At the top of Tuesday's episode, it was revealed that VanCamp's character, beloved nurse practitioner Nic Nevin, had gotten into a single-car collision, the cause of which remained unknown, and her injuries were severe. Shattered with the news that his wife may not be able to recover from the accident, Conrad (Matt Czuchry) was adamant that Nic would be fine. That she would somehow, even though the reality of the science proved otherwise, wake up and be the same old Nic.
"She's going to live forever in your heart," the wife of a patient whom Nic helped treat amid COVID-19 tried to assure Conrad during a moment of vulnerability, after it became clear Nic was braindead. "You have to carry Nic inside you now -- for you and your daughter." But Nic's heartbreaking death wasn't in vain. Per her wishes, her organs were donated to eight transplant patients. With Nic gone and Conrad now a widower and a single father, life after her death will look markedly different for him and the rest of the doctors and nurses at Chastain.
Writing off VanCamp, whose surprise departure broke in August, was a tall order for the writing staff of The Resident, though the possibility that the actress may not return surfaced at the end of season 4.
"It's been a rocky road," executive producer Andrew Chapman acknowledged during an interview with ET on Tuesday. "We had a sense that Emily VanCamp was going to leave the show at the end of last season, but we weren't entirely sure. And then at the beginning of this season, we found out she was, and that she was unavailable to be in episodes 1 and 2. And so we scrambled, but we had a sense that this was going to happen. We just debated in the writers' room long and hard, over the course of many weeks, about how best to honor the character, how best to give Nic Nevin a sendoff that was both honored the character but also felt grounded and realistic. That was something that would feel like could happen -- and it wasn't easy. It was hard."
"The episode is such a huge, emotional roller coaster and powerful. I'm really proud of it. I'm really proud of where we got to... and the actors were so spectacular in it and everybody rallied around and got on board, and it is what it is." Following VanCamp's final episode, Chapman discussed the decision to kill off Nic, why this was the only route they felt they could take and whether this really is the last viewers will see of the character.
ET: Why did you land on having Nic die as a result of a car accident? You must have talked about other options, but why did this feel like the route you wanted to take?
Andrew Chapman: It felt like honestly, the only way to go. We could have killed her off in other methods. But essentially, she was going to need to die because there was no way that Nic Nevin would depart from a relationship with Conrad and still be alive. That just didn't make any sense. That's not who she was. That's not what the relationship was. I don't think anyone would have bought that as a breakup. It just wouldn't have made sense. So we just felt, OK, well, this is what we have to do. It's not even what we have to do. Given that Emily was leaving the show, this was the only possible route. Anything else would feel like not the character. We have certainly gotten feedback from fans: "Don't kill her, don't kill her." I understand that. And I don't want to kill her because we love Emily and we love the character. But would you have bought it if she decided to pick up and move to California and take her baby with her? I don't think you would have believed that.
Even though Nic's death was emotionally devastating, it also was heroic in a way when her organs were donated to eight patients. What was your approach in making sure that her death still held significant meaning and left a lasting impact?
I'm glad you asked that question because it's something we're actually really proud of. We take our responsibility to grounded realistic medicine very, very seriously. We have four doctors on our writing staff. We have twice as many consultants, who are doctors, working with us. For this episode, we talked to a medical ethicist -- I think he was a cardiologist, one of the leading medical ethicists out of Harvard University and works at Mass General -- and we talked about what it is to declare somebody braindead and what it is when a person comes in with irreparable brain damage because it's something that happens all the time in the hospital. And that debate of what to do with the person and what is life and what is not life. What do you do with their organs? How does one die heroically? This was really, really important to us. We debated it a lot. We all sat in on Zoom conversations with the medical ethicist and really talked about what it means, how you establish that somebody is no longer really functional, that they're not a person anymore, that they're just a body. We all ponder the mysteries of death and what it is to be alive. And we thought that the scenes with Devon, when he's doing a test to see whether she is aware and conscious, we loved those. They're hard to watch and they're emotionally powerful, but they're true. When Kyle just loses it because he feels that she's not dead, that's not something that we took out of thin air. Our doctor said, "No, this happens all the time."
This is obviously a huge loss for not only the doctors and the nurses at the hospital, but also the show in general. How do you move forward from Nic's death and what was that first thing you wanted to make sure the next episode really covered in the aftermath of her death?
You'll see in [episode] 4 that Conrad, who is a man of science and a diagnostician, a doctor first and foremost, becomes incredibly obsessive about his wife's death and trying to figure out what's the medical cause. That's really his journey in that episode. It's super fascinating and I'm not going to give away what is the answer, but it's all about him navigating that process. It's also about navigating the spiritual grief process. And Devon helps him and is supportive and compassionate in that because Conrad was super supportive and compassionate when Devon lost his dad last season. That was a great way to flip the characters and to really have them as a team working together. But for Conrad, this is going to be a process. This is going to be a journey for him to get to the place. You'll see when episode 5 comes -- it's our Halloween episode -- we really try to bring all of our characters together by the end, to help Conrad process, move, provide a little bit of closure to this traumatic event. And also, at the end of 5, again, without giving anything away, there will be a 90-degree turn in the story. And that 90-degree turn will be surprising, but also kind of wonderful. Watch to the end of the Halloween episode because you'll get a bang for your buck there. It's a great moment and I think it will bring you joy.
Conrad is now a widower and a single dad. How is he navigating this new reality?
One of the themes that we really have been trying to play and are interested in is the work-life balance. We feel like work-life balance is something that's in the zeitgeist in our country right now with everybody having to be locked in their homes for what is amounting to a year and a half, two years. We all are left to contemplate our lives, what we want to do and how we want to do it, our jobs and our families. So Conrad as a single dad, but also as a passionate doctor who wants to save lives, has to look at that in his life. He has to figure out what is it that makes a great dad and a great doctor, and how can you be both at the same time? We really are going to push forward navigating that, and we're going to navigate that in all of our characters. We have this wonderful, blossoming, potential Kit-Bell relationship and how do they become a couple or not become a couple with Kit running the hospital? We have the Devon-Leela relationship, which is this wonderful, stable relationship, which takes over as our stable relationship. How do they move forward as two doctors working in the same hospital, sometimes together, sometimes not?
Is this truly the end of Emily's time on the show? Do you foresee an opportunity down the line to have her come back? Is the door still open?
I'm not going to give anything away. I will just say that Nic Nevin will show up in the show in really, really unexpected ways, in ways that you are not going to see coming. And when they do come, it will be both emotionally powerful and a little mind-blowing. I promise you that she won't show up on a beach in a dream.
What else do you want viewers to know after tonight's episode?
We, as the executive producers on the show and our writing staff, just want to make sure that everybody knows that we love Emily VanCamp. We loved the Nic Nevin character. We are truly sad to see her go. But people make decisions in their lives. And they come to points in their lives when they need to do different things. We accept that and we honor that. There's no hard feelings. We wish her well. Are we heartbroken? Yes, of course. But this is the world. She's a great person and she's a great actress, and she brought this character to life. We couldn't have done it without her. So, God bless. We respect her and love her.
The Residentairs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. For more, watch below.