We premiere on Monday night. It's kind of a strange thing; I'm directing the season finale as I write this, literally between takes. We are pushing so hard to get done on time and done well; meanwhile, we're hiding from all the reviews and speculation that comes with the beginning of a new series. We've become a tight-knit family here, living in an abandoned hospital in Hawthorne, California, and shooting 13 hours a day. It's been an incredible experience to conceive an entire season before being on the air even once. We've worked without knowing whether the show will connect with the audience. We haven't been concerned with how many are watching or what the reviewers are saying. So we can only feel good about the job itself on its own merits. We can only focus on the work we've done.
Which brings me full circle to how this all began, nearly two years ago.
After my last show was canceled, I was in Maine reading a book about what happens to your body after you die. That's what you do after your show gets canceled: go far away and read long, morbid books. There was a section about graverobbing and using corpses for medical schools and all these macabre details about the industry of how dead bodies are used. Then there was a chapter about organ donation. I was reminded, reading that chapter, of my teenage years in Pittsburgh when the University of Pittsburgh was ushering in a new era in transplantation. How interesting it was to read about those early surgeries; how mindblowing it was to consider life coming directly from death.
Next thing I knew I was on the phone to the main organ-procurement center in Pittsburgh asking if I could come in and watch them work. They led me to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to watch the transplant surgeons operate. From there - and I'll spare you all the details of research and the dozens of drafts that followed - the pilot script for
Treat Williams' name came up the first day of casting. I assumed he'd never do it. He'd just finished a four-year run on another show and was probably enjoying some well-deserved downtime. I was also nervous about approaching him; I'd been a fan of his for years and felt like he might not want to jump into a cable show that had no definite order to series. So we made a list of other actors and then immediately started auditioning women for the lead role of Kate Armstrong.
Kari Matchett came in on the third day. Basically walked into the room and was cast before she started. She just made perfect sense. I called the studio and network, told them she was my only choice (the norm is to bring in three or four candidates and whittle it down to one). She was on her way to make a film in Canada, so we rushed her in to meet everyone and offered her the role.
A few days later, on a whim, I sent Treat the script, with absolutely no expectation of his responding to it. He called the next morning, accepted the role without meeting me, made his deal and flew himself out to Los Angeles to start work. When he arrived, we agreed that Dabney Coleman needed to play the role of Bart Jacobs. Thankfully, Dabney accepted. Morena Baccarin, Chris William Martin, Danielle Nicolet and Gage Golightly followed soon after. We were cast and set for a start date of Aug. 11, in an abandoned hospital in Pasadena.
Nearly a year to the day after I read that book about what happens to our bodies when we die, we started filming the pilot for
. The shoot was arduous; I had packed a lot of work into a short period of time. We got through the extremely long hours with a lot of running jokes, and by having excellent parties on Sunday afternoons.
Making a pilot is a very uncertain exercise. You have absolutely no idea whether your show will be picked up and you are frantically trying to figure out what the show is while you are also in the process of trying to create something good enough to get you out of the gates. Every take is a learning experience, and every scene creates a new idea and a new trajectory for the story. By the end of the shoot, I had over an hour of footage, exhausted actors and a very long road ahead of editing, testing, re-editing and hoping. We finished the shoot around 2 in the morning on location downtown. Then we shared a quick drink, shook hands and figured with the odds the way they are in television, this would probably be goodbye.
Instead, we're premiering in two days. I'll continue to write as the season progresses and record some of how it feels to watch a season, and the fate of our show, evolve week-to-week. We all hope you enjoy watching the work as much as we enjoy making it.