TNT's 'Saved' Paramedic Drama
The perpetually boyish Tom Everett Scott grows up for a gritty new series
So says an experienced paramedic to a rookie while handling one of the many Portland, Ore., emergencies in "Saved," a TNT drama premiering Monday, June 12.
With extensive hand-held camera work underscoring the unpredictability its main characters face, the series from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Television ("24") casts Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do!") as Wyatt Cole, whose flaws exemplify the show's message that paramedics are people, too.
Cole has a gambling problem, a fact made clear in the show's opening moments. The pilot episode -- to be shown commercial-free -- also details his flirtatious relationship with his more driven ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Reaser, "The Family Stone"), an emergency-room physician, as well as his conflict with his demanding surgeon father (David Clennon, "Thirtysomething").
For all his personal problems, Cole is good at his job, as proven by the situations he handles with ambulance partner John "Sack" Hallon (Omari Hardwick, "Beauty Shop"). Never knowing where any day will lead them, they rely on their camaraderie and frequent gallows humor to get them through their missions. Tracy Vilar plays another paramedic, with Michael McMillian ("What I Like About You") as a newcomer to the team.
While making "Saved" in Vancouver, British Columbia, series star Scott has gotten used to the possibility he could be filmed anytime the cameras are rolling. He already had some experience in that from his 2002-03 stint on NBC's "ER."
"The style is very frenetic," the genial, low-key Scott confirms. "What they told us was, 'You're always on camera.' The standard way to shoot things is to get a wide shot that incorporates every bit of the scene, which is called a 'master,' then to do 'coverage' that gives you a single shot of just one person. With this hand-held camera style, you're always on, and that creates a very naturalistic environment. You just keep going; you're always runnin' and gunnin'."
Another notable style aspect of "Saved" is the "photo montage," as Scott terms it, that offers a quick flashback to how each patient got into his or her predicament.
"When I saw that in the script," Scott says, "I immediately thought of the German movie 'Run Lola Run,' where they did that with a couple of characters. It's a real quick way to get to know someone without having to lay down a lot of exposition in the dialogue. We're keeping that up."
To prepare for "Saved," Scott rode with actual paramedics.
"I don't usually step into a role without doing research," he explains. "For this, it meant getting the word out through e-mail to everybody I knew, [asking] if anyone knew paramedics who would want to talk about their lives. I got a huge response. I was actually amazed how many people knew paramedics, but most of them are generally good people with really good networks of friends."
The fictional Cole also is one of those "good people" in Scott's estimation, despite his bounty of problems. "I really feel like I've found the ultimate character to play," the actor says.
Scott went out on shifts with paramedics in both Los Angeles and Vancouver, and even though he hasn't had a chance to show them the "Saved" premiere, "one of the other actors is close with some paramedics because her cousin is one, and they loved it," he says. "People are going to write in and say, 'That didn't look real' or 'That's not how it's done,' and that always happens.
"You're always going to have to take some dramatic license, but we're doing our best to be accurate. I hate it when I'm watching something and I go, 'Aww, fake!' I don't want people to not believe what they see."
Having for a lead-in the critically acclaimed "The Closer," which launches its second season the night "Saved" debuts, strikes Scott as a nice bonus.
"One of the intriguing elements of doing this show was that it was for cable," he says. "TNT gets behind its shows and is very supportive. Also, on cable, you certainly have more of a chance for a series to develop and breathe and grow. I understand what's going on at the (broadcast) network level, but the landscape of television is changing."
Indeed, Scott knows from whence he speaks after his relatively brief runs on Fox's "The Street" and ABC's "Philly." He also has kept a movie career going since making his debut as the sunglass-wearing drummer for the fictitious 1960s rock group The Wonders in the Tom Hanks-directed 1996 comedy "That Thing You Do!"
On the big screen, Scott also has appeared opposite Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger in "One True Thing," Kate Capshaw and Tom Selleck in "The Love Letter," and Ben Affleck and Vin Diesel in "Boiler Room." He'll next be seen with Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore and Lauren Graham ("Gilmore Girls") in "Because I Said So."
"I want to look back and be able to say I had a really cool career," Scott reflects. "Mostly, I'm looking for challenges. I really don't want to do something I've done before. I kind of navigated my way through Hollywood on my own at first, then I met a great manager and a great agent, and I've been with them for a few years now. I'd also like to make money; you've gotta keep paying the bills."
While TNT has made Scott the big selling point in promoting "Saved," the actor muses, "I try not to think about that. It's slowly but surely becoming more of an ensemble. There's some really nice stuff coming up for the other paramedics in the other episodes ... in fact, that's why I'm able to talk about the show today. Others are out there saving lives."