Tense and in­tense

A doc­tor op­er­at­ing on the Pres­i­dent of the United States is told to let him die dur­ing surgery. What she does in­stead will sur­prise view­ers in a thrilling se­ries called

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - By RoB Low­man

CBS, the home of crime pro­ce­du­rals like CSI and NCIS or mys­ter­ies with ec­cen­tric cen­tral char­ac­ters like The Men­tal­ist or El­e­men­tary is mov­ing into new ter­ri­tory with Hostages.

While the net­work’s other shows of­fer a cer­tain breath­able com­fort zone, de­liv­er­ing mostly re­solv­able so­lu­tions over a 22-week sea­son, Hostages, a tense dra­matic thriller set in Wash­ing­ton, DC, is more akin to ca­ble’s Home­land or The Amer­i­cans. It will run for 15 weeks straight, with no re­peats, and its story arc will cover about two weeks.

The first episode sets up a sim­ple but com­plex premise in one of the most ex­cit­ing new shows on TV.

Toni Collette plays Dr Ellen San­ders, a top-flight sur­geon, who is also a sub­ur­ban mother with a hus­band and chil­dren. Af­ter much vet­ting, she has been cho­sen to op­er­ate on the Pres­i­dent of the United States. It is sup­posed to be a fairly rou­tine pro­ce­dure, but the night be­fore the surgery, Ellen and her fam­ily are taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent named Dun­can Carlisle (Dy­lan McDer­mott) and his team. She is then given an im­pos­si­ble choice: let the pres­i­dent die or have her and her fam­ily face the con­se­quences.

The Emmy-win­ning Collette says she had been look­ing for a se­ries since her Show­time com­edy The United States Of Tara ended, but that “noth­ing re­ally did it for me.”

“When I got this script, I was very taken with it,” says the Aus­tralian ac­tress, who of­ten plays moth­ers, in­clud­ing in this sum­mer’s in­die hit The Way Way Back – and in her os­car-nom­i­nated per­for­mance in The Sixth Sense. “I never done any­thing like this, which is why I wanted to do it. I love the ten­sion of the show. It’s the kind of show I would ac­tu­ally want to watch.”

Hostages is more fa­mil­iar ter­rain for McDer­mott, who played a rogue CIA agent in the thriller Olym­pus Has Fallen, which came out last year.

“I’ve been play­ing a lot of bad guys re­cently,” ac­knowl­edges the ac­tor, who por­trayed a rather dark, twisted char­ac­ter in the first sea­son of Amer­i­can Hor­ror.

“Early in my ca­reer I played a lot of earnest people. I never felt en­tirely com­fort­able with that. So this has been fun for me, and it’s opened me up as an ac­tor.”

There is a scene in the first episode of Hostages that hints McDer­mott’s char­ac­ter is not sim­ply evil, though, that he may even be a pup­pet.

“He’s an ex­am­ple of a char­ac­ter who is both good and bad,” says McDer­mott. “So when I read the script, I thought this is ex­actly what I want to be. That’s so hard to find.

“All the char­ac­ters walk that line,” adds Collette.

When we talked dur­ing the sum­mer, the ac­tors were just in the mid­dle of shoot­ing Hostages’ sec­ond episode and say they only knew some “broad” out­lines of the story. So they seemed as cu­ri­ous as view­ers about the likely di­rec­tion of the se­ries.

Dur­ing a Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion ses­sion, Hostages ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and writer rick Eid said the show “is def­i­nitely open ended.” Uber-pro­ducer Jerry Bruck­heimer, who has a long re­la­tion­ship with CBS with his CSI fran­chise, added, “This is not a minis­eries for us.” So while Hostages may have a limited ca­ble-type run this year, rat­ings leader CBS may be look­ing at the se­ries for the long haul.

Still, Collette likes the idea of only do­ing 15 episodes a year. “It gives you an op­por­tu­nity to have a life and do some­thing else.”

McDer­mott, though, is a long­time se­ries vet­eran, hav­ing been on The Prac­tice from 1997 to 2004.

“Twenty-two episodes a year is hard,” he says.

“Yeah,” agrees Collette. “Al­though I’ve never done it,” she adds laugh­ing. — The Daily News/McClatchyTri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Hostages pre­mieres to­mor­row at 9pm on Warner TV (Hypp TV Ch 613).

Do or die: Dun­can Carlisle (Dy­lan McDer­mott) takes Dr Ellen San­ders’ (Toni Collette) fam­ily hostage and threat­ens to kill them if she doesn’t do what he says — kill the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.

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