KEVIN RANKIN from Trauma Exclusive Interview

Kevin Rankin

I recently got a chance to speak with KEVIN RANKIN about his character, Tyler Briggs, on NBC’s new series, Trauma, which premieres on September 28 at 9pm.

You might also remember Kevin Rankin’s great performance on Friday Night Lights as Herc, Jason’s friend. And I am guessing Trauma is not the last we will see of him, so it’s time to get to know him better. Enjoy the interview.

Congratulations about getting on ‘Trauma.’

Kevin Rankin: Thank you very much. I’m very, very excited about it.

Can you talk a little about the show for those who don’t know about it?

Kevin Rankin: Definitely. The show is called ‘Trauma’ and so it’s about first responders, EMS. Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics. What they’re doing is dealing with people’s traumas everyday and then going home and dealing with their own traumas and just showing that when they are out there being ‘heroes’ they do get affected. A lot of times they’re not sure how they’re affected until it’s too late. So in the pilot there’s a traumatic event that affects our main characters, our main paramedics and you start to see through the series how their own trauma simmers to the surface and it’s different for everyone as well. So it’s just showing the human side of the hero.

Can you talk about the format of the show? Is it more procedural where every episode there’s a case they go on, as well as stories that overlap, trauma in their own lives?

Kevin Rankin: I think that what it’s going to be is that each week there will be some sort of event, a major event. What’s neat is at the beginning of each episode there’s sort of a thriller or mystery element because something is going on. It’s almost like ‘Six Feet Under’ where you know someone is going to die but you just don’t know who. You don’t know where the accident is going to come from that makes us call 911 that brings us to the scene. That’s sort of the beginning of each episode, that we get called to some sort of emergency. There are A, B, C storylines and there is a bit of a procedural but not in the classical sense of like a ‘CSI’. We’ll come on to a scene and there’ll be an injury. We’re going to sit there and put two and two together. There will be some detecting within the scene but as a whole, an hour long show, it’s not going to be one case and at the end we figure it all out and everyone is happy. But that being said, each episode is very standalone. You don’t really need to see the one before it although there is a through line throughout the series, throughout the season. It’s very exciting. I would call it a thriller with some comedy thrown in there. It really has it all.

How different is it from other medical shows like, maybe, ‘ER’?

Kevin Rankin: I would say that this is really the first medical show I know that is really exclusively out in the field. You’re rarely going to see inside of a hospital. So every location, really so far it’s been a beautiful San Francisco location. It’s much, much faster paced as well, and also, another difference from other medical shows is that on this one you’re going to see the accidents. We’re not just there right after them. You’re actually going to see the accidents before they happen and how they happen and then we show up. So it’s really giving you a full three-sixty view of the emergency world. You’re seeing it from the beginning to the ending.

How many episodes have you shot so far?

Kevin Rankin: We’re in the middle of, almost done with episode four.

So you already have a bit more information than just your first episode. Can you talk about your character?

Kevin Rankin: Tyler Briggs. Tyler is an EMT, not quite a paramedic which just means that he didn’t take a couple of tests, and if he did he would be able to become a paramedic. But he was a part of an EMT community that travels around from disaster sites to disaster sites. So, like ‘9/11 in New York and he was in New Orleans for Katrina. So he’s really a sort of Carny, a nomad is what they’re calling him. He jumps around from major city to major city and really is just into the whole culture of medicine and emergency and just being there. He deals with his own trauma with humor and he’s also a workaholic and wants to constantly pick up shifts. He never wants to go home. He’d rather look a patient in the face than look himself in the face in the mirror because then he has to deal with his own problems. So he’s constantly trying to shift focus on someone else.

What’s going to happen to him in the first episodes, anything big we should be looking forward to?

Kevin Rankin: Tyler, in the beginning, the first couple of episodes, he’s sort of there supporting his partner played by Derek Luke – Cameron Boone – who’s a family man. He’s the one character who is a family man. He’s having a really tough time at home. So I’m sort of there for him and now that we’re in episode four they’re really starting to show more of Tyler and just a lot more, to be honest, comedy, a lot more funny stuff. I’m not quite sure what path they’re taking Tyler down. I just do know that Tyler is sort of walking a tightrope as I think all the characters are and if you’re not careful he could slip. You might see that within the first season. I think that Tyler Briggs is a very unpredictable character, very unpredictable. So be prepared for anything.

What’s been your favorite episode out of the four so far?

Kevin Rankin: The one that we’re doing right now, this fourth one. This one has been great. This is my biggest episode yet and they’re just giving me a lot of great stuff to do. There’s a big fire at a Chinese restaurant and we save some illegal prostitutes. You know, the normal, everyday job. [laughs]

Do you have a favorite character on the show, aside from yours, that you really like watching?

Kevin Rankin: Yeah, the character of Rabbit played by Cliff Curtis. That’s the character that I really love and in fact my character, Tyler, actually on the show really looks up to Rabbit and wants to be Rabbit because Rabbit is just no holds barred adrenaline junkie. He’s just all about the job and Tyler really looks up to him. Actually, in real life, that’s a character that’s just sort of like Han Solo. It’s a really awesome character played by Cliff Curtis who’s just an amazing actor and I’m just super happy to be working with him as well as Derek Luke who, not enough words can be said about him, for sure.

Can you talk about your acting process, how you prepare for a role and more specifically how you prepared for your role on ‘Trauma’?

