USA is debuting two new dramas this summer. One of them is a medical drama that separates itself from the likes of Grey’s Anatomy in one big way: Dr. William Rush is a private doctor catering to the elite in Los Angeles. BuddyTV visited the set recently and had the chance to talk with the cast about the show, what makes Rush such an intriguing character, his friendship (and possible tension) with Alex and the outrageous medical ailments and cases that Rush will be showcasing during its inaugural season.
Rush Interviews: The Cast on Pushing Characters’ Limits, Harry Hamlin and Music >>>
Rush: “Good Doctor, Bad Habits”
The tagline for Rush is “Good Doctor, Bad Habits” — which is very fitting. There’s no doubt that this doctor knows what he’s doing, but his personal life is anything but squeaky clean. He’s a “bad boy,” if you will, and morally ambiguous. Some of those bad habits include doing drugs. But star Tom Ellis, who plays Rush, finds his character fascinating. “Any character you play, you have to find some empathy or sympathy towards that character as to why they are the person they are, and why they do what they do,” he said. “Not to excuse them, but to understand why they make those choices.”
When Ellis first read the script for the pilot, he “fell in love with [Rush] a little bit; I understood him. And I understood the way he communicates in life; he uses a lot of humor. But also like a lot of people, when you use humor in life, it’s kind of a mask, the tears of a clown. But I try and make him as human as possible.”
As the actor elaborated further, “None of his choices that he makes are to hurt people, they’re just the choices he makes because he’s in a very selfish place in his life. And I think the medication he takes for himself helps him aquaplane through life. He’s quite happy being that far above the surface. … But I think he’s a good guy, he just made some bad choices.”
Alex: The Family Man
If Rush is the rogue doctor who doesn’t have his life together, then Alex, played by Larenz Tate, is the complete opposite. He’s a family man, a “by the books” type of person and an ethical doctor. “Rush is the sort of guy who throws caution to the wind,” Tate said. “[But] Dr. Alex is the guy who’s more calculated, has a plan, dots the i’s, crosses the t’s. He’s worked extremely hard to get to where he is, and he doesn’t want to obviously jeopardize that.”
But will he stay that way forever or will Rush have a bad influence on him? “Over the course of the series, we’ll see Alex slightly careening and venturing into Rush’s world. And Rush, he still really sees Alex as a standup guy who wants to see what that’s like.”
Since it sounds like Alex will dabble a little into Rush’s world, what’s the impact of that? The life that he has set up for himself and his family “is his livelihood, this is his careers; it’s really important to him. And when you have a family structure, that plays a major part in it as well because your decisions that you make can have a domino effect in all those things that are around you.”
These are two people who have known each other since college and are best friends. But as you can probably tell, there will be that inevitable tension that creeps in. “Their relationship is put to the test,” Tate revealed. “Although [Alex is] married and he loves his wife, that bond, that fraternal brotherhood that he has with Rush, is honest and it’s true. Alex knows that Rush is the only one that he can truly be himself [with].”
Along with that tension comes the interest in wanting the other person’s life. “As the course of the series progresses, each of them sort of envies one another’s lives. Of course, Rush would love to have a wife, a family. But he just can’t get it right. … He drinks and parties, he pops pills. He has a vice: women.” On the other hand, you have Alex, the straight-laced guy who is living the dream. “But once he gets a taste of the wild side again,” will he be able to control himself or will it open up possibilities for him that he hasn’t had to deal with before? This is an area of the show that is extremely intriguing, and it’s this moral ambiguity mentioned earlier that has the cast excited.
Tate is appreciative that USA is “pushing the envelope” with Rush, exploring the darker aspects of these characters and not just focusing on the medical situations. “I myself gravitate towards flawed characters that have a bunch of different levels.” And delving into the characters’ personal lives and not just the medical cases is something that he believes viewers want to see: “I think that’s what people want to dial into right now, as opposed to whodunnit and a lot of the medical jargon.”
What Medical Ailments Can Viewers Expect?
A lot of medical dramas tend to feel one and the same after a while. But it seems like the cases on Rush will be varied, from the dramatic to outrageous and even a little amusing at times, according to Ellis: “What we’re finding out about the show is there’s some fun storylines and some storylines full of suspense and reality and truth.”
“In the pilot, there’s a gunshot victim” whose spleen needs attending to. “That was a very intense day,” Ellis said. “We had this surgeon on standby talking us through the whole procedure. That’s equally fascinating learning the whole thing; it’s like an education.” There’s also going to be other heavy storylines like “an abused woman who … has to keep her mouth closed” and a case involving a pool cue injuring someone that sounds quite disturbing.
But when there’s something so intense like the above examples, Rush likes to even things out and play for comedic effect as well. “There was a storyline with Billy Bloom [played by Brian Markinson], who broke his [penis], and it was just fun. We had a lot of fun,” Ellis said lightheartedly, causing laughter among the reporters interviewing him. His co-star, Tate, teased that “if the broken penis [storyline] catches your attention, there’s going to be a lot more because it works,” though he wouldn’t elaborate on what could possibly match that storyline.
Ellis also says that trying to learn and memorize all the medical terminology is his “least favorite part,” and he makes sure to learn those parts first since it’s “the least natural. But we have an amazing medical advisor on the show, and I work with him very hard on the days that we’re shooting any kind of procedural stuff because I need to be comfortable with what I’m doing, what I’m saying. And I kind of feel like I need to know what I’m saying. I don’t just want to say a word and not really understand what it means. So she’s super helpful.”
To sum up his feelings on this topic, Ellis went on to say, “I think the main thing about playing a doctor when you’re not really a doctor is you’ve got to look confident about what you’re doing. This is something you do every day. This is as natural to you as [have a conversation with someone].”
Rush premieres Thursday, July 17 at 9pm on USA.
(Image courtesy of USA)