Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
At today’s TCA panel on Fox’s new drama series The Mob Doctor, show co-creators/executive producers Josh Berman and Rob Wright said they were looking to create in their lead character Dr. Grace Devlin a female lead akin to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, played by multiple Emmy winner Bryan Cranston. That is, someone seduced into a moral gray area. The inspiration for her character is Rob Feiber’s book Il Dottore, based on a real-life physician who came to treat such mob leaders as John Gotti and Carlos Gambino, they said. Although they had the idea for a mob doctor before becoming aware of the book, “it helped convince us that this could actually happen”, Wright said.
In the series, shot on location in Chicago, Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) plays a doctor torn between the physician’s Hippocratic Oath and her own family’s mob ties. The idea, the producers say, is to test her morality as much as possible. Wright called it a show for “highbrow and regular people too. It’s a re-imagining of Dr. Faustus, but also ER meets The Sopranos”.
Both producers are veterans of the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva, which Berman created. Said Berman: “Drop Dead Diva is about two women living one life; this is about one woman living two lives”.
After the session, Wright said that, while their character is not specifically a female Walter White, they “absolutely” were looking to recent successful characters including White and Weeds’ Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) “in a way that would feel cool”.
Executive producer Carla Kettner said the show will be grounded in reality, although there will be elements of dark humor, such as a case in which Dr. Devlin treats a racehorse with an “uncontrollable erection.” The producers said that even this oddball story line is based on a real-life case of someone trying to steal semen from a star racehorse.
In terms of network notes, the producers say that so far they have not been asked to adjust their lead character’s moral compass. Said Berman: “We had a note from Standards this morning [saying] when you show a character’s urine, make sure it’s not too yellow”.
Producers confirmed that cast member Terry Kinney would play a significant role in upcoming episodes. But cast member Zach Gilford says there’s no such thing as job security on a show about organized crime: “We’re all expendable in a mob world”, he said.