Interview with Marcia Gay Harden

Marcia plays Dr Leanne Rorish, an ER physician, known to current and former Residents as 'Daddy'. Her husband and two children were killed after their car was hit by a drunk driver and this sometimes influences her medical decisions.

Marcia Gay Harden

There is so much happening in this series, behind all the leading action...

It feels like such a dense production, the tapestry is rich, the layers are rich, Michael, our creator is involved in every single detail and makes sure each shot is layered with action. His goal is that you could freeze frame at any time and look back and what you're seeing would look like real life, not like a movie.

Does it feel different this season?

I've done one-hour shows before but the nature of this beast - it is a beast, it's a hospital show, so you're already in a certain environment. But what's so different about it is the layering of camera, extras, the story, the blood, the medical knowledge, and then on top of that is all the emotional storyline we're carrying. So in the middle of this story it's truly not the medical that's important. The editors have their hands full. You're not just following the melody, there's a lot of counterpoint that's going on.

Rob brings a lot of testosterone - a lot of star power, charm. What's nice is that's there a meeting of the minds with Rob and Leanne, they're similar characters, risk-takers, cowboys to a degree.

Both so alpha - will there be a conflict?

You would think so but it becomes that we're alpha in a good way. I feel like Leanne and Willis deflect power. They're commanding, but they don't seem to need to hold power, it's a different way of controlling an operation. There's a lot of male posturing that happens more between the two guys I think. Leanne has completely different needs.

Have you worked with Rob Lowe before?

No but we have a lot of the same friends, so I knew him, so it felt like old friends, hanging out with him.

How tough is it, to be working in this kind of environment?

You're learning a new language. I have a good short term memory but a terrible long term memory. I forget what I've learned really quickly.

In a way it's like controlled chaos?

We love the mess, we welcome the chaos, we love mistakes. In the theatre you deal with that all the time. It seems like chaos, but it's organised chaos. Have you ever been a waiter? You know exactly what you're doing, it can look like chaos but it's organised.

Are you ok around blood?

Sometimes you're actually surprised by how much blood is drained from the body in some procedures, how much blood is actually coming off. It seems farcical, almost. You're just clamping, clamping, clamping, seeing thousands of veins coming out. It seems comical but it's not. We got to

trail the (real) doctors and we saw some things that were extreme. They remained very calm, very specific and they seemed to have an amazing ability not to judge.

There was literally a case where a man had beaten his wife up, he came in, he was covered in blue paint because he'd been in some kind of drunk argument, they'd thrown things around the house and they were extremely poor. I heard the technician explaining to the doctor the squalor of the apartment and I thought, that's interesting. He's not just saying there's a contusion on the left ear, he's telling a story. If I hear that story, I'm going to judge. They just listen, listen, listen and worry about taking care of the guy.

I then went down the hall and saw the wife. I saw her bruised, bloodied, faded. I saw a faded lady. Now that was their case right there. They were taking space for someone else. I'd be thinking get them out of here, let's get them to break up and solve their problems. But they (the doctors) see these people again and again and again, and they don't judge them. But then I thought, maybe for Leanne, sometimes she does. She's a human being.

A large part of the first season was Leanne coming to terms with what happened to her family. Does that continue?

It hasn't been mentioned yet. There was only one line referring to her kids - when she was saying to someone you're lucky to see your kids grow up - which was cut for reasons of economy. But I pitched to have that back because I really love that there's one harkening back to that death. She doesn't have a boyfriend, we don't know yet what she's doing in her life, so I'm excited to see what they give her to do. It will be interesting to see politically if women's voices change.

Would you like to see her have some romance?

Yes, but it's an interesting question because I don't want it to be like romance solves everything. I want to know what does she do? Does she go to yoga? Is there a secret fault? Is she an alcy/alcoholic? Does she climb mountains? A lot of these people are adrenaline junkies and I want to know who does she talk to, does she go to the theatre, does she read books? I want her to be literate, I think it's important.

A lot of people were upset that Raza and Bonnie didn't come back.

It's sad, they had an incredibly wonderful contribution. But it's true to the reality of a hospital that people come and people go. I'm hoping we can visit their story by talking about them, I don't like that there's no resolution right now.

This show could go on for many seasons. How do you feel about that in terms of Broadway?

I miss Broadway so much. I don't think there's anything better than theatre - the immediacy of it. Theatre is the one space where your vibrations, without anything inbetween, hit me as an audience member. If you hit your 'z' they'll cry in the back row. The 'z' creates a buzziness. Or if you say 'love' - a lot of actors say luf, so there's no vibration there - if you say 'love' the 'v' sound is vibrating and the audience feels the resonance of all of that. There's nothing more exciting.

So far as this goes, they don't know what the future holds for us. It would be fantastic to have 23 or 24 (episodes) just in terms of continuum. In terms of moving seasons on, I've never had that opportunity before. I just hope I have the stamina. We will see. We don't know what the future holds for us.