'Chicago Med's' Colin Donnell on Connor's Secret, Feud With Will and What Fans Didn’t See

"I finally was able to face enough demons of my own to come back and own all of that," the actor tells THR of Connor's confrontation with his father in Tuesday's episode.
Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Chicago Med, "Bound."]

As Dr. Connor Rhodes on Chicago Med, Colin Donnell now regularly saves lives on the small screen. So it's a little ironic that the actor comes to the freshman medical drama after being killed off of his last two series: Arrow and The Affair. So, given the Chicago trilogy's penchant for killing off series regulars (see: Shay, Jin) is Donnell worried about meeting the same fate a third time?

"The possibility is always out there," he tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh. "if I worried about that going into every job, I probably wouldn’t get the job. So I'm happy that when I get to the end of the script I'm alive. Hopefully by the end of the season, I'll still be alive."

So far, so good. But while Connor still has a pulse, Tuesday's emotional hour forced him to confront a tragic death from his past: his mother's suicide. In the episode, Connor's estranged father (D.W. Moffett) donated $1 million to the hospital and had a wing named after his late wife, who killed herself when Connor was growing up.

Yet not everything is as it seems. In the final moments of the episode, Connor hinted there was even more to the story than what had been publicly revealed, telling his father that he knew the real reason his mother took her own life in a mysterious exchange. THR caught up with Donnell to find out just what "secret" Connor is referring to, his decision to "retake" Chicago after years away from his family and his feud with Will.

It's a very interesting backstory they've set up for your character. How did that come about?

One of the coolest things, I think, about scripted television is that every time you get a new script, you get to learn a little more about your character. Especially in this first season, we're all building the ship together so to speak, so there's been a great open line of communication. [Showrunners] Andy Schneider and Diane Frolov are amazing at listening to input and being open to discussing everything. But as far as I've been concerned, I've just been excited to see what comes up.

Sometimes writers are not always there from the very beginning so there are things that you have to sort of remind those people. But really, I just love learning these things. Nothing that they introduce every episode makes me go back and be like, "Well, I wish I would have done that differently." We talked before we went in. We had an idea of who the guy would be, and who Connor is, and everything has been built on top of that.

At the end of the episode he says that's not really why Mom killed herself. What does Connor mean by that?

There was actually a full explanation of why she killed herself before that we worked on. We felt like, ultimately, it didn't need to be so explicitly spelled out for the audience. Maybe it will be at some point, and I'd hate to give it away. Part of what's cool and intriguing about that scene in particular, the way it ended up is D.W. and I share this secret that's kept from the sister. I know something that he knows and I finally had the balls to stand up and tell him that. I finally was able to face enough demons of my own to come back and own all of that and be in the same space again.

Learning about his mom in this episode because it really informs the character, particularly since he doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad.

It informs why he goes to Mexico. It informs why he spent so much time away. It informs his strained relationship with his sister. It shows you why he pours so much into the medicine and how he goes about it. I think there's two different directions you can go in when something like that happens: you can dive into the books and study every single aspect of what you're doing or you can just realize that this is what you were meant to do and you follow that, and I think that’s the cool dynamic that they've set up between Connor and Will – two dramatically opposed viewpoints on doing the same job, both with similar backgrounds without really knowing it. So we come to blows in that episode – we don’t physically come to blows, but we come to a head yet again in that episode. But hopefully at some point during the season, we'll come to an understanding that we're not as different as we seem to think  we are. Maybe. I don’t know and it hasn’t come up yet but I think that’s something that could be set up.

Especially because it was brought up that Will also lost his mom, which is a hard thing to go through especially at a relatively young age.

You find out that it was in a different way, but yeah, losing a parent at any age but certainly when you're young, in your formative years, I think that's something that shapes who you become. These are two young men with very strong personalities, obviously, who went into the same profession. Coming from different backgrounds, but coming to the same place.

They were able to clink glasses at the end of the episode so there's hope.

I know. You can't argue forever. At least a baby brought 'em together. (Laughs).

Connor says he's so glad he's go back. Why do you think is his motivation to come back to Chicago and specifically at this point in time?

There's several things: it’s the ultimate pull of family and there's a lot of unfinished business with Connor. Especially when it is concerning his family; he left his sister in the lurch. He left his family without an explanation of where he was going or why. He's come to a place in his life where he wants to reclaim his younger self, he wants to retake this city. He wants to assert his control over that place again.

What can you say about Connor' affair with Dr. Zanetti? There's no way this is going to end well since they work together in a stressful environment.

Romantic interests are always a fickle thing on TV and certainly on network television. We'll see where it goes. I don’t know where its going to end up because right now, its been good, certainly there is a clandestine nature to the relationship because it is a workplace relationship so there has to be some level of decorum and that always puts a strain on things so we'll see.

Chicago Med airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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