SPOILER ALERT– THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE SEASON 3 FINALE OF SAVING HOPE.
Well, damn. That just happened.
After three seasons of rock star surgeries, sexy love scenes and a professional roller coaster at Hope Zion, Dr. Joel Goran (Daniel Gillies) is just … gone. Even Charlie (Michael Shanks) and Alex (Erica Durance) shippers couldn’t have seen that one coming.
In Wednesday night’s Season 3 finale of the CTV medical drama show Joel was killed off during one of the episode’s final scenes, in which he pulled a bomb from a patient and wound up accidentally killing himself instead. Meanwhile Alex had her baby, bringing the whole circle of life thing … well, full circle.
“We have loved having Daniel Gillies as part of our Saving Hope family for the past three seasons, and we will miss his presence on set immensely when we return for Season 4,” executive producer Ilana Frank said in a statement. “The decision to kill the character of Joel was one that we did not take lightly, and it was an incredibly difficult decision to make. Creatively, we have spent three seasons with a love triangle storyline between the characters of Alex, Charlie, and Joel, and we felt it was time to move in a different direction as we head into a new season. We are unbelievably grateful to Daniel for his incredible portrayal of Joel, and to our fans who have loved this character as much as we have.”
Because we still weren’t feeling the closure, we caught up with the man of the hour, Mr. Daniel Gillies himself. Although the star had yet to catch the episode (and wasn’t able to watch it live Wednesday night thanks to his filming schedule with The Originals), he still shared his take on leaving Saving Hope, filming those final scenes and his co-stars’ reactions to his exit.
The TV Junkies: How did you find out you were being killed off?
Daniel Gillies: Well I asked to be killed at the beginning of the third season. It was a decision that was very difficult to make. I spoke to my representation and I said, ‘Look. I think we should have this discussion because I have a wife that’s American and I have a daughter that’s an American. Soon I’m going to have another son, he’s going to be an American boy. For all intents and purposes we live in the United States. And this is my home.’ Los Angeles is my home and it was a hard … put it this way. Most actors who are No. 2 on the callsheet of any show with anywhere between 18 and 22 episodes a year are exhausted from the one show. I was doing 40-42 episodes of TV a year, bouncing between two shows. Between The Originals and Saving Hope I was just exhausted. I was just exhausted. And so I put it in their minds, and then they approached me later on in the season and surprisingly they sort of acquiesced. I actually thought they might do it much earlier but they were gracious and allowed it to happen much later in the season.
TTVJ: From the sounds of things, not even your co-stars, as of Wednesday morning knew that you had made that ask.
DG: I knew it could happen because I asked, and I kept that part sort of under wraps. But now I don’t have any need to protect that information. I knew that it was … I wanted it to happen. Because they’d left it so long what became surprising was how late they left it in the season. But I asked for it.
TTVJ: What were other people’s reactions during the table read when everyone found out?
DG: I didn’t really look at anyone else’s reaction. I think I looked at Michael Shanks, who was to my right at the time, and there was an awkwardness in the room. Everyone went sort of silent. And nobody moved. Typically after a read-through everybody gets up and sort of leaves the room and does things, and I think they were expecting something from me. And I had nothing to give. Like I think they wanted a speech or something. This wasn’t sour grapes or ingratitude or anything, this was a guy who had asked to be killed, who was killed, who was eventually killed at the end of the season and that was very gracious of them to let me stay out that whole season. It was just incredible. So they delivered it and I said, ‘Well, thank you. Thank you for having me here. Thank you for this experience.’ I mean what else can you say? Everybody was just dead silent, it was odd. But I wouldn’t change it for anything.
TTVJ: You and Ben Ayres are friends off set, was it nice to film most of your final scenes with him?
DG: Oh yeah, I love Ben, I became very close with Ben. I think he’s cursed with being too handsome. He’s one of the funniest people around and he’s just got such a dexterity and prowess with his comedy that it’s almost sad that he’s so embarrassingly good looking. He really ought to look like Will Ferrell so he can go out and have this other splendid career.
TTVJ: Do you have an interpretation of what the horse means?
