Erica Durance on ‘Saving Hope’

Durance talks about returning to TV and why she’ll never get over “Smallville.”

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

It’s nice to see Erica Durance on TV again, but her new show is decidedly different from “Smallville.” “Saving Hope” is a medical drama with a twist. Durance plays Dr. Alex Reid, whose fiancé Charlie (Michael Shanks) goes into a coma after an accident. Dr. Reid must continue her work while Charlie lingers in spirit form.

The press caught up to Durance earlier this summer to talk about "Saving Hope" and the continuing influence of "Smallville" on her career. Naturally, we got a few questions in there as well.

 

Q: What brought you back to TV and what was your decision to do this show?
 
Erica Durance: Well, I love TV and I love a good script. I had been given a bunch of different choices, and I kept coming back to this one because of the heart that's in it and because of the love story. And yes, it has the medical side of it, and I think that there's something in me that loves that side and all the angst and all the drama that can happen within that, but really at the core of it was about holding on to hope or refining hope within yourself. It’s in the title.

As far as that character went, it was about what do you do when your world is falling apart.  How do you hold onto the real and the rational, the tangible, and how is she going to push through and bring him back to her?

I think that it's universal, and I think it's really relatable for people because if you want to basically demoralize somebody's spirit you take away their hope, and so she battles with how do I infuse the people that come in and I work with people every day with hope in their own personal lives and in dealing with those medical current rational things when everything else is slipping away.

Q: Was it important not to do another action or science fiction show?

Erica Durance: You know what, I didn't even consider that. I just really fell in love with this, and that's where we are right now with it, and I think it has a little bit of something for everyone.

Q: How long did it take to get over “Smallville?”

Erica Durance: I’m still getting over “Smallville.” I think that something that you’ve been doing for as long as that has happened, it takes its time to find its way out. I think it’s just a different chapter and it’s something I look back and I’m really, really fond of.

Q: Was there a moment where you realized, “Whoa, I’ve been home for a whole month?”

Erica Durance: You know what, I keep myself so busy. I’m a bit of a workaholic. I did take some time off just to be with family and that sort of thing but pretty much when the show ended I went off and I went to Malta and did an Italian film. It’s called Gemelle, and it’s been all over Rome and all the festivals over there and it should be coming out in the States.

Q: What do you play?

Erica Durance: I play my own twin. So it’s kind of old school Alfred Hitchcock. It’s very cool.

Q: Is it in Italian?

Erica Durance: It’s English but they also have it, when they showed it in the Rome Film Festival, it was all Italian.

Q: Do you speak Italian?

Erica Durance: No, I don’t. I wish I did but the girl who did me had a way better voice than I have.

Q: Now that you’re playing a doctor, what’s the best and worth health advice you’ve ever gotten?

Erica Durance: Anything that was too extreme. Any kind of advice that I’ve been given to cut out carbs forever, don’t do it. It just doesn’t work. You do okay for a while and then you just overcarb.

Q: What about good advice?

Erica Durance: Take time for yourself. Relax.

Q: Is there a different vibe on the set of a more real world show than the superhero show?

Erica Durance: I would say the vibe is very similar. We were both shows where everybody was really down to earth. I think it is a different vibe in the sense that just the material that you’re working on is totally different. It’s just what you’re doing. Now I’m doing something that’s so specific. If you’re going to think about even just the logic of very little makeup, not doing my hair, running around in scrubs and tennis shoes and all that kind of stuff, as far as that’s concerned it doesn’t have the glam.

Q: How do you like wearing scrubs?

Erica Durance: I love it. Although I’m very capricious. I’m a woman. Now I’m all of a sudden going, “Where are my high heels?” When I was complaining about them for so many years.

Q: Do you get scrubs out of the machine or are they just brought to your dressing room?

Erica Durance: I have my own pair. They had to tailor them a little bit. Some of them are a little too plunging for propriety’s sake.

Q: What are the new challenges of being the lead on a show versus the ensemble of “Smallville?”

Erica Durance: I constantly have anxiety about being the lead of the show. I don't talk about it because it scares me. But I've always wanted to be part of something where I could work on a character in such a big manner, and you get offered that with all the trappings of being the lead of the show. I'm really excited. 

There's a lot of really good balance of male and female voices writing her, and I think that's really great because you get a full scope  of the way women think which is really, really lovely. The day-to-day schedule is crazy. We shoot seven-day episodes. We're shooting nine pages a day. We're shooting eight, nine scenes a day. 

