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A First Look at “Trauma”

September 22nd, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Fasten your seatbelts — it’s going to be a fast, adrenaline-packed ride. Today on Hulu, you can get a first taste of NBC’s new series, Trauma, which premieres Monday, September 28 at 9 p.m. (We’ll have the pilot on Hulu first thing the next morning.) From Executive Producers Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights and, coincidentally, director of Hulu’s first TV ad) and Jeffrey Reiner (also from FNL), it’s follows a team of first responders through the streets (and skies) of San Francisco. In the embedded clip below, you’ll meet some of the key players in this paramedic drama, which promises to be high octane, high flying and a whole lot of fun. Among the leads: Cliff Curtis, best known for his roles in Whale Rider, Three Kings and The Piano. Here he plays Reuben “Rabbit” Palchuck, a daredevil flight medic who calls the shots — unless he’s butting heads with paramedic Nancy Carnahan (Damages’ Anastasia Griffith). Last week, Hulu spoke to Reiner about the pilot episode, which he directed. The preview clip is embedded here; the interview follows below. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: The preview made me anxious to see the full episode!
Jeffrey Reiner:
Yeah, it’s a real energy-packed thrill ride with such interesting characters. I think it’s a fun show with heart in dealing with these guys who are heroes. [Paramedics] don’t get a lot of praise, but they go into really difficult situations, you know, and they’re first ones on the scene. They’re saving lives.

Could you set up the preview for us?
It’s a teaser, so it’s the opening, and we introduce our characters and then we introduce the action, which they respond to. It’s in San Francisco on top of a big skyscraper. The city plays a major part in it. The EMTs also have a helicopter response unit, so it’s by land and by air, and we’re basically covering our six main characters.

Tell us about Cliff Curtis and his character, Rabbit.
Rabbit was a really hard part to cast, because he’s full of energy, he acts like an a**hole at times. We wanted to make sure whoever did that wasn’t playing, that it was very easy for the actor to play it in broad strokes. The work that we’d seen from Cliff — he’s been in movies such as Whale Rider, and he’s worked for Scorsese and Danny Boyle; I’d seen him in Sunshine — there’s a gravitas about him and a weight that I really responded to. I always wanted to work with him. So we needed somebody to really ground Rabbit, because it would be very easy for the character to be over the top. But also, it’s a question of who could play all that energy. Cliff is a Maori; he’s got that kind of warrior’s mentality. He’s just very — he’s like somebody you’ve never seen on television before. He’s kind of a wild card. The network was very brave in letting us cast what I would consider to be a very nontraditional leading man. I think he’s really refreshing for television. But he’s funny. By the end of the pilot, you come to love him, or understand him. He is full of contradictions, and he marches to his own beat.

There’s been lots of talk about all the medical dramas on TV right now. What’s different about Trauma?
The first thing is, it’s not in a hospital. We shoot this on the streets of San Francisco. I worked on Friday Night Lights for three years, and I think we were dedicated to shooting in the streets and shooting in a realistic way. I think that we’re continuing to do that. Most medical shows are stuck in a hospital. We’re out on the streets, and there’s a thrill, an energy to whipping down the streets of San Francisco in an ambulance and whipping over the city in a helicopter. The sense of urgency is far greater than your typical medical show. These guys share a lot of the same vibe as cops, where their job is filled with adrenaline. It’s one thing to perform surgery in a contained environment, but try going to an area that is not only dangerous, but a person is bleeding to death from his femoral artery. You’ve got to stop it, and you’re out in the elements. I think it’s a lot different from any other medical show.

What I love about Friday Night Lights are the characters. Trauma is being positioned as an action-packed series. Will we see the same sort of character development in this show?
Well, I think it’s a different type of character development. In Friday Night Lights, you’re only servicing the characters. Here, you’re servicing stories. I think the attention to the kind of behavior and the way that we let the actors act and how we shoot them. As the series wears on, you’ll get to understand the characters, and hopefully our approach to getting performances out of [the actors] will share a lot of that. We use real people, we use real situations, which we do on Friday Night Lights. It’s something that’s very important to Pete Berg and I, and Dario Scardapane and Sarah Aubrey, my fellow executive producers, it’s something that we definitely care about. It’s a different beast. The sense of realism and the sense of being there, experiencing it from a thousand different angles is going to be much the same.

There’s a serious action sequence in this clip. Will we see more action of the same caliber as the season progresses?
It will be different, but we do kind of a farmer’s market crash. I have to say, you can’t do these stunts to get your ya-yas off. You have to do it to serve a story. Even when I directed it, there weren’t shots that were like, “Wow, this is cool.” It was told from people’s perspectives. The helicopter [scene] is really told from the guy, Rabbit, inside the helicopter — which I thought was terrifying. So rather than have these scenes be generic, they had to be very specific to a point of view. And for people in a car crash, what’s it like to be the person in the car who’s about to enter a multi-collision accident? It’s terrifying. What was it like to be at that Santa Monica farmer’s market [where there was a fatal crash several years], and experience it firsthand? That’s what we’re trying for. Big action stuff is told, at times, from a very broad point of view to get the thrills. We want to be very specific to a person going through an accident. There are some big moments in coming episodes, and some episodes where there aren’t big moments. But the one thing we’re trying to deliver is adrenaline. There’s a code word, “six minutes,” in EMT medicine, which is basically the most a person can go without their heart working or getting oxygen. It’s that sense of urgency that we’ll never lose in the show. You’ve gotta fix it, you’ve gotta get there. You know, the most accidents in Los Angeles are caused from EMT ambulances.

