By Cait Rohan | November 10, 2015 | People
We caught up with actor Colin Donnell just before the premiere of his new NBC show Chicago Med to find out how he researched his part as Dr. Connor Rhodes, what he loves about Chicago, and why he couldn’t really be an M.D.
Colin Donnell’s excitement for Chicago Med is palpable over the phone. The show premieres Tuesday, November 17 and, similar to the other Chicago series—Chicago PD and Chicago Fire—from Dick Wolf and Matt Olmstead, will examine the ins and outs of one of Chicago’s most stressful jobs. Like its predecessors, Chicago Med will feature crossover episodes that involve characters and storylines from Chicago PD and Chicago Fire.
Donnell, who has already garnered acclaim as Tommy Merlyn on CW’s hit series Arrow and as Scotty Lockhart on Showtime’s award-winning The Affair, plays Dr. Connor Rhodes, a Chicago native who’s just come back to the city and is new to the hospital. Here’s what Donnell had to say about the research he did for his character, why he couldn’t be a doctor in real life, and what he loves most about Chicago.
How did you prepare to play a doctor? What kind of research did you do?
COLIN DONNELL: There’s been a fair amount of internet perusal. Some Googling here and there, but we actually have some amazing real-life surgeons and doctors and nurses who have been really super-generous with their time. We had a fun week-long mini medical boot camp before we started shooting, which was really cool. It was nice to be able to spend time with the cast, some dedicated time sort of getting into it with each other. One of the cool things that we’ve actually been able to do is shadow a bit at the hospital, which has been an experience. It’s incredible to see what these people are actually doing day-in and day-out at Cook County Hospital, which is one of the busiest trauma centers in the country. It really has been a lot of observing what they’re doing in real life and we’re giving our closest approximation to what is actually going on.
This show also intertwines with Chicago Fire and Chicago PD. What are shooting those crossover episodes like?
CD: It’s awesome. We actually just started yesterday on our big three-way crossover with Med, Fire, and PD. I know some of the other cast members have had the opportunity to be on quite a few episodes of PD and Fire, but this is my first chance to get together with all those other casts and it’s awesome. We just shot a couple of great scenes with some of the folks from Fire yesterday and they’re all incredible people. It’s a huge undertaking. The logistical nightmare that is planning one show is bad enough, but when you’re trying to schedule three casts and three production teams—everybody is working around the clock and it’s really impressive to be a part of.
There’s some talk about a jumbo crossover between Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and Law & Order SVU. Any insight into that?
CD: I haven’t seen anything, but I’ve heard tell that there will be at some point. I can imagine that if it’s this awesome with three that are taking place in the same city, then adding in another coming in from New York is going to be massive.
A scene from Chicago Med.
There are a lot of medical shows out there. What do you think makes this one stand out?
CD: I think one of the coolest things is that we’re part of the Dick Wolf franchise so there’s a certain level of product and a certain quality of television you can expect when you hear that a show is being produced by Dick Wolf. He’s very dedicated to getting things right. He’s supremely talented at bringing together incredible groups of producers, directors, writers, casts, and crews to tell really engaging, dramatic stories that are really relatable, personal. There’s a trope that exists and I think what’s going to be special about ours is that it’s just really great storytelling.
As you touched upon before, it’s a pretty intense show. How do unwind afterward?
CD: I think the key is to have as much fun as you can while you’re on set. We are dealing with scenes and stories that are very dramatic, and life and death situations, but luckily they are not actually life and death situations. We have such a great group, it’s an amazing cast and we’ve gotten very tight very quickly. Our crew is just unbelievable and we all have a really great time while we’re doing some really cool work. So it makes it easy to go home and be able to play with my dogs and see my wife and talk to her on the phone if she’s not in town. We all have great lives outside of having great jobs.
Do you think you could ever be a doctor in real life?
CD: No. I don’t know if I would ever truly want somebody’s life in my hands. I think what these people, what doctors and nurses and public service employees do on a day-to-day basis, is unreal and it takes a special type of person to do that—and I don’t think I’m that type of person. I’m happy to play one on TV. I had a respect for medical professionals before, and being a part of this show has only elevated them in my eyes 100-fold. It takes an incredible type of person to do this.
What do you love most about Chicago?
CD: There really is a lot. I think it’s an incredible city. Coming from New York, we love our city, but the openness of the people of Chicago, the restaurant scene, the bar scene, the sports community—there’s so much to love about it. We ended up getting an apartment in a great neighborhood over in the West Loop and there’s plenty to walk to, there are always new things to try.
Any favorite places to eat or go out to eat or drink?
CD: I had the opportunity to go to Girl and the Goat, which is fantastic. My wife and I love to take our dogs over to Green Street Smoked Meats. We’ve kept it in the West Loop area a bit. On my birthday she took me over to The Office underneath The Aviary. I’m a big cocktail junkie—I love the whole cocktail renaissance that’s happened over the past 10 or 15 years. It’s fun to see how that culture is going in Chicago. The Violet Hour I’d heard of long before I ever got to Chicago. There are so many cocktail places that have opened up here. I’m like a pig in shit.
What’s next for you?
CD: This has been a full-time job for me so far—it’s been great. My wife has been able to spend a lot of time here. We’re looking forward to a little bit of a winter break to get the chance to take a honeymoon, because we actually just got married in June and then I’ve been busy. I was shooting The Affair for Showtime and that bled directly into this. We’re looking forward to stringing together two weeks to be able to get away by ourselves for a bit.
September 14, 2018