Apparently, the meek shall inherit the ER. On tonight's episode of NBC's medical drama, mild-mannered med student Michael Gallant finally lives up to his name when, after suffering months of abuse at the hands of the arrogant Dr. Pratt, he musters up the courage to strike back.

"Pretty much, he takes a stand," explains Sharif Atkins, Gallant's relieved portrayer. "He's been really a by-the-book, follow-the-rules, do-what-you've-been-told kind of guy. A good soldier. But part of being a leader and part of being your own person is knowing when to follow and when to lead — and then knowing when to take the lead."

A disagreement over how to treat two different patients causes the Army recruit to snap... or as Atkins puts it, "come into full bloom." As a result, the Gallant/Pratt power struggle is forever altered. "Not that he'll cease being an antagonist to my character," he points out, "but at least I kind of hold my own with him."

Well, now that we know Atkins can play livid as well as timid, just one question remains: Can he portray a '40s-era jazz pianist trying to make a name for himself during the early days of television? You can be the judge of that come Sunday, when TNT airs The Big Time (8 pm/ET), an original telefilm in which the 27-year-old Chicago native plays, er, a '40s-era jazz pianist trying to make a name for himself during the early days of TV!

"It's set right around the birth of bebop and Dizzy Gillespie," he says, "so I threw myself into listening to all sorts of jazz pieces. It was great!" Laughing, he adds: "And the wardrobe was a little bit more fashionable than hospital scrubs. The browns and the reds go better with me."