants to be part of the cool kids, and it’s great because you see that. He’s just a human being now, from the episode two on, actually from the end of episode one on.
Fehr: Even Eoin [TC] with his brother, you know, with that story it kind of goes one step, you learn something else throughout the season. Jeananne’s character Krista has a case where you learn a little bit about her. Gabe serviced all the characters, you know, he’s got nine of them, and we’re all treated. I mean obviously there are different stories to tell, and you have, you know, ones that take a little bit of a priority over another in terms of wanting to have, you know, the central character and everyone kind of go in and out and around. But they hired us and they wrote this because they wanted to tell a story about all these people, and they do a great job of giving everyone, as an actor, really great material and their kind of time in the sun, and to service their character in a really way that us as actors appreciate, and we get to kinda show and do some work, you know what I mean? And do what we love and be able to have some great stuff to work with.
What did you think of the interview? Leave me your thoughts in a comment below. Don’t forget to check back all during this week for even more interviews from ATX Festival.