Derek Luke and Kevin Rankin Discuss <i>Trauma</i>

The actors and creator Dario Scardapane talk about the series returning to NBC

Trauma is a show that has had quite an interesting first season. First the show was canceled by NBC in October and then after a ratings uptick, the show was given new life once again. The show returns to the network on Monday, March 8 at 9 PM ET and a few of the major players on the show - actors Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin and creator Dario Scardapane - recently held a conference call to discuss the show's return. Here's what they all had to say.

I wanted to know if any one of you were aware of the online following that you all have as far as like a save the show campaign and backing the show with social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook.

Derek Luke: Wow.

Dario Scardapane: We're very aware of it watching it the Facebook fan page grow by about 1000 people a week over the last few weeks has been amazing. And being kind of a Facebook addict myself I've had a lot of contact with a lot of the fans. And it's been, you know, it's been kind of a strange roller coaster to be in - on and off the schedule with more episodes ordered and a lot of the strange things that have happened. But it's been pretty great to hear such positive feedback and to see people doing things like sending band-aids and calling the network on our behalf. It's a great way to get really direct feedback from the audience.

Kevin Rankin: That is great on Facebook you've got a - with the internet and these kind of things it's - you're not powerless as a viewer anymore at least you feel like you can do something even if it doesn't work, you know, at least you can have some sort of closure. You know, you see that for a lot of shows that get yanked after a couple of airings. But, you know, we've been so lucky and I would love to think that those guys did have something to do with it and spreading the word, you know, getting some - you know, I think what'd they have a promotion flyers printed up you could go online and print out some flyers and go put them on cars. You know, I mean, they're really doing it, it's called the Trauma Street Team, right, on Facebook. And you know, these people - great fans, great fans.

Dario Scardapane: Yeah, and they really - the feedback you get on the show when you know when you're doing something right or when you get, you know, when you understand what people are responding to it trickles all the way down to the writer's room which really is kind of great.

Derek Luke: Wow that's funny because all I've been hearing from people that haven't - have been denying and getting, you know, Facebook, my wife has asked me to get on Facebook. But I have been getting so much word of mouth on the street and people have been asking where's Trauma? And I'm like the Olympics, the Olympics. And they're like man, we're waiting for you guys, waiting for your show to come back. So I think word of mouth is working just as Facebook and Twitter is working as well.

Since NBC hasn't really been promoting the show that much even with the Olympics going on do you think that that's the best way for people to inform one another about the show then?

Dario Scardapane: Well I think that we'll get a little bit of promo right in the week leading up to it. It's pretty obvious that they focused their promo efforts on (unintelligible) it's a brand new show. And I hope that it didn't - I hope that the unconventional and more online means of getting the word out are effective the good news being is that nobody has to look very far, we're back on the same night and the same time as we've always been. And I hope that the people who, you know, the core audience that we've always had I know that they're going to return and I hope that we start picking up some of Chuck's viewers and some people who are just going to tune in to see what all the fuss is about.

I was wondering if maybe you guys could perhaps tell us a little bit about your audition process for your respective roles on the show. And then maybe what were some of the challenges you guys found stepping into these roles initially?

Dario Scardapane: Neither one of them auditioned.

Kevin Rankin: Next question. No, for me, I worked with Jeff Reiner and Peter Berg on Friday Night Lights before and Trauma came up. They gave me a call. I came in, I met Dario. We, you know, we hit it off immediately, just started spit-balling ideas for the character. And it was just - nothing but a golden process for me. And of course I did have to come in and test for the network and - but probably the biggest challenge for the show is a lot of the medicine. In the beginning of the season it's finding a character, finding something that's going to speak to people and just trying to find the right medium to tell this story of Tyler Briggs. But a lot of the medicine and the medical terminology would probably be the biggest challenge I would say.

Derek Luke: So neither one of us auditioned, huh?

Dario Scardapane: No. It was pretty much straight offers to both of you.

