Stepping back in time on our very own city streets. It was surreal how Steven Soderbergh transformed our NYC back to 1900. Fascinating to see the world so dimly lit, horses in the streets and everyone in no makeup at all. He wanted it to be REAL.
And no cellphones allowed on set. They did release some cool photos in New York Magazine, though.
The world of medicine back then was a world of such tension and mystery. I visited the renowned Massachusetts General Hospital Museum in Boston which was full of surgical paraphernalia of the time. I was fascinated by the pin cushions they used to use without sterilizing the needles between operations. Looking at the museum displays, you could feel what a frightening (exciting?) frontier modern medicine must have been.
My own morbid interests led me to look up what vocal cord surgery looked like in this era.
The only weapon with which the unconscious patient can immediately retaliate upon the incompetent surgeon is hemorrhage. ~ William Stewart Halsted
This is what actors and theaters of the time looked like:
I played a woman under a great weight of tragedy and loss. I would spend hours in my trailer in my corset, waiting to work, and my heart was so heavy. She (Catherine) sometimes had to dress to be seen in public, and I imagined how she had to contain her emotions, showing dignity and grace despite a crumbling life.
You never know in television how much will make it to broadcast, how much will remain. I felt Catherine’s whole life in those four months of shooting. We could do a spin off on her background life at university, her medical knowledge, her secret desire and her feminism. Much of that my own invention in my head :)!!!
I loved reading about the feminism of that time. The feelings against granting women voting rights involved complex reasoning including that women don’t WANT to vote. An example of such thinking about this “considerable stir” (warning: this next link is irritating) appeared in a 1906 Life Magazine editorial.
Being on The Knick begged for research. How could you NOT take walking tours of Five Points? For those with a fetish for Lower East Side History, please start snooping around the work and life of Adam Woodward, a preservationist in New York City and a very good friend of mine who knows just about everything there is to know about Bowery-area history and the architectural riches both visible and beneath surfaces.
Seth Abrams is another great New Yorker (and now a friend!) and his walking tours of the Lower East Side and the New York underworld must NOT be missed. Seriously, you have to make time! He will fascinate you. Get info about his work – and take a tour! – at LESHP.org.
Or go to the big New York Public Libraries and pour through book after book on historical New York City?
I immersed myself in reading about gangs and medical life. I watched the film Hester Street and made friends with an East Village historian, and he took me to lunch at Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street (where he was sure my character would have eaten). Keens is a historical NY experience NOT to be missed!!!
Meeting Clive Owen was a dream come true. We had so many great talks, and he shared funny theater stories. I pried to find out if he can sing, secretly wondering if he could pull off Fagin in OLIVER! (a musical he adores!) so I could get a second shot at Nancy, a role I’m passionate to play again. (I did it with Brian Stokes Mitchell for one night only on Broadway for a gala and it was thrilling.) Clive may be able to sing; I think it’s worth dreaming about some more. Why not keep dreams alive, right? I mean what more do we have?
I won’t say a thing about who he plays or how the bigger plot lines go. But his character is somewhat related to a particular surgeon and there is a fascinating novel you may want to read called Genius on The Edge. I am unsure the exact relationship to the writing of the show, but trust me it’s all riveting. No doubt, Steven Soderbergh is bound to surprise us all with his contribution to this era and this world and in the end, all you can do is keep tuning in and commit to the ride!
I was a small part in this and honored. The atmosphere was intense and very focused. The costume and hair teams were expert at transforming us the moment we arrived. It was like being swept back in time. Every detail was meticulously executed.
Episode One, the premiere, aired on August 8, 2014 and my character Catherine was established at the funeral of my husband. Clearly, Dr. JM Christiansen was a huge influence on Clive Owen’s Dr. Thackery in more ways than one. I appear in four episodes. I think! All ten episodes were shot out of sequence (which in itself is miraculous, daring and unusual.) I’m not sure which I’ll be in; it all depends on one plot detail that I can’t tell you. I think this is a case of letting this show just happen and everyone getting lost in the overall effect of this era and a kaleidoscope of characters. I just can’t wait to see it all come together.