The Night Shift interview: Brendan Fehr sets up big Drew story in ‘Turbulence’


Brendan FehrOn Thursday night’s The Night Shift episode entitled “Turbulence,” you will be heading into the friendly skies — unfortunately for Drew, it’s not going to be smooth sailing while up there. A series of medical emergencies break out, and he’s going to be in a position where he has to be a hero to a wide array of people in need. This episode brings back Luke MacFarlane and also ushers in Becky Ann Baker as Drew’s mom; if you love medical drama mixed with some great character development, this is probably going to be the episode for you.

In setting up this episode, we spoke recently with Brendan Fehr about the challenges of recreating an emergency aboard a plane, some other Drew backstory coming up, his work on Wynonna Earp, and a whole lot more.

CarterMatt – How is everyone handling filming winding down? Is there a sense of exhaustion?

Brendan Fehr – It’s funny. Everybody’s tired. When we were doing Roswell when I first started, we were doing [20+] episodes a year. This should be nothing. It goes by fast, but it’s certainly funny how your brain calibrates to whatever it is you’re doing. It makes all of the adjustments itself.

We’re coming to the end, and there’s that sense of ‘are we coming back?’ — that’s always a fun time.

Do you ever get used to that? I know that’s an experience you’ve been through many times now. Is that nervousness still there?

You get as used to it as you can. It’s not so much being nervous; it’s more about your family and making plans. It’s logistics, which are a pain. It’s debating if your kids stay in the current school, or pull them out so that they’re in a different school. It’s not so much ‘do I have a job for the next year?’ — though that’s certainly part of it. Because of the nature of the business, I try to just take things as they come, and I’ve dealt with that so many times now and my personality is such that I try not to stress out about things that are out of my control. It’s more that you get angry and annoyed about the fact that your family is in limbo, and not so much the work. We do feel good about what we’ve done — the numbers are there, given all of the changes and what are our lead-in’s numbers are. We’ve been steadily increasing every week, so there’s not much more I feel that we can do. I feel like we’ve done our job and we’re doing really well. I think the episodes this season are better than they were in season 3. They keep getting better and not every show does that. You got to be proud of what you do and let the chips fall where they may.

We do feel good about what we’ve done — the numbers are there, given all of the changes and what are our lead-in’s numbers are. We’ve been steadily increasing every week, so there’s not much more I feel that we can do. I feel like we’ve done our job and we’re doing really well. I think the episodes this season are better than they were in season 3. They keep getting better and not every show does that. You got to be proud of what you do and let the chips fall where they may.

You’ve got a really big episode coming up — I haven’t seen any footage, but based on what I’ve seen Drew’s going to be in a plane, there’s an emergency, you’ve got Luke MacFarlane coming back, and we’re seeing Drew’s mom. What was it like filming that, especially in that sort of confined space? Is it a cool challenge, or is it claustrophobic and kind of frustrating?

All of the above, a little bit. We built a plane in such a way where it’s a little taller and a little wider — that’s the way planes should be built, where there’s a lot of legroom (laughs). You are confined within that space, which makes it kind of interesting and frustrating at the same time. It all depends on your perspective, and even camera-wise with what you have to work with you’re limited. You have to use your imagination because of the lack of space.

Even just simply being in trauma [in the hospital] for two days straight or even a full day’s work is a little like Groundhog Day, so trying to keep things fresh for that [is tough]. We were on the plane for three days. By the end of it, you start to get a little antsy and you’re like ‘let’s do something else.’ [With that said], it was a fun episode! Working with Luke is always great, and getting to meet Drew’s mom was a lot of fun. Becky Ann Baker, who [showrunners] Gabe [Sachs] and Jeff [Judah] have worked with before, was great. For however tired we got of working in that location, working with Luke again and getting that treat, plus also getting that dynamic of working with my mom, was a lot of fun.

The episode is interesting because there’s an outbreak on the plane. That was a new element that we got to play around with, and there’s also a very serious threat to a particular passenger. Hopefully, it all comes together. I haven’t seen a whole lot footage of it yet, but I’ve heard good things.

