Code Black: Behind the Scenes For Its 'Most Emotional Episode'

Jim Halterman

CBS

Visiting the set of a TV show is a normal occurrence when writing about television. Conduct a few interviews with actors and producers, watch some production and then call it a day. But on a recent visit to the Code Black set, I found myself much more involved.

For the November 9 installment, which creator Michael Seitzman calls “the most emotional episode we’ve made,” I stepped into character as a construction worker who is brought into Angels Memorial after he’s caught in an industrial explosion—leaving my face far less pretty than any of the show’s attractive actors (Rob Lowe, I’m talking to you!). Being in the mix of the Code Black cast and crew, I quickly found out just how much work goes into making the drama.

Code Black, Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS.

Lowe (right, with Seitzman and me) compares the frenetic pace of shooting Code Black to one of his earlier TV gigs: “It’s the same feel as The West Wing in terms of choreography and the complexity of the shots, dialogue and the acting.”

I knew I was in good hands with makeup artist Margaret Prentice, who has worked on everything from Fight Club to Westworld. But even I wasn’t prepared for how horrific my face looked after two hours in the makeup chair.

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

Besides helping me with my injuries, Marcia Gay Harden explained how her character is involved with both a rape victim and accused assailant in this episode. "Leanne ends up being a part of giving strength to the victim, but not just giving strength to her but also one of the residents that is very affected by it. It was more of an emotional episode and I think it’s a great subject to approach."

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

Benjamin Hollingsworth, who plays Dr. Mario Savetti, says the episode has a lighter side, too. "Richard Lewis plays an older comedian with some health issues. He’s got diverticulitis, which is a word I can say very fluently. It’s an infection in the lower intestines, which can actually be very serious."

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

No surprise that Malaya (Melanie Chandra) is hit hard by the rape victim since she was attacked last season. "It’s about helping this young girl who went through a horrific experience but it’s been an incredibly hard one to film. When we read the script, it’s hard to read these words without bursting into tears."

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

During the shooting of the intense, I had the tough job of laying very still, though I was told by the director that my eyes should be open, almost in shock by the trauma that I had endured.

I may be smiling between takes, but the action at “center stage” (where up to three trauma patients are treated simultaneously) is serious business. “You can talk about how different the show is and how intense it is,” Lowe says. “But you experience [center stage] and you go, holy crap, you’re not kidding!”

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