Anastasia Griffith discusses her “Trauma” experience

by Karl J. Paloucek

It’s a high-adrenaline lifestyle for these first-response unit paramedics, chopper pilots and ambulance drivers, as NBC’s new series Trauma — premiering Sept. 28 — tries to illustrate. One year after a helicopter catastrophe shattered their team, this bunch of hardworking EMTs is still working through the scars, the ghosts and the — yes — trauma that revisits them every day. An ambitious-looking series crying out for attention, Trauma manages to get into some character development and hints at a depth of emotion that could be worth digging into if they can balance it out against the overabundant Bruckheimer/Bay-style action sequences.trauma_0909_5

And they will, according to Anastasia Griffith, who plays uber-medic Nancy Carnahan on the series. “I agree, it comes in very hard and fast,” she says of the pilot episode, “but I personally kind of like that. They earn that toward the end with the space they give the characters, and what they’re going through.” She also explains that although the characters are wrapped up in grief following the spectacular crash as the series begins, it’s not what the series will be all about. “It’s the steam of the show in a kind of big way. It’s why the rescuers go to get rescued,” she says. “[But] we’re going to move beyond the grief — definitely.”

To prepare for her role as Nancy, Griffith spent some time in the back of ambulances, particularly with female EMTs as they responded to various emergencies. It was an eye-opening experience for her in many ways. “I’m sitting in the back of the ambulance,” she says, “going, ‘So how do you deal if someone dies on you on a day of work? How do you deal with that emotion? Does anyone meditate?’ And they just look at each other and kind of burst out laughing, and I’m like, ‘What the @#$% are you laughing about?'”

What occurred to Griffith above all was how different her own everyday existence is from the paramedic whom she would be portraying. “They don’t internalize. They don’t sit around and talk about emotions,” she explains. “This is all actors do — these are our paintbrushes. This is how we have to find the depths of these characters. We’re kind of coming at the same situation but from totally different angles, in a way. They have to have such compassion for the people that they’re dealing with, and understanding, kind of get inside their heads. We have to do the same thing with the characters that we choose, but we just have to do it in totally different ways.”

So Griffith continues to grow and to learn, both as an artist and as a human being, expanding on what she picked up in her time on Damages. Although she doesn’t regret her decision to leave and claims to be 100 percent focused on her work for Trauma, she does express a bit of a yearning to revisit her old stomping grounds. “Damages is going back to do Season 3, and I would really love to make an appearance in some way,” she offers. “I have no idea if that’s even feasible or if they’re even interested — that’s not a conversation that we’ve had. They were incredibly good to me to release me and let me go and do this, because essentially I was still contracted to them. So we’ll just wait and see. … If I could make these two TV shows work, that would be great.”

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