Before I saw the third season premiere of “HawthoRNe” (Tuesday, June 14 at 10 p.m. EST) I thought the big news was the addition of Derek Luke (remember “Antwone Fisher”?) to the cast. Luke plays Miles Bourget, the new protégé of Dr. Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan) at the hospital. He’s a guy who prays for his patients, keeps a low profile and seems to be, like Tom, one of the good guys. Basically, a doctor you’d like to be on your insurance carrier’s list of health care providers but never is.
At last night’s screening party in Hollywood, I spoke to new guy Luke about Miles’ addition to the show. While we don’t see a lot of Miles in the premiere, we will be seeing more of him soon – and even Luke is still learning all the nuances of the character. “[The character] evolved as we were on set,” he said. “What I really enjoy about the show is every moment has been a surprise, because we’re filling him out as we go.”
Luke told me that Miles, who moves to Virginia from Chicago as he and his wife struggle through a divorce, is a likely candidate to bring some drama to the hospital. After all, he falls for Camille (Hannah Hodson), the daughter of Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith
), which isn’t usually a great idea when you’re still getting unentangled from your ex. “Miles represents kind of where the country is right now. There have been so many families that have been shaken and broken. And almost everything that happens in this country shifts his character. Men don’t often get to talk about what they’re going through on screen, but what I love about Miles is he’s an open book.”
But, as I mentioned earlier, though Luke is an intriguing addition to the show he isn’t what you’ll remember most about the third season premiere. The episode starts off on a breezily happy note: Christina is five months pregnant, she and Tom are about to cap off their on-again-off-again relationship with a walk down the aisle and Steven (Adam Rayner) is itching to propose to Bobbie (Suleka Mathew). But it doesn’t take long for things to take a very, very dark turn.
The tagline for season three is “For Better. For Worse.” And after this episode, I’m expecting a lot of worse. No spoilers, but how one character handles a hellish experience is the focus, and though this show has never shied away from big drama, this one isn't easy to watch (or, I'm sure, bear). While subplots do percolate in the background, neither we nor the characters are spared from this ordeal, which makes me hope that the show’s writers will be doing something we hardly ever see on other medical dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Private Practice”: digging into the emotions stirred up by an unexpected trauma instead of devoting a few scenes before dancing on to the next potboiler. I could be wrong, but I hope not. This one episode sows the seeds for a season’s worth of complicated relationships, drama and possibly some legal trouble for one or more characters at a later date. Not bad for 41 minutes of TV.
While some moments during the show were typical TV missteps (on the nose dialogue, characters that hewed closer to stereotype than I'd like), I’m also taking the addition of John Tinker (who shares a writing Emmy with “Hawthorne” creator John Masius and Tom Fontana and whose credits also include “Chicago Hope”) as a new executive producer as a good sign for the future. As one of the doctors on the show might say, I'm cautiously optimistic.