Derek Luke: I've been telling false stories that now is exposed. I think, you know, me and Kevin had a lot in common as far as behind the scenes. I've worked with Pete Berg before. I had met Jeffrey and Dario in the meeting. And I was excited about playing Boone because, you know, one I just felt like when I read the script there was so much meat, so much integrity in the script. And then working with Pete Berg on the movie Friday Night Lights, you know, it was kind of like, as Dario said, it wasn't the - it was a straight hire. One of the challenge for me besides the medicine was I asked Pete, I says, man, how do you build a character on TV different than film? And he's just like you just have to play it moment by moment. So, you know, I came in with a lot of questions and - but I love the fact that we're in different situations week to week.

I wanted to find out if maybe you could tell us where your inspiration for the series first came from and again for you some of the challenges getting Trauma off the ground would you say?

Dario Scardapane: Well the inspiration was, I mean, I'll say it flat out, the inspiration was Emergency, was the generation that grew up on that show. And when Pete came to me about redoing or coming up with something that had the same kind of emergency medical adrenaline it was just like yeah, I have to. And I'd worked with NBC and Sara Aubrey and Pete Berg quite a bit over the years and this one just seemed like something perfect. I'd never done a medical show before. And being the son of a doctor, the grandson of a doctor, the son of a nurse, the nephew of a doctor, coming from this, you know, Italian American medical family where I am without a doubt the black sheep, it seemed like the right way to go to come up with this more reverent, more, I don't know, a little off center medical program. And the problems of getting it off the ground were the same problems that face just about any show. Our pilot was huge and kind of mis-sold the show as something about explosions and car wrecks. And now it's a show about character and about this amazing group of people we have who go into the fray when others would run away.

Now Derek although Boone and Tyler are still friends after he finds out Tyler's gay I wanted to know how do you think Boone would react seeing Tyler with a boyfriend?

Kevin Rankin: You know what? I mean, if you keep tuning in you just might see that. But, yeah, go ahead, yeah.

Derek Luke: Yeah, I mean, you know what, one of the crazy things about this show is that we, you know, we face new experience all the time. And, you know, you know, I don't know. I mean, you know, Boone is, you know, from San Francisco so I think one of the things between our relationship is the fact that, you know, no matter what we've gone through so far on the show that it all goes back down to, you know, who is your friend, you know. And these guys have a family outside of their own personal relationships. So, I mean, that's a good question, I don't know...

Kevin Rankin: Oh I was thinking, you know, the evolution of a friendship especially one that works so closely and so intimately and probably spend more time together than they do with their own families because they do so many double shifts and whatnot. But I think what you're finding is it's more than, you know, how is he going to react to him with another man it's just - I think the bigger question is, you know, when he sees him with the other man is Tyler happy? Is Tyler upset? And that's really what I feel like Boone would look at, the core of what the situation is, is Tyler happy with that and that's what's important to Boone I feel. You know, and I think that overrides, you know, Tyler being gay. And another thing, you know, it's a slow evolution too just like normal people, you know, if he accepts Tyler he's accepting Tyler, you know as the person, as the human, you know. So...

Dario Scardapane: The guy.

Kevin Rankin: The guy, yeah.

Dario Scardapane: Yeah, I mean, these people come into this relationship as almost archetypes and they are kind of this odd couple, very, very different. And then through kind of the job and the closeness and like Kevin said the intimacy all that's stripped away, I mean, it's like this is a goofy thing. But, you know, traditionally at the end of the Olympics they come out with no flags, they come out as one; they're all athletes after going through the competition and it's kind of like after going through the gig these two are now friends beyond.

Kevin, what's been the best argument Tyler and Boone have had so far or which one was your favorite?

Kevin Rankin: Oh wow, man, whether to get noodles or not.

Dario Scardapane: And you finally got your noodles.

Kevin Rankin: I finally got my noodles. I think the biggest, I mean, it's just a continuous argument of who's going to drive, who's going to clean the rig, you know. And, you know, these little nit picky things that friends are just doing, man, and I really don't think it bothers Boone and Tyler too much I just think it's part of their MO. And I think when we do have arguments you're going to see in the next couple of episodes there will be some almost lines being drawn in the sand. But you see the sand as, you know, you can just wipe that line away real fast it's only sand. So we're going got butt heads, you know, but it always comes out in the wash and it's always a good time. And these guys are just great friends and just a great friendship to see play out, man. I love it.

