Q&A with Michael Angarano
CINEMAX: Where do we find Bertie at the beginning of this season?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: In the time that has passed since Season 1, Algernon and Bertie have taken on all of the surgical responsibilities of the hospital. Dr. Edwards is now the chief surgeon and Bertie is his second in command. They’ve found they work really well together and it’s significantly more efficient and less frenetic and chaotic without Thackery. They both appreciate that Thackery and Gallinger are gone. Emotionally, Bertie has matured. He is more assured and walks around with a confidence he didn’t have in Season 1. He’s the one to ask the questions now instead of being the youngest and newest on the staff. He’s grown as a man and as a surgeon.
CINEMAX: What major challenges will Bertie face this season?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: First, when Thackery comes back to the hospital, Bertie has to decide between him and joining Dr. Zinberg at Mount Sinai hospital. I don’t think he looks at Thack with any fondness anymore. Any admiration or reverence he had for him, has definitely gone away when he saw him at his low point last season.
The second major challenge is that once he gets to Mount Sinai he’s very low on the totem pole. In the last couple of months with Algernon, he’d grown so much as a surgeon and accepted so much responsibility that to be delegated to lab duty is really frustrating to him.
Third challenge is when his mother gets sick. Everything he’s gone through professionally and emotionally at that point probably hasn’t prepared him for what he’s about to do. When he has to perform a surgery on his mother – a surgery that he probably knows is fruitless, that’s in the infantile stages of success rate, and something he can’t even bring himself to ask one of the other surgeons to perform because he knows they would never do it. I think it's Thackery’s influence on Bertie that validates that decision. It’s the voice in his head that says sometimes you just have to take a risk.
CINEMAX: Why does Lucy’s relationship with Thackery bother Bertie to the extent that it does?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: There’s something that bothers him about the relationship because he knows deep down how inappropriate it was. The fact he was lied to and the way the people he loved showed a complete lack of respect for him and made him seem like a naïve fool. It’s that more than them being together. He feels if he was just a little pawn, he respects himself way too much for that.
CINEMAX: How do you get into character to play Bertie? What type of research have you done?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: There was so much material that we all had at our fingertips – countless books, so many pictures. The script itself was extremely informative and educational while creating a fictionalized narrative. There wasn’t anything that helped more than realizing aesthetically what Bertie was going to sound like, look like, how he was going to walk.
For me it started at the fittings with [costume designer] Ellen Mirojnick when I finally realized what Bertie wears every morning and how he ties his bowtie. All these nuanced details were given to us as actors. We did work on our own, but we were given so much by this amazing team. How Soderbergh shoots the show is very voyeuristic and sometimes you don’t get to see the moldings on the wall that we get to see. Everything from the props to the background to the woodwork, the lights on the wall, everything is so detailed and so many people have done so much to make sure this is authentic that as an actor all you have to do is get out of your own way to fit in.
CINEMAX: What is Bertie’s main motivation in his life and work?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: To be the best surgeon he can possibly be.
CINEMAX:What has been the most challenging scene for you to film and why?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: You really have to brace yourself before you do one of those surgery scenes because you’re about to do a stunt where there’s so many things that have to go right in relation to the camera, to the prosthetics, your own performance. So many things have to go right to pull this off and you’re only going to get one or two chances at it. Those give you adrenaline because you have to get it right and it’s like theater, like performing live. You have to do it right the first or second time.
CINEMAX: At the end of Season 1 where I take Thackery with Lucy to Cromartie, the rehab center. Soderbergh told me the audience needs to see the complete shift in Bertie, and it was unofficial death of Bertie as a young man and the birth of Bertie as a man. And he wanted to see that in how he carried himself and how he sounded. The coldness and precision in his voice. Most of my scenes with Thackery and Lucy in the rest of the season were the opposite, they were very warm and loose and really enjoyable. But there had to be certain detachment. It wasn’t difficult, but it was different than anything else I’ve done as Bertie.
1. What procedure from the show would be the scariest to undergo?
Tumor removal of my mother.
2. What costume would you like to take home?
A background extra, Irish working class costumers. Living in Williamsburg that’s how I dress anyway
3. What other NYC time period would you like to live in?
4. What’s your addiction?