Kevin Rankin: Well, they pulled us in pretty early and we were taking these little medical classes with these consultants, paramedic consultants and doctors. Then when we got to San Francisco we went out on ride-alongs with the fire department and the San Francisco paramedics. So we spent some time actually out in the field and talking with these guys. What was most important to me was that there’s a certain protocol that they always have to follow. I was just interested in what type of person becomes a paramedic and also how do they make that protocol fit to who they are and their own personality. Even though they all do the same protocol I wanted to see what was interesting about each individual paramedic and how they approached the public because they deal with the public in their job. You never know what you’re going to get. I thought that was a really exciting part of their job.
There’s another thing, a lot of paramedics are going to have some problems with the show because on those ride alongs there are a lot of boring calls. There’s the old lady that fell and needed to be helped up. So there’s not always exploding eighteen wheelers. So I know that might be a sort of issue with some paramedics out there, but we really are trying and we really did put the time in with the real fire department up here and we’re just trying to do the best that we can for those guys, for the paramedics and for the medical world.

Any cool stories from doing the ride alongs with them?

Kevin Rankin: One that was really neat is that San Francisco is the only city in the country that has what they call a frequent flyer and these are 911 abusers who are calling constantly because they know that we have to take you. So, basically, they get a free bed for the night. They get cleaned up and they get a meal. They know we have to take you. So what San Francisco does when we have frequent flyers, the actual fire captain will come down and not only will they help to try and save your life that night but they’ll try to save your life overall. They’ll try to get you with a social worker. They’ll try to get you off the street. They’ll try to get you cleaned up. It’s not just a quick fix in San Francisco. They’re not just trying to put a band-aid over the problem. They really want to get to the root of it and actually try to help people and not just physically. They really want to help people. I thought that was really inspiring about this city in general and I’d like to see that take hold in other cities across the country.

Is that going to be used in the show?

Kevin Rankin: I know that we’re dealing with frequent flyers and I’m pretty sure that we’re going to work that story in there because San Francisco is so unique in that way. I’m pretty sure we’re going to work that into there because frequent flyer is a huge stress on the 911 system and the emergency rooms with all the abuse that gets taken out on 911. So I think it’s a huge problem and something that’s really worth looking at on the show.

What originally drew you to acting?

Kevin Rankin: I would say that I was just a huge fan of movies and TV growing up. Originally I wanted to be a stuntman because of ‘The Fall Guy’ with Lee Majors, this TV show. I realized that he was just an actor portraying the stuntman and so I was like, ‘Oh, I want to be the actor.’ I was really into, like, ‘Rambo’ and ‘Commando’ and was really into action movies as a kid. As I got older I just really broadened my horizons and started watching dramas and was just a huge, huge fan and thought there was nothing else I’d rather do with the time in my life than this.

Do you have a dream role that you haven’t had a chance to do yet?

Kevin Rankin: I mean, I’d like to do…that’s a really hard question because I do consider myself a character actor who really wants to play the gamut, everything in my career. I’ve gotten a chance to play a lot of different characters. I’d like to do a biopic at some point. I’d like to do something that is really grounded in reality, something that actually happened. I couldn’t tell you who or what event, but just be a part of something that was historically correct. That kind of stuff is really interesting to me.

Is there an actor that you’d love to work with that you haven’t had a chance to?

Kevin Rankin: Ooh, yeah. There’s plenty of them. I’d say Gary Oldman. Wow, there’s a huge list. I’m working with two of them right now, with Cliff Curtis and Derek Luke. Literally, those are two guys that are on my list and now I’m doing a series with them so I couldn’t be happier about that, for sure.

Any upcoming projects that you can talk about apart from ‘Trauma’?

Kevin Rankin: I did a foreign film called ‘Friendship’ which is the follow up from the German producer that did ‘Lives of Others’. I have a small role in that and I also did a pilot for FX that just got picked up called ‘Lawman’ with Timothy Olyphant as the lead of that. I play one of the main bad guys named Devil in that pilot. That won’t be out until the spring on FX. Other than that just busy on ‘Trauma’.

When is ‘Friendship’ coming out?

Kevin Rankin: I think that’s November 5th. I think it’s theatrical across Europe is November 5th and I’m not sure exactly when it comes to America and in what form, whether it be DVD or it might get a small theatrical release over here.

How will ‘Lawman’ affect your role on ‘Trauma’? Will you be a regular on the show?

Kevin Rankin: No. I won’t be a regular. They want to sort of create a world where there’s a possibility that I could pop in and out of episodes throughout, if there’s an opportunity because I don’t know they don’t start shooting for another month or two. So if we don’t overlap too much there could be a possibility of me getting to go and do a little bit more of that show which is a great show and I had a great time. The character is great. I play a White Supremacist and I have tattoos all over my neck and chest and so it was a really good time. I’d love to go back and do something on that show.

I saw a clip from ‘Lawman’ where Timothy Olyphant throws this guy out because he’s trying to get to this girl.

Kevin Rankin: That’s my partner, that guy. That’s my little partner. His name is Dewy and I’m Devil. It’s great because this is an Elmore Leonard inspired show, based on his novel and so it’s got all these great characters.

You’ve guest starred on a lot of shows, but is there another show that you’d love to guest star on if you had a chance to?

Kevin Rankin: Oh, yeah, easily ‘The Office’. That’s top of the list and then if I had to give you another one it would be ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. Those are the two.

It’s so different from all the dramatic shows you’ve guest starred on.

Kevin Rankin: Oh, yeah. It’s sort of like Henry Rollins the musician who plays hardcore metal but really loves to listen to smooth jazz in his off time.