For the hospital kids of Red Band Society, death may be around the corner, but life is just beginning.
Set in the children's ward of a Los Angeles hospital, Red Band Society (premieres Wednesday, 9/8c, Fox) is about an unlikely group of friends who've come together — some begrudgingly — to face their life-threatening sicknesses. Zoe Levin, Charlie Rowe, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Ciara Bravo and Nolan Sotillo make up the Breakfast Club-like gang, while Griffin Gluck stars as a coma patient from whose perspective and narrative the story is told.
Of course, the kids aren't in this battle alone. Dave Annable, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Wilson Cruz and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer play the doctors and nurses who mentor them, often with dark humor, through the ups and downs of growing up.
Get to know the ensemble cast of characters that make up the coming-of-age drama.
Kara Souders (Zoe Levin)
Ailment: Needs a heart transplant
What you need to know: As the resident "Queen Bitch," Kara's biggest challenge this season will be breaking down her tough exterior to let people in and earn a heart — literally and figuratively. "Her [story] is about proving herself and hopefully bettering herself," Levin tells us. "She's going to get completely rocked because her walls have never come down, she's very guarded, so this is the first time she's going to be vulnerable." Adds executive producer Margaret Nagle: "She's going to fall in love, but he's not going to love her back, which will be hard for her. We'll also meet Kara's many moms. Her mom left her dad for another woman so she's got three moms, but no one knows how to be her mom and her mom had kids, stepmom and dad had kids — she's the leftover. So she'll find her 'mother' at the hospital."
Leo Roth (Charlie Rowe)
Ailment: Osteosarcoma in his right leg
What you need to know: The leader of the group, Leo has been a mainstay at the hospital. "He's in this weird limbo period in the sense that no one knows what's coming next and if he'll survive, if he'll get worse [or if] he'll get a new leg," he says. "He's just waiting, so he takes this leading role amongst his pals [because] he needs something to cling onto and help him through." Rowe was also inspired by the creator of the original series on which Red Band is based,Polseres vermelles. "When speaking to Alberto [Espinosa], he was just cracking jokes about his leg," Rowe says. "He drew a cowboy hat on his stump and sent it to us like, 'My stump is wishing you luck!' He's taken the situation and had a great time."
Dash Hosney (Brian Bradley)
Ailment: Cystic fibrosis
What you need to know: Always stirring up trouble, Dash is the daring one of the bunch. "He's probably going to be one of the sickest kids in the series, but he's also the most adventurous," he says. "His phrase is 'YOLO.' Most kids [with this disease] live to, like, 21, so when your time is limited you have as much fun as possible." And as viewers will see in the premiere, he's also quite the ladies' man and has a crush on Nurse Rebecca.
Emma Chota (Ciara Bravo)
Ailment: Eating disorder
What you need to know: "She's incredibly smart and driven," Bravo says. As another popular girl, she'll butt heads right from the start with Kara, creating a bit of a love square. "[It's Kara], Jordi, Emma and Leo," Levin says. "Everyone is trying to make everyone jealous — normal romance, coming-of-age drama." As for portraying Emma, Bravo says, "It's incredible pressure to bring her to life because eating disorders are a taboo topic and I know that being in this position I want to be someone for people to look up to."
Jordi Palacios (Nolan Sotillo)
What you need to know: Jordi practically begs his way into the hospital after crossing the border to seek better medical care. Once there, Leo takes him under his wing. "In the first episode, he's standoffish and distant with Leo, but his walls come down," Sotillo says. "He's scared, but he has to be strong because he's the only one there for himself, so now that he has these people around him, it's like a gift of life for him." Adds Rowe, "Charlie's excited to have Jordi and say, 'Look me at me, you'll be alright.' They understand each other."
Charlie Hutchison (Griffin Gluck)
Ailment: In a coma
What you need to know: He might be unconscious, but Charlie serves as the narrator and, as Gluck says, "the ears" of the hospital. "I've been there longer than anyone," he adds. While Charlie mostly observes, he does have some interaction with the others during their moments of unconsciousness and also provides for some of the funniest lines in the premiere. He'll also have his own backstory focused on his father and the mystery surrounding how he ended up in the hospital, which will be hinted at early on in the episode.
Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer)
What you need to know: This is one lady you don't want to mess with, which is pretty much understood from the moment you see her Starbucks cup labeled, "Scary Bitch." (Nagle says each week it'll say something new.) Spencer tells us, "She's no-nonsense, a taskmaster ... but she also has a heart that she shows very sparingly." Adds Annable, "She's G.S.D. (get sh- done)." Expect her and Kara to constantly butt heads — their battle will be right up until the finale, Nagle says — but perhaps the two will also realize they have more in common than not.
Dr. Jack McAndrew (Dave Annable)
What you need to know: As the pediatric surgeon on the show, McAndrew is often the only hope the kids have for survival. But we'll also see how he and his staff handle the emotionally draining job. "It's a window into the medical professionals that take on the job of taking care of sick children and the highs and lows that come with that," he says. Not to mention, he's easy on the eyes.
Nurse Brittany Dobler (Rebecca Rittenhouse)
What you need to know: "She's a total newbie nurse," Rittenhouse explains, which often gets her into trouble with OG Nurse Jackson. "She's really eager to please everyone and wants to be friends with the kids, which means she's not always doing her job well because she wants to be liked." Her naivete gets the best of her in the premiere in a hilarious scene with Dash. "He totally takes advantage of her because she doesn't really know what the rules are," she says. "She's a little clueless."
Nurse Kenji Gomez-Rejon (Wilson Cruz)
What you need to know: As Jackson's right-hand man, Kenji might be the only one not afraid of her. "I've known her probably the longest of everyone ... so I give it right back to her," Cruz says. "You'll discover why this relationship has developed in the way that it has." Cruz also loves that his character is fun and lighthearted. "Our job is to supply the levity," he says. "I make it my mission to make you laugh in every episode."
Red Band Society premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 9/8c on Fox.
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