Ac­tress swaps Smal­lville for big- time surgery drama

Erica Du­rance plays a doc­tor fac­ing a cri­sis of faith in Sav­ing Hope

Vancouver Sun - - WESTCOAST LIFE - BY ERIC VOLMERS

Erica Du­rance com­pares performing fake surgery with act­ing in a well- chore­ographed play.

The Cal­gary- born ac­tress is on the phone from Toronto af­ter six gru­elling hours in the operating room performing make- be­lieve life- and- death pro­ce­dures as the star of CTV’s new med­i­cal drama

Sav­ing Hope.

As with most hos­pi­tal- set dra­mas, there’s an em­pha­sis on au­then­tic­ity. Makeup and pros­thet­ics cer­tainly help. Con­sul­tants are on hand for the rest.

It has all con­spired to make Du­rance look ev­ery bit the ex­pert she is sup­posed to be when it comes to wield­ing the scalpel. She seems pleased when told how au­then­tic it all looked in Episode 1.

“It’s a lit­tle bit crazy,” she says. “As an ac­tor, you’re try­ing to get your bear­ings a lot.”

TV doc­tors should al­ways look com­pe­tent. But as Dr. Alex Reid, chief sur­gi­cal res­i­dent of the fic­tional Mount Zion Hos­pi­tal, it’s even more im­por­tant that Du­rance, 33, looks sure- handed and con­fi­dent. Part of the dra­matic tension in Sav­ing Hope is watch­ing the prag­matic Reid’s cer­tainty un­ravel as she’s faced with per­sonal tragedy.

The show opens with Reid on the way to her wed­ding to marry Char­lie Har­ris ( Michael Shanks), the su­per­star chief of surgery at the hos­pi­tal. But, in a twist well- suited for TV melo­drama, there’s an accident and he lands in a coma be­fore they have a chance to ex­change vows. This leads to him wan­der­ing his hos­pi­tal in ghostly limbo.

“I like to say that she’s a very lin­ear thinker and it’s all about sci­ence,” Du­rance says. “And then she be­comes chal­lenged with this sit­u­a­tion of her fi­ance go­ing into a coma and all her ideals that she had about life and that there was noth­ing out­side of what she was do­ing and there is no af­ter­life. Now she’s forced to think what- if? Ex­pe­ri­ence is chang­ing her ini­tial val­ues. That’s what I found quite in­ter­est­ing about it.”

Sav­ing Hope was in­spired by a three- part ar­ti­cle in The Globe

and Mail by Ian Brown about the har­row­ing day- to- day life within Mount Si­nai Hos­pi­tal in Toronto.

Some per­sonal drama for cocre­ator Mor­wyn Breb­ner helped flesh out the premise. When her eight- month- old daugh­ter be­came ill, Breb­ner found her­self pray­ing for some oth­er­worldly help to guide the doc­tors. So Sav­ing Hope emerged as a med­i­cal drama with a dis­tinct spir­i­tual bent.

The main story arc about the emo­tional toll of Char­lie’s coma com­bines with weekly mini- dra­mas about pa­tients and doc­tors. Things be­come even more com­plex on the ro­man­tic front when, the day Char­lie lapses into a coma, Alex’s ar­ro­gant ex Joel Go­ran ( Daniel Gil­lies) joins the staff of Hope Zion as an­other sur­geon.

Du­rance was look­ing for a TV drama an­chored by a strong fe­male char­ac­ter to fol­low up her seven- sea­son stint as a but­t­kick­ing Lois Lane on Smal­lville, a role that earned her giddy fan­dom from sci- fi en­thu­si­asts. Sav­ing Hope nicely fit the bill. While the se­ries has a sub­tle su­per­nat­u­ral side, the fo­cus is on the hu­man con­di­tion, Du­rance says.

“I think they’ve done a good job of mak­ing it re­lat­able for peo­ple,” she says. “The whole scope of it is to talk about the idea of con­tin­u­ing to hold onto hope in your life no mat­ter what’s go­ing on.”

Born in Cal­gary, Du­rance was raised on a turkey farm near the re­li­gious com­mu­nity of Three Hills, where she of­ten per­formed in church plays. Her grand­fa­ther was the town’s hymn ex­pert. Her mother was the li­brar­ian and her fa­ther a trucker.

When the act­ing bug bit, Du­rance left for Van­cou­ver, where she lived as a strug­gling ac­tress.

“I went through com­mer­cials and the back­ground [ work] and do­ing all that stuff that peo­ple do when they are try­ing to get a gig,” she says.

“It’s re­ally good to take all those steps, you re­ally un­der­stand how hard it is for peo­ple to get where they are.”

Her role as Lois Lane not only gave her a ca­reer boost, it se­cured her po­si­tion as a sex sym­bol. She made FHM’s 100 Sex­i­est Women list in 2006 and 2007, was a Maxim cover girl that same year and was even quizzed by Howard Stern in typ­i­cally frank fash­ion in a se­ries of ra­dio in­ter­views.

But she was never re­ally con­cerned Lois Lane would for­ever type­cast her as the comic geek’s dream girl.

“Some­one once asked me if I would be up­set if in a few years peo­ple still say ‘ Lois!,’” Du­rance says. “No. It’s part of my jour­ney. It’s what I did. I loved it. I’ve al­ways ac­cepted it’s part of the busi­ness. Yes, if you have the chance to get out there and try some­thing new, that’s fine. But, re­gard­less, we’re all in a bit of a box. I re­ally wasn’t wor­ried about it.”

That said, the prac­ti­cal Alex is very dif­fer­ent than the ide­al­is­tic Lois. And Sav­ing Hope is a very dif­fer­ent show than Smal­lville. Hos­pi­tals have al­ways proven to be great fod­der for TV melo­drama. It’s hu­man na­ture, Du­rance says.

Michael Shanks ( left) plays Dr. Charles Har­ris, Erica Du­rance is Dr. Alex Reid and Daniel Gil­lies stars as Dr. Joel Go­ran in the new med­i­cal drama Sav­ing Hope.

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