Code Black - Marcia Gay Harden
Code Black, Season 1 - Star Marcia Gay Harden throws out the first pitch ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

Oscar winning actress Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) stars in CBS’s new docudrama Code Black, as Residency Director Dr Leanne Rorish. The series is set in the busiest, most notorious ER in the nation, called Center Stage, a trauma area reserved for the most heart-pounding, critical cases.

Marcia stopped by the TV Critics tour to discuss her new show, which premieres tonite, September 30th 2015.

Code Black - Benjamin Hollingsworth, Luis Guzman, Melanie Kannokada, Bonnie Somerville and Marcia Gay Harden
Code Black, Season 1 – Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth), Jesse Sallander (Luis Guzman), Malaya Pineda (Melanie Kannokada), Christa Lorenson (Bonnie Somerville) and Residency Director Dr Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

What interested you in taking this series?

Code Black - Marcia Gay Harden
Code Black, Season 1 – Marcia Gay Harden ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

I have the opportunity to play Leanne Rorish. I was a little nervous about it because I’m a single mother of three and I know what life is like on set, but the character is so good.

I could not say no. And my kids were like, ‘Mom, do it. You can do it.’ They are really behind me. So that was important because, for me, first and foremost is family.

What made me jump behind Leanne so strongly is she is this flawed character who has had a tragedy in her past that has created bitterness, and I like to say even a kind of recklessness. She’s a really good doctor, but she takes chances, and I like that, she has this Achilles’ heel.

At the end of the day, (Executive Producer) Michael Seitzman has given us a show that is not snarky. It’s real. It’s hardcore. It’s gritty. It’s ugly sometimes, but the values (are those) that every person gets behind, family. love, health and teamwork.

How hard was it to learn all the procedures that an emergency room doctor needs to know?

Code Black
Code Black, Season 1 – Heart-pounding medical drama that takes place in the busiest, most notorious ER in the nation ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

(Executive producer, Ryan McGarry) said to us one day on set, ‘We want to make sure that there’s four procedures that you guys can do anytime.

If we just call it out in the room, you guys can do it eyes closed.’ He said, ‘One of them is a chest tube, one of them is an intubation, one is a central line, and one is suturing up somebody.’

So we went to another boot camp. Cut to the end of (one) day (on the set). Someone is doing a chest tube. And they yell out, ‘Cameras are rolling. Okay, Marcia, it needs to be a bilateral chest tube.’ That means there’s two of them. ‘And action.’ (she laughs)

Code Black - Marcia Gay Harden
Code Black, Season 1 – Marcia Gay Harden ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

This show is exhausting to watch. How exhausting is it to make?

We’re all exhausted. Actors normally shoot a 12-hour day, but we we’re shooting 15-hour days. This is a drama documentary-style. There is not beautiful lighting. It’s real.

It’s raw. And the amount of knowledge that they want us to acquire so that it’s second nature, so it feels authentic, is a lot.

I have to remind myself all the time SAG is behind my name, not MD, because sometimes I think it’s M.D. If you need a thoracotomy, I can give you one right now, I promise you!

Code Black - Raza Jaffrey and Marcia Gay Harden
Code Black, Season 1 – Raza Jaffrey and Marcia Gay Harden ©2015 CBS Broadcasting

Code Black Soundbyte

Marcia talked more about the concept of the series and how important even the extras are to it. Click here to listen to her comments.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.