One of the more telling behind-the-scenes aspects about the NBC drama “Do No Harm,” which premieres Thursday, Jan. 31, is that star Steven Pasquale has two start times for work.
One is for Jason Cole, a respected neurosurgeon; the other is for Ian Price, a violent psycho. Dr. Cole rules from 8:25 a.m. until 8:25 p.m.; Price controls the body they both occupy at night. And to help make sure he’s in the right frame of mind, Pasquale has a separate chair for each character.
Yes, another split-personality show, and the logical comparison for this one is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“At 8:25 he becomes a different guy,” Pasquale tells Zap2it. “They sound the same and walk the same. From a performance standpoint, I didn’t want to make them so violently different. Ian is a drug addict, a sex-addict sociopath, a sexual predator.”
The character has dealt with dissociative identity disorder for as long as he can remember, Pasquale says.
“He is just wired completely different from a personality standpoint,” Pasquale says of Ian.
In the first two episodes, Jason performs tricky surgery and advocates for his patients. Ian tangles with drug lords and lives in the shadows.
Though much of the action unfolds at a Philadelphia hospital, “Do No Harm” isn’t the typical medical drama. Pasquale describes it as a “medical thriller.”
Trying to categorize it is tricky. “I think you go along for the ride. Don’t tax yourself too much,” says the show’s creator, David Schulner.
Phylicia Rashad, who plays Cole’s boss, recalls her reaction to reading the pilot.
“This is intelligent,” she says. “I can do this. It is completely different from any show. It was a completely different kind of work, and that was intriguing. The genre might be new. It is a hospital drama, but it is more than that.
“Our central figure in the story is a person with a serious problem,” she continues. “Only one person knows what the problem is, but the rest of us don’t.”
Taking place and shooting in Philadelphia, “Do No Harm” has a solid cast with Rashad (“The Cosby Show”) as the chief medical officer, Dr. Vanessa Young; Alana De La Garza (“Law & Order”) as a neurologist, Dr. Lena Solis; and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jason’s friend, Dr. Ruben Marcado.
Rashad infuses Dr. Young with her signature calm bemusement.
“She is an interesting character as she continues to evolve,” Rashad says. “She is savvy. Needless to say, she is educated and she is cultured because some people who are educated are not cultured, and some people who are cultured are not educated.
“She keeps a close eye on things,” Rashad continues. “She takes the job very, very seriously.”
Dr. Young is very good at observing, organizing and solving problems, yet like everyone, she endures situations she can’t rectify. Her daughter has a substance abuse problem.
“The mother would like to organize the daughter,” Rashad says. “This she does not control. There is a facade there.”
That’s her secret. Jason’s secret, his double personality, is known only by Ruben, and Ruben’s secret is that he’s working on a new drug to help Jason, but without the benefit of hospital approval.
Miranda, a Tony-winning lyricist, is thrilled to make his network debut in this. “As a Latino actor, you either get offered street-wise thug or street-wise cop.”
His character could still wind up in trouble for distributing experimental drugs. There could be a lot of criminal activity, given Ian’s proclivities.
Pasquale enjoys switching between the good doctor and his devious alter ego.
“What more of an acting smorgasbord is there?” he asks.
Most of the action revolves around Jason/Ian. For instance, De La Garza describes her character, Dr. Lena Solis, as a “smart, intelligent, confident woman.” Her problem, she says, is “she is in love with him.”
Though in love with Jason, she winds up going out with Ian. Yet when they finally go out – calling it a date is a stretch since she makes a booty call to see him in a hotel – things go wrong very fast. Jason had already morphed into Ian, who stops short of raping her.
“She doesn’t go to the cops because he doesn’t violate her,” De La Garza says. “She is excited to see this side of him.”
As a neurologist, she could possibly help Jason, though so early into the 13 episodes, De La Garza did not know if that would happen.
“Ultimately it is a fun journey,” she says. “I am not sure what is going to happen.”
De La Garza had just watched a DVD of the first two episodes.
“If people watch it, they are going to fall in love with it,” she says. “I cursed every commercial break. I was, ‘What happens next?’ I shot it and I know.
“I really think that people are going to like it. The story is so intense.”