CBS’ freshman medical drama Code Black clinched a second season renewal based on a pitch by creator/exec producer Michael Seitzman that included changes for Season 2 and a structure resembling real-life that includes a revolving cast of younger cast members. As part of the plan, two series regulars, Bonnie Somerville and Raza Jaffrey, are departing. Two recurring players, Jillian Murray and Boris Kodjoe, have been promoted to regular. A male co-lead for Marcia Gay Harden is expected to be added, along with four new residents, all heavily recurring with an eye toward becoming regulars.
“The concept of the show is for each season to begin on the first day for incoming freshman residents, just as in real life there is a cycle of residents coming in and residents either graduating or moving on,” Seitzman told Deadline. “Another hallmark of the show is that our fictional hospital is intensely populated. Not only do we average 800 extras per episode, but we have a revolving cast of doctors and nurses who enter and exit the show regularly. Bonnie Somerville and Raza Jaffrey are beloved by the audience, as well as the rest of the cast and crew. Their departure is painful for us, is no reflection on the extraordinary work they both did on the show.”
The reasons behind the casting changes are purely creative and not a sign of cutbacks as Code Black will boast one of the biggest casts on television, especially for a sophomore show, counting 13 regulars. It also features a very big guest cast, another way Seitzman and his team are trying to have the series reflect the real-life situation at a busy ER. (The 800 extras per episode support the title of the show, which indicates ER that is overwhelmed by patients.)
While going forward Code Black will continue to spend the lion share of its budget on cast, the series will likely be more nimble with contracts to allow the writers to take creative chances, like killing off Christina Vidal’s recurring character Gina in Season 1.
“The goal is to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, wondering if the jeopardy is real, and the only way to do it is to make it real,” Seitzman said.
Code Black, whose first season revolved around four first-year residents and their colleagues at the fictional Angels Memorial Hospital, was a consistent ratings performer, never falling under 1.1 ratings among adults 18-49 in Live+same day. What’s more, I hear CBS brass opted to go for a second season on the show — co-produced by ABC Studios and CBS Studios — while canceling two fully owned CBS drama series, freshman Limitless, which was higher rated, and sophomore CSI: Cyber, because they believe Code Black has long-term potential.
Code Black is returning in the fall, staying its its Wednesday 10 PM slot. It is one of two medical dramas on CBS’ schedule, along with new series Pure Genius. That is reminiscent of the 2009-1010 season when CBS launched two medical dramas, Three Rives and Miami Medical. Neither made it to Season 2.
For Code Black, this is a second revamp. The project underwent changes at the pilot stage when the lead, originally written younger and cast with Maggie Grace, was reworked for Harden. Meanwhile, the supporting role Harden had been cast in was aged down and cast with Somerville.