Tom Ellis Talks of Irresistible Rush Role, Being Once's Accidental Robin Hood

Rush Preview Tom Ellis
Rush Preview Tom Ellis

Good medicine can come from not-so-good people, USA Network’s Rush aims to illustrate starting this Thursday at 9/8c.

Tom Ellis (the UK’s Miranda) headlines the series as Dr. William Rush, a renegade physician who only treats the wealthy and elite, and only for (lots of) cold, hard cash. But make no mistake, this is no sun-baked Royal Pains redux; Rush the show, the man, has a gritty edge — a quality that pulled Ellis right in, for his first Stateside starring role.

TVLINE | What was your first reaction upon reading this script? Because this guy is dark.
Over the last few years, things have picked up for me and I’ve been sent a lot of scripts, and quite early on in a script you work out what the general tone of the piece is. By page three of this one, I was like, “Oh my god, I want to play this guy.” It was f–king great. So I made my tape and within 24 hours I got a call from [series creator] Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) saying, “I want you to be him,” and I went, “What?!” It was great.

TVLINE | Had you been wanting to break out Stateside?
Yeah, I’ve been coming back and forth the last couple of years, and I’ve done a couple of pilots that haven’t been picked up…. I felt like it was a matter of time before something clicked.

TVLINE | I know the Once Upon a Time fans took a shine to you, even if for just that one episode.
That was a weird job for me because it came about kind of by accident. I’d been at ABC for a pilot that they were doing, but the woman who cast it phoned my manager and said, “We want to offer Tom the part of Robin Hood on Once Upon a Time.” So I said yes and I did that, and that was a great experience — I sort of broke my duck on American TV.

TVLINE | In your mind, how does Rush rationalize his credo, his philosophy, helping those who sometimes perhaps aren’t entirely deserving?
In order to get to that point, I needed to understand this guy, and Jonathan and I sat down and created a backstory for him, which will be explained during the first season. I was fully aware that if this show was going to work, the audience had to kind of root for this guy; that was the first part of that puzzle. I’ve tried to find the human in him, to understand why switched off his “caring button.” Normally, in the real world, I would have to report that [abusive] baseball player to the police, but Rush is like, “You know what? There’s a market for not caring.”

TVLINE | But is it also important to you that he keeps his rough edges? Because the pilot suggests they’ll start to get sanded smooth.
In reality, no one changes overnight, but they pick up points along the way, little moments that resonate and make you think — and then you choose not to think about it again. In the pilot, when he goes out on the date with Sarah (Brothers & Sisters‘ Odette Annable), he opens up his drawer of drugs and he thinks, “What am I going to take…?” But then it’s like, know what, I’m not going to take anything.

Rush - Season 1
Rush - Season 1

TVLINE | Have you ever had an embarrassing injury where you could have used a discreet Dr. Rush?
[Laughs] There was an incident when one of my kids was born, where she was in a baby care unit overnight. The doctor woke me up in the middle of the night to say, “We think there might be a problem, we need to take some blood tests.” So I got up, walked to the care unit where they were taking blood from my daughter’s little foot, and I looked at it and passed out!

TVLINE | Talk about Rush’s relationship with his assistant, Eve (played by Sarah Habel, Underemployed).

Rush - Season 1
Rush - Season 1

We’ll find out how they came to be, but there’s a little clue in the pilot, where he says to her, “We can’t care,” and she says, “If that were the truth, then you and I would never have met.” That gives you a little insight. I think there was the idea that there might be some romantic tension between them, but the way it’s playing out is more like a brother and sister. It’s childish sometimes how they talk to one another. The exchanges they have are a lot of fun.

TVLINE | What are the other important relationships in his life?
There’s his dad, played by Harry Hamlin (Mad Men) — he’s not in the pilot, but he comes on, helping to explain why Rush is the man he is. And there is the relationship with Alex, [a fellow physician] played by Larenz Tate (Rescue Me)…. They roomed at Harvard together, coming from different ends of the spectrum, socially. Alex is an overachiever and has worked really hard to get where he’s at.

TVLINE | Do you get recognized here in the States?
No! [Laughs] No. But we’ll see how it goes.

TVLINE | Yet back in the UK….
Miranda is like the biggest comedy show in the BBC and has been for a few years. We start off as a tiny little show, and then we were like the most watched show last year. It’s written by and stars Miranda Hart, and it’s about her life and her disfunctionality. It’s a multi-camera sitcom but it’s daft. I play her best friend-slash-love interest, and we were referred to in the UK as the “Ross and Rachel,” with that whole Will They/Won’t They relationship.

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