LOS ANGELES – Matt Czuchry doesn’t like having his blood taken – it makes him squeamish – but he doesn’t mind the interaction physicians have with patients.
“I like the one-on-one relationship they have,” the star of the new Fox series “The Resident,” says. ‘You can be empathetic and be honest. I think I’d be good at that.”
The character he plays – an internal medicine physician who’s a bit of a rebel – doesn’t hold back with anyone. He takes on the head of the medical staff, berates residents and levels with family members who still hold out hope for their dying relatives.
To give him even more to play, Czuchry arrives on a motorcycle, sports tattoos (“Death before Dishonor”) and isn’t afraid to make out with a resident in a hospital room. He’s a rebel – unlike some of the buttoned-up characters the 40-year-old has played in the past.
After spending seven years in New York with “The Good Wife,” Czuchry had planned to move back to Los Angeles and look at material. Even though “The Resident” was slated to be shot in Atlanta, he looked at the script, loved the character and realized he had to audition. “It was hitting me in a way where, ‘I have to do this. I can’t not do it.’ Even with the sacrifices you know it takes to do the work, I wanted to tell these stories and be a part of this character.”
Among his chief antagonists: Bruce Greenwood as the hospital’s leading physician, Dr. Randolph Bell. Insisting others cover for him (and keep his mistakes secret), Greenwood’s character butts up against Czuchry’s repeatedly.
Bell is a moving target for people who want to bring him down, Greenwood says. “But he’s also a moving target for himself because, as his faculties begin to diminish, it’s hard enough to recognize, never mind admit, that you’re going to have to redefine yourself.”
The two characters are designed to help writer Amy Holden Jones show a different side of medicine. “We’re trying to show things that you don’t know about what goes on in hospitals, partially so you can protect yourself and partially because we’re tired of seeing the same thing that every show on television is doing,” she says. “It’s pretty rosy, in my opinion, on network television.”
While Czuchry’s Dr. Conrad Hawkins looks like he’s often in the right, there are times when he’ll be given a wake-up call, too. “Conrad has to do workarounds with Bell,” Jones says. “He can’t take him head-on or he’d be gone. It’s an ongoing conflict in the series.”
To find a workable balance, Czuchry read several books and shadowed physicians before starting the series. “I got to see the attitudes they have toward patients. It was very interesting.”
Hawkins, he says, “is very straightforward. He tells patients the truth. He loves patients and cares about them, which is important, and he’s not afraid to go against the system.”
Because he’s the lead of “The Resident,” Czuchry also has to set a tone for the actors on the series. On “The Good Wife” and “Gilmore Girls,” he was a member of the supporting cast. “This is different in terms of the amount of hours in preparation.
“It’s also challenging because of the dialogue in a medical drama.”
Still, he says, “it’s the right time for me, personally and professionally. Having that seven years on ‘Good Wife’ and three years on ‘Gilmore Girls,’ I was ready for more responsibility.”
While the series has taught him plenty about medicine, Czuchry isn’t sure he could tell his own physician what to do.
“I’m due for a physical,” he says. “Just asking about that, you’ve reminded me, it’s time.”