A doctor operating on the President of the United States is told to let him die during surgery. What she does instead will surprise viewers in a thrilling series called Hostages.
CBS, the home of crime procedurals like CSI and NCIS or mysteries with eccentric central characters like The Mentalist or Elementary is moving into new territory with Hostages.
While the network’s other shows offer a certain breathable comfort zone, delivering mostly resolvable solutions over a 22-week season, Hostages, a tense dramatic thriller set in Washington, DC, is more akin to cable’s Homeland or The Americans. It will run for 15 weeks straight, with no repeats, and its story arc will cover about two weeks.
The first episode sets up a simple but complex premise in one of the most exciting new shows on TV.
Toni Collette plays Dr Ellen Sanders, a top-flight surgeon, who is also a suburban mother with a husband and children. After much vetting, she has been chosen to operate on the President of the United States. It is supposed to be a fairly routine procedure, but the night before the surgery, Ellen and her family are taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent named Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) and his team. She is then given an impossible choice: let the president die or have her and her family face the consequences.
The Emmy-winning Collette says she had been looking for a series since her Showtime comedy The United States Of Tara ended, but that “nothing really did it for me.”
“When I got this script, I was very taken with it,” says the Australian actress, who often plays mothers, including in this summer’s indie hit The Way Way Back – and in her Oscar-nominated performance in The Sixth Sense. “I never done anything like this, which is why I wanted to do it. I love the tension of the show. It’s the kind of show I would actually want to watch.”
Hostages is more familiar terrain for McDermott, who played a rogue CIA agent in the thriller Olympus Has Fallen, which came out last year.
“I’ve been playing a lot of bad guys recently,” acknowledges the actor, who portrayed a rather dark, twisted character in the first season of American Horror.
“Early in my career I played a lot of earnest people. I never felt entirely comfortable with that. So this has been fun for me, and it’s opened me up as an actor.”
There is a scene in the first episode of Hostages that hints McDermott’s character is not simply evil, though, that he may even be a puppet.
“He’s an example of a character who is both good and bad,” says McDermott. “So when I read the script, I thought this is exactly what I want to be. That’s so hard to find.
“All the characters walk that line,” adds Collette.
When we talked during the summer, the actors were just in the middle of shooting Hostages’ second episode and say they only knew some “broad” outlines of the story. So they seemed as curious as viewers about the likely direction of the series.
During a Television Critics Association session, Hostages executive producer and writer Rick Eid said the show “is definitely open ended.” Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a long relationship with CBS with his CSI franchise, added, “This is not a miniseries for us.” So while Hostages may have a limited cable-type run this year, ratings leader CBS may be looking at the series for the long haul.
Still, Collette likes the idea of only doing 15 episodes a year. “It gives you an opportunity to have a life and do something else.”
McDermott, though, is a longtime series veteran, having been on The Practice from 1997 to 2004.
“Twenty-two episodes a year is hard,” he says.
“Yeah,” agrees Collette. “Although I’ve never done it,” she adds laughing. – The Daily News/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
> Hostages premieres tomorrow at 9pm on Warner TV (Hypp TV Ch 613).