Rick Bentley

Kartheiser makes Pilgrim progress

Vincent Kartheiser takes on the role of William Bradford in the National Geographic Channel mini-series “Saints & Sinners.”
Vincent Kartheiser takes on the role of William Bradford in the National Geographic Channel mini-series “Saints & Sinners.” National Geographic Channel

Vincent Kartheiser has made the leap from the advertising world to 17th Century America with his role in the two-part mini-series “Saints & Strangers” for the National Geographic Channel. The production takes a close look at what happened when the Mayflower arrived in the New World in the autumn of 1620.

It may change the way you look at Thanksgiving this year.

Vincent Kartheiser takes on the role of William Bradford, a leader of the religious separatists. That’s a big change from his button-down role of Pete Campbell on the series “Mad Men.”

The actor sees the roles as extremes. Bradford was considered the moral compass of the group; Campbell almost had no moral compass at all.

He was able to find several sources to help him play the religious leader.

“I read a couple of books that William Bradford actually wrote. I think he wrote over 30 books or maybe even over 40 books. I was looking for some sort of clues as to who this guy was,” Kartheiser says. “The two books that I read, he was actually such a modest and humble guy that he rarely mentioned himself in any of the goings on. He was a little more vague about who had accomplished what and who had chosen what for the pilgrims and for their community at New Plymouth.”

The script tells the story behind the founding of America, chronicling the trials and tribulations of the 101 men, women and children who boarded the Mayflower for a one-way trip. Half were religious separatists who had abandoned their prior lives for religious freedom and an opportunity to create a new social order built on their values. The others were mostly single males seeking financial opportunity or trying to escape criminal pasts.

“I think this particular story that we’re telling is full of a lot of normal, kind of ordinary people. I mean, these people were shopkeepers and they worked in corduroy factories and things like that. They were very average people who took this, kind of, amazing leap and were faced with really daunting tasks in front of them to accomplish,” Kartheiser says. “I think they all made a lot of mistakes. We say saints and strangers, but I don’t think that they always held that title so true.”

On call

It didn’t take much for Yaya DaCosta to prepare for the first day of filming of “Chicago Med.” She had already played the character of Nurse April Sexton on the other two series in the NBC Chicago franchise: “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Fire.”

Being part of the dramas from executive producer Dick Wolf has been an enjoyable working process for the New York native.

“There’s a certain level of confidence that you get in knowing that you’re going to be taken care of and you’re going to be in that great company,” DaCosta says. “As actors, we do all these projects, whether they’re independent films or theater, movies that don’t get attention, because we’re just small pieces of these big puzzles. And no matter how well we do, we never know how something’s going to turn out. So going into it, knowing that you’re in stellar hands is just such a comforting feeling and it just makes us work even harder to be our best.”

The 33-year-old has been acting since she was 11, when her junior high school drama teacher suggested DaCosta audition for educational films. Her feature film debut came in 2006 with “Take the Lead” and since then she’s had acting stints on the daytime drama “All My Children” and the prime-time series “Ugly Betty.”

DaCosta can speak French, Portuguese and Spanish. None of that has helped her with all the medical jargon that she has to say on the medical drama.

None of that ever worried her because DaCosta knew the production would give her any needed support.

“We have great people on set to refer to when we need clarification on pronunciation or the way to hold something, certain tools. We have really great references,” DaCosta says. “And the writers know what they’re doing.”

It’s all part of helping her play the character to the best of her abilities. As for the character, DaCosta says that Sexton may have days when she gets a little overwhelmed but generally she’s in charge.

As DaCosta explains it, “She’s the nurse that the doctors turn to when something needs to get done. She’s the liaison between all the other nurses and the doctors, as well as the patients when the doctors are too busy to speak to the patients in a calm, compassionate way and explain things. So she’s the person that kind of keeps the hospital running generally.”

Other news

Aging quickly: “Pretty Little Liars: 5 Years Forward,” a one-hour, behind-the-scenes special airing at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, on ABC Family will offer a look at the five-year leap the series will make when it returns Jan. 12. There will be conversations surrounding new careers and love interests, a glimpse at brand-new sets and the airing of two new scenes that won’t be seen anywhere else.

Ruff job: Actress Kaley Cuoco will host “The All-Star Dog Rescue Celebration” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 26, on FOX26. Viewers can help choose by voting for their favorite Puppy at FOX.com/CutestPuppy or tweet their puppy nominee’s hashtag to Twitter. Results will be available following the broadcast at FOX.com/CutestPuppy.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1