It’s no Grey’s Anatomy, but The Night Shift comes close to fulfilling the craving for a compelling medical drama series. It’s addictive with plenty of eye-candy, tension, drama, romance and an injection of comedy. Debashine Thangevelo finds out how Eoin Macken and Jill Flint feel about helming this ensemble offering…
WHENEVER Grey’s Anatomy comes to an end, fans go into mourning. While M-Net tries to console them with offerings like Royal Pains and The Knick, viewers are incapable of masking their discontent at what are regarded as poor substitutes.
That said, I think the channel might have latched on to a possible winner with The Night Shift.
Irish actor Eoin Macken, recognised as Gwaine in the TV series Merlin, proves to be quite the character as Dr TC Callahan. He is a cross between a mutinous Dr Gregory House (House) and a ruggedly-handsome and compassionate Dr Derek Shepherd (Grey’s). Perhaps there’s a bit of Owen Hunt (Grey’s) in there, too.
That long, tousled hair, rugged appearance and bad-boy biker vibe was a great sell by creators Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Homeward Bound, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman). Having worked together on 90210, Life as We Know It, What About Brian?, Just Shoot Me and Freaks and Geeks, they have an impressive collective experience for crafting entertaining stories.
And to their credit, they have pooled together an impressive ensemble cast with Jill Flint (The Good Wife), Ken Leung (X-Men: the Last Stand and Person of Interest), Brendan Fehr (Bones, CSI Miami), Daniella Alonso (Revolution, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Wrong Turn 2), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Ugly Betty), Robert Bailey jr (a slew of TV cameos), Jeananne Goossen (The Following, NCIS Los Angeles, Alcatraz, NCIS) and JR Lemon (Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas).
The Night Shift explores the close-knit friendships of the doctors as they work tirelessly to save lives while navigating bureaucratic red tape.
There are also other demons that come to the fore, along with one doctor’s determination to remain in the closet for fear of being labelled.
Amid the pervading drama, the life-and-death situations lend gripping tensions and twists.
Getting his head around the medical aspect of his character took some getting used to for Macken.
He notes: “It seems really easy when you’re doing it with just your hands. Then you put on gloves and you have dialogue at the same time… it’s impossible and chaotic.”
Flint, who plays Dr Jordan Alexander (aka the one who tries to keep Callahan in line), continues: “We had to go through medical boot camp and I don’t do blood and guts. There are just some things I saw that were actual cases that the doctor was teaching us from the week they experienced.
“The prosthetics are awesome (on the show). And we have a great make-up department. We had a woman who is a burn victim and they covered her in prosthetics – she had to stay that way for a good 15 hours.”
Thankfully, there is a good dose of action, especially with Callahan driving his motorbike. He says: “It’s cool. As a boy, I had a great time. The helicopters and the motorbike and the blood everywhere with stuff blowing up. And you got to run around and play with guns.”
Macken is referring to his character’s back-story and his time in Afghanistan.
He shares: “You always feel much cooler when you have blood on your face. Just naturally, you are like, ‘I’m a badass now’.”
By the way, Macken reckons the blood is “a mix of sugared water with ketchup or something”.
Aside from the surgeries, there is a human interest aspect, especially with patients coming in and having no medical insurance.
Macken points out: “That was a big part of it. When you talk to Freddy, his character Ragosa is all about the bureaucracy of it – the insurance and financials.
“And then Jordan ends up being stuck between the top and the bottom of Freddy’s character and TC.
“He (my character) just doesn’t care if someone has money or not. He will try and save somebody with Band-Aid if that works.”
Expanding on the conundrum her character faces, Flint notes: “When you meet Jordan, she had just completed a day shift and is asked to start the night shift.
“In her introduction, she is on her 18th hour on the shift. She’s exhausted and is not getting a very warm welcome. There is a sort of rivalry, too.”
He continues: “On the night shift, they don’t really care about anyone else much, apart from treating their patients. They don’t care if it pisses off the hospital. They get swept up in the adrenalin of working in a hospital – and they all come from army backgrounds.”
And the complexities abound as Macken and Flint’s characters deal with their romantic past and the issues they never addressed.
The Night Shift offers a maze of unfettered drama, while taking viewers on an emotional roller-coaster ride.
By the way, the programme has been renewed for a second instalment, which is somewhat indicative of its pull.
• The Night Shift airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Mondays at 7.30pm.