Sunday, September 13, 2015

How to "Act" like a Doctor

Last year I had this cool gig as a medical consultant for a short-lived TV show. It was fun. I got to read the scripts, throw my two-cents in as to how to make things slightly more accurate, though often tragically less dramatic; and watch how it all turned out on the little screen. I liked the main character who was a doctor working outside the lines with a troubled personal life, messy in every possible way - but he was my kind of guy ... handsome, swaggering, trouble disguising deep-seated insecurities and a beautiful boyishly tender heart. 

One day i got an urgent call from the set ... "We need a line. Just a line. The doctor needs to explain to his friend, an actor auditioning for a part, how to 'play a doctor realistically'."

Oh the challenge of 'the play within the play'! I asked for five minutes and I went a bit overboard. I sent them a monologue, not 'a line'. Needless to say, they did not use it all but I got to hear the charming actor recite a few of my words on national TV and it made me smile. I still like the monologue, annoying rhymes and all. Read it with the handsome 'doctor on the fringe' in mind.

How to "act" like a doctor:

“…it’s all about confidence mixed with empathy, swagger with some sympathy. It’s a gentle hand on the shoulder when you tell them they need a biopsy; eye contact when you let them know it’s carcinoma. Make them know you’ve got this even though you’ve never seen a CT scan that bad before. Explain cardiogenic shock in terms a kindergartener can understand, and then explain it again. Listen. Really listen to their confusion and pain. Tell them what they want to hear wrapped into what they need to hear. You, the doctor are fearless in the face of their greatest fear. You are what stands between them and the reality of their mortality. Believe that. And that, well that, is how you ‘sell yourself’ as a doctor. (beat) That and great Italian shoes.”

ps. The actor, Tom Ellis, now plays Lucifer on the Fox show of the same name ... from renegade surgeon to Lucifer ... hmmmm

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