PASADENA — Eoin Macken spent several nights in a hospital emergency room to prepare for his role as the adrenaline junkie Dr. TC Callahan in the new NBC medical drama "The Night Shift." He was shocked by what he saw.
"It's a chaotic place. But being in an ER at nighttime is just — you almost need to be on drugs to be there," Macken says. "If you are going to work in a hospital, you're have to have a certain sensibility anyway because it's a lot of stress, it's a lot of pressure. And then to work at nighttime it's amplified and exacerbated by the fact that everyone who comes in is crazy. They are on drugs. They're drunk. They're tired. They're stressed."
That's the tone being set in the summer series. The men and women who work the night shift at San Antonio Memorial are an irreverent and special breed and none is more irreverent or special than Callahan, who joined the team after three tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Macken explains that a lot of the show's conflict will come from Callahan trying to find the balance between using the off-the-wall methods he learned while in the field and working within the confines of a hospital that has strict rules and insurance policies.
Callahan is the new maverick in town, but he joins a medical team that includes pranksters Toper (Ken Leung) and Drew (Brendan Fehr), his ex-girlfriend (Jill Flint), medical novice Paul (Robert Bailey Jr.), seasoned nurse Kenny (JR Lemon) and psychiatrist Dr. Landry De La Cruz (Daniella Alonso) who spends as much time with her colleagues as their patients.
The craziness of the series matches what Macken observed with the real medical staffs.
"What's interesting is that it's so easy for somebody to die. It's not cut-and-dry. Somebody can die from a bang to the head and then you could have spinal decapitation and still manage to survive," Macken says. "What I love about this show is that it's not just a medical show where everyone does their job and then goes home. You have all these circumstances that are really extreme but happen all the time."
Having seen real ERs in action, Macken likes how his series reflects the dark humor that often helps the staff get through the serious work they are doing.
"I think that's such an interesting thing about the show. It's crazy and it's chaotic and there's some serious things happening since it's a medical show, but it's also fun. I think that's kind of what happens a little bit in an ER at the same time," Macken says.
Macken comes to the NBC series having starred in the BBC series "Merlin," where he played the brave and honorable Gwaine. His film credits include "Centurion," "Siren" and "Suspension of Disbelief."
This is the first role where the demands include delivering complicated medical jargon. Macken's approach is to not worry about what his character is saying but how it's being said.
As for the medical tests the team will deal with each night, Macken says they might seem extreme but are all based on true stories.
Many of those stories have come to executive producer Jeff Judah through a close friend who has been an ER doctor in Atlanta for 16 years.
"The Night Shift", premieres 10 p.m. Tuesday, NBC (KSEE, Channel 24.1).