How has it been working in Chicago on this and shooting?
Jordana Spiro: No, unfortunately not. We would just pack our exteriors onto the tail end of every season of My Boys. So, we definitely didn’t get enough time to spend here. You know, it’s an incredible thing that happens when you’re shooting in the place that the story takes place in, not just visually for what that adds. Obviously, it’s invaluable to what it adds to the picture of what you’re shooting. Also, when the entire crew is from where you’re shooting, the conversations you get to have on set just doing what you’re doing, going about your day; inform and ground what you’re doing as your character so much more than I anticipated.
I think that’s been the most surprising and pleasurable aspect of shooting on location is those interactions with the crew and with the local environment.
What kind of things have you done outside of work while you’ve been in Chicago?
J. Spiro: Well, there hasn’t been too much time outside of work. So, I haven’t yet gotten to go to the White Sox game, which I’m dying to go to, or a Bears game. I think I’ve just been doing a lot of eating.
Josh, why was it important to shoot here, as opposed to faking it?
Josh Berman: I think there’s two reasons for me. It was a personal reason and a professional reason. Professionally, when you’re on a network show, and you have a studio that says you can shoot anywhere you want, and you’re writing a show about the mob; there’s no better city than Chicago. Since the post-9/11 resources have gone away from organized crime and into fighting terrorism, and there’s a whole new face on the mob and being able to place it in Chicago with such historical roots made the most sense.
Personally, it’s a real pleasure because my family comes from Chicago. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, and she ended up in Chicago, as well as five of her cousins, the only people that survived. They established … Department Store and for them, my family, Chicago represented the American Dream. So, it’s a real great return for me.
Jordana, what was it about the premise of the show in general, about your character in particular, that blew your skirt up? Made you want to do it?
J. Spiro: I think there were a couple of reasons. Two things that really stood out to me is the fact that she is a surgeon, and with that there’s this inherent quality of wanting to fix things in a very direct, hands-on way. She wants to cut something open and fix it, and there’s a Godliness to that. Surgeons cross a line that isn’t just physical, it’s psychological and spiritual.
I thought there was something interesting that was going on with her choice of doing that, and this sort of inability to control her environment when she was growing up. She was the daughter of an alcoholic who abused her mother, and she had to really claw her way out of her background to get to where she’s getting to. I thought that there was such a fieriness to her and such gumption to her that was just really compelling.
Then when I read the pilot script and I read the scenes with Constantine, her debtor, I thought they were so fascinating because it could have been so easy for Josh to have made that relationship purely antagonistic, but it’s so oddly serene and paternal. I just got very excited to unpack that—that this isn’t just some financial debt that’s at the surface; it’s where she’s from, it’s in her DNA, this world that she’s trying to get away from and also being pulled to at the same time. Those two things really were pulled into the foreground for me when I read the script.
Ultimately, the overarching heartbeat of the show to me, which was so exciting and compelling, was that this woman is making choices that are very morally conflicted and yet at the beginning it’s to save her family. So, this question becomes how far do you go? Where is that line that you absolutely won’t cross? What happens when that line keeps edging further and further away from you? Is there a breaking point where you say, if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them?
Josh, basically, what are your goals, other than the obvious of wanting to be a long running hit, what are your hopes and goals creatively for The Mob Doctor?
J. Berman: Creatively, I would love for our viewers to tap into this show on an emotional level. I think the current show that I write and produce, Drop Dead Diva; I think it had longevity because people can relate to the lead character. Now in that show, it’s about a skinny model who dies and comes back to life as an overweight attorney; obviously, not something that most people go through.
In this case, we have a woman who’s a doctor and indebted to the mob. Again, not something that most people are experiencing in their lives, but the themes of what this character goes through and balancing the pressures of family and work and her brother. It’s the universality of trying to get through our days today when there are so many pressures on us. I think that’s something that viewers can really relate to, especially women, when so much is asked of us in today’s world.
So, I hope that at the end of the day people will fall in love and relate to Jordana’s character. Grace is so complex and so interesting. I don’t think there’s another character like her on television right now. I hope the viewers fall in love with her as much as I have.