Dario Scardapane: And this friendship will face a very, very, very big challenge in the last two episodes.

Dario I wanted to ask you, you know, with so many medical dramas out there why do you think Trauma might be set apart from those just for the viewer's sake, maybe people that haven't checked you out yet and they're a little curious.

Dario Scardapane: Well I think that for the most part it's because we're - the bulk of our action takes place before you hit the double doors of the emergency room. And I also think that we've avoided a lot of the tropes and clichés of many other shows. It's faster, it's funnier, it's a little bit weirder and I mean that in a good way. And it deals with, you know, street medicine; it deals with the medicine on the sidewalk, it deals with the medicine inside the cab of the rig. And more importantly, what sets it apart from a lot of the medical shows out there some of which came out in the same development season as us and have not stuck around, is that, you know, most medical shows rest on guest star patient stories. You know, so and so comes in and there's a guest star and has a horrible thing happen to them and resolves at the end of 42 minutes. Ours rests on the job and the toll of the job and how it affects our characters, our core ensemble cast. And I think that sets it apart. And I think its tone, it's got a pretty unique tone unlike most other medical shows. Anything you guys want to throw in on that? You deal with it day in and day out.

Kevin Rankin: I mean, you know, we said from the get go that it was, you know, punk rock not Burt Bacharach right...

Dario Scardapane: Yeah, yeah.

Kevin Rankin: And so - and I feel like that just starting - when we hit the ground running from the beginning we had that - I definitely had that in the back of my mind. So that tone is just weaved in it, man, and it's just this - like you say it just has its own weird...

Derek Luke: Energy too.

Kevin Rankin: Yeah, definitely energy, yeah.

Dario Scardapane: Yeah.

Derek Luke: I love the energy and I also love the current relationships. It seems like Trauma is very, very current, you know, and I think it takes a look - it's how our world affects us and how we affect our world. I mean, we have family, we have the neurotic - I'm not going to say whose character it is but I better stop there. Dario, you go ahead.

Dario Scardapane: You know, as I'm sitting on here, I'm sitting on the set looking at a SFFD fire fighter paramedic rig. And part of it that makes it different is it's San Francisco, it's not filmed in Vancouver with exteriors done in San Francisco it's filmed and leaved and breathed in this city. And it has the same kind of funky fast feel. The city is a character.

Kevin I wanted to ask, you know, approaching playing a gay character how did you do that as an actor? Was it something you were really conscious of or did you kind of not even really think about it?

Kevin Rankin: Well, I mean, with any character things like that are just in a way - it's costuming to me, it's wardrobe because every character that you're playing - you're playing the human, the heart of the character. And I said from the beginning, you know, when I was approached to play a gay character that, you know, like I said like anything else this is just - he's going to be a guy that happens to be a paramedic that happens to be gay. You know, I was - I thought it was a unique opportunity to play it differently than putting this character into a stereotypical box that network television and, you know, a lot of TV has done over the years. Because people see that and see very flamboyant, you know, homosexual characters on TV and then they go home and they think oh I don't know any gay people because that's how gay people are. But what they have to understand is everyone knows someone who's gay. They may not throw in your face, they may not tell you about it. But I just thought this is a really, unique way to teach people, to get that out there, get that message out there that hey we're all the same. And so I don't think I approached it any differently than any other character I would have played. You know, so like Friday Night Lights I said to Dario I was a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. If you saw me wheel in in that scene you forgot about that chair pretty quick. You know, you just saw the human and I though this is really great because you introduced Tyler in the beginning of the season and you didn't know he was gay. So it gave you - it sort of in a sad way I have to say it gave him a chance with a lot of people before they wrote him off if you know what I mean.

Dario Scardapane: One of the things is that when we first started talking about this to do this with this character as soon as Kevin was kind of like, yeah, I just kind of see it as costuming I want to play the guy we knew we had something there. And we've been really trying to make the most out of that.

Dario early on the show was sort of hit from the folks in the EMS community for...

