In the new series Body of Proof, Dana Delany portrays a brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr Megan Hunt, who has to give up her profession when a car accident leaves her with a condition called paresthesia, which randomly attacks her hands, leaving them numb. Tragically, the first time the condition manifested itself was in the operating room, and her patient died.
Five years later, Megan has found a new life as a Medical Examiner in Philadelphia, trying to discover what killed her dead patients and uncovering who was responsible. Her boss, Dr Kate Murphey, played by Jeri Ryan, hired Megan for her expertise, but her unconventional way of doing things is polarizing their relationship.
Producers Matthew Gross and Christopher Murphey, and actress Jeri Ryan spoke about their new drama during the TV Critics Association tour.
Do you consider this a contemporary Quincy M.E.?
Matthew Gross: No. This is not our father’s Quincy. This is, I would say, a new take on the medical examiner, but it always started out with the character first. We set out to do a character-driven procedural, which is what I think separates it from all the other procedurals out there on the air. We stared with Megan Hunt, Dana’s character, and then it grew from there. In terms of the look, it won’t feel anything like Quincy.
In the pilot, Megan Hunt is like a crime-solving machine. Will the police come into it more when the series continues?
Matthew: To that end, we hope that her solutions are always going to come from a medical perspective and less so from intuition. She’s going to have a little thread of something to base it on, and then through what she discovers, her investigation and the police investigation are going to inform each other.
Jeri, you’re kind of the protagonist for the main character, do you enjoy having that role, the person who always stirs things up?
Jeri Ryan: It’s not something I specifically sought out, but it’s kind of fun to shake things up a little bit.
Christopher Murphey: That is by no means the limit of her the character that we were writing for her. The pilot is so centered on Megan’s character, and the rest of the characters in the pilot seem basically there to service her.
I think it’s our obligation in telling our stories that are multilayered and complicated that we open up the universe in which Megan is the center of. So Kate is her titular boss, but she will have journeys of her own as well. The idea is to have a rich, fully fleshed-out world and the characters that live in it.
Matthew: And to that end, we actually wrote the role for Jeri. Originally, the character was of Indian descent.
When she came across our eye, we felt that we had to have her in the show because she does add another element to the chemistry. What’s interesting about the show and the dynamic between the two is that Jeri’s character, Kate, is basically going on the same track that Megan went on. This is in terms of putting career first, about identifying herself through her job, and Megan’s going to try and impart and imbue in her the mistakes that she made in the past, and of course, she’s not going to listen.
Jeri, ever since your character Seven of Nine, you’ve had a big TV presence often in secondary roles. Does this kind of role suit your life better? I know you’re a wife and mom.
Jeri: Oh, absolutely. And for most of my career I was really specific seeking out ensemble pieces. When I was on Star Trek, I worked a lot. And that was an ensemble show, but it was a new character added Season 4, so all the other writers were chomping at the bit to write for somebody new. There were a lot of storylines for that character and I worked a lot my first couple of seasons on that show.
My son at the time was about my daughter’s age now. My son was about two when I started that show. And I feel like I missed so much of his childhood working so much, and that’s a tough one for me. I don’t want to miss my daughter’s childhood.
Matthew: That’s a big theme of the show, the whole notion of how you balance work and family. And there’s a line in the pilot that says, ‘A man that works 18 hours a day is a good provider, but a woman who works 18 hours a day is an absentee mother.’ So there is a double standard.
In any business, frankly, you have to put in the time for the success and so you have to find that balance. And a big part of Megan’s character is she’s trying to find balance, and how do you change when you’re set in your ways?
Another theme of the show is redemption, do you believe that redemption is necessarily a happy-ending story?
Christopher: Well, it’s the journey, not the destination. Megan may be seeking redemption, but I don’t know if she’ll ever find it. It’s a quest which will be funny at times, touching at times, tragic at times. But I don’t think we’re ever going to wrap up Megan Hunt’s character with a nice little bow and say, ‘Okay, you’re healed.’
Matthew: The show is also about forgiveness, and so she’s going to be seeking forgiveness from her ex-husband and from her daughter. But ultimately, the person she wants to seek forgiveness the most is the person that is least willing to give it, and that’s herself. And I think that’s another theme that everybody grapples with, and that’s an ongoing journey of self-discovery.