Interview: Jillian Murray
Currently in its second season, the CBS medical drama Code Black has become a solid hit for the network. One of the reasons for the success of the series is the work of actress Jillian Murray who plays Dr. Heather Pinkney.
The Pennsylvania born actress is building quite the resume of work in just a short amount of time. She’s appeared in series such as Murder in the First, Awkward, Sonny with a Chance and Rules of Engagement. She’s also appeared in films such as The Graves, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, and An American Carol. She also produced the film Visible Scars and starred in the film alongside Tom Sizemore.
Today, we sit down with Jillian to talk about her work on Code Black, how she’s handled the medical jargon and procedures in the series and what it’s like working with the cast of the series.
Pop Culture Principle – In the first season of Code Black, your character was in some trouble and causing drama and was not a well-liked character on the show. How do you compare your character from Season 1 to Season 2?
Jillian Murray – She has calmed down a lot. There is way less drama and she isn’t dealing drugs or sleeping with numerous people now. She is way more focused on her patients which is a good thing.
Pop Culture Principle – Your character has given you the opportunity to grow as an actor. How do you enjoy playing someone with so many layers?
Jillian Murray – I guess you are always looking forward to what the writers have in store for you, so it’s really up to them to make decisions on how many layers of the character are going to be exposed. I only know up to each episode and sometimes it’s only a couple of days before we start the actual shoot that I get a script. So, I just pray that the writers write amazing things for us.
Pop Culture Principle – For the beginning of Season 2 of Code Black, two of the Season 1 cast members were gone and Rob Lowe and Boris Kodjoe have come aboard as new cast members. Did these changes affect you or the cast in any way?
Jillian Murray – Well, Boris was the same situation as me. He was a recur last season and we were both bumped up to season regulars together. Having Rob Lowe join was a huge shock and we actually only found out the morning of the table read for the first episode of the season. So, it was really a last second decision and I guess the official deal wasn’t done until that day. The entire cast got a text from the creator letting everyone know that Rob Lowe had joined the cast.
Pop Culture Principle – What has it been like working with veterans such as Marcia Gay Harden, Luis Guzman and Rob Lowe and are you learning more about your craft while working with them?
Jillian Murray – I work more with Marcia and she brings this element of calm to the show and it’s almost this beautiful femininity to everything she does. There is just something very warm about her and whenever I have a scene with her, I really look forward to it because it feels like she is hugging you the entire time she’s doing the scene with you and it makes you feel comfortable.
A lot of my scenes are also with Boris Kodjoe, whom I love to death, and he’s also my favorite person from the cast. So, when I get to do scenes with him, I am always in a good mood. There is such a light about Boris and unless you know him, you don’t realize it. Off screen, he is one of the most amazing human beings. He gives me life advice and relationship advice. I think because he’s a father, it has brought a whole other element to him. If I take anything away from working on this show is that I got to work with him for a full season.
Pop Culture Principle – How difficult was it to get use to the medical jargon you use in the series and is it easier for you now with a full season under your belt?
Jillian Murray – You know, it is so much easier. The dialogue rolls off my tongue so much easier than I expected it to. Even doing the procedures themselves like threading needles or using the hypodermic needle, it feels like the instruments just fit in my hands different. You get use to holding them right and it just becomes so natural, but it took almost the entire first season before I felt like that.
Pop Culture Principle – The medical procedures performed by the actors look so real. What kind of training and preparation did the cast do to make it look so real?
Jillian Murray – We have real doctors and nurses on set at all times. Before we started the show, we all went to medical boot camp. They run through all procedures that are the basics of what you would do on a consistent basis. Also, for each episode, the script would come out and you would actually meet one on one with someone depending on what the procedure is. I feel like if I was in an emergency situation, I would feel so confident to jump on a random person and try and help. I truly think I could make a difference. Maybe I am really delusional, but I do believe that this show has given me enough medical knowledge to perform some procedures!
Pop Culture Principle – As a viewer, there is a lot of stress and tension watching the series. Do you feel that on set when shooting those intense series?
Jillian Murray – Well, when I watch the episodes, I feel the exact same anxiety that you are talking about. When I am in it, it’s slower paced and it feels very sped up because the way they edit the show and the music in the scenes. But, I think when you are filming it, it’s a little more controlled, so you are not as overwhelmed. When we are doing scenes in center stage, which is that middle area in the ER when there are a lot of patients at once and all the extras, it does get a little stressful in those scenes because of the large number of extras and all the noise and you do have to stay very focused.
Pop Culture Principle – What do you think separates Code Black from medical shows like Chicago Med, ER and Grey’s Anatomy?
Jillian Murray – We are an upgraded version! We are ER 2.0. I have watched those shows because you want to see what else is out there. We are actually doing procedures and focused on the medicine whereas those shows are focused on the drama with the relationships and the personal struggles that the doctors are going through and we are focused on the patients and telling a great story with each patient in each episode.
I feel like shows like Grey’s Anatomy and ER have softer plots and it’s a more television version of what it would be like in a hospital and ours is a more reality version of what it would be like in a hospital. Also, we have the laughs and the cries in each episode and I don’t think any other show is doing that. We have the full emotional spectrum in each episode. Every time I watch the show, I realize that I laughed a few times and cried a few times and every episode feels like a full movie. I haven’t really seen anything else on the air where I experience bipolar emotions within an hour.
Pop Culture Principle – Code Black has been able to mix comedy, action and procedures in a very effective way. Would you agree with that?
Jillian Murray – 100 percent! I think that we decorate it perfectly with just the right amount and it keeps you wanting more of each aspect of the show. The show also gives you a taste of unfamiliar circumstances like certain medical things that we talk about on the show, we might not all know about it. It’s kind of enlightening to have the writers expose certain illnesses out there. One of the most recent episodes of the series that deal with spina bifida was a very personal one for Boris because his daughter in real life is experiencing that and it was a really personal story for him to get to tell.
Many people don’t know about those things going on in the world. There are so many medical things out there and diseases and illnesses and I think that we get exposed every episode to something new.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you feel there is still this double standard with career oriented females as opposed to career oriented males?
Jillian Murray – I feel that females get labeled as a bitch or something like that. Last year, when my character was a bit promiscuous, she was sort of slut shamed on Twitter and I think there would probably be double standard if it was a male character. There are certain aspects where a female doesn’t get away with as much as a male would, especially standing up to their superiors.
Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the rest of this season of Code Black?
Jillian Murray – A lot more of what Code Black does best!
We would like to thank Jillian Murray for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us! Code Black returns with all new episodes this Wednesday, January 4th at 10/9c only on CBS. If you would like to keep up with Jillian's latest news and projects, you can follow her on Twitter @JillianMurray and Instagram @jillianmurrayofficial.
**All photos courtesy of CBS**