By Lanford Beard
August 27, 2012 at 08:27 PM EDT
Chuck Hodes/Sony Pictures Television

The Hippocratic Oath and mob ties don’t seem like they’d make for a good mix, and that’s exactly where Fox’s upcoming series The Mob Doctor derives its drama. In the upcoming Sopranos-meets-ER drama, Chicago thoracic surgeon Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is forced to use her unique skill set to pay off her brother’s debt to a local crime boss (William Forsythe). Without spoiling too much, it’s safe to say there will be screwdrivers lodged in heads and infirmed horse races involved. And those are just Grace’s nights! During her day job, Grace works alongside her blueblooded boyfriend Brett Robinson, played by Zach Gilford. The Friday Night Lights alum talked exclusive to EW about what to expect when the mafia infiltrates the O.R.

Viewers used to suds with their scrubs (paging, Grey’s Anatomy!) will find their tension in areas other than the bedroom on The Mob Doctor, says Gilford. The relationship between Grace and Brett is “actually the least dramatic, most normal relationship in this kind of setting on TV,” he notes. “With all the high-stakes stuff she has going on in her life, part of the appeal to her about this relationship is that [offers] some kind of normalcy in her life that she can depend on and escape from the craziness.”

Which is not to say that say Brett doesn’t dip his toes in morally grey areas now and again. “In later episodes, he pushes the envelope because he feels like what’s best for the patient isn’t exactly protocol, but he wants to do it anyway.” Though this kind of moral flexibility is something the lovers have in common when it comes to the health of their patients, how will things play out once Brett discovers Grace’s double life? Gilford remained mum on that topic but admitted, “Clearly she’s not being completely forthcoming” — about topics including her extracurricular case load and the re-emergence of an old boyfriend (James Carpinello) who seems primed to clash with Grace’s new fellow.

Though fans of Gilford’s breakout turn as Matt Saracen might be hard-pressed to see parallels between a Chicago hospital and a Dillon, Tx., football field, Gilford says even FNL diehards can find some throughlines to his new project. “We take these heightened scenarios and play them very real to life and not soap opera-y,” he notes. “I think that was the feel of Friday Night Lights — it felt authentic.”

The Mob Doctor premieres Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox. Check out a preview below.

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