'The Night Shift': Brendan Fehr dishes on Drew's struggle with coming out vs. staying in the closet

the-night-shift-brendan-fehr-interview.jpg During last week's series premiere of NBC's medical drama "The Night Shift," resident bad-boy doc TC (Eoin Macken) confronted his friend Drew (Brendan Fehr) about how Drew doesn't need to pretend to be overly macho or date girls just for show, since TC figured out that Drew is actually gay. But Drew doesn't want anyone else to know his secret, for deeply personal reasons.

Drew's struggle with his sexuality is a fascinating addition to the new NBC series, so Zap2it got Fehr on the line to discuss what it's like portraying such a complicated character, what's coming up this season for Drew and more. Check out the full Q&A with Fehr below:

Zap2it: What has it been like playing Drew, when it's clear that he's struggling with the decision to come out or stay in the closet?
Brendan Fehr: When I first got the pilot, I thought it was great. There were a lot of risks involved in a character like that. If I was going to play a gay character on television, I didn't want it to be typical. I wanted it to be different. So as I got close to getting the part, I had long talks with people on the creative side about who they wanted the character to be, where we want to go with him and how we wanted to define this character. And we were all on the same page that I wanted to play him as a human, you know what I mean? As a guy who fights and works to save lives.

But he will be dealing with having this secret, right?
Yeah, he's obviously got this secret that he's struggling with, but as much as it's this secret, we didn't want it to define him. It's certainly a little piece of the pie in terms of who he is but we wanted him to be much more than that. That's why he says to TC, "I don't want to be the gay doctor." Yes, he is gay and a doctor, so you could accurately describe him as the gay doctor, but he also just wants to be a person, he wants to be a man, he wants to be a human being. He wants to be seen as a doctor and as a soldier. So as much as he wants to be able to share that part of his life with people, he doesn't want to end up being defined by it. He knows that inevitably, it will. Everyone kind of chooses the label they are defined by, and I view Drew as a guy who wants to be defined by what he does and his actions, not who he is.

How will keeping his sexuality a secret affect Drew in other aspects of his life?
That's why I think it makes the part all the more interesting, because instead of being just a regular gay character, you get to see him struggle with this and you learn more about who he is outside of his sexual orientation. And when you have a secret that big, it doesn't keep you from having friends but it certainly isolates him. He can't share everything about who he is and what he likes, and that's why he finds comfort in the military. It's a band of brothers and he finds camaraderie there and in the ER night shift unit and his fighting. With his fighting, he's able to get out a certain amount of aggression. There's a payoff there, but there's also a brotherhood for him that satisfies what's missing for him.

How will Drew's struggle evolve as the season goes on? Might we eventually see him come out?
It's a relatively short run, with only about eight episodes, so each character has his or her own story that plays out over that run. This is Drew's story, with his struggle over keeping this secret, people finding out, how is it revealed, does he tell people, does he slip up, is there a moment that arises where he's just going to say, "Screw it, this is who I am?" So throughout the season, he'll get to a point where he gets it out there. And even though we know that's coming, we still find him other storylines as well. And throughout this season, I'm really proud of how Drew shaped out to be.

Now let's talk about Drew's fighting. He's training to be a MMA fighter and I know he deals with an injury in episode 3, but he's also a surgeon. Isn't that kind of dangerous for him to risk his hands like that?
[ laughs] Yeah, we did talk about that. We're a show that wants to be taken seriously in terms of it being a medical drama. We don't want to be silly. But obviously we're going to be taking creative liberties in terms of telling stories. So we talked about Drew fighting early on, and he's going to hurt his hand and it's kind of a stupid move on his part. [ laughs] A surgeon needs his hands! When you're fighting, the chances of you breaking your hands and your fingers and your knuckles are pretty high. Like you said, we deal with that in the third episode and we'll learn why he does this and why he fights and what that does for him. As much as people are going on Facebook and Twitter, "What kind of dumb surgeon would be fighting," you know what I mean? That's totally valid! But it is something that we address and I think it's a really great episode. So you have to cut us a little slack sometimes. [ laughs]

What are you most excited for viewers to see as this season goes on?
That's a good question. All my stories! I'm biased. [ laughs] I like all the episodes, I think they get better and better as the season goes on. And I like the fact that everyone, every character, gets their own story. Everyone has a past and everyone has to deal with what they've gone through in their own way. And I'm also excited for the audience to get to know these characters because if we do our job, you'll want to hang out with this group in real life.

"The Night Shift" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Photo/Video credit: NBC