Marcia Gay Harden
Marcia Gay Harden wants to keep it real. Code Black is the latest in a string of TV hospital dramas but the Oscar-winner insists it is very different from the rest.
Viewers won’t be seeing any characters like Grey’s Anatomy’s Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) on this show.
Code Black is based on an award-winning documentary of the same name by Ryan McGarry. It is set in the chaotic emergency room at Angels Memorial Hospital. Harden plays Dr Leanne Rorish, the ER residency director.
Harden won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of artist Lee Krasner in Pollock in 2000.
She recently appeared in Fifty Shades of Grey.
What makes Code Black stand out from other TV hospital dramas? Why I think Code Black is so cool is that it is docu-style. What I learned from creator Michael Seitzman is that from the time the ambulance pulls in until the time you’re in that (emergency) room, we’ve got two minutes to stabilise them (patients). So that is exciting. It is like medical Nascar.
What do you like about Leanne Rorish? She’s fierce. She’s a fighter. And she has had this tragedy, which has caused a kind of bitterness and closed-offness, and a potential recklessness. What Leanne puts out … is family, love, health, do a good job, teamwork, make the world a better place.
You’ve switched from film to TV for this role. What are the challenges of playing Leanne? I feel like this character is using every bit of me as an actor. I have to learn medical jargon, physically, verbally, and be so committed to it. I just feel like it is saying to me stretch and use every part of yourself. And that is a joy. I feel so lucky at this point in my life to be playing this character.
How much research did you have to do for the role? When I was younger I was in the Junior Army Navy League Organisation (JANGO). So I worked for the Navy Bethesda Hospital on a volunteer basis, working with patients. I was maybe 14 at the time. But what they ( Code Black producers) did was let us trail real emergency room doctors. We got to go into these (emergency and operating) rooms and see what they really did.
What surprised you about real emergency rooms? I had to throw out a lot of my initial ideas about the level of people yelling “stat” at each other (laughs). There’s frenetic energy but it’s all very organic. The hallway is littered with firemen, policemen giving their report about a traffic accident, and over there is a person who came in from the prison, who’s handcuffed to the bed. Over there are parents crying.
I’m curious about the emotional side. The doctors who do this in real life have to come to grips with tragedy. In my own life I have been toughened up by loss. I have a new understanding of professionalism in this life or death workplace. You learn that the greatest gift you can give to the family (when a patient dies) is not your emotion but the facts. What the family needs that doctor to say is “we did everything we could”. It requires strength.
CODE BLACK, CHANNEL 7, THURSDAY, 9.10PM