Can you believe it’s been a year already? Yes, it’s been a year since the man in the Phish t-shirt with the James Bond voice first came through the ambulance bay of Miami Trauma 1 and stole our hearts. When Dr. C. asked, “Ok, so who the h*** is that guy?” twenty minutes into the pilot episode, we could have given him the answer. After months of waiting, Dr. Matt Proctor, or as we’d already dubbed him, HotDocProc, had finally arrived. At last we were seeing Jeremy Northam in Miami Medical! Big smiles all around. And even though he was only with us for thirteen weeks, he and his Alpha Team colleagues left us with many happy memories.
To honor the anniversary of our first meeting DocProc on April 2nd, 2010, I thought I’d give you a list of ten things I love about the series he appeared in. Those of you familiar with the Reasons pieces I posted at Jeremy Northam Chat for the individual Miami Medical episodes know that the following list will be quite Proctor- (and Northam-) centric.
Ten things I love about Miami Medical
1. Jeremy Northam smack dab in the middle of it. What’s not to love? A terrific actor in an intriguing role will pique my interest in any new series, but this particular actor playing this particular part? Heaven! As the series unfolded we slowly got to know the gifted, mysterious Dr. Proctor. Handsome, sexy, funny, compassionate, and great at his job, he was a very attractive man. He was also a man with secrets he guarded closely. The few secrets Proctor revealed, like how he got the scar on his chest, only made him more compelling. And then there was his unique approach to the world.
“People consider me quirky?” he asked in Man on the Road.
Yes, we do, DocProc. And we love your quirkiness! We love your rooftop consultations, your paper airplanes, your bike rides that go nowhere, your arcane bits of information (the force of an alligator’s bite has 2000 pounds per square inch), and your use of food as “inappropriate props” during fundraising speeches. We found Matt Proctor completely irresistible—as irresistible as only Jeremy Northam could make him.
2. No wing collars or hats from the past for Mr. N. I love this about the series as much for Jeremy’s sake as for ours. We know how much he dreads seeing another part in a historical drama come his way and, although we might not share that dread, it was refreshing to see him in a contemporary setting, playing a character dealing with contemporary situations. While he didn’t look quite as dashing in Proctor’s scrubs as he does in period costume—Sir Robert Morton’s frock coat, Ivor Novello’s white tie and tails, Wigram’s fedora—at least the scrubs were that shade of blue Jeremy always looks so good in. As for the hats, which he once predicted will be mentioned in his obituary, well this role may have given him his best one yet. Who could ever forget the duck-feather medicine hat?
3. Jeremy flexing his comedic muscles. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jeremy Northam is a great dramatic actor. Much less well known are his comedic talents. I love that Miami Medical gave him the chance to be funny. Here are my favorites among the moments where Proctor made me laugh. From Diver Down, when he updates Tuck on their patients’ status instead of the other way around, ending the detailed recitation with a frustrated:
“And the vending machine in the back hall? It’s jammed. I’m either owed 85 cents or a bag of Funyons.”
The Golden Hour demonstration, using edible visual aids, of what a hemicraniectomy is. The way Helena Sable continually gets under his skin in An Arm and a Leg. His hangover and the cranky little “Ow” he lets out when Serena prods him about Dr. Sable in Time of Death. The pained look on his face when he admits to Chris that he considers the younger man a friend in Down to the Bone, and the way he turns tail and runs when Chris can’t help teasing him about it. And two perfectly delivered lines from Medicine Man: his comment to the psychiatrist that Jesse’s “religion” comes “complete with football chants and an apparent reverence for waterfowl,” and of course his “All hail the King of Quacksylvania!” proclamation that perfectly matches the adorably goofy way he looks in the medicine hat.
4. A few quiet words from Dr. Proctor. Most of the episodes featured a point when the pace of the action slowed and Proctor shared a quiet word with one of his colleagues. Everyone’s favorite example of this is probably from Calle Cubana, when he tells Eva that sometimes when there’s chaos all around you have to be as still as a rock in a great rushing river.
