We had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Rankin who stars as Tyler in the new NBC series Trauma. He talked with us a bit about his character, the series in comparison to other medical shows, and what it’s like filming on location in San Francisco.
With ER ending, do you think NBC is hoping Trauma will be the new ER?
Kevin Rankin: No not at all [Laughs]. No I really do think that’s why there was such a rush of medical shows this year. A flagship like ER is something that was around for 15 years. People really saw a spot open there. I think it was interesting, what they did with this show. They wanted to make a new ER for the new millennium. It’s not actually in the ER. It’s everything leading up to the ER doors that you don’t see. I definitely think they are wanting to try to bring over all those fans that don’t have ER anymore.
After viewing the pilot episode, it seemed like there was a lot more shock value than with other medical shows. Is that something that’s going to continue throughout the series?
Kevin Rankin: I think the pilot was really loaded with that, because it was a pilot. I mean, I can’t say that’s not going to be a part of every episode because there’s going to be some really exciting stuff. There’s going to be a lot of blood, a lot of broken bones, and a lot of shocking stuff. I guess it is a part of the shows culture that you’re going to be seeing what first responders see. You’re going to see a lot of gore. I think your going to continue to see that for sure.
What’s the most shocking, or graphic accident in your opinion that you guys have done so far on the show?
Kevin Rankin: The second episode we had a guy plow through a farmers market like they did a couple years ago in Santa Monica. An older man had a stroke and just plowed through a big group of people. We did that scene, and I had to try to save a guy, a really big man, and his thighbone had snapped in half and it was sticking through the skin. There was just gallons of blood pouring out everywhere and it was pretty intense. We were wondering if we have a blood quota for the network. I don’t think network television has seen the amount of gore that we’re presenting.
Tell me a little bit about your character Tyler.
Kevin Rankin: Tyler, he’s like a carnie. He’s a guy that floats around to disaster sight to disaster sight like 9/11 in New York or New Orleans Katrina. He’s ready to go at a moments notice. He’s an adrenaline junky. The bad part of that is that he never puts roots down anywhere. He’s very floaty, he’s a nomad. He landed in San Francisco. He’s gone through a traumatic event that has kind of kept him there. Tyler for the first time in his life, as the viewers will see, he’s starting to grow roots. He’s starting to maybe make a home for himself. He also deals with everything through humor. He’d rather be at work, he’s a workaholic. He can deal with a patient instead of going home and looking in the mirror to deal with his own trauma. He’d rather deal with your’s.
Do you have any big storylines that are in store for you character?
Kevin Rankin: I do, I know that each episode is giving a window more and more into these characters. I’ve only read up to episode five. I just see more of my character walking a tightrope. He’s sort of an unpredictable guy, so you don’t know what’s going to happen with Tyler. I don’t know specifics on where I’m going, just sort of know where I’ve been.
Are you guys actually shooting in San Francisco?
Kevin Rankin: Oh yeah! We’re shooting in San Francisco on location everywhere. The majority of the show is outside. San Francisco really is another character of the show, and you feel it in every shot. It’s beautiful.
How difficult is it filming on location compared to a set? I would imagine you guys are probably causing some traffic problems out there.
Kevin Rankin: The pilot was a little difficult. They really didn’t know who we were or what we were. We shut down a freeway off ramp for five days to blow up a tanker and have a ten car pile up scene. We got a lot of, “Go back to Hollywood!” Now that the show is picked up, there really are open arms. They’re really accepting us like a family. It’s been great. With the production, we’re very open with the citizens. We let them come and watch and take pictures and be there. It’s great for the city as well. We always try to hire local actors when they can. The crew is local and it’s just great.
NBC has picked up two medical shows this season – Trauma and Mercy. Mercy is more of a show that will appeal to women. Do you think that your show will appeal also to that demographic or do you think it’s a little bit of a different demographic?
Kevin Rankin: I think it is different, but I also think that Trauma has so many elements that if given a chance by those viewers, then I think for sure they would be sucked in. Anything that Mercy has to offer, we have to offer as well. I think that the action will get the boys and I think the heart will get the ladies. There’s a lot of both.
Is the vibe different on this series compared to the vibe on other projects you’ve worked on?
Kevin Rankin: Definitely, there’s definitely a punk rock vibe. It’s a very weird, out there, untethered vibe. On Friday Night Lights there was a culture set forth of life if it doesn’t work on the page, we’re going to make something work. We’re going to improv it. We’re just going to make moments. We’re going to create reality, as real as we can. This show is just full of weird out there characters. I’m not even just talking about the actors. I’m talking about the writers and the producers. We’re just trying to create something different. I’m sure every show says that, but I really feel a different energy here. I just hope people give it a chance.
I know you’ve done a lot of television acting. Is it something that you are still very passionate about or are you looking to do more movies?
Kevin Rankin: I would love to do movies. It’s just a different medium. It’s a different place to tell stories. With a film you’re in and out, hour and half, two hours perhaps. A good point, was the movie to Friday Night Lights. I read the book, loved the book, saw the movie, and I didn’t feel the movie did it justice. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie. It took 30 hours to tell this story. TV, you can really smear across the landscape of time and I think really tell some great stories that you aren’t able to tell in films. Unless you have five sequels. I do think that television is really important. A film you have to get off your ass to go see it. TV, your invited into peoples homes. It’s a more intimate feel. It’s more of a connection. Instead of just a random movie that I connect to every once in a while. I think it’s a really important medium.
What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects?
Kevin Rankin: Timothy Olyphant has a new show on FX called Lawman that’s going to be coming out in the spring. It’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel called Fire in the Hole. I did the pilot as one of the main bad guys. I play a white supremacist named Devil. There production overlapped a little with ours. Hopefully, I can get back in there and do some recurring work. That will be out in the spring.
I also did a foreign film that is a follow up to Lives of Others. Which won the Academy Award three years ago. They did a follow up called Friendship. It’s based in the 80’s, and it’s about two young German guys who, after the Berlin wall fell, are doing a road trip across America. I’m one of the mean characters they come across. I’m not sure what kind of distribution well get here in the states. If it will be DVD, or limited theatrical showings. Other than that, it’s all Trauma.
What kind of television shows do you like. Are there any that you have to see?
Kevin Rankin: Have to see, and want to be on. The Office. The Office and a close second is Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don’t really watch Drama on TV. That’s not really my thing. The Office is pinnacle right there.
Why would you say people should watch Trauma?
Kevin Rankin: I would go back to what I said earlier. Punk Rock! It’s a thriller, action, it’s drama, and it’s comedy. It’s something that’s gonna put you on the edge of your seat and maybe knock you off your chair a couple of times. It’s something that’s really unpredictable. I don’t think you’ve seen it on TV. Come discover it. Come check it out.
Interview By: Emma Loggins