At first glance, the premise of CBS’s new drama “A Gifted Man” – arrogant surgeon to the elite starts seeing dead ex-wife who wants to impart life lessons – sounds hokey. Then you watch the expertly crafted pilot and it becomes clear that this is no simple “Doc Whisperer.” Deftly – and hauntingly – directed by legend Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs“), and starring Patrick Wilson (Dr. Michael Holt), Jennifer Ehle (Holt’s ex, Dr. Anna Paul), Margo Martindale (Holt’s secretary, Rita Perkins-Hall) and Pablo Schreiber (Anton the Shaman), the series pilot has a heart and emotional resonance much deeper than your average medical procedural. With tonight’s premiere (CBS, 8/7c), the cast offers tidbits on what you need to know.
Learn More About “Man” In This Extended Preview:
It’s Not Your Average Medical Drama: “Yes, it has the pace and pathos, the really intimate stories of a medical series,” says executive producer Neal Baer (“ER“). “But it has a real twist in Patrick Wilson’s character. This is a doctor at the height of his career, in the lofty reaches of concierge spa medicine, the very best that the United States can offer. Just blocks away, his ex wife is running a clinic that provides care for tens of millions of people who are not insured. So this is the first show of its kind to show the upstairs/downstairs of medicine and a doctor really at the crossroads of his life, who is brought back to face his old world of medicine. He was a family medicine doc before he became a neurosurgeon and now he’s caught between two worlds. And it’s a story about a man who must find his gifts, which is why it’s called ‘A Gifted Man.’ And like all of us, we have gifts, but it’s often difficult for us to find them, and sometimes through serendipity, sometimes through faith, sometimes through other forms of healing, we can find a path that takes us to places we should go. So this show will take us to places that we haven’t been before in a medical series, but you will still get those really juicy, medical, kind of save your life stories that are unforgettable.”
Wilson’s Theatricality Will Come Into Play: Broadway vet Wilson – who some may also recall from his Gap commercial with Claire Danes – will get a chance to show off some of his musical theater talents. While shooting a scene in the pilot, Wilson surprised everyone by sitting down to tickle the ivories. “When we went to shoot the scene, I don’t think anybody expected that to happen,” Ehle says. “But there was a piano in the room we were shooting in as his [Holt's] apartment. And Patrick just sat down and started to play, and it was so gorgeous that it became a big part of the scene.” Bear teases that a special medical case might just be tailor made for Wilson. “We’ll have to give him some neurological case where someone can’t stop dancing or something and he’ll have to dance with them to diagnose them… God, we should do it!”
Former “Ghost Whisperer” Friday Timeslot A Blessing: “I didn’t really I didn’t really know the history of that timeslot,” Wilson says. “When I found out we were on Friday at 8:00, it made me feel like we could we were going to have room to play because I know it wasn’t one of those coveted best timeslots. So I felt a lot of creative freedom because we’ve been given nothing but just the most respect and love and long leash.”
Expect Visual Flair: The haunting visual element of the pilot is thanks in large part to Demme. Although he won’t be continuing on as series director, that sensation won’t be lost in future episodes. Moving forward, Anna’s clinic will play a huge role in the series, which will be highlighted in stark visual contrast to Holt’s practice. “You’re going to see a very rich, vibrant…Our art director describes it as the Doritos bag,” Bear says of Anna’s clinic. “You get that orange and kind of crusty, crummy kind of feeling with those reds and oranges and all those saturated colors. Now, Holt’s [practice] kind of has the color scheme of a crisp hundred dollar bill. So you’re going to see visually a real contrast between these two modes of medicine on the show.”
Anna Is No Angel: In the pilot, Anna appears to be an angelic ghost. Expect that to change. “She has problems and issues too that she’s struggling with,” Ehle says. “She doesn’t necessarily want to be here, you know. At one point she says, ‘I’d quite like to be resting in peace.’ She doesn’t have the luxury of being gone. She actually sees what’s happening to what she cared about deeply. And the only way she can possibly do anything is through him, and he’s resistant. So that’s got its frustrations. Also, she was flawed, as luckily Neal is showing more and more the flaws of Anna, so she’s not just a sort of goody-two-shoes by any means.”