Patrick Wilson is gifted enough to maneuver a new series into using New York as its setting.
The Big Apple is home base for the veteran of Broadway (“Oklahoma!,” “The Full Monty”) and movies (“Morning Glory,” “Watchmen”), so he’s more than pleased CBS agreed to shoot “A Gifted Man” there. Premiering Friday (Sept. 23), the drama casts Wilson as a slick surgeon visited by an apparition of his late ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle, “Contagion”), which steers him toward an epiphany as he helps out at the free clinic she ran.
“I’m incredibly grateful,” Wilson tells Zap2it of the network’s willingness to film “A Gifted Man” on the East Coast. Oscar winner Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”) directed the pilot episode, and Wilson believes New York’s effectiveness in it “surprised” many of the behind-the-scenes talents involved.
“The show originally was conceived to be very L.A., and that’s OK, but what they found when they moved it to New York was that there was a similar vibe … condensed. Your next-door neighbor lives a completely opposite lifestyle, and we haven’t had New York shows like that, showing that disparity. I think it opens up a lot of possibilities.”
The cast of “A Gifted Man” also includes Margo Martindale, fresh off her Emmy win for FX’s “Justified,” and “Dexter” alum Julie Benz. With “ER” veteran (and actual doctor) Neal Baer among the executive producers, and that show’s Eriq La Salle signed for a guest-starring arc, Wilson has had to get used to speaking “medical-ese” very quickly.
“It comes on strong,” he muses, “and I love that. It’s not something I’m used to, so I do as much research as I can. I’ve never been one just to say the word; I want to know what the word means and where it’s coming from. I’m fascinated by that.”
Apart from a memorable Gap ad he made with Claire Danes, Wilson’s only real television experience was HBO’s Mike Nichols-directed adaptation of Tony Kushner‘s stage hit “Angels in America,” for which the actor earned an Emmy nomination and worked with the likes of Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.
He says he didn’t think about pursuing TV regularly then “because I didn’t really have anything to relate it to. [‘Angels’] was such a new experience, so overwhelming, that I just played it as it came. HBO and Nichols and Stephen Goldblatt, the director of photography, just made sure I was comfortable. They said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll find you,’ so I never got into the mindset of what it’s like to make TV.”
Still, as varied as his stage and film parts have been, Wilson has no resistance to playing the same role for what could be some time. He recalls that when the “Angels in America” shoot began,� “I had just come off a show I’d done for 500 performances (‘Oklahoma!’). I was used to doing the same lines and the same scenes every day. I’m a theater animal, so repetition doesn’t scare me.”