Dario Scardapane: Hit hard.

Richard Huff:

A little bit for not being Emergency. And now you've got a guest star in the second episode back. Is that a, you know, a olive branch or some sort of reach out to bring that around.

Dario Scardapane: It's a little bit of both. It's kind of a nod about the - what's been great about the paramedic response is both kind of the like wow these guys are really paying attention and then the turnaround that happened. I got a letter via Facebook of course not too long ago from a paramedic in New York who was like when I saw the pilot I hated the show and now I just don't want it to go, I don't want it to go off the air. I watch it all the time. You know, it took us a while to find our feet in terms of portraying emergency medicine and it took us a while to realize that EMS is completely fractured, what's protocol in San Francisco may not be protocol in Alabama. And, yeah, we listened to the - we listened to the complaints and the compliments from the paramedic community and putting that guest star in was a real nod to a show that I grew up on and a little bit of like, yeah, guys we get it. You know, and I think that guest starring spot is amazing. And I wonder how many people actually get it. All the paramedics will get it, all the people about as old as I will, will the kids get it? I don't know. We had to do it. We had to do it. And we may bring - we may meet yet another person from that rig back.

Will that be the ultimate validation then of the show?

Dario Scardapane: I mean validation is a funny word. I think that everybody on the show has a deep and abiding respect for the men and women of the emergency medical services. And we're not always going to get it right but we're portraying a job and the people in the job that hasn't been portrayed very much in network television. And Emergency looms large. And it's funny I think our DNA and Emergency's DNA is very, very, very close. And I was at first really, really shocked by the paramedic backlash. And then I in a sick way I kind of got into it to find a way to learn how to do this show better. And now that we actually have more paramedics on our side and some of them are rallying to keep the show alive that feels really good. There's always going to be people who are pissed off at you for not getting it exactly the way they want to see it. And, you know, I'm sorry but we're going to continue.

Now you said early on that maybe the show was sold incorrectly in the beginning about being explosions and what not. Do you think you wish - could you have that - do you wish you had a do-over in...

Dario Scardapane: No, no. I wish, I mean, you can't - the pilot process is so kind of crazy and is so breakneck. I feel really, really good about getting the opportunity - as eye-popping and kinetic and filled with adrenaline. And way back when even at the up front I remember saying something, thank God it's still in print, where it said this isn't a show about explosions; this is a show about people. Now in the cascade of, you know, 30 second sound bites and what you see in those first few minutes it became, you know, evident that, wow, this show has a lot of shit blowing up. But now it's eased into, you know, we're 10 episodes in, we're shooting the 17th episode, a lot less stuff blows up among, you know, cars and tankers and all to more stuff blows up among people. And I think it's more compelling. And I really hope that people give it a chance to dig in with these guys. Because you can't - I don't think people come to television for spectacle. And it's, you know, I don't really have a lot of fun writing spectacle for television, I'll do that in features.

In the upcoming episode Tunnel Vision the synopsis said that Nancy has to face her greatest phobia. I just wanted to know what do you guys fear the most?

Dario Scardapane: Cancellation. Is this is a question I can't joke my way out of is that - as far as the show, I mean, I don't fear much for the show. We live in a world that being able to do something like this is the ultimate luxury problem. As a parent my greatest fear is always anything that endangers my children. And anybody who's ever had to go through any of that knows what I'm talking about. You know, so that's a primal fear for me.

Kevin Rankin: I mean for me, I mean, mine - mine is pretty much text book claustrophobia, I could say that. And...

Dario Scardapane: Oh yeah, you won't fly.

Kevin Rankin: Yeah, I don't like the flying, I don't like any of that kind of stuff. But outside of that, yeah, biggest fear would be literally someone close - something happening to someone close to me it would be the biggest fear, something bad happening, yes, like something happened to Dario, I don't know what I would do tomorrow, I don't know what I'd do with my life. But, yeah, big fear.

