Doctors are all the rage right now, with Doctor Who and Doctor Strange in the pop culture limelight. And while Rodger Corser’s character, Hugh Knight, may not be a Time Lord or Sorcerer Supreme, he believes that this doctor still has some talents to share.
“He seems to be kind a loveable, rogue guy who can do horrible things but he sort of does something endearing and gets away with it. Which is kind of his superpower,” offers the actor, who’s a familiar face on Australian TV through roles in Underbelly and Puberty Blues. “I’ve got mates that could swear in front of the Queen and she’d laugh. It’s just a charm, it’s a twinkle in the eye, it’s something else.”
Hugh Knight is a high and mighty heart surgeon who doesn’t play by the rules, until an incident sends him far from his glamorous city life and back to his country town of Whyhope on probation. And while his screen time is high, it’s not a question of vanity.
“It was sort of a necessary evil to have Hugh in five out of six scenes in the first series just because he is the person who is the stranger in town, and so is the audience,” Corser explains. “He brings the audience into town. He sort of introduces the world and as we went through series one, we got to see more and more inside the heads of our other characters.”
A big part of any medical show is the surgical procedures, and Doctor Doctor has its fair share of gruesome ones. Corser, however, wasn’t squeamish during the filming. “Well it’s not real blood,” he laughs. “I think it’s a mix of maple syrup, maybe some tomato sauce and some coffee to give it a darker look and a whole bunch of other things.
“So it’s quite sweet and sticky. I got sprayed in the face while filming in the back of a ute – the kid is kind of losing his leg and I’m losing the artery and it’s spurting all over my face. It was kind of like being those kids being slimed at Nickelodeon.”
While the blood may not be real, the circumstances of the incident hit hard. “That situation there, where the kid dies in their arms, the aftermath of that was quite, you know…not necessarily the gore of it but just that empty feeling,” Corser explains. “You’re just in the moment. You know what’s going to happen, you’ve read the script, you’ve probably even done four takes of it, but it still breaks your heart every time you do it. It had that human impact – it feels more real than the procedure.”
Of course the show does have its light-hearted moments, one of which is when Hugh sings The Wheels on the Bus to calm himself while flying. Unfortunately, children’s songs have the opposite effect on Corser. “It’s more the other way around I suppose. Especially when you’ve got kids and they want the same song on high rotation in the car. I’m not casting aspersions on The Wiggles, but if I hear ‘toot toot chugga chugga big red car’ one more time…” he jokes.
It didn’t take long for Doctor Doctor to be picked up for a second season, and Corser is looking forward to the future of the programme. “There’s a lot of fun there to be had and I suppose with Hugh, I mean eventually he’s going to come to the dilemma that his year will be up in Whyhope unless he does something again that gives him another year of probation,” he speculates. “But he may have to choose as to whether he goes back or if he likes where he is. It could have a lot to do with his relationships with people; it could have a lot to do with him readjusting his goals in life as well.”