'The Resident' Boss on Why He's Keeping Emily VanCamp's Season 5 Exit 'Unexpected' (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
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A lot of changes are coming to The Residentwhen season 5 kicks off Tuesday, following Emily VanCamp's surprising exit and a lighter presence for Morris Chestnut. But executive producer/co-showrunner Peter Elkoff says the Fox medical drama is taking these creative roadblocks and turning them into opportunities to give more of a spotlight to newer characters like Jessica Lucas' Billie Sutton and Anuja Joshi's Leela Devi.
"It's always nervous-making when characters depart," Elkoff acknowledged in a phone interview with ET. "And we always hope that when we cast new characters that they will engage the audience. And it's still early. We had a shortened season [last year], so we didn't really get to string their stuff out too long, but I think there's some great stuff. I love both of them [Jessica and Anuja], and I think the audiences will too."
"We also have a new male character coming in shortly, and he's going to really stir things up in a good way," he said, referring to the introduction of Miles Fowler's Trevor, aka Billie's estranged son. "Listen, you hate to lose anyone who the audience loved, but we are good at this and we have great casting people and we built these new characters, I think, pretty well."
With the looming absence of VanCamp's Nic, who's raising a baby girl with Conrad, bearing weight over the early part of the season, Elkoff was coy about the lingering aftermath of her absence. "We didn't have conversations because of the circumstances of her personal life," he said when asked if they connected to discuss how best to write her character off. (VanCamp gave birth to her first child with husband Josh Bowman, revealing the news in late August via Instagram.)
And Elkoff politely declined to elaborate on when and how Nic will be written out of the show. "I don't want to give any sense," he explained. "I want it to be unexpected for the audience and want the audience to get to that place organically without any foreknowledge. So I guess I'm not going to say anything."
As for when Chestnut may be freed up from his duties on the new Fox drama, Our Kind of People, to swing by The Resident again, Elkoff said they're "figuring that out right now."
The premiere picks up about nine months after the events of the finale, a calculated decision by the writers to fast-forward through the early days of parenthood for Conrad and Nic, as well as Devon and Leela's blossoming romance.
"We wanted Conrad's and Nic's baby to not be two weeks old. It also gives the opportunity, because we ended season 4, Devon and Leela kissed and it gave us a chance to put them nine months into a relationship, really become another classic romantic Resident couple," Elkoff said. "They're talking about moving in together. And in the next handful of episodes, there are going to be some very interesting familial intrusions for them, which will be both funny and not so funny. We have a big surprise in episode six along those lines that I think everyone is going to freak out and then love. We haven't talked about this, but I think it would be pretty cool if we had a big giant East Indian wedding at the end of the season."
"I don't know if that's going to happen, but it's an obvious signpost in the distant future. I'm speaking to you as a fan, as much as a writer and saying, 'Boy, would that be a fun episode to watch,'" he confessed. "And by the way, we've spent five years making Devon's romantic life really complicated and difficult. He hasn't had an easy time with it."
As for Conrad and Nic being new parents, that comes with its own set of challenges and complications, which the premiere offers a glimpse into.
"I think for both of them, she's a dream come true. What's really good about it is that new parents have the same confusing, complicated, worrisome, stressful things punctuated with the most incredible joy at having a child. I think that's just universal. No matter who you are, you're going to have it. It's going to be really hard, and it's going to be really wonderful," Elkoff said. "Nic and Conrad are no different from any other parents. They're both hardworking -- the doctor and a nurse practitioner -- and those hours are crazy, and a baby needs you. There's just going to be a lot of choices that have to be made about how to go about being working parents. That's something that across this country people deal with. What we were aiming for was universality, but telling also the specific nature of our characters' stories."
"I think that thing of people who are hard-charging professionals who live their lives according to their passion, suddenly they're like, 'Oh, wait a minute. This little blob comes before everything I do.' And Conrad and Nic are no different, that holy cow, priorities change," he elaborated later. "I if you're a doctor or a nurse who works 12-hour shifts, who's exhausted and drained by saving lives, but suddenly this little girl needs something, that might interfere with that."
Broadly speaking, The Resident will dig into the bigger question of happiness and what that means for the each doctor at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital.
"In the first half of the season, a lot of the stories we're telling tip their hat to the notion of work and life and how do you balance [that]. For our characters particularly, in the high stress life of being a doctor, what is the definition of happiness for each of our characters? Between career and family and time off, the work-life balance s the simplest way to say it. That's really the big theme," he previewed. "Each of our main characters will deal with that question in a different way and a different element of it."
"We're going to tell the same high-stakes medical stories. We're going to try to maybe talk about Medicare fraud and other elements of our industry because we do try to address the wrongs. So there's a good chance we'll get into some of that. And we're going to have a couple of really interesting stories that deal with some of the more abstract notions of medicine," Elkoff said, promising that though there are changes in front of and behind the camera, "we're not going to change the basic nature of the show." "We just have a couple of new faces and a couple of wrinkles in our storytelling devices, which will come within the first 10 episodes that I think the audience is going to love."
The Residentreturns Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. For more, watch below.