TCA Tour: “Three Rivers” set visit

Hey, everybody, Alex O’Loughlin’s back!

Oh, how I’ve missed Alex O’Loughlin. I can’t even begin to tell you how much abuse I had to deal with during his days on “Moonlight,” all because I thought the pilot for that series was just okay. My dissenting opinions immediately made my article “B.S.,” according to some readers, and I was subsequently forced to endure all manner of commentaries about how gorgeous O’Loughlin was, even though I kept assuring them that I’d probably be more interested in revisiting the series if they’d be willing to praise other aspects of the show that didn’t involve his hotness quotient. The irony…? When I reported how, after the show was canceled, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler admitted that “the response to ‘Moonlight’ was actually more actor-centric,” I was buried in responses from readers who seemed shocked and offended that she would say something so patently ridiculous.

Well, for what it’s worth, Tassler did at least want to keep O’Loughlin within the CBS family, and she’s gotten her wish by handing him a plum part in the network’s new medical drama, “Three Rivers” (yes, it takes place in Pittsburgh), where he’ll be working within an ensemble which includes Katherine Moennig (“The L Word”), Daniel Henney (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), Justina Machado (“Six Feet Under”), Christopher J. Hanke, and…Alfre Woodard?

Yep: Ms. Woodard came aboard the series mere days ago, so recently that, when O’Loughlin responded to his first question in the on-set press conference for the TCA members, she did a double-take.

“Let me just say how freaked I am to hear you talk like an Aussie,” she said. “I’m, like, ‘What is he doing faking over here?’ He’s such a believable Pittsburgh boy!”

If you haven’t heard about “Three Rivers” yet, it’s being described by the network as “a medical drama that goes inside the emotionally complex lives of organ donors, the recipients and the surgeons at the preeminent transplant hospital in the country where every moment counts.” We’re being forewarned, however, that “dealing with donor families in their darkest hour and managing the fears and concerns of apprehensive recipients takes much more than just a sharp scalpel.” Pardon me for a moment while I groan at that line, but kudos must go to the series for taking their subject seriously enough to work directly with the organization Donate Life, a national movement to inspire Americans to register as an organ-and-tissue donor.

Executive producer Carol Barbee spoke to the origins of the series. “I was looking for an idea for a
medical show,” she said, “and Ted Gould called me and said, ‘I know you’re looking for a medical show. What about transplants?’ And I had seen a documentary that week in doing research for the show I was trying to put together, and in it there was a transplant in the operation, so the minute he said it…it didn’t occur to me to do a show about transplants, but I knew exactly what I would do: I would tell it from three points of view. I thought the donor, the recipient, and then the doctors, the actual medicine…every one of those stories was so fascinating. So I thought, ‘That’s what I’ll do: three points of view, and then see how it drives to this one conclusion.'”

O’Loughlin says that he’s pretty much passed the point of having problems with the whole acting-in-an-American-accent thing, but the medical material is requiring a lot of studying, reading, and practicing…which he promptly demonstrated by reciting the phrase “hypotropic myopathy” over and over again.

“When I first read the pilot, I had lunch with Lina and I met with Carol a few times, and…” He looked over at Carol. “…you had to kind of talk me into it! I was so nervous when I met you, because it’s just such a big…to embark on this journey, if you take it seriously at all, it’s enormous. You know, I don’t have any training in medicine, and there’s so much to learn, even just to get off the ground and be convincing when you say the words. And, you know, the whole time we’re in Pittsburgh, and before that as well, I was into medical journals and I was on the phone, and I was researching all night.

“I didn’t sleep very much at all in Pittsburgh, and I was back and forth from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. I spent a lot of time flying and driving over there, and I spent a lot of time in the OR with Gonzo Gonzales, the surgeon who, really, my character is based on, and the surgeon that I studied with. The
whole time we studied, and now I’m obsessed with it. I’ve chosen the wrong profession. I’m so boring. I should have been a doctor. I found out that my father wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. That was a dream of his later; it was something that he was obsessed with as well.”

So what does he think now?

“We weep together about it,” he said, solemnly.

And then he laughed, thankfully.

Even with all of the obvious medical drama that will be going on throughout “Three Rivers,” Barbee assures us that there will be plenty of character stuff mixed in with the procedural elements.

“I would say that there’s a great camaraderie between the characters,” she said. “They each have personal journeys they are going on, and they are going on them together because they all sort of live in this hospital 24/7. You will see relationships develop, but what you are mainly going to see for the first little while the medicine. You are going to see the lives that come in here and that are joined together, people would never have met in a million years, and they suddenly are the answer to each others’ prayers. And these are the conduits that bring those people together. So there will be incremental changes in relationships among the cast, and you will see their personal lives unfold, but it’s mainly about the medicine. It’s mainly about the people whose lives are being brought in here.

Any romantic entanglements for Mr. O’Loughlin’s character?

“Oh, there will be many romantic entanglements,” replied Barbee, with a grin.

With other series regulars?

“All of them,” O’Loughlin assured us.

“Entanglement is the operative word,” chimed in Moenning.

“You, too, Alfre,” added O’Loughlin, with a wink.

“Let me say this to you: salpingo-oophorectomy.”

Say what?

“‘St. Elsewhere.’ 50,000 years ago. I still remember it. I fought Denzel over it one night. We both learned it because we thought it was our line. I said, ‘Oh, no. That’s mine.’ He said, ‘That’s mine.’ I said, “No. I learned this. I have to say that word.'”

“What is it, though?” asked O’Loughlin. “What’s the definition?”

“I was an OBGYN,” replied Woodard, “so it has something to do with the wonderful female body.”

“And a wonderful thing it is,” replied O’Loughlin.

And, once again, all the ladies love Alex…

Just a few last pieces of housekeeping on the series to close.

First off, if you’ve read about the show since its inception, then you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Julia Ormond’s name, even though she appeared in the original pilot. She’s out, and Ms. Woodard is in. We didn’t get any real answer about why Ms. Ormond got the boot. Actually, we don’t even know for sure that she did get the boot, but the mere fact that it wasn’t addressed directly leads me to believe that it wasn’t Ormond’s own decision to depart. Barbee’s only real comment on the matter was that they combined two roles from the original pilot and made them into one, saying, “You learn things when you’re doing the pilot, and we decided we didn’t need two characters to do this one job, so we combined them, we changed the back story, and we were honored to be able to get Alfre Woodard to join us.”

And, lastly, if you were looking forward to seeing O’Loughlin in those tight t-shirt-looking scrubs that have been seen in early press photos and in the advance trailers for the show, I’ve got bad news for you: they’re out.

When asked if there’s anyplace where doctors actually dress like that, O’Loughlin replied, “In ‘Star Trek,’ if you’ve done any sort of research. You’ll see that there’s all sorts of things in those skivvies that we wear. We can get beamed to places.”

“The scrubs have changed,” Barbee assured us.

Replied Moennig, “Thank God.”

  

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