"Do No Harm" represents a big opportunity for Steven Pasquale. You might recognize the journeyman actor's face from a slew of recurring TV roles over the years; he's been in everything from "Six Feet Under" to "Rescue Me" to "The Playboy Club" and "Up All Night," but "Do No Harm" marks his first stint as a leading man.
NBC has described "Do No Harm" -- a medical drama with a new-school take on "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" -- as "House" meets "Dexter. The network cast "Cosby Show" legend Phylicia Rashad as Pasquale's character's boss and gave it an aggressive promotional push during the Golden Globes.
The show has a complicated premise at its center: Pasquale plays Dr. Jason Cole, a hot-shot neurosurgeon with a multiple-personality disorder he's been suppressing for years with an experimental medication. But as the show's pilot opens, the medication is wearing off, and his destructive alter-ego Ian Price is coming out at night and wreaking all sorts of havoc on his life.
In a recent conversation with HuffPost TV, Pasquale discussed how he's approached playing the two characters, the challenges of creating an edgy network drama and the nerves he's feeling as the show approaches its premiere.
Tell us about the premise of the show.
Dr. Jason Cole has a fictitious condition that is loosely based on dissociative personality disorder ... [And he has diabetes,] which also has a specific fictitious element, which is it spikes at night. So his diabetes is so severe that he's gotten the hospital to agree to only work him for the day, but he's such a superstar surgeon that they're willing to do that in order to have him half of the time.
Jason has had a co-worker concoct this experimental drug, which basically puts him in a coma for the night without any side effects. And it's been operating successfully for five years, and in the pilot episode, Ian has finally developed an immunity for the drug, and he finally makes an appearance for the first time. And then the whole series is about the few months following that event.
The pilot manages to bring a lot of suspense right off the bat. Is it challenging to maintain that level of suspense throughout the season?
Yes, very much so. That's the great challenge in what our central premise is really: With Ian Price being out, basically at war with Jason, how are we going to maintain that level of storytelling for 13 episodes? I think we did a good job of keeping the stakes really high. The train kind of leaves the station in the pilot and doesn't stop until the end of Season 1.
What are the differences between Jason and Ian?
Ian is a complete sex addict, drug addict, manipulator, sociopath, party-animal, hair-trigger temper, crazy-person. But within all that, he's also a master manipulator and really charming.
Jason is the opposite. Jason hasn't been laid probably in years. Think about it: the guy goes to bed at 8:24 every night,
it's been at least five years since the guy's gotten laid. No wonder he's got such a high level of stress.
We didn't want to do the classic "Jekyll and Hyde" thing where one is just pure evil and one is pure good, and one is a monster and one is not. We wanted there to be a lot of grey area, so that when Jason/Ian is interacting with the peripheral characters on the show, that's where all the drama occurs.
In playing the two sides of this guy's personality, do you approach this as playing two different characters?
Yes, totally. They are two distinct, distinct chemical biological personalities that inhabit the same body, so I treat them like completely different people. And I really just approach it from the standpoint that I'm making two different movies, the Jason Cole movie and the Ian Price movie, and that's been really helpful, looking at it from this perspective.
NBC recently described this series as a cross between "Dexter" and "House." Does that work for you?
I think it's actually really accurate. There's the medical procedural element, sort of a la "House," but some very dark and thriller-like undertones, a la "Dexter," so that's a really good blender.
The show does go to some dark places for a network series.
I come from the cable world. I'm a theatre actor, so I'm interested in dark, macro storytelling, 1,000 percent. So that's been my challenge all along: to try to keep us on the path of doing somethign that's thrilling and dark and edgy and dangerous, but it's very dangerous territory for a network, because it's not the norm. So we've tried to strike a balance between something that feels truly dark but also has lots of elements of fun and kind of a roller-coaster thrill ride.
Do you enjoy playing the darker Ian Price role more?
Yes, unequivocally yes. If for no other reason than he doesn't have to say all that really hard medical bullshit. Neurosurgery is filled with words and terms that you thought would be a joke if you first read it.
How are you handling that challenge?
Well, I have a good memory, thank God, so I've been pretty lucky. But also, we have medical technicians on standby, so if I mispronounce something, they can correct me on the spot.
NBC seems to be giving this show a big commercial push. The commercials were all over the Golden Globes.
Yeah, they have. I noticed that as well. It made me feel very nervous, but excited.
So there's pressure that comes with that?
You know what, ultimately in this scenario, I'm just the actor who's saying the words. If the show works, it's a real game-changer for someone like me, and if it doesn't, then we went down swinging for the fences, but we're certainly not playing it safe on this show.
How is working with TV legend Phylicia Rashad?
She's awesome, totally awesome. Of course, I grew up watching "The Cosby Show" and Mrs. Huxtable was like my second mother, so to be able to work with her is pretty awesome. She's a really cool lady. [She plays my boss] with a stern, but loving hand.
Is it ever hard to keep Jason and Ian separate? Does anything ever accidentally bleed over?
No. I mean, our directors and writers try to keep an eye on anything. If it's a Jason scene that feels too "Ian" or vice-versa, we all try to monitor that on a daily basis. But other than that, I just know both of these guys really well at this point, so we're just kind of off to the races, and hopefully we're on the right track.
"Do No Harm" premieres Thursday, January 31 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.