Lauren Stamile’s energizing personality is one that certainly helps her bring verisimilitude to the variety of roles she’s known for. From Burn Notice to Community, her multiplicity has been a gift to viewers everywhere and, with Lauren returning to work with Matt Nix a third time on USA Network’s new series “Complications”, we’re blessed yet again to see such a superlative actress on-screen. I was recently honored with a chance to talk with Lauren about “Complications” and the creative processes she uses to bring such remarkable realism to the characters she portrays.
Hi, Lauren. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
“Hi! How are you today?”
I’m fine. Thank you. And yourself?
“I’m doing very well. I’m happy to talk to you. Thanks for wanting to talk.”
Absolutely. You have a new series on USA Network – “Complications” – and that series is halfway through its inaugural season. I was hoping you could share with those people who might not have seen the show or who might still be on the fence, what sets it apart from other shows? I understand Matt Nix described it as a ‘crime thriller about a doctor’?
“I think that Matt said it very well. There’s nothing like it on TV. Generally when there’s a medical show on television it’s a procedural and things kind of revolve around a specific case from week-to-week where everything is wrapped up kind of neatly at the end of every episode. This, however, takes place over the course of 17 days and every episode gets messier than the one before it. So it really is more of a ‘medical thriller’ where there’s a big medical presence in it but it’s certainly not about the hospital specifically.”
You play Dr. Bridget O’Neill who is not only a close friend and colleague of Dr. John Ellison’s, but she’s also the supervisor of the Samaritan Emergency Department and the one who’s digging deeper into John’s actions. Can you share with us a bit about how that dynamic plays out in the series?
“Bridget’s role with John, she ends up being an antagonist to him but it’s not intentional. She’s watching her friend and colleague go off the deep end as it appears to her because she’s not getting the truth of what’s happening. She doesn’t know why exactly he’s making so many mistakes and why she’s catching him in what appear to be lies. She’s trying to protect his job and protect the patients and protect the reputation of the hospital. She feels like she’s on his side and, as the season goes on, she starts to find out a little bit more about what’s been going on and, for Bridget, it’s interesting because she lives in this kind of black-and-white, right-versus-wrong world. As the season goes on, she kind of steps into the grey chaos that John is living in.”
You’ve played several different roles on a variety of shows and you’ve been amazing in most of them.
“Gee, thanks.” [Laughs].
What about Bridget herself appealed to you when you were approached for the role?
“You know, first of all, working with Matt Nix is… I would work with him not knowing the role because this is the third time I’ve had the opportunity to work with him and he’s so fantastic. Everything he creates is really exciting, so that was a big appeal. What’s very exciting to me about Bridget is that she’s kind of a direct lady and that’s something that I’m not in my life. [Laughs]. So it’s very exciting to step into the shoes of somebody that’s really not afraid to speak exactly what’s on her mind. As I started to dig deeper into the character, though, what’s been most interesting to me is to find the parts of her that aren’t so put together. She comes off initially as a high maintenance and maybe even abrasive character, but underneath I think there’s a very soft center because somebody doesn’t become that kind of control freak unless they’re trying to protect something within themselves. So what’s really interesting is trying to work out what she shows the world and where her vulnerability is.”
Outstanding. So what sort of methods do you use to bring the realism and emotion and create such a believable character as Bridget?
“I first start with the script and figure out all the information given to me. I guess an actor’s job is to kind of figure out what’s going on in between the lines after those lines are given to us. For me, it begins many times by reading the script and then doing my research. For Bridget, in particular, well, I come from a very medical family so the world of medicine is very familiar to me so that’s great. My dad’s a doctor. My mom’s a nurse. My brother is a pharmacist. I spent a lot of time in the hospital growing up, so I’ve had a lot of conversations with my family and I also shadowed an ER physician friend of mine kind of watching specifically what is done there. I read several good books and saw several great documentaries. Once I started to get the research foundation of being a doctor and what that is, then there’s a lot of imagination work that goes into it. That’s been really, really fun. I’ve enjoyed living with Bridget and I hope I get to know her better.”
So do we. Most definitely. And what do you feel has been the most challenging aspect of portraying such a strong character?
“The most challenging aspect for me has been finding the emotional distance that one needs to have in order to be a doctor. You know, the person I want saving my life I don’t want to be crying. I want them to have a level head. My friend [the ER physician] that I shadowed always says, “As a doctor, you act first and you think later.” As an actor, we do the opposite. We’re always trying to be in touch with how we feel and how we’re processing things and our emotions so I kind of had to flip that to get the doctor aspect of Bridget. You know, this is someone who’s talking about traumatic things like she’s talking about a cup of coffee. It’s very matter of fact. There has to be that distance for her to act efficiently as a doctor. At the same time, I would have to flip that over to find the emotional side of her so it was this constant back and forth thing about turning off the emotions and trying to figure out where they come into play. That was kind of a juggling act actually.”
Awesome! As we head into the second half of the first season starting tomorrow, what’s something you’re hoping the audience learns from Bridget?
“That’s a great question. The first half of the season, at least in my experience, kind of comes at people very fast because there’s so much going on. It’s very busy and, as we move forward, we start to delve deeper into these characters. Why they are the way they are and who they are at their base. I think that creates a sort of empathy with the audience and that’s what I’m hoping for is that people will, instead of judging the character like “This person’s this. This person’s that. I don’t like this person.” I’m hoping they can look at each character and can say, “Wow, I understand where they’re coming from,” and it will hopefully help the audience question themselves. You know, what would I do? As the title suggests, the decisions that these characters are making are complicated and there isn’t a very obvious right or wrong in any of their cases and I hope they can see that from Bridget’s perspective as well as all the other characters.”
And what would you say is something you’ve learned from your portrayal of her?
“That’s actually a really good question. Let me reflect on this for a moment. I think that one thing Bridget is, is very efficient and she’s very discerning and she doesn’t waste time. She doesn’t waste language. She kind of does her thing, does the most that she needs to, and gets out. I think that I tend to be someone that talks too much and does too much and this and that, so it’s kind of gotten me to almost pare things down a little bit. Be a little bit more specific. I think Bridget is extremely specific in her actions as a doctor and what she says to people – what she’s trying to communicate. I think you have to be in an emergency room. You don’t have a lot of time with the people you’re seeing and sometimes the things that are coming at you are emergencies so you don’t have a lot of time. You just kind of have to do. And that has been good for me to get a little bit more specific in my own life. Um, that was such a wordy answer… [laughs] …about being specific. You can tell it’s not really working very well.”
I just have one final question here. Like you said, “Complications” comes at you so strong right out of the gate. What’s it like to help launch a series like this?
“It has been a complete joy. From the beginning this project felt so special to me. Everybody that was working on it, I feel like we really created a community. Everyone really cared to be there and to do their best and were very supportive to everybody. And I think that all we were waiting for was for it to finally air and it’s been so exciting and I’m hoping that the audience is as excited about it as we are. We’d certainly love to continue learning about these characters and telling their stories beyond this season. That would be a real dream.”
Well I’m definitely excited and I’m looking forward to Season 2’s announcement later this year. Thank you again for sitting down to chat with me. It’s been an honor.
“Absolutely! It was fun. Thank you.”