At the beginning of Season 4 of Saving Hope Dr. Zach Miller (Benjamin Ayres) was admittedly struggling. He had taken the unexpected and tragic death of his best friend Joel (Daniel Gillies) very hard and was having a bit of a hard time moving on from that. But over the course of the season he’s slowly found his way, learning that it’s OK to lean on others and seeing his friendship with Dr. Maggie Lin (Julia Taylor Ross) grow stronger.
In Thursday’s episode, “Not Fade Away,” written by Waneta Storms and directed by Gregory Smith (Rookie Blue), Zach will get closer to another Hope Zion doctor as he helps Dawn (Michelle Nolden) out with an old college friend who finds her life on the line. Does this mean Zach and Dawn could be headed towards more than just a friendly relationship as Season 4 concludes?
In order to get some thoughts on that relationship, as well as how Zach has handled this season in general, The TV Junkies recently spoke with Ayres. He offered up insight on why he enjoys portraying the Zach and Maggie friendship, why Zach makes such a great mentor to the interns and most importantly, why Zach has been sporting such an updated appearance this season.
The TV Junkies: Zach obviously had a hard time getting over Joel’s death but how do you think he’s doing with that at this point in the season?
Benjamin Ayres: I think at this point of the season he’s doing better. I liked that we jumped ahead off the start by nine months because originally I remember thinking we were going to pick up right where we left off–which there would’ve been some fun challenges as an actor to do–but I like that we jumped ahead to see the effect of what happened with Joel. We now see Zach playing the field and drinking more, being hungover, a little more acerbic and quipy, frustrated. I think he’s slowly finding himself again.
TTVJ: Zach and Maggie’s friendship has really grown this year and they’ve gotten pretty close. Will that be the case over these last few episodes and into next year?
BA: Yes, I think so. Jules and I are really good friends and there’s been times where we’ve had an inkling that they might be trying to put the characters together, and we both dug our heels in and were like ‘Why can’t they just be friends? Why can’t we just have two people on the show that are friends?’ We really fought for it and even in scenes where we’re like ‘we will not play it like lovers. We will play this scene like friends,’ then regardless at the end it’ll just be one look that one of us gives the other and all the sudden online everyone is like ‘oh my god! Zach and Maggie are going to get together!’
So as much as we try to fight that it’s always sort of there, and it’s always playing underneath a little bit, but it’s been really nice to just have an opposite sex friendship on the show. How lucky am I to get to have scenes with Julia and Michelle Nolden? For me it just makes my job so much easier.
TTVJ: Speaking of Zach and Dawn, how does their relationship change this week when he helps her out with an old friend?
BA: I think he slowly starts to discover more about her through helping her friend who starts to get an inkling that maybe there could be something between the two of them. He has no idea what that is at this point or if anything will happen. But I think he sees her true self and not the doctor that Dawn is, which is kind of all he’s familiar with at this point. He gets to know her as a person. Just in that, regardless if anything happens or not, has been interesting for Zach to get to know someone who he’s worked with for a long time but doesn’t necessarily know.
TTVJ: If something were to happen between those two, how do you think Zach and Dawn would be in a romantic relationship?
BA: I feel like they’d be pretty good. They are both very mature and have gone through a lot. I think they both compliment each other in their differences and I’d be really interested to see where it could go–if it did go somewhere.
TTVJ: Gregory Smith is directing again this week, something he’s done several times now on Saving Hope. What’s it like having him behind the camera?
BA: It’s great. He’s an actor first but he’s also very good visually at telling stories. But more than that he’s very specific in notes that he gives actors and can get you to a point, or to think about a choice a little differently, and make you come at it from a different angle and give that direction in a very clear manner, which is sometimes difficult to do, especially with the pressure of the shooting schedule and how fast we move sometimes. But he’ll really take the time to get the nuances of a scene, the small little beats and moments, which I really respect. He’s just great to work with.
