Last season Angus was a bit on the edge. How does he start the new season?
Time has passed. I have made peace with my demons and am back to being an excellent doctor - much less fearful and I'm coming into myself. Then something horrible happens to me personally that undercuts all my progress.
Mike goes into a helicopter with Col Willis to Malibu, there's a big shark attack, but Mike hasn't been properly trained to work in a helicopter, and you very quickly realise the consequences. It's horrible. He's in more trouble than he's ever been in, and it's horrifically distracting. So I go back and forth between personal and professional.
The attack on Malaya - does Angus go into therapy?
It's not reflected in the writing necessarily, but to be honest as an actor every time I see a sharp object in the operating theatre it reminds me of that. So I imagine it would for him (Angus) as well. I have no doubt it will come back.
You have a new batch of people in your ensemble. How does that affect you?
I'm a theatre kid. I'm used to companies of people. So in a way it was like doing a different play. Obviously some people have gone, no one's hiding from that, and it's tremendously sad because they are friends. At the same time, on social media, I find myself saying I hear you're upset, but some of us have to come back to work. In many ways it was a rallying point for me. I wanted them (newcomers to cast) to be proud that they're on a great show, feel like they're part of this great family, and so in many ways that's been my focus. I think they feel loved. They're terrific.
Sugar Bear - Noah who plays Elliot, It's his nickname and I will call him Sugar Bear until the end of time! As Angus I see him as an early version of myself. He's very green and easily distracted by the realities of what's going on. He will probably be a terrific doctor - but he isn't yet.
Dr. Keane - she's very straightforward, really brassy, knows her stuff, will not be pushed around and I sense at some point that her headstrong nature will get her into trouble.
Can you give us an idea of what happens in the attack?
They go to save shark victims. The new residents are getting a tour a la our pilot - a parallel structure in terms of the dramaturgy. We meet them, they say where's your brother and someone says he's in a helicopter. Col Willis's function is that he's bringing battlefield medicine into an urban hospital. We learn a lot from him, more so than is actually shown. He does all sorts of things that you would expect people in the different theatres of combat to do. That will pay dividends, but initially he decides that he's going to bring the hospital to them, we take triage to them. So he takes Mike with him, they get on the ground, it's very successful initially, they get the shark victims on the helicopter and as they get going Mike falls out of the side of the helicopter. 40 feet up. He comes in unresponsive. I actually take the call in the intercom area and the only information I am getting is that he is not responsive. It's worse than unconscious because the vitals aren't stable. He comes in and they won't let me work on him.
My feeling towards Col. Willis is that it's his fault. My brother is in this bed fighting for his life because you are a selfish, negligent person. That was one of Rob's first days, a lot of the coverage between me and him. Angus is one of the loved characters, I think, so even when my father comes - there's a huge surprise with a living will, a big family showdown, he (my father) thinks I can do nothing other than make instant coffee, and Mike thought otherwise. There's a huge battle with the family.
In fact there was a scene recently where I was advocating from the same position as him (Angus's father) and I had to go to the writers, which I never do, and I had to say I cannot take his side. Every time I see this man he dismisses me, can't believe I'm a doctor, and suddenly at a medically critical moment I'm taking his side. I understand the complexities of family, of moral medical moments but I cannot find a way where I will feel even more of a fraud than I normally do! And they changed it. It's us versus him and he's marooned, my dear old dad.
I'm from the south, and I think Tennessee Williams was foreshadowing my family! My family's been described as this American Gothic idea, and this show really reminds me of that.
How's it been working with Rob Lowe?
I am rarely star-struck. Edina Porter was one of the first people. She was in the pilot and I was a huge True Blood fan. I remember watching her, thinking you are one of the finest actors I have ever witnessed in this country. Then Meredith Baxter came in. I couldn't say as a younger person that I grew up watching you - I've been reprimanded for that so many times!
So with Rob all I said was 'Hi. Welcome.' I think I did ok on the outside. On the inside I'm going 'oh my God, that's Rob Lowe. So handsome! He doesn't look old at all!'
How does he bridge the gap as an actor, working as an ensemble?
He is tremendously generous, very gracious. I actually am surprised that he will defer as often as he does in terms of how this world works. I would not have expected someone of his experience to do that. Historically I didn't know much about him, other than that he is a movie star. In terms of the team, I don't know if he is aided or obstructed by the nature of his character.
He comes in as an outsider. I think it was difficult for the residents to see Leanne being promoted, demoted. As actors you also say 'where is Marcia? We miss her'. One day she walked by in a suit, into centre stage and it was so jolting, we all might have forgotten what we were doing. So it's nice to have her back running the show, back in the trenches. Dr. Campbell is now head of the OR and the ER which is not welcome news to any of us. I despise him, he's just so - I almost said Trumpian, but I don't think Campbell's a sociopath! - Campbell is in many ways the enemy of the hospital, in the way of everything positive, it's cowboy medicine. Then all of a sudden you have someone who's in even more opposition. In many ways I think Willis is undercut from the beginning, and the team dynamics have shifted in such a dramatic way. You find us reeling but you don't actually see it.
Is there a different feel amongst the cast for this new series?
Yes. Raza was one of my dearest friends on the set, a calming presence, a consummate professional, I'd never acted in front of a camera before so there's a reconciliation process that's still probably happening. I carry Raza's phone and have his little name tag under mine. I told him and like a good Brit he was unimpressed, unemotional!
Does Rob add a new atmosphere?
Yes, he's a huge jokester, a prankster, and he's always up to something.