'Code Black' Team Aims to Bring Authenticity, "Adrenaline" to Medical Show Genre

"We try to stay away from things that are sensational," creator Michael Seitzman tells THR.
Courtesy of CBS
'Code Black'

Code Black aims to shine a light on the less glamorous sides of hospitals that TV viewers aren't as familiar with — and that happens to involve, well, fewer lights.

The CBS medical drama, which centers on the overworked staff of an L.A.-area hospital emergency room, aims to create a more realistic feel to help it stand apart from other medical series.

Creator Michael Seitzman points out that, where some shows might just have extras in hospital scenes who mouth words to be added in post production, the Code Black producers opted to hire 30 real doctors and nurses to accompany the show's cast on the set, with everyone speaking at once.

       

"What we do is we tell 30 people that you can speak and treat your patient — they might not even be featured, they might be in the background, and we say, 'Say what you would say, do what you would do,'" Seitzman told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. "And then we tell our actors, you're going to have to fit your scene in over that roar."

"And we never clear the frame for a close-up, and we never re-light for it, and we never clear audio for their line," he continues. "We just record everybody at the same time — everybody is miked — and then we just sort it out in post [production]. And it makes for a challenging post, but it also makes for an exciting post."

Executive producer Ryan McGarry, who directed the documentary film on which the series is based, praised the show's cinematography, with the natural lighting helping to set the tone.

That realism also extends to the 40,000-square foot hospital set, which was built on the Disney Studios lot. "We're shooting on the fourth largest soundstage in North America, where they made Mary Poppins," said Seitzman. "Where they once built London, we built Angels Memorial Hospital."

The result, according to star Luis Guzman, is a series that provides an "adrenaline rush," while also being "very emotional, very spiritual."

According to Seitzman, test audiences who watched the pilot described themselves as "literally out of breath during commercial breaks, and that their heart is pounding." But beyond the show's authentic look, Code Black also aims to focus on the human element of its storylines as well. "We try to stay away from things that are sensational," he says. "We don't have anyone walking in with a hand grenade in their hand or something."

Code Black premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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