S. Epatha Merkerson on ‘Chicago Med’ Taking a Page from ‘Golden Bachelor’

S. Epatha Merkerson

The Golden Bachelor was such a hit that the Golden Bachelorette is going to follow, but first Chicago Med is cashing in on the viewing audience’s interest in senior romance by pairing up hospital administrator Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) with Dr. Dennis Washington (John Earl Jelks), and Merkerson, for one, is loving the storyline.

“Listen, don’t it happen? Ain’t it the truth?” Merkerson tells Parade in this interview. “Come on. You know what I’m saying? That’s why I think this is so lovely, is that we have a woman of a certain age who’s being giggly. Yes, that happens, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve known people who’ve gotten married in their 80s. The fact that we have to have the conversation cracks me up.”

For the past eight and a half seasons on Chicago Med, we’ve watched Sharon deal with medical crisis, take on the Gaffney Chicago Medical Center board, get a divorce from Bert (Greg Alan Williams) and face various and sundry other crisis, so it’s great to now see this woman at the top of her game also find a moment for a little romance.

But being that Chicago Med is a drama, it can’t be smooth sailing, and in this instance, Bert will add a little drama to the Sharon/Dennis love story. It’s looking as if there will be a health issue for Bert that Sharon feels compelled to get involved with because of her children, especially when daughter Tara (Nicolette Robinson) shows her a video that seems to demonstrate that Bert may be in the early stages of dementia.

Greg Alan Williams, S. Epatha Merkerson, Nicolette Robinson<p>Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC</p>
Greg Alan Williams, S. Epatha Merkerson, Nicolette Robinson

Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC

“She’s at a point in her life now where she’s met this new man and she’d really love to move on, and her ex just keeps coming back,” Merkerson continues. “I think [she feels] irritation initially. And even looking at the video, her response at the end of the episode is, ‘Damn, not again, I have to deal with this man again.’ I think it’s frustration.”

Luckily for Sharon, at least so far, Dennis seems to understand that at their age, they each bring some baggage into the relationship, and in her case, it’s that her love for her children makes her stay in touch with her ex. Is this what a mature love looks like?

“Hello. Hello. I think that’s what’s kind of cool about it,” Merkerson says. “It’s that maturity that hopefully we’ll see in these characters as they navigate this new space. Because it’s new for Dennis Washington, it’s new for Sharon Goodwin. And then we’ll find out how it works for Bert and the family. But I think it’s important that she deals with her children’s concerns, no matter how old her children get. I was in my 50s and my mother would still say, ‘Baby, call me. Call me if you need me.’”

John Earl Jelks, Oliver Platt<p>Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC</p>
John Earl Jelks, Oliver Platt

Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC

Related: After a Major Cast Shakeup, What's in Store for Chicago Med Season 9?

During our conversation, Merkerson also talks about turning to her friend Dr. Charles (Oliver Platt) for assistance with Bert’s diagnosis, how Sharon puts up with all the craziness from the doctors in the ED, and how the revolving cast keeps it fresh for her in the ninth season of the series.

Sharon turns to Dr. Charles for assistance to evaluate Bert’s memory. Is that because they are good friends, so she would trust his diagnosis over somebody else’s?

Absolutely. That’s what we’ve seen over the past eight years, is a friendship. An old friendship. I think that on both sides when each of them is dealing with something, they go to one another. Because it’s so much easier to talk to someone who knows your history. You don’t need a lot of words for that. When you say something, it’s understood. I love this relationship, this friendship, of Charles and Goodwin.

You talked about Sharon being at the top of her game. It helps, I think, that she was a nurse before she was an administrator. But she put up with all the craziness of Dr. Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) and now she has Dr. Ahmad (Sophia Ali). Even Dr. Marcel (Dominic Rains) has been known to cross lines. Hannah (Jessy Schram) had a drug problem. Why does she put up with all these doctors?

Because they’re good at what they do. Sometimes you overlook certain things. You’ve got to crash at some point and put the finger down. But, by and large, she likes these people, and she protects them because they are so damn good at what they do. You can’t ignore that. You can’t ignore what they do well. When they make mistakes, you have to let them know. But when they save a life that’s why they’re there, because they are extraordinary at what they do.

Related: After a Major Cast Shakeup, What's in Store for Chicago Med Season 9?

With Jessy Schram’s character, Hannah, with Maggie (Marlyne Barrett) going through her problems and Dr. Archer (Steven Weber) with this whole kidney story, all of these people have issues because they’re human. In this humanness, they have these abilities that can save lives. I think any doctor in any hospital will tell you that. If there’s someone with a problem like Ahmad, who comes in and she thinks with her heart, she doesn’t always think with her head, but the reason why she does something is from her heart, what do you have to do? You have to focus on that because they’ve got the ability, they would not be in the hospital if they did not have the ability.

S. Epatha Merkerson<p>Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC</p>
S. Epatha Merkerson

Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC

I think that’s why Sharon’s as strong as she is, because she’s got to run this hospital with all of these different personalities and all of the craziness that happens in an ED. She has to be on top of her game. The only way she can do that is having people that are on top of their game, no matter how they come to her. The bottom line is saving lives.

Related: Chicago Med's Brian Tee on Teaming Up With Nicole Kidman in Hong Kong for Expats

There’s been a lot of changes in the cast, which in a normal workplace is realistic. But on TV, we usually keep the same cast. How exciting is that as an actor to have all these fresh faces to interact with, to be there in Season 9 but it’s still new?

That’s what makes it new. In Law & Order, it used to happen like every three or four years we would get new people. Sometimes five years. You have your steady group of folks. For that, it was me and Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach or Dennis Farina. And the young folks would come in and out. I do think that that’s what’s happening here. The consistent people that you see are Daniel Charles, Sharon Goodwin and Maggie Lockwood. Those are the three consistent people that you see. I think that it helps with our viewers, as well, to see this new energy and how they come in. They certainly miss Halstead. Come on, everybody misses Will Halstead. Or Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto) or Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell). They are great. Brian Tee as Ethan Choi, those are great characters.

But it’s the energy that comes in when we get a new cast member and how we all have to figure out how to work with one another. It’s just really kind of cool because it keeps you on your feet.

Chicago Med airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Next, Eight Spoilers for the Chicago Med Season 9 Premiere