'Complications' Star Jason O'Mara: John "Is Capable of Anything"

Complications S01E01 Still - H 2015
Daniel McFadden/USA Network

Complications S01E01 Still - H 2015

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the two-hour series premiere of Complications.]

He may not wear a cape or drive a cool car, but Jason O'Mara says his Complications alter-ego Dr. John Ellison shares an important distinction with the caped crusader.

"You have the defacto hero, who is motivated because of a tragic or traumatic event that has somehow darkened his or her personality, and at the same time, [the event] brings issues of justice and inequality to the forefront and becomes that hero's obsession," O'Mara tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He uses the pain to motivate him to do ultimately good things."

And, just like Gotham's favorite crime fighter, to do risky things. John's life took a drastic turn when in Thursday's two-hour premiere of Complications when — fueled by the loss of his young daughter's death — John shot at two gang members to save a young boy injured in the crosshairs.

Although the incident put him smack in the middle of a gang war, he went above and beyond and teamed with his rebellious colleague Gretchen (Jessica Szohr) to secretly transfer the boy to another hospital to protect him. Now, he has new friends (and enemies), a renewed passion for his job and a new lease on life.

So what's next? THR spoke with O'Mara about his unique "partnership" with Gretchen, his "disconnect" with his wife (Beth Riesgraf) and more.

What do you think it is in him that not only motivates him to help this boy but to pick up that gun and shoot the driver?

He's having a problem reconciling his control or lack of control of the world around him. It really stems from that. Also, he has the slightly dangerous feeling of not having much to lose, and almost feeling like how much worse could it get? He obviously still has a lot to live for, he adores his wife — even if they're having some issues in their relationship — and he adores his son. But when that squirrel died — and obviously the squirrel was a metaphor for their memories of Becky — he becomes that guy who runs toward the crisis and not away from it. Yeah, he's an ER doctor but to run towards gun shots is not an advisable thing to do no matter what your profession (Laughs). In that moment he becomes that guy for one reason or another. … There's a kind of clarity that emerges, and I don’t know where that comes from. [Creator Matt Nix] and I have talked about that. It's almost like a sense of being overwhelmed or a loss of control, and in these moments he is capable of anything. His intentions are always good. His intentions are pure. He's a good person. He certainly doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but he does feel like if no one else is going to do something about it, then it may as well as be him. Once that happens, once he shoots those gang members in that car, he's already gone down the rabbit hole. He's already going to be. He's entered a different world and nothing will ever be the same again.

At one point his wife says something has changed in him. What exactly changes in him that he can't go back?

I think it's about not only rage, but outrage. Something has clicked or snapped inside of him where he realizes that if you're going to really treat a problem, you have to go beyond the world of the hospital. You have to take the problem head-on, you have to get your hands dirty if you really want to get close to the problem. Before, he was an ordinary husband, an ordinary doctor. He was putting the band-aid on the wound, but I think what's changed in him now is that he sees that those people — even though they walk out of the hospital — they're walking right back into the same problems that struck them in the first place. That sense of awareness has changed.

When he is trying to go beyond the walls of the hospital and get Antoine moved to a different place, he turns to Gretchen. Why her?

They seem to be kindred spirits. She is very strongly motivated to deal with a problem beyond just treating it as a nurse, beyond the medical part of it. … What he does to save Antoine and what she does beyond the call of duty for that female patient who is obviously getting beat up by her boyfriend — they both realize in that moment that they could help each other with each other's problems.

How will their relationship working together evolve beyond these first two episodes?

It feels like they need each other more than want to be with each other. Even though they have similar motivations to do the right thing and will go to any lengths to achieve that goal, their personalities don't mix. Even though essentially they have the same concerns, they're like two sides of the same coin. They're opposite but the same. They don't get on well at all. She doesn't think before she acts and even though he has moments of compulsive behavior and impulsive behavior, he likes to think of himself as someone who thinks things through and plans things out — obviously they're living in a very dangerous world now. The police want them as much as the gangs do at this point. So they have to be very careful. They don’t mix, but somehow it's a partnership. There's also a touch of Batman and Robin about their dynamic. He can look out for her, and she ends up looking out for him.

What will his relationship be like with this gang going forward?

That part of the story really opens up, and what I really like about this show is that it's hard to define. It becomes as much a crime thriller as it is a medical drama, and so we really learn a lot more about the dynamics of the gang and how it works. You don't know whether any situation is going to be resolved peacefully or violently. That's a really exciting dynamic about the show.

He has a lot of different responsibilities to different people. How will he balance that?

That's really the series there in a nutshell. How is he going to go about doing that? How does he get out of these situations? How does he play off one side against the other? Bear in mind that his skill set is not suited for these worlds. He's an ER doctor, he can fix broken bones, but beyond that he's not a superhero. He's just a guy. Watching an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, having to go to any lengths — its compelling drama.

He tries to keep his dealings with the gang a secret from his wife, but how long can he keep that up? How is his home life impacted?

In order to protect his family, he has to keep it secret for as long as possible. As you continue to watch the series, you realize that she's keeping secrets from him as well because they can't agree on how to come together and grieve over their loss. So there's some distance there, there's a disconnect that grows as the series continues. Obviously his main concern is to protect his family and he feels that keeping her in the dark is one of the better ways to do that. Obviously she's a lawyer, so later on she might be able to employ some of those skills. He's going to try to keep that a secret for as long as possible.

Is there someone else that John will turn to instead of his wife?

They're both in need of finding comfort from people other than each other at various points.

Complications airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on USA.