Now that Drew is a dad on the show, do you take any experiences from being a dad yourself and apply them?

You certainly try to separate the two, because you don’t want to be playing yourself and you want to live in the world of the character and his or her experiences and how they would approach fatherhood. You try to find the differences. I think the experience with all fathers or mothers will come through — you care for them and you love them, and you’re going to put their interests over yours. Those will all naturally arise and be talked about and shown. To make it interesting from there, you try to find what the differences are. That’s what makes it fun as an actor — you don’t want to make it different for the sake of being different. It’s got to be a natural, organic thing.

Is there anything else that you’re looking forward to people seeing this season?

I’m looking forward to this episode more out of curiosity, because of being stuck in that plane and what we had to do. I’m very curious about the outcome of it in terms of whether or not we pulled it off and how we did. It could have gone a couple of different ways, so I’m wondering which way it went, but [as said earlier], I’ve heard good things.

I’m looking forward to that, and the other one would probably be 407, where we learn some different backstories. We learn a little bit more about Drew and why and how he became a doctor. All episodes mean something and I’m putting my best foot forward on every episode, but there are certain stories that grab you more than others. Last year, it was the adoption story with Brianna which really meant a lot. Those are ones you are really invested in. With 407, it’s where you have those backstories.

Also, it’s our veterans’ episode where every person hired was a veteran — extras, co-stars, guest stars, everyone who hadn’t already been employed by the show was a current or former member of the military. There was something special about that, and given that it was Drew’s backstory I learned a lot about him, as well. It shaped my choices moving forward. I’ve heard good things about that one, as well.

I’ve gotten a chance to see you do a lot of different stuff over the past year, whether it be Better Call Saul or even seeing you recently turn up on Wynonna EarpAre you looking already for some of what you’re going to do in the off-season, provided The Night Shift gets picked up?

Yeah. There’s nothing for sure or in writing, but hopefully, there’s potential to go back to Wynonna Earp and play around in that world. I’m hoping they get a season 3; they are such good people over there, and I’ve got more episodes on that this season. Hopefully, I’ll get to visit that world again.

Those [jobs] are fun to do because you can pick and choose. In coming off a show, you can try to do the more interesting guest starring roles that have a bit of an arc — or, on a show like Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan ended up being really good to me and wrote me a great scene with Bob [Odenkirk].

If we know that we’re getting a season 5 for The Night Shift, we can get a little pickier. That’s the fun part — you don’t want to say no [to jobs], but you want to be able to say no. I’ve had those two experiences — totally different shows and different genres, but I saw how much fun it could be and got to do things that are fun and challenging. It’s different than doing it because you’re low on funds and trying to supplement the account before your next job. It’s a lot looser here and a lot more fun, and that’s when you tend to do your best work.

Do you have any opinion where you’d like to see the show take Drew in season 5?

I don’t know. I’m as excited to see where they go with him as the fans are, getting those scripts and finding out where they’re taking him and what else I’ll learn about him. Knowing where [the finale] ends for Drew, there are a couple of different ways it could go. I have an idea of where I’d like to see it go where it could be interesting. It all depends. A lot of it depends on if we get picked up and where [the writers] pick it up [in terms of a time jump]. This season, we picked it up 48 hours after, so relatively quickly. I think in between seasons 2 and 3, it was about three months after. Based on where we end up with Drew, [what happens depends on] where we pick up the storyline. That I leave to the writers.

It’s good to imagine [your character’s future] because It gets your curiosity going, and it’s good for an actor to be able to exercise that part of the brain. At the same time, every once in a while you end up thinking your idea is a little bit better and if you go too far down that road, you become invested in it and you’re kind of bummed. So far, though, the writers have done so right by me and it’s more of an anticipation and anxiousness based on what great storylines they’ve written than anything else. It’s kind of like Christmas — I don’t think all that much about it and I let it be a surprise when I get those scripts in.

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