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'Saving Hope' Season 2: Erica Durance, Michael Shanks On What's To Come


On "Saving Hope," Toronto's Hope Zion Hospital is healing both body and soul. On a weekly basis, Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance), Dr. Joel Goran (Daniel Gillies) and the medical staff are dealing with sickness, injuries and diseases. Then there's Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks), who has awoken from his coma only to discover he can see and converse with ghosts. Charlie's supernatural gift seems to require helping them spiritually by piecing their lives back together.

On the Toronto set in June, Alex is contemplating her options about performing a massive surgery when the situation goes from bad to worse. She's having a loud altercation with another doctor, who not only has a personal connection with the patient, but isn't exactly who he claims to be, either.

Durance and Shanks sat down with HuffPost Canada TV to talk about Season 2 of "Saving Hope," what's in store for their characters, and the basic concepts of life and death on the show.

Many people are afraid of doctors and hospitals. What are your feelings towards them?

Erica Durance: I didn't have any bad experiences. When I was younger, my brother had asthma a lot, so he has a lot more of a connection with it. He was in the hospital quite a bit. For me, it was this unknown entity, which is probably why I was interested in this kind of show, where I could learn something different.

When the series picks up, are Alex and Charlie married or did he leave her at the altar?

Michael Shanks: Charlie and Alex are still very much together, but due to all the things that have happened and changed ... we give a nice healthy jump in time where there was probably some fallout and Charlie made up some nonsense to explain it. Maybe cold feet or something. They had a long discussion and went away. They are still in love, but it's, "You know what? Let's be together, but not necessarily get married at this particular point. Every time we seem to [try and get married], something happens. Let's work our way through, put a pin in that one and just move forward."

Season 1 ended on a few cliffhangers. Where is Alex's headspace when we see her?

ED: This picks up with Alex and Charlie trying to find their way again, but as it happens in a lot of situations where they say there are traumas or different tragedies, people are never the same. It picks up with them coming back from a vacation and they're getting back into work. Alex is trying to negotiate "Where am I? Where am I going?" She senses something is a little off with Charlie or he's changed from his situation. It's about how you reconnect again. As a doctor, she's come back to reinsert herself in the hospital and to get her career going again.

How has this whole coma experience changed Charlie as a person and a doctor?

MS: You would think he would be a little more sensitive. It's less about the coma experience and more about the ghost experience. That's the main thing that we will see changing him. The way I found playing him is you can empathize a little bit more with people but at a certain point, doctors are doctors. My emotional connection to you is not going to help you. What I can do is fix the body. He's quick to bounce back to that rhythm.

With the ghost angle, it makes him much more attached to their personal story. We're still discovering whether that's going to be good or bad. In some cases, Charlie finds out through this blessing/curse he can do some good. He can help people find closure over certain things. We're still waiting for the bottom to drop out of it and about what the downside is. As we're opening up the concept, Charlie is actually a better doctor. People who are spirits can tell him stuff about themselves.

Alex was understandably an emotional wreck while Charlie was in a coma. Are we going to see a lighter, happier Alex having more fun this season?

ED: Yeah, a lot more fun, whether it's me as an actor having moments where life goes sideways or whether it's Alex ... I'm not sure. It was so constraining last year because of that specific thing and it was more serialized. This season, they have the emotional side of it, they have all the little plot points for people to continue to fall in love with the characters. But, it has a little bit of procedural, as well. You're allowed to breathe and she is too. You discover more about her relationship with Joel and how they relate to each other. She does get to loosen up a bit, which is nice.

When you take on a role like this, you think it's a really great script. Then you realize, "I've started at such a high-intensity level." To be quite honest, a lot of it is a blur. A lot of people come back and say, "You cried in every scene, every day, for six months." And I was like, "Really?" I think it was this vortex I was in. I did get pretty tired at the end and I needed a lot of time off.

In the Season 1 finale, Charlie discovered he is essentially a "ghost whisperer" and can still communicate with spirits. Does he believe he's lost his marbles?

