I caught up with Miami Medical creator and exec producer, Jeffrey Lieber, this week and asked him a few questions about the mysterious, and wonderful, Dr Proctor. Here’s what he had to say…
As you’ll have spotted, The Jer Blog’s favourite Miami Medical character is Dr Matt Proctor, played so beautifully by Jeremy Northam. From day 1, he really caught the attention of viewers, with his enigmatic past, mysterious scar and quirky ways. As the creator of the show, we wondered if you could tell us some more about him.
How would you describe Proctor?
He’s a man in transition, trying to recapture a sense of living in the moment. He had this near death experience (the heart attack) and it caused him to walk away from his old life and go to a totally foreign place… Miami. He’s an enigma to his team… and to himself, which is a quality Jeremy has as both an actor and a person.
When you first started working on the concept for Miami Medical, where was Proctor at that stage in your thinking? Was it concept and then characters or characters first, and which characters came first?
It’s funny, but the truth is… I don’t remember anymore. One second there was no Proctor and the next he existed. Characters come in inspirational bursts for me. I think the first notion I had about the character was his entrance. Out of nowhere… wearing a fish t-shirt… walking straight into a trauma suite with a patient. The rest of the character all stemmed from that introduction.
How do you begin to build a character like Proctor?
Slowly. One script leads to the next and the next and in each one the writers/actors/directors make discoveries. I’d love to say we have it all figured out when we start, but the truth is… we just have a general notion about each other the regulars and then they evolve right in front of our eyes. One of the hardest parts about not getting to do a second season is… we’d found so many new blocks (in Proctor’s case there was this daughter figure that he had a hand in raising…. a woman he’d left behind in Maryland… the spark of a relationship with Dr. Sable) and we’ll never get to really build.
It would have been very easy to make a senior doctor a stereotypical arrogant, cold person, always right, seen it all before, but Proctor isn’t like that. What was your thinking there?
That character exists on TV and his name is House. We were more interested in a man trying to FIGHT against the darkness that can come from facing death on a day to day basis.
We love Proctor’s wit and his eccentricity. Can you clue us in on where that aspect of his character came from? Inspirations?
Early in the season we decided that Proctor couldn’t ever take on a problem in a straightforward manner. He’d hold consultations on the roof. He’d ride his bike in a circle to get his mental juices flowing. This all stemmed from decisions I made in the pilot, then really took root in Steve’s Maeda’s script 88 Seconds. The BLT scene… where Proctor uses a sandwich analogy to explain a medical conundrum… was a moment where we really defined the character’s voice.
Having created a character on the page, and presumably having a strong vision of him in your mind’s eye, what was it like watching Jeremy Northam ‘becoming’ Proctor?
It was quite wonderful. All the actors were. The show was one of those rare experiences where the producers, the studio and the network all were happy with the cast. It RARELY happens that way. More often there’s a weak link that the staff starts to write around. That never happened on the show.
If you’d had the opportunity to build on the character, where do you think you might have gone with him?
Like I said above, we were all excited about expanding his relationships. We’d planned on bringing his “daughter” (she’s referenced in “All Fall Down”) and seeing him as a reluctant father. We also wanted to dig deeper into the life he skipped out on back in Maryland.
We still don’t really know how come a Brit served in a MASH unit in the Gulf War and then ended up in Maryland…where IS Proctor from?
The rough sketch of his back story is this. He was born in England and then moved with his father to the States just before college. He went to undergrad and medical school in America and then served… with the US Armed Forces… in Gulf 1. After that he returned and started his G.I. practice in Maryland. What brought his father to the States? Does he have family back in the UK? Who did he leave back in Maryland? These are all questions we’d only started to answer for ourselves.
We have five more episodes of Miami Medical to see, which would have been part of season 2. Do we have some Proctor highlights to look forward to?
The last episode that will be shown, Medicine Man, has great scenes between Jeremy and W. Earl Brown (from Deadwood fame). Also, in Time of Death, we get a peek into his darkness.
And finally, we have to ask…Dr Proctor and Dr Sable…what happens after the lift doors close??
Its starts out smashingly, then… you’ll have to wait two weeks for more of that.
Thanks so much to Jeffrey for sparing the time to talk to The Jer Blog, we really appreciate it.
This Friday’s episode of Miami Medical, Like a Hurricane, airs at 10pm on CBS. Check out SueVo’s chat with Jeffrey where she covers this and the other upcoming episodes, as well as getting an insight into Jeffrey’s new projects.