As ‘Mercy’s‘ Dr. Chris Sands, James Tupper holds the key to the new NBC drama’s biggest secret: he’s a doc with a mysterious past in Iraq who’s still unsure where he belongs – and who he belongs with.
Tupper talked to us from his temporary residence in New York, where he dished about the good doctor’s history, what it’s like being the object of Michelle Trachtenberg’s affection, and gave us the scoop on a guest starring role by Anne Heche – his former ‘Men In Trees‘ co-star and the mother of his baby boy.
What’s up with your nicknames? You were ‘McTreemy’ on ‘Men In Trees’. Do you have any others?
[The network] did that when they promoted the show because we followed ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for a while. I don’t think I ever lived that one down! (laughs) But my nickname on this show is Dr. Zhivago. We call James Dr. Cranky. We also have a Nurse Ratchet. And those are just a few examples.
What upcoming guest stars can we look forward to?
I just worked with Jerry Stiller. And Anne Heche is gonna guest star on the show, but I don’t know when. I asked her and she said “I’d love to!” I don’t know what role she’ll be playing, but hopefully a love interest, and I think she might do a one or two or three episode arc. Depending on when she’s free. Then we’d be in the same city.
How about you appearing on her show, ‘Hung’? Think we’ll ever get to see that?
That’s interesting, because I think last season I got pitched for something on that, but I was busy. Yeah, of course, I would love to be on that show. It has to get cleared at the top though first.
Michelle Trachtenberg also splits her time between ‘Mercy’ and ‘Gossip Girl,’ where she’s the resident bad girl. What’s it like working with her?
I saw her on ‘Gossip Girl’ before she came on and I was like “Oooh. I wonder what it’s gonna be like meeting her.” And then you meet her and she’s most lovely and open person. She is such a good character actor. I’m such a big fan of her character (Nurse Chloe) on our show.
‘ER’ went on for 15 years – could you see yourself doing ‘Mercy’ for that long?
I would love to do the show for a while. The only hard thing would be being away from my family for so long.
How do you and Anne schedule spending time with each other and the baby?
I make weekend trips back and forth and they come out here (to New York) during breaks. We’re just doing the best we can with the situation. The way we see it is our family is the priority, and work is just a way of supporting our family, that’s really how we function. If the project serves our work that’s good, but the work will always serve the family. She’s come out three or four times and I’ve gone out there (to Los Angeles) four or five times, so it’s every week pretty much. We basically never go for more than two weeks without seeing each other.
Is the show shot inside an actual hospital?
Yes, and it feels exactly like shooting in a morgue. The cast and crew is like ‘this place feels haunted!’ It is a hospital but everything has been removed and it’s in pristine shape. So many hospitals around the country are not being funded so they have had to close, so the local people have to drive farther to get medical care. It’s one of the hospitals that was emptied. We also have a set that we use.
Tell me about Dr. Sands – what’s your take on him?
The interesting thing for me about the role is that he served in Iraq, and was there for a year. When he came back he really didn’t have a place where he belonged anymore.
We’ve seen Nurse Veronica (Taylor Schilling) tackling her past life in Iraq, will we get insight into his past there too?
Dr. Sands will have flashbacks to Iraq, but those will be shot in New Jersey. It’s all in the lighting (laughs).
On Wednesday night’s episode we saw a big breakthrough between Nurse Chloe and Dr. Sands. Will this cause a rift between his ex, Veronica, and Chloe?
Veronica is such a leader and a task master – she’s the anchor at the hospital. She handles it very well when she finds out about Chloe. People continue functioning professionally and it doesn’t end up being a big thing. Unless you wanna see a catfight!
Watch ‘Mercy’ Wednesday nights on NBC.