MS: Charlie and Alex go on a vacation after his recovery is done to have a good time and sort things out about their relationship. He hasn't had this problem while he's been away. He comes back and boom! Another ghost in his face. He wants to get another CAT scan. He wants to get sent to a therapist. Charlie tries to deal with "What is this all about?" until he finally agrees to help one of these spirits out.

Some ghosts are unconscious patients. In general, what do they want?

MS: In an early case, one is worried he will go away with a regret in his life that he wants to undo. Another guy comes up and won't tell Charlie what he wants. He just keeps singing. Some patients are going to be a pain in the ass and just follow Charlie around. In another storyline, you get a patient who reveals some secrets that they probably wouldn't otherwise in their conscious form, and then forgets they revealed them when they wake up. Charlie is burdened with this information.

Other people complicate Alex and Charlie's relationship. Will his ex-wife Dawn (Michelle Nolden) be back?

MS: Obviously, Michelle is a wonderful actor. She proved that last year. She took what could have been a two-dimensional wicked witch and really made her a person who has feelings. Bringing her into the fore, you go from this pseudo love triangle into this love square. She's going to shake it up a little by flirting with Joel and making Alex's life a living hell.

Joel originally came to the hospital to work under Charlie. Now he's been promoted, is your boss and still carries a torch for Alex. That must be awkward.

MS: When Charlie comes back, Joel is not only running the damn hospital, but in Charlie's old job. They are both orthopods too, so you get this competitive dynamic with Joel still having feelings for Alex and Charlie aware of all this stuff. There's going to be some sparks there in terms of Joel still chasing after her, and Charlie is not going to be terribly receptive to that notion. It starts off a little passive and gets aggressive quickly.

And where do Alex and Joel stand at this point?

ED: What I love about the Joel and Alex relationship is all the elements you can pull from and how well they know each other. They can get each other out of their bad moods or hard times by this jousting they do. They bait each other a lot. Having him be in a superior position is really fun to play with all those different layers. Of course, Alex does a few things that are not necessarily good protocol and he has to deal with that.

How would you describe Alex's bedside manner?

ED: She has a tendency to over-identify with the patients and get overly involved and blur the line and draw parallels between her life and what that person is going through. Sometimes that gets fuzzy and she makes decisions she normally wouldn't.

What does having your episode count increased to 18 allow you to do story-wise?

MS: You can give other characters more to do. You don't have to be so precious with just Erica and Daniel and Michael getting their stories. You can really flesh out the show's other characters, which expands out this world. You can tell a larger arc, so whatever is going on with this ghost thing or the politics in the hospital or even some of the stories that evolve. Joel starts to develop a relationship with a patient. We get to see where his head is on his personal journey.

The procedural aspect is an important element in "Saving Hope." Can you preview what the writers have whipped up?

MS: There's a shooting in the first episode. A couple of civilians get shot and one ends up being a woman who brings her son in because he got nicked by a bullet. Then she finds out she was the one actually shot and is trailing blood. She's been getting there on adrenaline. Joel has to work hard to save the mother and all of a sudden, the kid is attracted to Joel. On the flip side, Charlie is dealing with a guy who was shot and fell down an escalator. He's the ghost of the week. We have a case in this particular episode where this man goes in to coma world and confesses he has two wives and both are coming to visit him in the hospital.

Charlie says, "You need a bone marrow transplant. You didn't have kids. This could be a match for you. You could save your life." When the guy wakes up, he doesn't remember the conversation. I'm really looking forward to the next episode because there's a character named Rusty, who is Charlie's nemesis. He's a lawyer who tried to sue him for six and a half million for malpractice. He becomes a patient and insists Charlie does the surgery. Something happens and he becomes the ghost haunting Charlie. We also get a visit from our old psychic friend Randall (Peter Keleghan), who comes in as a patient.

Last season, some of the major themes revolved around hope, life and death, and what that means. How will you be building on those?

ED: For me, it was the crux of dealing with always moving forward and finding hope in the face of that. They'll be able to keep the whole supernatural realm through Charlie's character. How honest are you with your loved ones? Do you let them know or not? There's all of that maintenance and the arc continues to flow through. It's interesting this year because he's having to deal with it in real time and us potentially noticing it. How does he continue to communicate and does he really want to?

"Saving Hope" Season 2 premieres on June 25 at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

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