TTVJ: One of our favorite parts about Zach is when he’s a bit of a smart ass, especially towards the interns. Will that trend continue with him and do you have any say in those one-liners or is it all the writers?
BA: It’s all the writers, but I get lines here and there that I deliver in a specific way that brings a little more acerbic energy to it. Zach has changed a lot. When I originally auditioned for the show he was highly religious and coming off of alcoholism years ago. It’s funny because I’m in LA and it started to air on Ion in October so I watched the first couple episodes, and it was so weird. I forgot that’s who he was. Once Ariel left him we were like ‘OK get rid of the religious thing,’ like he was born again for her and now he’s done with it because she left him.
I really feel like he’s come into his own this season even though he went through something dark. We really tried to change his appearance–I got rid of the ties–and he’s got better fashion. He’s on the market now and dating–rockin’ Tinder–so I’m sure some girls will be like ‘the first thing you have to do is go shopping. You’re a doctor, you make money. Don’t wear dumb shirts!’
TTVJ: Admittedly I’ve teased you on Twitter a few times about Zach’s fancy hair this season.
BA: I have really curly hair so I usually keep it really short, but I came back with longer hair and was originally I was supposed to come back with a big beard. I remember telling Adam [Pettle, Saving Hope’s showrunner] ‘Remember that scene where I said to Joel that I was going to grow a beard for my Armenian heritage?’ He’s said ‘I think you should do it!’ So even though Joel was dead I said ‘even if it’s a subconscious choice we should start the season with the beard.’
That was kind of my plan, but I ended up doing a movie and couldn’t have a beard. I tried to grow it as much as I could the two weeks before we started shooting and there was one line like ‘What’s up with Zach? He’s got more facial hair.’ So we said ‘OK shave it, it isn’t quite working.’
TTVJ: Shave it and give him fancy hair instead.
BA: That’s right! So I said ‘I grew my hair really long what are we going to do?’ Our hair stylist was like ‘it’s going to be hard because your hair is really curly, so for continuity why don’t we just flat iron it?’ She made this awesome coif and I’m like ‘I love it!’ I’ve got the fanciest hair on the show and have to come in two hours early. I’m kidding! [laughs]
TTVJ: Zach seems to be falling into this mentor role, especially with Dev (Dejan Loyola). What makes him so well-suited for that and is something you want to see him continue?
BA: I think it’s great and the interesting thing about the character of Dev is that Dejan lives just down the street from me. So his first day on set we travelled in together, and I felt like I did my best to welcome him on the show and let him know the ups and downs. I tried to take him under my wing a little bit, and then they started writing that my character would be mentoring him a little bit, which I thought was pretty cool.
I think that’s the great new thing about each new season, like I don’t know where we’re starting next season, but I think bringing in the fresh faces in the show and allowing for new residents to come in brings a fresh perspective. I hope that next season we get to see that some more and those characters come back, as well as some new ones. It’s fun for us to get to have the young blood in and get to do some hazing.
TTVJ: Is there anything you’d like to do with Zach next season you maybe haven’t gotten to do with him yet?
BA: Well I know that Zach in his off time is a jazz drummer and a muay thai fighter, so it’d be nice to see some of that happening–maybe all in one episode. [laughs] I would enjoy to finally see that because we talk about it as my motivation for each scene, but we never really see it so it’d be good to get into that.
TTVJ: Is there anything else in particular fans should keep an eye on as the season comes to a close?
BA: It gets so exciting. I’m really just surprised how I, like the audience and fans, didn’t know what to expect after that finale of Season 3 and how it was going to work. I’ve just been really proud of the writers to create a story that is just as gripping–if not more at times–than it was before. I’m really excited for what they’ve done for the end of this season and I think everyone will really like it. Everyone gets a chance to hit some home runs.
TTVJ: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on over the hiatus?
BA: I’m actually just heading up to Vancouver on Thursday to shoot a Hallmark movie.
Have you been enjoying Zach and his “fancy hair” this season? Would you like to see a romance happen between him and Dawn? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.