Interview: Benjamin Hollingsworth
This Wednesday at 10/9c on CBS, the hit series Code Black will air the second part of its two-part Season 2 finale. In part one of the two-part finale, a viral outbreak jeopardizes the doctors and patients of Angel's Memorial.
Unfortunately for fans of the medical drama, we saw the death of one of the cast members of Code Black in part one. Will there be more tragedy ahead for the doctors of Angels Memorial? You’ll have to tune in and see.
Until then, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Mario Savetti, played by actor Benjamin Hollingsworth for an exclusive interview. The Canadian born and classically trained actor has become one of the standouts on the hit series.
We talked with the actor about his characters journey so far, the blossoming of a new relationship on the series and what fans can expect from the second part of the Season 2 finale.
Pop Culture Principle – As an actor, do you find it a challenge to play a character that isn’t always likable?
Benjamin Hollingsworth – Yes, I think it’s a challenge but also sometimes you are tasked with a more daunting challenge of making a character likable always and I think that’s almost impossible because to play humans, we all inevitably have faults and that’s what makes us interesting.
When you get the opportunity to play a character who has those faults and is in the process of working through them, it’s actually more of a gift I would say because you get to add dimension and make the character complex. So yes, I would say it’s both challenging and a bit of a gift.
Pop Culture Principle – How do you think Dr. Mario Savetti is enjoying not only being a second-year resident, but being a teacher to the first-year residents?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - You know I think it’s an interesting balance that he is trying to navigate. I think that on one side of it, it’s only his second year, but in the ER especially at Angels Memorial, experience comes fast. Even after the first episode, you feel like you’ve been through it and in a lot of ways they have.
So, he’s more than qualified to give the first-year residents advice and also because he’s learned so much over the first year of his residency. You know, the best lessons are learned through mistakes and he’s definitely made his fair share of those in the first season.
Pop Culture Principle – We see there seems to be a bit of a romance developing between Savetti and Dr. Noa Kean. Do you feel it’s important to show another side of your character and how will that play out and impact Mario during the second season?
Benjamin Hollingsworth – You will for sure see more of Mario and Noa this season. There are some medical dramas that focus heavily on the personal and romantic side of life in the ER and in reality, it’s so busy at Angels Memorial that there isn’t a whole lot of time to develop something like that. So, I think the writers are very smart to take their time with it and it’s a slow developing thing that lends itself to what actually happens when you are in the trenches with someone for a long period of time.
Savetti seems like the kind of guy that might not necessarily have the smoothest relationship with women. I think the lack of seeing his parents having a functioning relationship also contributes to that. He’s got no example of a healthy relationship, so it will be interesting to watch their relationship develop.
Pop Culture Principle – Savetti’s relationship with Dr. Angus Leighton has been one of highs and lows. Why do you think there is still some tension between these two and what is it like working with Harry Ford?
Benjamin Hollingsworth – You know, Harry and I have a lot of fun on set together. We both come from the same pedigree of being classically trained actors. We both spent three or four years of our lives in theater school and not doing any acting in film, television or on stage, we just focused on learning the craft. You develop a dialogue and you develop a sense of scene structure. Also for Harry and I, we are close friends outside of Code Black and that boils over into the onscreen relationship.
As far as the back and forth with our characters, it’s just fantastic writing. Their relationship can switch on a dime and I think that’s what really good friends can do. You can be at each other’s throats one minute and then be the best of friends the next minute. As the seasons 1 and 2 go on, you see these guys who are so polar opposite realize that there is a lot of common ground between them and that they see themselves in each other a little bit and I think that’s the magic of it.
Pop Culture Principle – Eric Roberts played your father for several episodes and we got to see what kind of parents Saveitti had to deal with. What was it like working with Eric Roberts and how important was that storyline to your character’s over all story?
Benjamin Hollingsworth – I am just very blessed to have gotten to work with a talented actor like Eric Roberts and again, it was great writing. I was given a great storyline and it was kind of a glimpse into why Mario is who he is and was who he was. He’s definitely developing into a different kind of person.
Pop Culture Principle - Rob Lowe has joined the cast in Season two. What has his joining the cast meant to the series and how have you enjoyed working with him?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - Rob is a lot of fun on set. He's always game for a little mischief. Luis Guzmán, Rob and I shot a parody to that Matthew McConaughey iconic Lincoln commercial with the bull. Only instead of the bull, we used Luis. Lowe played McConaughey so well that it only took us 45-minutes to shoot. I have the video pinned on my twitter. It's my directorial debut. @hollingsworthb check it out)
Pop Culture Principle - If there was a scene or an episode put in a time capsule that you would consider great so far in the series, what would it be?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - As a series we've had some giant episodes. I think season one Ep. 105 (Doctors with Borders), Ep. 109 (Lion King), Ep. 115 (Diagnosis of Exclusion), and season two Ep. 213 (Unfinished Business) were all examples of what we are capable of as a show.
For Mario specifically, I am very proud of the storyline in Ep.108 (You are the Heart), Ep.110 (Cardiac Support), and this season Ep. 202 and Ep. 205 where you see Mario face off against his past with his father. The scene at the end of Ep. 205 with Mario and Angus in the morgue, is a memorable one for sure.
Pop Culture Principle - What do you think is Mario Savetti’s greatest weakness and his greatest strength?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - His weakness is his strength and that's what makes him such a fun character to play. He's so committed to being the best that it ends up coming back to bite him in the ass. He can't help his competitive nature, but it's the fear of failure that keeps him sharp and able to survive at Angels.
Pop Culture Principle - Now that you are in your second season on Code Black, has all the medical jargon become easier for you?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - No, I don't think it will ever be easy. Even the doctors I talk to say that those six-syllable words of medical jargon are never going to just roll off your tongue. Of course the more you say any particular word, the easier it is. Similar to a foreign language. But there are so many strange terms and medicine names out there, that you're always likely to run into a tongue twister.
Pop Culture Principle - What do you think sets Code Black apart from shows ER and Grey’s Anatomy?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - The shows are very different visually and tonally. I think our style is grittier and a little more fast-paced, but both shows share a common theme of telling stories with a strong emotional core.
Pop Culture Principle - What can fans look forward to in the two part Season two finale?
Benjamin Hollingsworth - Our show runner, Michael Seitzman describes it as feature film split into two parts. It's one of our largest undertakings yet. The stakes are high and the doctors lives are on the line. Angels has been exposed to a deadly infectious viral outbreak and the race is on to find a cure before lives are lost. It's white-knuckled suspense that is sure to be one of Code Black's finest episodes to date.
We would like to thank Benjamin for taking time from his very busy schedule to talk with us. You can catch part two of the Code Black Season 2 finale this Wednesday at 10/9c only on CBS. If you would like to keep up with all of Benjamin's latest news and projects, you can follow his official Twitter account @hollingsworthb.
**Main photo courtesy of Simon Seez**
**Code Black photos courtesy of CBS Television**