Patrick Wilson’s “A Gifted Man” is gearing up to finish its first season with a bang. They’re about to shoot the final episode, according to Executive Producer Neal Baer. And, he lets us know, the last two episodes should be especially satisfying for those viewers who’ve embraced the ambitious series that’s attempted to meld medicine and spirituality.
Expect Broadway’s Tammy Blanchard to make an important appearance — and Eriq LaSalle’s role to be key.
Baer says the show — which changes time slots to 9 o’clock Fridays starting Feb. 17 — will revisit questions about the nature of surgeon Michael Holt’s (Wilson) late ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle). Is she a ghost? His conscience? Why is she there? “Then you’re going to see something pretty emotionally moving involving the character. Patrick has a big scene, a wonderful scene,” Baer says. “We’ve been very careful, up ’til now, that nobody ever sees him in conversation with Anna, other than a word or two, but Eriq La Salle catches him in a screaming match with her, and from his point of view, Patrick is just yelling in the air.”
That will lead to issues being addressed, explains the distinguished writer/pediatrician, whose credits include “ER” and “Law & Order: SVU.”
He adds, “I love doing this through Eriq La Salle. It’s a wonderful deja vu. He hasn’t aged in 18 years. He looks the same as when I first saw him in 1994. I said, ‘Eriq, have I been here before?’” However, Baer stresses that La Salle’s current character, psychiatrist Edward “E-Mo’” Morris, is nothing like his former TV doctor. When Baer talked to La Salle about “A Gifted Man,” the actor said, “‘Don’t make him anything like Peter Benton.’” La Salle also directed the Feb. 17 episode that features Christina Milian. “A Gifted Man” may not surmount its ratings struggles, but no one can say they’re not making a worthy effort.
MEANWHILE: Baer’s dividing his time right now between multiple writing chores. His and Jonathan Greene’s just-released (ital.) Kill Switch (end ital.) page-turner is already earmarked for the big-screen with Katherine Heigl attached to play the heroine, forensic psychiatrist Claire Waters. Baer says, “We’re working on it. Kevin McCormick, who just finished a film (“Gangster Squad”) Sean Penn and Emma Stone is going to produce. It’s going out to studios and companies. The movie business takes time, you know. That’s what I like about TV. A script I wrote last week is going to be shot next week and it will be on in February.”
Ironically, Baer and Greene originally wrote “Kill Switch” as a movie, “about 10 years ago. We wrote about a 35-page outline, and worked on it for a couple of months.” Time passed. “I was busy doing ‘SVU’ and life…a couple of kids were born…” The outline literally sat in a bottom desk drawer until Baer’s literary agent let him know she was looking for a medical thriller. Now he and Greene are into writing the second book of their three-book deal.
This is the second time Baer’s been involved in a project that lay dormant for a decade before coming to life. The first was a drama Michael Chrichton had written based on his experiences while a med student at Harvard in 1969 that “was in a trunk in Steven Spielberg’s office for 10 years, as I heard the story,” relates Baer. Baer, a later Harvard Med grad, wound up updating that script — “ER.”