Doctor's Orders: Interview with Emily Owens, M.D.'s Necar Zadegan

By , Contributor

Steve Kay

Actress Necar Zadegan

Comedy, drama, sci-fi — Necar Zadegan has had plenty of experience working in a number of genres throughout her acting career. Currently, she is keeping busy rattling off medical jargon and mentoring a group of new interns as gifted cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Gina Bandari in the CW medical drama Emily Owens, M.D. As is sometimes the case in her profession, Zadegan encountered a bit of a detour when booking the job.

“During the last pilot season I received a number of scripts to look at, but then one day my manager called me and said, ‘I found the one that you’re going to do,’” recalls the actress. “He sent me the pilot script for Emily Owens, M.D. and I loved it. I phoned him back and said, ‘You’re totally right. I want to do this one.’

“Weeks and weeks went by but all we kept hearing was that they [the producers] were still working on some things. It was only after I booked the role that I talked to the show’s creator Jennie Urman—who is the executive producer, show runner, head writer and just a phenomenal and fantastic person—and found out what had gone on.

“Apparently they had been working with a different casting company from the one that originally got in touch with me about the role. At one point the producers saw my headshot and Jennie said, ‘That’s the girl I want to play Gina Bandari.’ They finally tracked me down through this other casting agency and Jennie told me that when I walked into the audition room, she was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s the girl from the headshot.’ I auditioned knowing that I wanted the role, but I had no idea that they really wanted me. Fortunately, the synergy was right and we just kind of grew together from there.”

Set in Denver Memorial Hospital, Emily Owens, M.D. follows the life of the title character (played my Mamie Gummer), a first year intern trying to deal with the demands of her fledgling medical career along with a med school crush and a high school nemesis, both of whom are working at the same hospital. She also has to prove to Dr. Gina Bandari, the surgeon who is watching over Emily and her fellow interns, that she is more than capable of doing her job. The show’s pilot episode had plenty to keep viewers entertained and was a joy for Zadegan to work on.

“Everything went so smoothly and we all enjoyed working together so much,” she says. “Our director, Bharat Nalluri, who we’ve since worked with again, is extremely talented as well as organized and really understands our characters. It was obvious that everyone was so perfectly cast. Jennie was there, too, with us every day during the pilot shoot, and it was such a pleasure having her on set.

“When you’re working on a pilot and just the first season of a show in general, it’s all new and sometimes not everyone has fallen into place and maybe doesn’t quite understand the pace of the genre and you’re all trying to figure it out. In this instance, though, it was quite the opposite. It felt like everything and everyone was on a roll and that’s what sticks out in my mind the most. That’s the kind of thing that makes me so comfortable and happy to be on a set. I certainly was and I think we all were.

“I love my cast,” enthuses the actress. “When we heard that the pilot got picked up as a series, I ran into Michael Rady, who plays Micah Barnes. He came up to me, gave me a big hug and said, ‘You know, I love this cast so much that I was positive we weren’t going to be picked up.’ I told him, ‘I know, me too.’

“We really do enjoy working together. Mamie Gummer is so smart and empowered. She’s a wonderful number one on our set. I mean, Aja King [Cassandra Kopolson] is fresh out of Yale, and Kelly McCreary [Tyra Dupre] is fresh out of Columbia — the pedigree on these girls is impressive and I love working with a cast led by such strong, beautiful and talented women. We’re also very fortunate to have Justin Hartley [Will Collins] and Michael Rady, who round us out as a couple of CW network vets. I adore them all.”

Zadegan chuckles when asked to describe her character of the tough-as-nails but caring Gina Bandari. “Well, let me tell you right off the bat, the medical jargon is extremely challenging. It’s one thing to look up a word, but it’s another thing to then look at that definition and realize that you have to look up that up, too, because it’s not part of your day-to-day vocabulary. So that part is really challenging, as is all the stuff in the OR and making the surgery look believable.

“As far as Gina, she’s not only a cardiothoracic surgeon, but she’s the best one in the world, and these ‘kids’ have come to learn from her. Underneath it all, Gina really is a kind teacher who’s here to save the world. There’s a great scene in the pilot where my character is introduced and she’s walking the interns down a hallway in the hospital. It’s such a terrific moment, not just because we get to see Gina, but more because of the way that the interns are kind of reacting to her. It’s just so telling. In fact, it was my audition piece and I had a blast doing it.”

The actress has graced the small screen as a guest star in several other series including NCIS, CSI: Miami, Lost, Harry’s Law and Major Crimes. She also had a recurring role in 24, where her character of Dalia Hassan was caught up in clock-ticking political intrigue, as well as in The Event, in which she played a beautiful and ambitious alien named Isabel.

“Some of the 24 producers also worked on The Event, so after having played Dalia for so long, they asked me to come do their new show,” notes Zadegan. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working on 24, not just because the producers and the writing on that show were so great, but also because they gave me such a gift in the role of Dalia.

“When we wrapped 24 I really wanted to work with the producers again, and I was happy that they wanted to work with me again, too, so when they offered me the role of Isabel on The Event I jumped at it. That character was in a lot of ways the opposite of what I did as Dalia, which was cool. Dalia was such an emotional woman who kind of lived for the lives and safety of her family. She was very much a mama bear, whereas Isabel was driven by her own goals.

“I had to leave The Event because the stage show I was in [From Satellite with Love "Az Mahvareh Ta Eshgh”] went to Broadway. It was exciting to go to New York, but at the same time I was sad to leave Isabel behind.”

Along with Emily Owens M.D. and some personal projects that she is producing, Zadegan can also be seein in the upcoming feature film Meth Head, which recently toured the various film festivals. “Given the title, you can probably guess what it’s about,” she teases.

“As a woman, it’s extremely rewarding for me to play really strong characters that are also integral to the story. When you look at scripts, it’s no secret that there aren’t as many good parts for women as there are for men. So I’m very grateful for the roles I have been able to play, and I hope that such opportunities continue for me.”

Please note, all Emily Owens, M.D. photos copyright of the CW Network.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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