Derek Luke: I think we were doing ride alongs and I saw - I saw like the premise of a characters - that he saw people in their most vulnerable state. And, you know, I really wasn't one to follow a lot of politics but I saw, you know, America or the world, you know, and, you know, at its weakest. And I saw a lot of elderly people, you know, lacking healthcare and the results of it. So, you know, maybe, you know, the show will shed a light on, you know, how do we approach it, some of our imperfections, and, you know, get this thing going, you know, in a better route. Because, you know, I have family members and when we were on the ride along, you know, so many elderly people were going through so much Trauma alone either they outlived their family members or, you know, they didn't have anything to, you know, to help them in a situation. So it was - I think that's what became alarming to me during this show. But I think we're taking great risks and I think we have a lot of things to be hopeful for.

Dario, I was wondering if you felt that maybe a change in like the time slot for Trauma might be a better help to garnering more viewers?

Dario Scardapane: Well I'm glad that we get a chance to come back on - not against Monday Night Football. And I'm really, really happy that we're coming on now in a full block of three primetime hours. I think that's really, really helpful. Scheduling, you know, I don't know, there are times that I look at this and I'm like wait a second aren't we a 10 o'clock show and I'd like some of the leeway that 10 o'clock affords us. And from the beginning when they came to us about the show it was for Thursday at 10 o'clock and then a lot of things changed. So, you know, wherever they put us on the time schedule I'll live with. And I really want to see if we can make Monday nights at 9:00 work. And I'm really dedicated to trying that. But there are times, yeah, I think this feels more like a 10 o'clock show but that is way out of my hands.

I know that you mentioned that you're on Episode 17 and I was wondering approximately how long does it take for you all to write the show and the episodes?

Dario Scardapane: Oh, you know, I can make a really - we - when we found out that we were doing four more we had to shut down for two weeks so that the writer's room could catch up. And from idea to, you know, first draft of the script is usually about two weeks. And these last batch - I wrote half of this last four - I wrote two of them. And that makes it a little bit easier, they give me a little more time to go deeper into prep on those. But we knew where we wanted to end this story for the season. And the point which was the season finale actually kept moving back. I wrote Episode 13 as the season finale, that turned out not to be the season finale so things were changed. When I sat down to write Episode 16 as the season finale we got the call that we had four more. I'm just about in this week going to sit down to 20 as the season finale and it kind of makes me nervous like the phone will ring and it's like no you're going 22 guys. So it takes two to three weeks from the first draft of a script and then eight days to shoot them.

You're talking about towards the end of the show and looking towards the future, are you able to tease a little bit what might happen should there be a Season 2 of the show?

Dario Scardapane: Oh well I mean, Season 2 will see all of our characters in a different place, quite literally and figuratively. Some will remain where they are in terms of inside the box - literally the medial rig and some of them are going to have to forge news paths to sound really vague. Let's just put it this like all bets are off in Season 2. You'll notice in this new run that one of the main characters - one of the characters isn't around anymore by the end of this run. And what happens with that and the ripples that that has for everybody's lives are going to play out in Season 2. I think I even have the first three episodes of the second season kind of sketched out in my head and I really hope for an opportunity to do that.

Dario, coming off of what you were just saying there, I mean, we had it that the show was canceled then it's back and we get more episodes. What has this been like for you and for the cast psychologically to go through this I'm on again, I'm off again, I'm here, I'm there.

Dario Scardapane: Honestly, it's been amazing because it's brought us together. I mean, granted, you know, it's probably done a number on my liver but it's really, I mean, Kevin and Derek and Cliff Curtis and Anastasia and Amy all of us really just kind of pulled together in a way of like all right we're the little engine that could, we're going to dig in. It's made the actors speak up about what they want to do and they've been our partners in this. It's made the production as far as I think we've got the best crew ever.

Kevin Rankin: The best.

Dario Scardapane: And it's made everybody pull together and really bust ass. I mean, I was up here a week ago when we were at the end of a 14-hour day and I look around the entire cast is there. We're filming some additional footage for the very, very opening of the - our first episode back. And it felt wonderful. I mean, we've survived the odds. You know, we thought we were off the air after 10 episodes and here we are getting ready to do 20. Great feeling.

Dario Scardapane's Trauma returns to NBC on Monday March 8 at 9:00 PM ET.