Was this like an in-the-shower type of thing? Or were you watching The Sopranos?
J. Berman: For me it’s interesting, I grew up in a medical family. My father’s a doctor. My mom’s a nurse. The siblings on both sides are doctors or nurses or psychiatrists. Yet, after writing on network television for fourteen years, it’s the one genre I avoided.
I spent actually nine years on forensic shows, and then a legal show with Drop Dead Diva. I’ve created other shows, but I never touched the medical arena because I felt like it had been done to death on TV. Then when the concept came of blending this world with the mob world, two absolutely diametrically opposed conceits; yet at the heart of it, there are families. There’s the family at the hospital, and there’s the family in the mob world. I love the idea of blending these two genres into something fresh and original. It was really the first time I got excited and wanted to write a medical show, so that’s how we ended up with The Mob Doctor.
Any notes from your family yet?
J. Berman: Actually, it’s funny you should ask that. Before we were even picked up as series, I like to do a mini-table read just to make sure the dialog is all working. My mom came in, and I had a doctor in the room, I had a nurse in the room, and my mom represented the nurse. She gave me some good notes on the nursing dialog, but then she proceeded just to give me general script notes. At which point, I kicked her out of the room.
She’s still my biggest fan, and she feels very close to the Ro character who is the nurse played by Floriana Lima in the show.
Josh, this is definitely one of the most buzzed about shows this fall. It’s getting really heavily promoted, I was wondering is there a sense of pressure with that? Also, what do you think sets this apart from other medical dramas?
J. Berman: It’s funny you talk about pressure because Jordana got asked a similar question. Her response was that she puts a lot pressure on herself. I think this show has attracted a lot of Type A personalities. We all put more pressure on ourselves then we do on each other. We’re a big support network for each other, but then we look internally and are like why didn’t we do better?
I think Jordana is flawless in her performance, and I know she’s her toughest critic. With the scripts too, I rewrite them so many times because I want it to be perfect. Of course it will never be perfect, but the pressure is just there internally.
In terms of support, we’re so lucky. You know we’re the only new drama on FOX this fall. We have so much support from the network who just loves the show and getting the phone calls when they say we just saw a cut and we love it, we love it, we love it. That’s music to our ears. We quickly forget about the accolades and then go back to being hard on ourselves because that’s our nature. We feel thrilled. We are energized. I know that the network is expecting a lot from us.
People aren’t sure when they hear the title, it doesn’t mean that much to them. Then, once they watch the episode and seeing the evolution in social media where screeners have somehow snuck out and people are writing great stuff about us online or on You Tube or Facebook; it’s really gratifying.
The second part of the question was about, why The Mob Doctor? I’m friends with Jamie-Lynn Sigler who played Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos, and she guest starred on Drop Dead Diva. When she came onto the show on Diva, we began thinking what would’ve happened if Meadow Soprano had gone onto medical school and had become a doctor, what would that look like?
Then my co-creator Rob Wright and I started talking about is there such a thing as a mob doctor? We were shocked by the amount of literature, nonfiction, written about mob doctors. We even came across a book called Il Dottore, the double life of a Mafia doctor, written by Ron Felber; which is the true life accounts of a mob doctor in the 1970s in New York. Sony optioned the rights for us of that book.
We don’t talk about it much. I just figure that the question hasn’t come up, so I’m glad you asked. That book was really inspirational. While we developed a very different character than the central character of that nonfiction novel, it was inspirational for us to see this is something real. This is something that exists. It is the underbelly of organized crime, have their medical fixers, so to speak.
When we found out that this actually did exist, it became even more compelling. That’s the point we decided, we have to write this. I think FOX responded immediately. FOX was the only network we pitched to. They bought it in the room and have been excited about the project from the beginning.
The Mob Doctor Series Premiere is Monday, September 17th at 9:00/8:00 central on FOX.
Facebook: Morasco Media
Copyright © 2012 by Diane Morasco. All rights Reserved Worldwide.
Subscribe to Alwayz Therro magazine for exclusive interviews and photos you won’t find on this blog. Subscribe and read the magazine on your iPad, iPhone, Kindle, PC, and Android.