Code Black isn’t your typical medical drama, and the emergency room at Angel’s Memorial Hospital isn’t your typical emergency room. While most ERs go into a “Code Black” situation–where the number of patients outnumbers the resources available to treat them– five times a year, Angel’s Memorial enters this state 300 times per year. So instead of focusing on the personal lives of its characters, Code Black is all about the medicine.
As can be expected, Code Black’s situations get a little crazy, and the scenes are intense to watch, keeping us firmly on the edge of our seats from start to finish. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the blood and the anxiety inducing scenes you will be in for quite the thrill ride. To get an inside look at filming those Code Black scenes, and to learn a little more about Dr. Mario Savetti, The TV Junkies spoke to one of Code Black‘s new residents, Ben Hollingsworth.
The TV Junkies: Code Black is intense from start to finish of every episode. Is it supposed to give us anxiety every week?
Ben Hollingsworth: Yeah it’s pretty intense but we make no apologies for that. We kind of set out to do something authentic and intense and we accomplished that–maybe a little too well some days.
TTVJ: Is it intense to film as well?
BH: It is as intense to film. We just broke for lunch here and I had to kind of take a bit of a lay down because we have gone at it for about eight hours, and we’re in a Code Black scene which is when we’re all on center stage and there’s four beds and they’re all filled up. You know, those scenes where there’s eight of us series regulars in the mix and six pages of dialog and it’s all medical speak. And we’ve got patients and blood and four cameras and about fifty to sixty nurse extras all yelling and screaming and talking at the same time. It becomes like an obstacle course at a rock concert. It really is something to behold. It’s athletic acting I like to call it.
TTVJ: How much preparation goes in to those crazy scenes in the ER? Is it a lot of work done in the editing bay or is it a bit of a fine dance when filming?
BH: No, there’s so much. There’s a lot of choreographing that happens. Because it’s chaotic we have to make it controlled chaos. Even though it’s chaotic these people need to know exactly where they’re going and exactly what to say. We have medical rehearsals so we go over the medical terms, the medical procedures, who’s doing what when, what that’s doing to the patient, and how to do it. All that’s done in advance. So when we’re not filming we’re rehearsing the next scene. It can make for some very long days, but it’s very fulfilling for us. We’re all very proud to tell these stories every week.
TTVJ: Code Black is very different from any other medical drama in that it seems to focus mostly on the medical side of things instead of the personal relationships. Is that going to change as the season goes on?
BH: I think as you get to know the characters a little more you’ll start to see little relationships start to develop. Of course with time, when you work in such close quarters with people, things are going to start to happen. But I think that all of that will be mostly contained to maybe five percent of the overall focus of what we do and the rest will remain focused on the drama and the patients. That’s such a powerful element to it and in reality I don’t think people have that much time to make out in the linen closet when they should be saving lives. There is some to come though. I know specifically for Mario there is something coming up.
TTVJ: Marcia Gay Harden (Dr. Leanne Rorish) and Luis Guzman (Jesse Sallander) really run that ER on the show. What are they like to work with?
BH: They are absolute pro’s. They’re vets and they’ve been doing it for a very long time and they’re both extremely talented–not only at their craft but on how to lead an ensemble. We always look to them for advise on whatever it is we’re dealing with, personal or professional. They’re just wonderful human beings. They have such grace. They’re just so damn talented too. When you’re in a scene with them all you gotta do is react and listen and remember your cues because sometimes you can get caught because you feel like you’re in a movie theater watching these two perform and you’re like ‘Oh shoot, I’m in this scene.’ They’re pretty spellbinding.
TTVJ: You’re character, Dr. Savetti, acts like a bit of a hot shot in that ER, like he thinks that he’s better than everyone else. Is he just trying to hide his insecurities by looking confident or does he really think that he’s that good?
BH: He’s definitely hiding something. I think anyone who’s that confident has something to hide. Usually we put up walls to protect a wounded heart and I think that it’s the same thing with Mario. I always kind of compare him to a stray dog. He’s not used to being a part of a pack and on the trauma room at Angel’s Memorial he’s having to learn to be a part of a group. So that creates some interesting drama and someone having to learn new habits and shed old habits. I think Mario is on a path of learning them, but he’s also instinctively going to have to fight his instincts to protect himself by being overconfident–or by not allowing friendships to blossom organically or not trust people or not go out on a limb for other people. So that’s interesting and it’s been a lot of fun for me to play.
TTVJ: At the start of the season you kind of threw Angus (Harry Ford) under the bus, but they seem to have buried the hatchet a bit. Are they going to be able to work together properly now or will they always be at odds with each other?
BH: I think they’re going to work together better. I think it’s a really fun relationship that you’re going to see a lot of in the next few episodes. It’s a bit of a love/hate bromance. People have been calling us “Team Mangus” which is pretty funny. But it’s a really cool relationship because they are so different. Their strengths and weaknesses lie in different areas but if you put them together they’d be a super doctor. So I think when they’re working together as a team they’re really great. But when they’re at odds, they’re not so great.
TTVJ: Is he actually going to start to form some friendships in that ER or is he always going to be over competitive?
BH: I think you’ll start to see Mario open up a bit. I think it’s one of those things that he’ll start to warm up to certain characters, but it will take them going out on a limb for him for that to happen. In Episode 10 I think you really start to see some of the residents step up and then you’ll see Mario start to reciprocate that as well.
TTVJ: Dr. Savetti got a needle stick from an HIV positive patient. How is this going to affect him?
BH: Well it’s going to be interesting. Off the top he doesn’t report it, but out of everyone in the ER it was interesting to see who he ended up telling.
TTVJ: How is this going to affect his mindset moving forward? Is he going to become less cocky or less confident? Is it going to change the way he practices medicine?
BH: I think that the relationship with Ted, the guy that infects him, is going to affect how he sees people. He’s a very different person than Mario–both physically and emotionally–so he’s going to start to see him different and really open up to him and even form a bond with him because of the similarities they have in their pasts. That really will leave an invaluable mark on Mario moving forward and affect how he deals with patients and how he deals with other coworkers.
What do you think about Code Black? Does it give you anxiety every week when you’re watching it? What are you most looking forward to seeing this season?
Code Black airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS and CTV.
Christy is a self proclaimed and proud TV Junkie. Her love for TV began at an early age with shows like Degrassi, Alias, ER, Buffy, The X-Files & Friends. You can now find her watching, ok obsessing over, shows like When Calls The Heart, Saving Hope, Arrow, Outlander, Grey's Anatomy and many many others. You can catch Christy on Twitter at @ChristySpratlin where she will likely be live tweeting her favorite shows and talking about everything TV.