Tom Ellis Previews USA’s New ‘Rush’ Series And Talks Past Gay Roles

"Rush" cast: (l-r) Larenz Tate, Sarah Habel and Tom Ellis (NBC)

We’re used to antiheroes on our television but where does Dr. William Rush fall on the new USA series, “Rush“?

He’s a doctor, played by Tom Ellis, who makes house calls to help people and he typically knows how to fix just about any problem BUT, all that said, he can easily walk away from someone in pain if they don’t agree to his lofty price for such services. He also has interesting taste in music (which is not a bad thing since one nugget of music is Debbie Gibson’s “Only In My Dreams” – one of my personal favorites from my youth) and Rush is also more about doing drugs and having a quickie than truly romancing and getting to know a love interest with a sober head.

Set in the Hollywood community, the series also notably takes another step away from the typical ‘blue skies’ approach that the USA network used to blanket their schedule with but with shows like “Graceland” and this new entry, we’re definitely seeing the darker skies moving in…and it’s not a bad thing at all.

I sat down with Ellis this past weekend at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to talk the new series as well as the gay roles the dashing Brit has played in his career.

You’re playing a character that could potentially be polarizing. Did you think about that going into this?

Tom Ellis: I think it’s certainly a British trait and I think from the start a lot of actors worry about whether they’re going to be liked and I think if you start worrying about that sort of stuff it takes you out of actually what your job is. Your job is to try and make a truthful character and my way of doing that, certainly with “Rush,” was to find some kind of understanding, some kind of empathy about where this guy was at in his life and why he’s made those choices.

Once you start to understand that then you can play it very honestly and, again, let people make up their own minds about it. Because life isn’t black and white and there is a moral ambiguity about everything, I don’t condone any of his behavior or anything, but I can bring myself to understand it.

I was just writing notes as I was watching the pilot and one of the things I wrote was, “does Rush love himself?” What do you think?

TE: That’s a good question. Great question. I think Rush lives vicariously through himself. Whether he loves himself or not, he says he does but someone who says that would ring alarm bells to me immediately because I don’t think anyone has that innate self-confidence and satisfaction in their own life. Certainly when it comes to the relationships in his life that really matters and resonates with him. I think that’s maybe what he’s trying to block out when he says all those things and when he medicates to the state that he does. What is it he’s trying not to be contact with?

If things had gone a different way you could be playing Robin Hood now on “Once Upon A Time.”

TE: And then we’d be talking a whole different outfit’s conversation…it was interesting with “Once Upon a Time,” I did the guest spot and then they came back and said “we really like you. Can you come back and do some more?” And at the time they asked me to do that I’d just decided I was going to do this play in London. It’s weird how things work out in life because that play was, for me personally, an incredible experience. It was almost like checking into rehab for acting because I hadn’t done a play for 10 years and I had sort of lost my mojo a little bit about acting, which can happen…I ended up doing this play and the last week of the play this audition for “Rush” came in and I was in such a good place and I’ve had such a great trip and journey doing this play, which was an American play…

What was the play?

TE: It was a thing called “The Lyons” by Nicky Silver, which had been on Broadway two years ago…and then “Rush” came along and it was like “Oh, my God.” It’s crazy.

Have you ever played gay roles?

TE: I was in a show called “No Angels,” which was a Channel Four show, where I played a gay nurse called Justin. Actually, I was in a drama school production of “Beautiful Thing,” that Jonathan Harvey play. I played Ste in that. And I quite famously did a spread for a gay magazine in the U.K. about a year and-a-half ago. [Ellis’s role in “The Lyons” was also as gay son Curtis]

It’s almost like a rite of passage now for straight actors to play gay roles because it used to be such a stigma and it’s not anymore.

TE: No. It’s not. It’s another character and my approach to acting is always from a humanistic point of view and I think that’s something that’s been passed down from my Dad. He was a Baptist pastor but the most humanistic kind of religious man I’ve ever known and that philosophy in life is how I approach things.

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Are there any gay characters or storylines that come up in the first season? I know there is not in the pilot.

TE: There are some gay characters that come in…but, also, there’s this show that I do in the U.K., “Miranda” that for some reason we’ve got a huge gay audience. We’ve got a huge audience full start but it’s become a big thing in the gay community. I don’t why.

Any theories why?

TE: I think it’s unashamedly quite camp and quite knowingly camp and its fun and it’s kind of vivacious. It’s kind celebratory in its mood and I think that builds to the gay community, certainly my gay friends.

“Rush” premieres Thursday, July 17th at 9pm on USA. 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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