(Photo: Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Alex Martinez / FOX).
The PaleyFest Fall TV Previews in Los Angeles give TV fans a chance to catch some of the networks’ latest offerings, and hear from show executives and cast members about the season ahead.
On Monday night, the Paley Center welcomed Fox’s highly-anticipated coming-of-age dramedy Red Band Society. Mining the same vein/audience as the summer big-screen hit The Fault in Our Stars, the hour-long show focuses on sick teens who call Los Angeles’ Ocean Park Hospital home. The large ensemble cast is led by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) as the hard-nosed Nurse Jackson, and Dave Annable (Brothers and Sisters, 666 Park Avenue) as plays Dr. Jack McAndrew, a top pediatric surgeon. Rounding out the cast are the young patients in their ward—a disparate group of kids suffering both physically and emotionally: Charlie (Griffin Gluck), Jordi (Nolan Sotillo), Leo (Charlie Rowe), Dash (Astro), Emma (Ciara Bravo) and Kara (Zoe Levin).
After a sneak preview of the pilot episode, cast members Wilson Cruz and Rebecca Rittenhouse (who play hospital nurses Kenji Gomez-Rejon and Brittany Dobler, respectively) and Executive Producer Rina Mimoun dished on the show, the upcoming season and shared a few other surprising facts. Here’s what we learned.
Red Band Society is based on a Catalan television show Polseres Vermelles, which debuted in 2011.
Mimoun revealed that the Red Band Society crew has not one, but two doctors on staff—one in the writer’s room in Los Angeles, and the other on set advising in Atlanta, where the show is filmed (and where we presumed most of the cast were filming during the Paley event).
The omniscient Charlie narrates the series from his hospital bed—where he lies in a coma. The pilot episode features a scene where Charlie is shown caught between two worlds with another one of the patients. Mimoun says that the show revisits “Charlie world” again after the pilot.
Cruz said he’s still asked about his other coming-of-age TV series, My So-Called Life, which starred Claire Danes and Jared Leto. “It never gets old,” he said of the beloved, but short-lived show. Cruz also shared this jaw-dropping tidbit of trivia: My So-Called Life just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its premiere (August 25, 1994).
Cruz was dropping one-liners and zingers throughout the night, and when the panel discussed the ways in which Red Band Society was tapping into a teen zeitgeist that leaned more toward The Fault in Our Stars than Twilight, Cruz quipped, “Mortality is the new immortality…we do take blood, though.”
While teen angst and relationships are a big part of the storylines, the adults will have their own sexy entanglements, too. Rittenhouse, who plays the newbie nurse in her first TV role, teased the audience that her character might be “developing a crush” on someone at the hospital. Hmm. Paging, Dr. McAndrew…
Speaking of Ocean Park’s resident [adult] hottie, Mimoun did mention that Annable’s character “makes a huge mistake at the end of episode two.”
Although Nurse Jackson can put her Nurse Ratched face forward, Spencer’s character is a softie when it comes to the kids on her floor. Mimoun said that Jackson “broke rules in the past…and present.” Her history and home life will be explored later in the season to provide a little context to the nurse she’s become. And later in the season, Jackson and McAndrew clash over comatose Charlie.
While the show has a mid-season hiatus because of the World Series, Mimoun said the first 13 episodes take place over three weeks “in hospital time.” Since the show is set in a pediatric ward where the patients are fighting cancer and other diseases, she offered this sobering reality: “Someone may die.”
Red Band Society debuts on Wednesday, September 17 at 9 PM EST on FOX.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.