Erica Durance spent 7 years on the hit television show ‘Smallville’, and starting tonight will take on her new role as Dr. Alex Reid in ‘Saving Hope.’ We had the opportunity to talk to her about playing a Doctor and the importance of choosing strong female roles.
Q. The show airs tonight, it’s probably exciting?
Erica Durance: It is! We as cast members were kind of playing our own game in our own bubble and now all of us are starting to get a little anxious.
Q. How would you describe the show?
Erica Durance: I would describe it as a medical drama that is so much more. There are so many out there and its interesting because everyone is interested in their own mortality and high stakes drama, so you have to have a setting that gives you those kinds of stories to tell. The main premise is through the eyes of my character who loses her fiancé to a coma and he ends up in this kind of in between world trying to get back to her, and she’s trying to bring him back. So it’s this love story between them as they’re trying to get back together. But it also focuses on that balance between science and faith, because my character is this super scientist who all of a sudden is going through this experience where she’s trying to bring him back and all of those original ideas she had about life are kind of getting thrown out the window. She’s willing to try anything, so I like to call it a medical drama with a twist.
Q. When you were reading the script and filming some of the scenes, did it challenge your beliefs?
Erica Durance: What was challenging is that the role is kind of the opposite of the way I think about life. I have always believed there is something else out there. I think it has been crucial for my sense of self and placement to believe that there’s somebody bigger than me out there, watching over me. But my character doesn’t think that way, so that was an interesting struggle, having her be sceptical of all of these things because I’m the one that throws myself into that belief system.
Q. In the previews we get a sense the show is a bit of a ghost story.
Erica Durance: That’s kind of an initial thing we talked about to get people to not write it off just as a procedural show. It has its own taste, and there’s so much more to it. There are all these other characters that come in that have these really interesting issues and its one of those things that’s kind of, you have to buy into it and hopefully fall in love with the characters, and go for the ride. Our creators have done such a great job of creating this beautiful story, but its whether you are interested in those kind of things. That’s kind of up to the viewer.
Q. Would you say then that it is different from say ‘ER’ or shows we’re used to now?
Erica Durance: I believe that each one of them had their own “thing” and this is ours. A lot of people like medical drama, so you’re still going to see some things where people come in, and there are cases, and they have these issues. But it’s because we have this other realm that a lot of those people in the show get taken into that other side. You get to see them from a different perspective and there’s a sense of humour about it. It is a total different way of looking at it, and it helps the audience look at it differently.
Q. I read that you were looking for a strong female lead when this part came up.
Erica Durance: I was. I was searching through a bunch of different things and I fell in love with the script right away for the way they created so many different levels. I was really looking forward to being part of something that also had women in the leadership position and in the writing room to add that other voice. Being allowed to be acting in this show as well as a Producer was a really big draw for me so that I could educate myself more.
Q. Do you find that there are more of these kinds of roles available for women now where they are a strong lead?
Erica Durance: I believe so. I think that you just look back at all the pioneer women before us, women who have been working really hard in this industry to put things out that add another layer. Given the way movies and tv shows have been going it has been such a nice, refreshing time where women are the leads. That I have been allowed to be part of that makes me super grateful.
Q. Did your previous work prepare you for taking the lead role this time around?
Erica Durance: I don’t know if youre ever prepared, because its such a gigantic undertaking, but I do feel that everything you do does that. I think that my 7 years on ‘Smallville’ and the many different ways they let my character go made it the best acting school I could have gone to and been part of. Every little bit helps when you get in to a situation like this that is such a massive undertaking.
Q. How do you prepare as an actress to play a Doctor?
Erica Durance: You depend on the kindness of strangers, that’s for sure. For myself there was research, reading articles, books. I went to a hospital and a Doctor was gracious enough to let me shadow some of his surgeries, so I watched some of those. And we have medical consultants who are with us all the time so it’s a real gigantic team effort and there are always people there to protect me from myself, to make sure I don’t do anything incorrectly. All these fascinating interesting things that you wouldn’t expect, small little details of how surgeons perform. I was doing a scene one day and I was crouching over the patient and the Doctor came up to me and said, “Doctors don’t bend over. We want to appear confident and sure, and when you bend over and are hunching you lose a sense of status.” Things like that are something you never think of.
Q. What is it like on set when you’re filming these surgeries?
Erica Durance: Its wild, crazy and I love it. Our prosthetic team is fantastic and create these various different parts that are absolutely bang on. They’re so realistic. So the set feels like organized chaos.
Q. The show is also airing in the states which is kind of rare for a show made in Canada.
Erica Durance: They’re starting to do that a lot more, I think that we all as a public aren’t always aware. Once you find something that’s good, and I think that’s key, it doesn’t really matter where something originates from. It’s a question of is it a good story to tell and then how to get it out there, how do you tell the story to people. We ended up hooking up with NBC as the distributor to the States which is wonderful.
Q. You worked in Canada on ‘Smallville’. Is it important for you to work in Canada?
Erica Durance: It’s nice to be close to home but luckily my family and I are very nomadic and transient so we love to travel and see new places. I think you have to buy into that stuff when you’re an actor, be willing to try new places. So it is nice to be somewhere else, it’s very refreshing.
Q. Without giving too much away, what can people expect from this first season, people who might not be thinking about watching?
Erica Durance: Expect the unexpected. It is a surprise. Some people hear about the idea that there is a person in the in between world and say “I don’t like to watch things about ghosts” but that’s not the point of it. That’s what I love about it. The point is to add a little bit of something for everyone but to also raise the discussion of do we have souls or is it synapses firing in the brain? We have all sorts of interesting medical cases to stimulate people who love that kind of stuff, but it’s more the other world. I think it’s really going to engage and surprise people, as well as this love story between these characters. What you would and wouldn’t do to bring someone back, how far would you go. It’s a great show, its going to be very addictive.
Q. How does the love story develop?
Erica Durance: The thing with that I think you should know is that because they end up in a situation where you see them sort of halfway into the relationship what happens is each episode you get a little flash back to what their life was like together. You start to fall in love with their relationship as well. It’s interesting to watch it slowly unravel and watch the coping mechanisms of grief and how she tries to balance both her worlds. Sometimes it works from grief and crying, sometimes its rage. It’s all those things that would happen to you if you’re going through that.