It takes a lot to con­vince vet­eran ac­tress Al­fre Woodard to sign on for a TV show. As Guy Davis found out, the new med­i­cal se­ries Three Rivers had a lot to off er.

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FEATURE -

Show busi­ness can be a cruel and un­pre­dictable game, even for well-re­spected ac­tors who’ve worked con­sis­tently for many years.

Not only is there the pos­si­bil­ity that one day the job off ers just might stop com­ing, there’s also the chance that you might fi nd your­self at­tached to a project that doesn’t refl ect who you are as an artist and a per­son.

And then there’s the chance that the project be­comes a huge hit, one that you’re chained to for years to come.

Amer­i­can ac­tress Al­fre Woodard has been in the busi­ness for more than 30 years, giv­ing ac­claimed per­for­mances in plays, in fi lms and on TV shows – she was re­cently seen as Betty Applewhite on Des­per­ate Housewives.

And she’s well aware that sign­ing on for a pi­lot episode of a tele­vi­sion se­ries has its pros and cons.

“ You hear ac­tors go ‘ Oh, it’s pi­lot sea­son, I can make some money’,” she said. “ Be­cause, you know, one pi­lot out of 100 gets picked up and be­comes a se­ries. But if you do a pi­lot, you’re sign­ing a con­tract that says you’re in it for the whole run.

“ So you might think some aw­ful pi­lot might never even make it to air, but if it be­comes a hit it could be your legacy.”

Woodard may laugh about such a sit­u­a­tion but she’s also wary enough not to join some­thing she’s un­will­ing to make a com­mit­ment to. And the new Ten med­i­cal drama Three Rivers is such a show.

Three Rivers fo­cuses on a ded­i­cated team of doc­tors work­ing at Amer­ica’s premier trans­plant fa­cil­ity, with each episode of the se­ries view­ing a trans­plant op­er­a­tion from a num­ber of per­spec­tives.

“ At the beginning of an episode, you fol­low some­one who fi nds them­selves in a po­si­tion to be a donor,” said Woodard.

“ Then there’s the per­son who needs an or­gan. And the third sto­ry­line fol­lows how we pull it off at the med­i­cal cen­tre, be­cause it’s not an easy thing. It is a mad dash against time, and for ev­ery or­gan that be­comes avail­able there are many, many peo­ple say­ing ‘ It’s mine, I need it, give it to me’.

“ So we get to see how it’s ob­tained and how it’s de­cided which per­son should get it, be­cause it’s not just the next per­son on the list. And get­ting it phys­i­cally to the lo­ca­tion isn’t easy – you’ve got to beat the clock while some­one is ly­ing on an op­er­at­ing ta­ble wait­ing for this life-sav­ing heart or kid­ney.”

The show has a strong lo­cal con­nec­tion, with up-and-com­ing Aus­tralian star Alex O’Lough­lin head­ing the cast as worka­holic sur­geon Dr Andy Yablon­ski, who leads the “ crack team” of medi­cos overseen by Woodard’s Dr Sophia Jor­dan, the hospi­tal’s head of surgery.

“ Sophia has hand-picked the peo­ple she works with, like Alex’s char­ac­ter,” said Woodard. “ And it’s a breed of peo­ple who are very in­ter­est­ing to watch, be­cause you have to have the skill and the drive to be avail­able 24/ 7 in this line of work.

“ So I think of her as a coach, and one who only has peo­ple she can de­pend upon on her team.

“ Take Alex’s Dr Yablon­ski – he’s a ‘ what­ever it takes’ kind of guy. My char­ac­ter has to an­swer to the peo­ple who pay for things. But if Dr Yablon­ski has to step out­side the box to de­liver, she doesn’t care. She’ll al­low what­ever has to be done to save a per­son’s life.”

Need­less to say, she adds with a laugh, “ all our per­sonal lives are in sham­bles. But there are tons of great sto­ries, full of drama and some­times hu­mour, to be told”.

And that’s a big part of what drew Woodard to sign on. The com­pany she’s keep­ing on the Three Rivers set, how­ever, is also prov­ing to be a big draw­card.

“ Alex was some­one I’d never met but I’d heard he was re­ally tal­ented and won­der­ful to work with,” she said.

“ And he is – he’s a great guy. There’s just a great en­ergy on our set. And you want good scripts and a role you can en­joy, of course, but at a cer­tain point it comes down to who you want to be around for the next year. The next fi ve years, if you’re lucky.”

In­deed, Woodard is hope­ful and op­ti­mistic that Three Rivers will be a suc­cess. But she’s also enough of a re­al­ist to un­der­stand that there are no sure things.

Life savers: Aus­tralian ac­tor Alex O’Lough­lin ( Dr Andy Yablon­ski) and Os­car nom­i­nee Al­fre Woodard ( Dr Sophia Jor­dan) run the show in Three Rivers.

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