First, we would love to thank Amy Holden Jones – “The Resident” screenwriter – for answering our questions. Emily VanCamp Brasil is proud to share the following piece with all “The Resident” fans:
Q: Our initial interest in “The Resident” was due Emily VanCamp return to television, but we were quickly impressed – and hooked – with the whole cast and storyline.
“For how long have you been developing ‘The Resident’? Did you have any participation in choosing the cast?”
Amy: The Resident was a pitch originally sold to Showtime. The pilot script was written in 2016 for them. They loved it, but it’s tough to get medical shows on cable. Ultimately, they passed and we moved it to Fox that same day.
The pilot was shot in the spring of 2017 with Phillip Noyce directing. It was picked up to series in early May and we began writing the rest of the episodes, building more sets, assembling a permanent crew and turning it into a television show.
In the USA, each network develops many pilot scripts, shoots only a few, then picks up on a few of those. The odds of getting on air even once they own your pilot are about 1 in 20.
Q: “Is it taken in consideration the actor’s performance while developing a character?”
For example, we’re used to see Nurse Nic as a strong woman – but we know Emily VanCamp is capable of delivering very dramatic performances, so does that influence in possible characters traits, or even storylines for Nic Nevin?
Amy: The main characters are written long before they are cast. You match the actor to the character. The exception is when you write to an actor you have worked with in the past. I’d worked with Tasso Feldman, who plays Irving, and wrote that part for him.
Emily’s part was smaller in pilot. Showtime and then Fox had conceived of it as about the three men, Conrad, Devon and Bell. But we always wanted to expand it, and I have great respect for the work nurse’s do.
Many ask why we didn’t make her a doctor. The answer is that a nurse practitioner does nearly everything a resident can do, and they deserve the same respect. I wanted to show that.
Emily was cast with the help of the pilot director, Phillip Noyce, who worked with her on Revenge. When she began to discuss with us taking the role, I told her if she did she would be a co-lead with Conrad. We quickly made that the case in episode 2 and her role grows constantly. She is the heart of the show and her character drives the thriller plot that runs through the season.
Q: “The Resident” has no fear of showing all the corruption within the Healthcare System and the outcome of it… but we also get glimpses of the good people trying to do the right thing, no matter the circumstances.
“For you as a writer its more joyful to tell the ‘unsung hero’ histories, or delve into key matters that some people don’t want to talk about?”
Amy: I am interested in both sides in medicine. My father was a doctor, and a complex man. He was a great diagnostician and an internist like Conrad. He was a cancer researcher as well, not an oncologist like Dr. Hunter, but in that field.
He taught me the word “iatrogenic”, which means a doctor induced disease. This is a problem or condition that results from your medical treatment, not one that brought you to the doctor. My father told me to never get a procedure or test that was elective. He was a doctor who knew too well the mistakes that can happen in any hospital.
I began to read medical non-fiction when I moved from features to television, beginning with a bestselling book by Atul Gwande, “Complications.” I quickly found there are a stunning number of books by American doctors who are fed up with the problems in our health care system. I’ve now read nearly all of them.
I have written many medical shows, some that were pilots that were shot but did not go to series, which is the norm, and had another show I had on ABC called “Black Box,” but I was tired of all the shows that ignore the issues that are becoming a crisis in American health care.
The number of patients killed annually here as a result of medical error, hospital-based infections, drug interactions, surgical error, and so much more is somewhere between 250,000 and 450,000 every year. Most medical error is covered up and never reported, so it’s hard to get a true figure. My best friend’s husband died after a simple outpatient procedure as a result of a simple medical error. He was 50.
The more I read, the more I found two worlds: the dedicated doctors desperate to change the system, like Conrad, and the others raking in a ton of money and determined to make sure the code of silence in medicine is never broken. This was the genesis of the show. It is a David vs. Goliath story, with the good doctors fighting to defeat the Goliath of dollar driven health care.
The true evil is not doctors who are incompetent, it’s the system that lets them keep practicing, and more than this, it is the effect of money and greed on American health care. This is the reality here today, and I felt it was time medical shows addressed it.
The problem gives a unique setting, but also a true one. There is medical error in the best hospitals. The character of Bell, or HODAD, is based on a real Johns Hopkins surgeon. Dr. Hunter, is based on an actual oncologist.
But beyond these issues, I am in love with our characters. Drama comes from having heroes with a goal. You must know what they want. In this case, they want to save their patient’s lives. But there is always a villain and bad doctors or hospital administrators, pharma execs etc. exist. We show them.
The setting is a hospital that has great people in it and great care to offer, but not enough oversight of problems. This is the norm in the US. No organization oversees the performance of doctors. None.
And any doctor or surgeon who brings in big dollars to a hospital will be protected by that hospital. IT happens over and over and over.
WOW! We are glad to share this content with everyone! Amy Holden Jones is truly a fantastic screenwriter – friendly and willing to interact with “The Resident” fans.
We hope you enjoyed to know more this series, who have us on the edge of our seats every Monday nights.