I'll start off in the morning weeping and wailing over Charlie, and then I will be cutting into somebody's abdomen later. I feel like one of the guys because I really get into all the prosthetics and the crazy side of it, and so you've got all the medical stuff and that kind of hype and fun going on. So it has been pretty insane, and it feels like a roller coaster, and I'm really grateful I get an opportunity to do it for a little while again.

 


Q: Are you filming in an actual hospital?

Erica Durance: The pilot was filmed in an actual hospital and then given how difficult it was to be in a hospital, I mean you have to give deference to what's really going on there, and you don't want to be in the way and that sort of thing. So they ended up actually setting up a whole studio for us that is a hospital, but in the pilot we were actually in a real one.

Q: You were shooting in an open and working hospital?

Erica Durance: We were in a specific wing of it. What was strange and a little bit off putting is we would be in the middle of shooting a scene and then you would hear "Code Blue," and you would know that that's somebody actually experiencing a very specific, painful tragedy right at that moment, and we would get caught in that kind of world, so it did have some of those elements to it and that feeling. I'm constantly taking my own blood pressure because they have machines in there to see how I'm feeling. We're all becoming hypochondriacs.

Q: Where do you shoot “Saving Hope” now?

Erica Durance: “Saving Hope” is in Toronto. We’re in a studio space in Mississauga.

Q: But you live in Vancouver, right?

Erica Durance: I live in Vancouver and I’m transplanted right now in Toronto for five months.

Q: So you haven’t had to commute back and forth?

Erica Durance: I have. I go and see my family on the weekends as much as I can.

Q: How has that been?

Erica Durance: It’s a little tough, a lot of red eyes, getting used to finding your rhythm to fall asleep on planes. I’m getting there. I’m like one of those businessmen now.

Q: Can you drop any cool medical jargon on us right now?

Erica Durance: I'm always learning jargon, and I went I went to a hospital and I watched surgeries, about six or seven surgeries of the type of surgeries that my character does. She's a general surgeon which means, I'm learning everything from here to here you do. So that's what my character does. That was kind of a real tangible thing I was able to do, and we have consultants and medical advisors that are actually there, and they are gracious, and they come and give you advice and tell you things they would or wouldn't do, so that's been really, really good.

I mean, the medical jargon is a little bit silly, and I remember I had to go I don't know how many takes into 16 hours, and let me see if I can say this now, “pathognomonic syndrome of a carcinoma syndrome.” I had to say about this kid, and he was such a great little guy and a much better actor than me, and he kept laughing every time I messed up, and I was having little bit of breakdown because I was like I'm being undone by a nine-year-old. 

I can't do this. She's supposed to be doing CPR. We had to actually turn him over so I couldn't see his face because I was like I'm so nervous. He keeps laughing at me. Pathognomonic, because people think it’s pathognomic, but it’s actually pathognomonic which was interesting. So that’s pathognomonic symptom of carcinoma syndrome. I say code blue a lot. Retractor.

Q: It seems like such an emotional show. Is there any fun to it?

Erica Durance: I have a lot of fun on it. I think it’s necessary to have fun on it. I think because there’s so much stuff that she’s doing that’s heavy, I’m always trying to find either new ways of doing it or ways of seeing it that it isn’t always heavy.

We need the laughs, we need the jokes and that’s why I shared that little note about the fact that you can’t always be heavy about the thing with Charlie. So it’s the absurdity of these actors coming up and whispering in your ear. It’s kind of creepy instead of being romantic. We did a scene last week and it was supposed to be really beautiful, and I'm hoping everybody is kind of touched by it, but a little side story is that I couldn't stop laughing because I'm in this scene and I'm sitting there and I'm tired and life is so rough, and all of a sudden Michael [Shanks] kind of slides in there and he's like, "Hey, listen to me," so it's fun. 

It's got good elements. Sometimes it's hard to put into words which is ironic considering you guys are trying to write things, but it's the idea that they have taken this overall theme of hope and positivity and believing in something better than yourself and that sort of thing. They have taken that overall theme and then they have used the situation with Charlie going into a coma to kind of push it there, and it's establishing itself, and then each episode what they do is they pick some of the things we as human beings do to hold on to hope to fight desperately for. 

Are we blind to the reality of what's going on?  Because she needs so badly to believe in something, and you see that interwoven throughout the whole episode. Then at the end occasionally what you have then is you have Michael's character that is kind of able to view all of this ongoing.  This is what we do as human beings to have contact with people, and some of us do this, and some of us do that, and it's kind of like a very non-judgment thing, but it puts out those questions.