Yeah, can you imagine? These guys are racing through the streets of San Francisco at 50 miles per hour. You’re going through red lights hoping that Tom, Dick or Harry doesn’t have their iPod blasting. I’ve been in the ridealong and it’s like being on Space Mountain at Disneyland. And we want that to come across. These are brave people and they do some really, really great things.

In the opening, there’s the paramedic on the skyscraper, Nancy, who comes off as very headstrong. It seems as though she has a past with Rabbit. What’s going on with them?
They have a real past. They’re like the top-notch paramedics, the two people who are the top of their game. They’ve had a relationship, so there’s a lot of repartee, which is something a lot of the characters end up doing. You’re sitting in a car for hours at a time with that person, and they’re either going to be your husband or wife, your ex-husband or -wife, or your brother. A lot of humor comes out of that.

This seems like this is a high budget show. Between the cast, the special effects and the on-location filming in San Francisco, it can’t be cheap. Do you think it’s harder for shows like this to be greenlit these days, given the economy?
We’re very responsible with the money the network has given us. I think it is hard, but what network television can deliver that some of the cable shows can’t is a sense of scope. It’s like there are independent movies, and then there are studio movies. Independent movies are doing the small-scale stories. The majors are doing the big ones, the Spider-Mans, the Iron Mans, Wolverine. I think NBC, for a certain time slot, certainly following Heroes, I think they’re making a smart move. We have a very strategic way of shooting these episodes. We use multiple cameras, we use three cameras, sometimes five or eight, so we’re able to capture stuff in a quicker way.

Anything else you want to say about the show?
I think you’ll really learn a lot about the characters, even in the pilot. If you like the crash, just hang around for five, six more minutes, to see a stunt that’s really spectacular.

Well, I can’t wait to see what happens. Good luck with it.
Thank you so much.

Last comment: Feb 28th 2012 6 Comments
  • susan powell says:

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  • Chris says:

    I’ve been a paramedic for a decade. I am one of the instructor staff of an EMT school and a paramedic program/school at a local college. This show is inaccurate to the point of being insulting. All of us in the field have been waiting for a good TV show about what we do. So far, only EMERGENCY got it right. Just can this show. If you’re not gonna do it right, don’t bother. As the producer in the interview said, Paramedics don’t get alot of praise, well this is no praise, this is an insult. Clearly you didn’t research enough into what we do. Bottom line, this show is a bunch of nonsense.

  • john smith says:

    I saw the pilot episode and see a VERY short future for this total farce!!! I’m guessing the technical advisor walked off the job or was NEVER HIRED to begin with??
    I work in pre-hospital care field and this show is a waste of air time and a SLAP in the face to public safety professionals all over the country.

  • Pete L says:

    Dear Jeffrey Reiner,
    A little advice from a viewer. If I were you, I think it’s probably not the best time to get injured and/or sick. At least not in your near future, or until episode three of Trauma airs and NBC comes to their senses, cancels, and decides to clear a spot for, “Baywatch, The Next Generation,” or some other caffeinated feculence of this strain. Nobody in their right mind (and I’m talking medic, firefighter, EMT, Doctor, RN, LPN, CNA, dispatcher, tech, radiologist, PT, etc. etc.), could possibly want to help you after viewing this disgrace and waste of energy you so haughtily pawn off as a true representation of heroism and hard work. If anything, I’d expect a true hero to stand over your withering body with crossed arms and laugh in your face as you sputter, “Wow, this is cool!” What I’m saying is, from all of us out here in “Pre-Hospital World,” you should be ashamed of yourself and your failure of a show.

    Forgive me. That may have gone a bit too far. Sometimes when I am confronted with a complete idiot pulling completely idiotic bull$hit, and said bull$hit defames and makes a mockery of what so many of us love and care about just so said idiot can make a profit and appear “Cool,” makes me tend to lose all vision in a flash of white rage and hope that Karma strikes said idiot down with some metaphorical lightning bolt and mutilates him of all erectile function.

    ANYWAY. Obviously I’m forgetting about all medical clinicians, i.e. your personal proctologist, who I’m sure out of pity would still be able to fit you in for your bimonthly examination where he removes yet another “Interesting” and “Ingenious” idea from within you. And by that, I mean… hell. Do some actual work and look up proctologist in a dictionary you hack. Maybe you’ll be struck with another “edgy” idea for another one of your “edgy” shows:

    “Insanely funny meets crazy smart when certified proctologist, Dr. Nutty, saves the world one butt at a time! With that “Takes no prisoners” kind of attitude, and penchant for supple, nubile women and fast cars, Dr. Nutty is coming this fall to NBC faster and harder than Trauma ever could! You’ll never look at corn the same way again!”

  • Marty Cranford says:

    I have not seen the show but I have viewed the preview. I have been a Paramedic for over 20 years and Flightmedic for 15 years. I have never seen anything that made me want to throw up more than this preview. Good Luck with this show, you will need it.

  • alicwilson says:

    WoW, That clip was Awsome. You can count me in on watching it.
    Thanx Guys