The Mob Doctor is one of the hottest new shows of fall, and recently, the star, Jordana Spiro (Grace Devlin), and the co-creator, Josh Berman, took some time to speak with us about the show, the characters, and anything else that was thrown their way.
On why it’s important to film in Chicago
Josh Berman: I think there’s two reasons for me. It was a personal reason and a professional reason. Professionally, when you’re on a network show, and you have a studio that says you can shoot anywhere you want, and you’re writing a show about the mob…there’s no better city than Chicago. Since post-9/11, resources have gone away from organized crime and into fighting terrorism, and there’s a whole new face on the mob and being able to place it in Chicago with such historical roots made the most sense.
Personally, it’s a real pleasure because my family comes from Chicago. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, and she ended up in Chicago, as well as five of her cousins, the only people that survived. They established [a department store], and for them, my family, Chicago represented the American Dream. So, it’s a real great return for me.
To learn more about this great new, edge-of-your-seat drama from FOX, jump ahead.
Why Jordana chose to be a part of this show
Jordana Spiro: I think there were a couple of reasons. Two things that really stood out to me is the fact that she is a surgeon, and with that, there’s this inherent quality of wanting to fix things in a very direct, hands-on way. She wants to cut something open and fix it, and there’s a Godliness to that. Surgeons cross a line that isn’t just physical; it’s psychological and spiritual.
I thought there was something interesting that was going on with her choice of doing that, and this sort of inability to control her environment when she was growing up. She was the daughter of an alcoholic who abused her mother, and she had to really claw her way out of her background to get to where she’s getting to. I thought that there was such a fieriness to her and such gumption to her that was just really compelling.
Then when I read the pilot script and I read the scenes with Constantine, her debtor, I thought they were so fascinating because it could have been so easy for Josh to have made that relationship purely antagonistic, but it’s so oddly serene and paternal. I just got very excited to unpack that—that this isn’t just some financial debt that’s at the surface; it’s where she’s from, it’s in her DNA, this world that she’s trying to get away from and also being pulled to at the same time. Those two things really were pulled into the foreground for me when I read the script.
Ultimately, the overarching heartbeat of the show to me, which was so exciting and compelling, was that this woman is making choices that are very morally conflicted and yet at the beginning it’s to save her family. So, this question becomes how far do you go? Where is that line that you absolutely won’t cross? What happens when that line keeps edging further and further away from you? Is there a breaking point where you say, if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them?
Is she squeamish at all with the doctor role
Jordana: Well, I shadowed several surgeons and surgical residents. I thought I was going to be a lot more squeamish than I was. I realized where my line was, was that if the patient was out and they weren’t aware of the surgery, I was actually okay because I was a bit desensitized just from what you see on TV and the fake blood and all this kind of stuff. When it was a smaller more minor surgery, and they were just numbing the area, and they were cognizant to what was going on, and you could see them writhe around; that’s when I had to politely step away. Watching their reaction to what was going on was what made me squeamish.
On Jordana’s highlights shooting so far
Jordana: Well, I just touched upon it but one of the biggest highlights so far has been the guest cast that’s come in. It’s really been a dream come true to work with Kevin Corrigan and Terry Kinney and [Michael Rappaport] has been really just a remarkable experience. I think that for me right now has been the biggest highlight is who I’ve gotten a chance to work with.
Then, let’s see, some of the episode highlights. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to give away. So just speaking a little bit more generally, I think as every episode comes to me, I’m just watching the relationships get more complex, more entangled. That’s been a real enjoyment to just keep continuing to add layers to all of these relationships.
Josh’s goals for the show
Josh: Creatively, I would love for our viewers to tap into this show on an emotional level. I think the current show that I write and produce, Drop Dead Diva…I think it had longevity because people can relate to the lead character. Now in that show, it’s about a skinny model who dies and comes back to life as an overweight attorney; obviously, not something that most people go through.
In this case, we have a woman who’s a doctor and indebted to the mob. Again, not something that most people are experiencing in their lives, but the themes of what this character goes through and balancing the pressures of family and work and her brother. It’s the universality of trying to get through our days today when there are so many pressures on us. I think that’s something that viewers can really relate to, especially women, when so much is asked of us in today’s world.
So, I hope that at the end of the day people will fall in love and relate to Jordana’s character. Grace is so complex and so interesting. I don’t think there’s another character like her on television right now. I hope the viewers fall in love with her as much as I have.
Where the idea came from
Josh: For me it’s interesting, I grew up in a medical family. My father’s a doctor. My mom’s a nurse. The siblings on both sides are doctors or nurses or psychiatrists. Yet, after writing on network television for fourteen years, it’s the one genre I avoided.
I spent actually nine years on forensic shows, and then a legal show with Drop Dead Diva. I’ve created other shows, but I never touched the medical arena because I felt like it had been done to death on TV. Then when the concept came of blending this world with the mob world, two absolutely diametrically opposed conceits; yet at the heart of it, there are families. There’s the family at the hospital, and there’s the family in the mob world. I love the idea of blending these two genres into something fresh and original. It was really the first time I got excited and wanted to write a medical show, so that’s how we ended up with The Mob Doctor.
On the balancing of both worlds
Josh: When I’m in the writers’ room, we always say let’s not make any rules because we’re a new show and let’s write the best and most compelling episodes.
We have some episodes that take place predominantly in the hospital, and then some that take place predominantly in the field. I like to refer to those cases as the dirty medicine cases because we get to tell stories without the bureaucracy of a hospital, and to me that’s what’s so compelling. I grew up in a household with, again, my dad as a doctor, my mom as a nurse. There was so much red tape that they had to cut through, and it was the aspect of medicine that my family hated, where they couldn’t put the patient first.
Ironically when Grace is in the field, the only thing she needs to do is worry about the patient. I think she takes that energy and that passion back into the hospital with her; which kind of gives her that I don’t give a … attitude when it comes to placating her bosses and instead she puts her patient’s interest first. I feel like that is what kind of governs where the stories go.
On Grace’s love life
Josh: You know, they have a history; Franco and Grace. Their relationship is so layered and so complex and complicated. Within the first couple of episodes, you’re going to see both her relationship with Brett get a lot deeper, played by Zach Gilford; and you’re going to see her relationship with Franco become a lot more interesting I should say. There’s a whole arc planned for Grace’s love life which is very much informed by her personal and professional pressures that will begin to unfold over the first half of the first season.
On Grace and Constantine’s relationship
Jordana: In speaking about the complexity of their relationships and the people that Josh has created, one of the things I love about Grace is that all of this stuff just didn’t fall into her lap out of nowhere. These affiliations were part of her family from before she was born. You know her father was involved, but involved in a way that I find really moving. He was this sort of small-time gangster, like a ‘want-to-be crook,’ and I found that to be very moving.
He had always strived to be more of a power player in this crime syndicate and never was clever enough or strong enough or brave enough. So, these kinds of people are known to her, so I don’t think she’s unaware of Constantine’s potential or ability to play in a world that is very dark and dangerous. In fact, that very aspect of him is what’s oddly compelling to her about him.
That’s all for the interview with Jordana Spiro and Josh Berman, but be sure to tune into FOX at 9/8c on Monday nights to truly experience an amazing show. It’s worth your time, believe me. And if you missed the series premiere, you can find it streaming on FOX.com or it’s reairing this Friday night, September 21, on FOX at 9/8c!