DG: Oh … I don’t know. I don’t really know. I didn’t want to attach any meaning to it because I didn’t think it needed to have meaning for Joel as I was playing that stuff. It seemed so abstract and the show has been guilty of placing abstractions in the show before that never turned out to have any meaning. I’ll give you a classic example, Charlie at the end of one episode jumping on a trampoline in slow motion. It had zero meaning and or kind of justification. So it was just like, well I think this white horse is sort of a trampoline. It sounds very unromantic of me, because there’s nothing more glorious looking than a fabulous, beautiful white equine specimen, but it’s just like, I really didn’t attach anything to it.
TTVJ: With your exit comes another cliffhanger with who the father of Alex’s baby is. Have you given much thought to that answer?
DG: Yeah, I definitely have, I’ve put a lot of thought into it. My thought is in opinion, as most thoughts are when you’re not in control of something. My thought is that the most boring choice in the world they could make was that it was Charlie’s kid. But then they’re going to make that choice. Because … my opinion, my very strong opinion is, I feel like they’re going to make the choice to make it Charlie’s because then it cleans up a nice little pile of mess. It truly removes Joel and it keeps him out of the story. But I think it would be really, really interesting if they made it Joel’s kid. I don’t think the show’s going to take that chance because it will be a more difficult road to navigate, but it will be more interesting. It’s funny because I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question. And people seem astonished that it could be Charlie’s kid. They’re like, ‘No way, this can’t be.’ Meaning that’s just too cute. And to be honest I’m inclined to agree. I think it would make Charlie even more noble if the kid wasn’t his. It would make Charlie even more heroic if the kid was actually Joel’s and he didn’t give a damn. But that’s not the way this cookie is going to crumble.
TTVJ: The show has been a love triangle at its core for three seasons, so how do you think the dynamic without you will change?
DG: Well, it sort of was and it wasn’t. It was this sort of cloud over us, it was this love triangle and it was kind of this inferred thing. But I think when we ever got near that subject matter, then it was like the writers sort of recoiled in fear. What I’m trying to say is when they had to rush this conception between Joel and Alex, they did just that—they rushed it. And it was sort of like this … our togetherness as it were, was so brief and so comet-like that I didn’t feel anything between Joel and Alex. There was such a build and then I think the fear was probably in the writers that if they got us too close then there would be too much of a kickback. There would be a sort of anarchy if they went in the direction of making us a good and strong relationship. Or even just having us be mildly successful.
We circled the love triangle for three seasons. We didn’t actually get that close to it. We didn’t actually really, truly explore it. It’s one of the things that saddens me a little bit about the show. I felt like, OK. We were so busy telling these stories from week-to-week about illnesses and stuff and truthfully I just felt the priority ought to have been the doctors. It ought to have been a show about these doctors. That was the show I signed on for. And the further and further down the road we went the more … the less and less it became about that. It became about the week-to-week and sensationalism of the drama. And we never really accomplished a true sense of the love triangle, because they were terrified of writing actual intimacy between Joel and Alex. I think they were just afraid, knowing they were going to take him way from the whole mix that perhaps fans would find it unforgivable.
TTVJ: So perhaps because they knew you were being killed off they didn’t want fans to be too invested?
DG: Yeah, you know I think so. But what do I know? I’ve never written a show before. These guys face tremendous difficulties, they get notes from every single angle, they get them from network, they get them from executive producers, and then last on their totem pole are the actors, who all have something to say. And naturally so, because they have to weigh in and say, look—I’ve been playing this character for like 50-something episodes, my opinion should matter to some extent. So there are a lot of masters to please for the writers and I think that makes this a tremendously difficult working environment. Honestly I don’t know how writers write for network television. It just seems like a really Herculean task.
TTVJ: Do you have any parting words for fans?
DG: Just, thank you.
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Amber Dowling is a bonafide TV Junkie, critic and freelance writer who watches countless shows and lives for dramatic (fictional!) twists. She currently serves as the vice-president of the Television Critics Association and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows across North America. An advocate for Canadian Television and a lover of the medium in general, Amber founded TheTVJunkies.com as a spot for fellow enthusiasts to connect and collaborate. She previously spent almost eight years as the EIC for TV Guide Canada.