Other wonderful quiet Proctor moments: during What Lies Beneath, when he uses the example of his own heart attack to help Chris understand why he thinks Fortunato, the man impaled by a pole, is indeed a lucky man; in All Fall Down, when he pleads with Karen Simon to “Please, let me save your life;” and when he explains to Tuck in Medicine Man why he will wear the crazy duck hat during Jesse’s surgery.
Jeremy played all these scenes in an understated manner, keeping the emotion from becoming maudlin or melodramatic. Instead, he makes these moments thought provoking, with real emotional resonance. Even the odd parable about the lion tamer and the fire walker he tells Serena after she calls her first Time of Death is more than just another of Proctor’s quirks.
5. “How Does He Do That?” Scenes. This is my name for the amazing scenes where Jeremy manages to convey a lot of information about Proctor without doing or saying anything. Over the years Jeremy has learned to use the subtlest changes of expression or posture to communicate his character’s mental and emotional state. Miami Medical is full of instances of his brilliance at this neglected aspect of good acting.
Three scenes that stand out for me are when Proctor watches “lucky man” Fortunato with his family before his surgery, when he hears “fun guy” Marcus explain that he didn’t sign up for wheelchairs and catheters when his girlfriend Carla becomes paralyzed in Time of Death, and as he listens to Eva’s heartbreaking story of how she and her parents came to the US in Like a Hurricane. The other actor has all the lines and actions in these scenes; Jeremy simply reacts. Yet we know exactly what’s going on with Proctor because of how Jeremy holds his body and adjusts his wonderfully expressive face.
Back when he was doing publicity for Emma, Jeremy described himself as a good “reactor” rather than a good actor. But that’s just typical Northam self-deprecation. The truth is this: he’s a superb actor, and he’s the best reactor I have ever seen. He is truly without equal. And he keeps getting better.
6. A great cast playing wonderful characters. Oh right! There were other characters besides Proctor, and other actors besides Jeremy Northam, on Miami Medical. Mike Vogel, Lana Parrilla, Elisabeth Harnois, and Omar Gooding ably rounded out the cast. Each actor brought his or her A-game to the series, making us care about their characters and want to know more about them.
They may have started out as recognizable stock characters—Eva Zambrano as the ambitious woman with no time for a personal life or Chris Deleo as the genius “cowboy” with an eye for the ladies—but they quickly became individuals as we learned details about their lives and watched them interact with one another. We didn’t get a chance to learn much about the backgrounds of first-year resident Serena Warren and Charge Nurse Tuck Brody; clearly if there had been a second season their backstories would have been filled in the way Eva’s and Chris’, and to a certain extent Proctor’s, had been in the first season.
I enjoyed watching the various relationships develop among the characters. Proctor quickly became a mentor to Serena, after a slight hint of something romantic between them, while his interactions with the other two doctors were more complicated. Proctor and Deleo did a bit of head butting like Bighorn Sheep, the testosterone practically palpable in the air between them, and then settled into an uneasy friendship with father/son overtones.
As for Proctor and Zambrano, some of us—including me—were rooting for them to get together as a romantic couple, especially after she ended up in his bed at the end of What Lies Beneath. That didn’t happen, but it was fun to watch their mutual admiration society grow on both the professional and personal levels.
Then there were the non-Proctor interactions that were just as satisfying: Serena and Eva’s sisterhood, girl-power scenes; Chris looking out for Serena like a big brother; and the flirty, friendly are-they-aren’t-they, will-they-won’t-they relationship between Chris and Eva.
And in among them all, holding everything together and sorely missed when he was gone, there was Tuck. We saw how much he meant to the others when he was attacked in Calle Cubana.
In addition to the five regulars, three delightful characters had recurring roles. I was always happy to see Jonathan Runyon as Paramedic Kleebus, Kathleen Early as Nurse “Chatty” Kathy, and Shanola Hampton as Nurse Graceffa.
