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Jason O'Mara talks about the 'ever-deepening crisis' on Complications

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Frank Ockenfels 3/USA Network

USA Network’s new series, Complications, introduces audiences to Dr. John Ellison (Jason O’Mara), a doctor who is still learning to live with the heartbreak of his daughter’s death. But it’s when he steps in to intervene during a drive-by shooting that Ellison is truly put to the test as his whole world is suddenly turned upside and he learns that doing the right thing often has consequences. 

EW caught up with O’Mara to get the scoop on heroism, the wild second half of the season and all things Complications

Complications premieres Thursday, June 18 at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.      

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe Complications and your character John Ellison?

O’MARA: I think the most interesting thing about it is that – here’s a man who has done the right thing. He’s made a split second decision; he’s decided to stick by that decision. And he is not going to get rewarded for it. In fact, he’s going to get punished. He’s going to be chastised by his bosses. He’s going to have a psychiatric evaluation. His wife is going to have a ton of questions. His family is going to be put into a ton of danger. Instead of having a feeling that everything is going to be okay, everything gets worse. There’s a sense of an ever-deepening crisis as each episode unravels.

John has all these different layers to him. Would you describe him as an anti-hero? How blurred are the lines between good and bad for him?

First of all, I’ll start out by saying that when I had a phone call with Matt Nix… [creator of Complications] I said, “Look, obviously there’s an opportunity for John Ellison to become a kind of [like Breaking Bad’s] Walter White where he becomes morally corrupted by what’s happening.” And Matt said that the one thing that he is absolutely sure of is that John Ellison could be as reluctant as he wants to be, but at the end of the day he would always be heroic. He would always try to do the right thing for the right reasons.

Now, other people might not agree with him and might not agree that it was the right thing to do or the right reason to do it, but he believed that it was. Ultimately, his moral compass will always come back to North no matter how far he gets pushed. So, that was something that was really important to Matt. It also meant that we could push it quite far. John Ellison is a flawed character and he doesn’t always do the right thing or make the right decisions, but ultimately he’s doing it for the greater good. That’s what makes him a hero.

John saving the life of this boy, Antoine, who appeared to be the target in this drive-by, will that be something that guides the first season, or will it resolve itself?

It absolutely guides every episode of the series. I suppose what’s important to note is that the story takes place over two weeks. It’s a very compressed timeline — you’re almost talking about a day per episode. Obviously, we’re not doing 24 here, that’s not what this is about. But, you know it’s a day or day and half per episode. Things are almost happening in real time.

So, this boy has to recover from this gunshot. He has to recover somewhere safe that’s protected. We have to ensure that no matter what — John Ellison has been told that if anything happens to the boy, that he’s dead. That’s the deal. He has to make sure the boy is taken care of. That’s a pretty full-time job in and of itself. There are lots of people who don’t want that boy saved. While that sounds linear, there are other parts of the story that branch out and become important. While Antoine is at the center, he’s not always the focus. 

Obviously, this will be something that impacts his marriage as you mentioned. How does it start to manifest in his relationship with his wife Sam (Beth Riesgraf) which was already struggling? 

I think in two major ways… John is quite comfortable as long as he is lying to keep the status quo; he is quite comfortable to remain in that state. Whatever happens here by saving the boy, while it’s put him and his family in danger, he actually breathes a sigh of relief that he was able to make an impact the situation and for it to have a positive outcome because he wasn’t able to do that when his daughter was suffering. That compulsion feeds a lot of John’s decisions. He’d be quite happy just not dealing with the grief, not dealing with the pain and just going on as he is. Rather, you know, you can’t bury that stuff and expect it to stay buried for that long. A lot emotion, a lot of that grief, frustration and sense of loss.

The real issue is John and Sam are dealing with it in very different ways. She’s dealt with it in one way, and he’s dealt with it and dealing with it in another. Once the truth starts to come out, a rift appears. They seem suddenly very far apart. There’s obviously a build up to that, and I don’t want to give anything else away, but it’s like a bomb goes off in their marriage and they have to deal with that as well as everything else that going on around them.

Will we see more flashbacks to learn more of what John and his relationship [with his wife] were like before their daughter Becky died?

Again, it’s a bit like Antoine. Children are at the center of this but they’re not always the focus of it. It’s an adult drama about adult characters. So, I think we wanted to make sure that the character of the daughter who is played by Matt Nix’s own daughter by the way, who is actually a terrific little actress [Laughs], she’s terrific. She appears in flashbacks, but they’re quite short in some episodes. In some episodes, they’re a flash — other episodes open on a scene with her. What they went through [as a family] casts a shadow on what’s going on now, but it’s not the source of the tension. The tension is what he’s going through right now, but that’s obviously fed by the awful experience his family has had. It’s really tastefully done. It’s heart-breaking but not in a manipulative way. It’s not depressing. I think it’s kind of beautiful actually. 

Is there an episode or scene that you’re particularly excited for people who watch the show to witness?

I wouldn’t say there’s any particular scene. There are loads of scenes, some of which I can’t even talk about because I’d be spoiling the story. But, I think we all felt that while we know that the first half of the season is strong, the second half plays like gangbusters. It’s almost like you earn — setting up all these situations, and done quite an exciting way as every episode has a sort of dramatic climax to it.

Once all of these worlds and all these characters are established, it’s like Matt and all of the writers just went crazy [Laughs]. All of this great stuff started to come out and every episode got better and better. When you hit episode four, or maybe five, there are a few things that happen that it’s like, “Boom, I’m on board. Let’s go.” I think people are going to have a hard time waiting a whole week for a new episode during that stage. I’m excited about those people who choose to watch this for the first half of the season and then they get to sit back and be rewarded. 

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