It’s may be a medical show, but it’s not just any medical show.
“We’re bringing in more military stories,” explains Jeff Judah, one of the Executive Producers of the series. “Our hospital is going to merge a little bit with the VA [Veterans Administration], so we’re going to be able to tell veteran stories every week, in every episode.”
Judah was speaking about his series The Night Shift, now in its fourth season, at a recent Television Critics Association event.
Set in a San Antonio hospital, the narrative focuses on the medical staff as they take on the toughest cases; where every shift is a fight between the heroic efforts of saving lives and the hard truths of running a hospital.
The decision to highlight former members of the military, Judah says, comes from the thought that, ”a lot of times our veterans still don’t get the respect that they deserve. You read daily about mistreatment. It just kind of drives you crazy that the best of us are not being taken care of the best way, so we thought we could really lean into this and tell these stories.”
To bring the true reality of the military experience to the series, Judah confirmed that his team is staffed with experts. “One of our doctors is actually a doctor at the VA in Long Beach, California. We also have one of our writers, Brian Anthony, who is a five‑time‑tour veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a West Point graduate. He gives us very specific details and he brings in people that can tell us all [about] what it’s like [to be a veteran].
Showing the real experiences of the medical personnel is a key focus of the series, says Judah. “This is what they have to see. It’s very difficult what they do. We just really want to get that across.”
Jill Flint, who portrays Dr. Jordan Alexander, believes one if the central questions of the series is, “how [do you] remain human [when] you have so much happening? [Because it’s so graphic] you stop seeing people at some point, so how do you maintain that human connection with people, and keep recognizing that you’re actually treating a life?”
Building on this thought, Scott Wolf who stars in the series as Dr. Scott Clemmens, said, “I think we all tend to see soldiers as if they were born soldiers and doctors as if they were born doctors. What a show like this does is show that [the soldiers] are human beings, the doctors are human beings and the patients are human beings. And, the emotional undercurrent of what’s at stake for everyone is massive.”
He added, “So I feel like one of the things that this show explores is how do you deal with literally life and death and the most emotional experiences of a person’s life and still maintain your focus and do your work?”
Explaining the cadence of the episodes, Judah gave this description: “We’ll be doing that sort of roller‑coaster thrill that we like to do every episode — high‑octane, adrenaline rescues. When the doctors go out to save somebody there’s the ‘golden hour,’ which means you have about one hour to really sort of get someone back to the hospital. So that’s why every episode, you’ll always see us going out in the helicopter or to do some sort of rescue like that.”
To increase their support and admiration for these veterans, Judah said that a special episode of the series is happening this season. “We’re going to do an episode that will be written by a veteran, directed by a veteran, and all of the guest roles — every speaking role besides the regular cast — will be played by a military veteran.”
In summation, Wolf said, “The people really doing this work are the most magnificent people in the sense of how much focus they have, how much dedication they have, how much expertise they have. And they don’t just do it in a relaxed environment; they do it when everything is on the line. Those are the stories we’re telling here.”
The Night Shift airs Thursday nights at 10pm e/p on NBC.