7. And great guest stars. The series was blessed with many talented actors who appeared for one or two episodes as patients, colleagues or family members. I especially enjoyed the performances of the following (in chronological order): Michael O’Neill as Serena’s nemesis Dr. Bruce Angry Ortho Kaye in 88 Seconds and Down to the Bone, Emiliano Diez as Eva’s father Alberto Zambrano in Like a Hurricane, Mike Farrell (of course!) as Dr. Carl Willis in Golden Hour, Tim Guinee as the troubled Jackson Russell in Golden Hour, Valente Rodriguez as Fortunato Delgado in What Lies Beneath, Louise Lombard as adoptive mother Karen Simon in All Fall Down, Angelic Zambrana as Fia Roja in Calle Cubana, James Frain reunited with his Tudors costar as Brian Dempster in Man on the Road, Kari Matchett as the bewitching and bewildering Dr. Helena Sable in Man on the Road and An Arm and a Leg, Bailey Chase as Chris’ big brother Rick Deleo in Time of Death and Medicine Man, Jonathan Adams as construction foreman Colin Williams in Down to the Bone, and W. Earl Brown as the weird and wonderful Jesse Shane in Medicine Man. All of these actors helped to round out the world of Miami Medical and make it such a memorable place.
8. Elevator moments. Did you notice that every episode had at least one scene that featured the elevator? Often it was just a small part of a larger scene: Serena calling out to Eva “Okay, but you get Uncle Angry for Christmas!” as the elevator doors close on her in Down to the Bone after Eva makes her scrub in for surgery on their patient with Dr. Angry Ortho.
Or Proctor telling Chris that his favorite kind of freebie pens from the drug companies are the ones with “the little multicolored clicky things” in Like a Hurricane. The closing doors set up great exit lines: “No you won’t. And you won’t buy breakfast either,” insists a bemused Proctor after Helena Sable says she’ll drive them to their luminescent-jellyfish date in An Arm and a Leg.
Occasionally the elevator was setting of the whole scene: the discussion of tattoos by Zambrano, Nurse Graceffa and Proctor that takes place in Diver Down and ends with a clearly curious Proctor repeating the words “big, block letters?” Or the tense exchange between administrator Carl Willis and Proctor regarding the hospital’s desperate need for funds in Golden Hour. Sometimes the effect was comic, sometimes the tone was serious, but the elevator moments were always unforgettable.
9. Series creator Jeffrey Lieber and his team. I have nothing but praise and gratitude for the man who came up with the idea for Miami Medical and the group he assembled to bring the series’ 13 episodes to air.
Jeffrey continually impressed me with his professionalism in dealing with some of the uglier realities of running an American network television show. He has a wonderful sense of humor and the kind of attitude that will take him far. And he was extremely generous to all of us Jeremy fans. I know a lot of JN fans are now “JL” fans as well. Thanks for everything, Jeffrey! I wish you the best of luck with your next series and beyond. I’ll be watching.
10. The only gun we saw pointed at anyone turned out to be a water pistol. (Jackson Russell’s water weapon in Golden Hour.) Given that the setting is a trauma hospital, you’d expect violence to play a role in the series. Indeed, an act of violence set up each episode: an explosion, a shooting, an automobile crash, extreme weather, etc. What made the series different was that the emphasis was not on the violence itself, but on repairing its effects. I appreciated that the main characters’ job wasn’t about committing violence, but about healing people after violence has torn their bodies, and their lives, apart. That’s very rare on television these days and it’s probably what I love most about Miami Medical (Yes, even more than Jeremy’s presence in it.)
There are other items I could have chosen—I didn’t even mention DocProc’s shirtless moments! (I’ll take it for granted that’s something we all love about the series.) But I think I singled out the most important reasons I loved watching Miami Medical. They’re what I miss most now that the series is over. I’m sure you have your favorite things about Miami Medical. I’d love to hear what they are.