Thursday night marks The Night Shift season 4 episode 9, and with that it carries a story with it the title of “Land of the Free.” It is the penultimate hour of the season, and for the character of Paul it’s a chance to learn more about the state of his relationships and his future. You could view this through the lens of things between him and Shannon; or, you can view this through the lens of him with his father Julian. Either way, there are a lot of emotions and issues that will need to be unpacked before season 4 comes to a close.
Below, you can see in our latest Night Shift interview what the man behind the role of Paul in Robert Bailey Jr. has to say about the story so far, the show’s season 5 chances, and how he feels as though the character’s evolution mirrors in some ways his own as a performer.
CarterMatt – How are you feeling right now when it comes to the future of the show? Are you confident or anxious in any way?
Robert Bailey Jr. – We’ve wrapped season 4, and I think we all know the nature of the beast. I think season 2 was the only season where we knew before we finished filming as to whether or not we were coming back.
We’re all really proud of the work we did this season and we’re all hopeful, but you just kind of learn to go with the flow of life and hope that you get some really good news. I think we’re all optimistic about getting to come back and work together again.
Do you like the way the show’s set up, where you get to come back every year and play the same part? How many months was [filming] this time?
This season we shot about four months; sometimes it’s about five or six, but it all depends on the [number of episodes]. It’s obviously a blast to play one character for months on end, and what’s great about these characters is that [showrunners Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah], along with the rest of the writers, are very good at watching what we do on set and hearing about the rest of our lives. They bring those things into our characters, so as we go through life, our characters experience similar things. Your life can mirror a character’s life. Paul and I have went through so many things that it’s always interesting to see how he reacts to something versus how I would in my personal life.
That’s fun, especially when you look at the Paul who was around in the early days of the show. He’s much more experienced and more of a leader now.
Yeah, and I definitely think it reflects my own personal growth. When I started the show I was 22 and I’ll be 28 soon. You grow into yourself as a person, and they were excited to write the journey that I was on in my real life. This story was all about how you react to a different environment, one where you’re surrounded by older people who are all really good at what they do. How do you find your self-confidence within that? That’s been a fun journey to play.
One of the things that’s interesting to me about Paul is that he’s got these dueling father figures. He had Topher, who was this sort of natural leader, and then he also has Julian and the tension that is there between them. How do you think Paul is feeling about them right now, given Topher’s death and Julian’s role at the hospital?
TC’s always been his idol, and he’s really good at what he does, but I think his three biggest father figures have always been his own father, Topher and a big way, and then Scott. Scott was one of the first people who really believed in his abilities. Those three people have always been important, and I think the loss of Topher was huge. Paul said at the end of last season that Topher was the heart and soul of the hospital, and he really believed that more so than anyone else. Knowing that he lost his life, that is extremely [devastating] for Paul. He still takes a little bit of Topher with him in that he knows that Topher believed in him as a man and he tries to live up to that.
I think with his dad, it’s always about trying to earn the respect of your parent, especially when they are the best in their field and you’re trying to work in the same field and they’re not exactly easygoing in respecting you. That’s always been a challenge between the two; I think they are growing some respect for each other, but it’s something that could change at any moment in time.
There’s definitely many dynamics that Paul is dealing with, but he’s starting to come into his own and rise to that place where he’s getting the respect of his father figures. He’s going to realize that he has some of their respect, but he’s going to start questioning whether or not that’s enough for him.
‘Am I satisfied with where I’m at, or do I need to go in a different direction?’. These questions are going to be asked for Paul in the next couple of episodes. He’s going to go into an interesting place.
That’s a good segue, given that I was going to ask about what we could see coming up. We learned last week that Julian bought the hospital in part because he wanted to make Paul happy. I don’t want to give anything major away, but how would he feel about learning that? This is a man who wants to make his own claim.
Right, and I think that’ll be an ongoing story. For right now they have left their relationship where Paul is demanding his father’s respect, his space and taking a step back. It didn’t need to be this special relationship where [Julian] acts like his father at the hospital. I think they’re giving each other space and trying to make the relationship more personal while they’re working.
I think that will be resolved to a certain extent, but then you also have my sister still around and starting up a relationship with J.R. [Lemon’s] character Kenny. That’s a relationship that’s going to develop a lot.
It’s going to be a very personal journey for Paul to figure out where he is in life, and a lot of characters could experience that.
Is Paul going to be more comfortable with Kenny dating his sister than he would be some stranger, just because he knows the guy so well?
I think it’s a difficult situation. You want to be supportive, but if you know two people so well and you know that it’s not a good idea, it’s hard not to say anything. I think since he loves his sister and Kenny a lot, he wants to be okay with it. Things develop rather quickly, so I could see him becoming rather uncomfortable with it even as he’s trying to become comfortable with where they’re at. I think he’s trying to not put his foot in his mouth too much and is being as accepting as he can be; but, I think he’s being very cautious about the whole situation because he thinks things are moving far too quickly, and they could move even faster. It could get to the point where he wonders what’s going on and if it is a terrible idea.
I think people can somewhat relate to that in life. I think you would want Paul to be happy for them, but when you see a friend or a family member move entirely too quickly, even if they match up pretty well [with their partner], sometimes you’re like ‘why don’t you slow things down? There’s no rush.’ I think that’s where Paul is with it.
In the logline for [tonight’s] episode it says that Shannon ‘keeps something personal’ from Paul. Is there anything that you want to speak to on that?
I think the interesting thing about our relationship this year is that you have really seen us try to manage our relationship with work. You’ve seen a lot of us on the job, and also a number of quiet moments where we try to be supportive of each other. A lot of times, life is on the go and we work on separate cases. That speaks very much to what a relationship like that would be at a hospital.
With the last two episodes and keeping secrets, it’s hard in a relationship to fully communicate with your partner when everything’s good, but you also may be feeling differently about where you want to be in life. I think we’re both coming from a place where we’re both content at the hospital, but may be wanting something more with our lives. It’s hard to communicate that with your partner; it’s like ‘I don’t want to rock the boat too much, but maybe I need something different or I need life to change in some way.’ You tiptoe around things, and it’s easy to fall into that because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
We’re going to try and manage that over the next couple of episodes and communicate better. I think when you love someone you need to be open to what they want out of life, even if it doesn’t feel great or seem easy to you.
A couple more quick questions. First, is there any memory that you have from working on season 4 that you’re especially proud of?
It was actually in the final episode. I won’t spoil too much, but it’s a nice culmination of the journey that Paul has been on thus far and I think it’s going to be [a big part] of the final episode. People are going to be surprised about what Paul gets up to. I think he’s searching for the final thing to click in his life, and he really goes after it in the end. There’s a really nice moment between Paul and TC where they both figure out what they’re doing, and it reminded me a lot of how far Paul has come. It’s a really strong moment for both of our characters, and I’m excited for people to see that. It feels like Paul is coming into his own and using his voice to be heard.
Finally, what else are you working on right now during your hiatus?
I wish I had stuff to actually play for people, but I’m currently working on my music. I’m recording my EP at the moment and I recently opened up my own recording studio in Los Angeles. I will be expanding that more and more and I’ll be releasing more on that. I’m taking meetings so we’ll see what happens when it comes to acting. I’m in a recording studio all the time right now, and I’m very excited to be sharing more about that in the coming months.
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