‘Hospital Show’ zooms in on the "broken, deluded" actors who play TV doctors
We here at YVR Screen Scene love the month of March for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the abundance of teasers and trailers for web series in the running for Independent Production Fund (IPF) financing. The IPF has kickstarted some of our favourite web series of the last five years, including ‘Paranormal Solutions Inc.,’ ‘White Ninja,’ ‘Parked,’ and ‘Riftworld Chronicles' (starring Erin Karpluk and Tahmoh Penikett), and the resoundingly stellar trailers and teasers that flood our social media feeds each spring get us really psyched about the state of digital storytelling in Canada. Over the next week, we’ll showcase several exceptional projects in the running for 2018 IPF funding, beginning with ‘Hospital Show.’
There’s a lot of awesomeness to unpack in the trailer for Hospital Show, beginning with the concept for the series: a workplace comedy about a group of (to quote creator, writer, director, editor, and actor Adam Greydon Reid) “broken, deluded, narcissistic, addicted actors who play television’s most respected doctors.”
There’s also the genius of the casting: Leo Award-winning actress Sara Canning – who starred in the Toronto-shot medical drama Remedy – as a medical school drop-out turned actress playing a doctor on a medical drama called Critical Condition; Adrian Holmes (who won a Canadian Screen Award in 2017 for his nuanced work on Bravo/CTV’s critically acclaimed crime procedural 19-2) as a man-boy actor playing Critical Condition’s number-one-on-the-call-sheet star; Jordan Connor – who plays Sweet Pea on Riverdale – as an Instagram-obsessed Millennial; Enid-Raye Adams as a widowed actress and mother of two who is experiencing a sexual awakening (one that's manifesting in healthy and not-so-healthy ways); Caroline Chikezie as the no-bullshit mother hen of the motley group of actors; and Reid as an alcoholic actor playing an alcoholic doctor, much to his chagrin.
Motive star Kristin Lehman (“I had this image of her playing a makeup artist and coaching the cast”), Convos with my 2yo’s David Milchard (“He’s the unsung hero for me as most of his stuff is off-camera [dialogue] but he was so vital”), and Valerie Tian (Juno) round out the impressive cast.
The trailer follows Critical Condition’s actors (played by Hospital Show’s actors) as they film the opening credits for the show’s fourth season (Critical Condition’s fourth season, not Hospital Show’s; trust us, it’s all less confusing than it sounds).
The trailer for Hospital Show is really, really funny – but if you don’t believe us, maybe you’ll believe Firefly star Nathan Fillion, who tweeted out his mad love for the trailer last week:
Reid says he was initially inspired to write Hospital Show by niggling existential questions he had about acting – namely, “What is it about acting?” – after a lifetime in the biz. He found an avatar of sorts in the character of Charlie, the med-school-drop-out-turned-actress played by Canning.
“I started to explore my inner life through Charlie, and started to actually think like, ‘Okay, should I stay or should I go?’” says Reid, who got his start as an actor at the age of 12 in the iconic Nickelodeon/YTV series You Can’t Do That On Television and graduated from Ryerson University’s film program.
The Vancouver-based multi-hyphenate (director-writer-producer-editor-actor) liked the idea of a character who is straddling two worlds – in Charlie’s case, acting and medicine – and finds herself trapped in what Reid calls “a limbo phantom zone”; the setting of a hospital show “appeals to the psychological stuff that interests me, which is the idea of a healer that actually needs healing,” says Reid. “Then you add the double layer, which is an actor who plays a doctor, and that actor needs healing. It becomes a real house of mirrors.”
Canning was a natural fit for the role of Charlie, according to Reid, and not just because of her two years as Dr. Melissa Conner on Remedy (“I almost sent her the script with her picture from Remedy on it but I thought that was presumptuous,” he chuckles).
“I’ve always thought of Sara in this role,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of people who I believe actually could be a doctor, and I imagine Charlie as someone who would work with Doctors Without Borders. Charlie is bold and strong, she's funny, she's smart, there's a peppering of vulnerability there, too; Sara embodies all of those qualities."
From there, Reid considered the other kinds of actors that could be represented on Hospital Show, and looked to The Wizard of Oz for archetypes. Says Reid: “I imagined if Charlie was like Dorothy, who is basically in Oz by mistake, and she really should be a real doctor but now she’s pretending to be one, so who should I surround this character with?”
And so Holmes’ character is akin to the Cowardly Lion (“He is number one on the show. He calls himself number one. In fact, he calls Charlie number two. So we have this power dynamic right away of this guy who really is the king of the forest, but at his core he’s basically a man-boy who has a big temper but an equally big heart”), Reid’s character is the Scarecrow (“He’s neurotic and very smart”), Chikezie’s is like Aunt Em, Adams’ is like the Tin Man, and so on.
Even though it’s chock-full of Vancouver stars, Hospital Show “isn’t about being a celebrity,” says Reid. “This is a workplace comedy about people who pretend to be doctors and wear white coats for a living. If you’re an actor, you know: it ain’t glamorous. You go to work, you meet nice people in make-up, you go to your trailer, you get your clothes on, and you go in and you do the scenes for 14 hours. It’s hard work. It’s a job. It’s a fun job, but I really wanted to normalize that world and make it so that those characters were truly approachable.”
The trailer contains something of an Easter egg for Remedy fans; Reid asked Canning if there was any medical terminology from her time on Remedy that would sound plausible coming out of Charlie’s mouth.
“I said, ‘I want to do a bit about the fact that [Charlie] almost became a doctor,’ and she goes, ‘There is one type of surgery, it was the longest surgery name I ever had to say on television: Laparoscopic appendectomy, and that’s a totally plausible thing for you to do in medical school, it will be perfect,’” says Reid. “Already her experience on Remedy is adding to the show. It’s amazing synchronicity.”
If 'Hospital Show' sounds like the kind of digital series you’d like to see move to the next round of IPF, give the trailer and teasers a watch (IPF takes those stats into consideration), subscribe to the YouTube channel, and be like Nathan Fillion and spread the word on social media.