Entertainment

'Code Black' star Ben Hollingsworth on what he's learned about medicine, acting

Actor Ben Hollingsworth arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film

Actor Ben Hollingsworth arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film "The Joneses" during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Sunday, September 13, 2009. Hollingsworth isn't a real doctor ??? he just plays one on TV. That came in handy earlier this year when the Canadian-born "Code Black" star accompanied his wife Nila to a medical checkup. Pregnant at the time, Nila gave birth to the couple's first child, Hemingway, in July. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Ben Hollingsworth isn't a real doctor — he just plays one on TV.

But the knowledge he's picked up from the role came in handy earlier this year when the Canadian-born "Code Black" star accompanied his wife Nila Myers to a medical checkup. Pregnant at the time, Nila gave birth to the couple's first child, Hemingway, in July.

"I definitely kept our OB-GYN on his toes," says Hollingsworth, who spends hours training for medical procedures as Dr. Mario Savetti on the CTV/NBC series. "Code Black" returns for a second season Sept. 28.

Hollingsworth could tell right away a simple blood test had gone wrong when his wife experienced swelling. "Her arm started to look like Popeye's," says Hollingsworth, who concluded the needle had gone through the vein and demanded a doctor quickly drain the arm.

The 32-year-old actor stars opposite Marcia Gay Harden, Bonnie Somerville and Luis Guzman in the medical drama. This season Rob Lowe, freshly roasted on Comedy Central, joins the cast as Dr. Ethan Willis, an army colonel attached to the U.S. military's combat casualty care research program.

"Code Black" is set inside a busy L.A. emergency room at fictional Angels Memorial Hospital. The drama strives for reality, with series regulars going through a "boot camp" involving many hours of medical training.

"We have classes in between scenes," says Hollingsworth, who is instructed by real doctors. "If you're not working on camera you're in another room learning procedures you'll be doing the next day. We're constantly trying to get it as close to reality as possible."

Even at home, Hollingsworth often sits and runs lines while he practises suturing wounds on a silicon pad.

"I don't want to brag," he says, "but I've gotten so good at doing it I hem my own pants."

You'd think that might have helped on Hollingsworth's last series, the shot-in-Toronto "Suits," but that was about law, not tailoring.

The actor graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, alma mater of another Canadian featured on a U.S. medical drama, Sandra Oh of "Grey's Anatomy."

He looks upon "Code Black" as his finishing school. "I'm learning a lot just watching Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman," he says. "They're very kind, generous, caring people. We've really created a family around them."

Hollingsworth says "scary things happen to residents" in season 2 of the series.

"Second year isn't just your second year being a rookie," he says. "You actually have to teach the new batch of first years. It's your job to tell them what to do."

Born in Brockville, Ont., Hollingsworth was raised in nearby Peterborough, where his parents still reside.

"It's always nice to go home," he says. There are plenty of "Code Black" fans in his old neighbourhood, including a few former teachers. While Los Angeles is home now, Hollingsworth still feels "very connected to the Peterborough area."

The couple also maintains "a spot in Vancouver," he says, in case projects bring them back across the border.

He has a very Canadian pet project he hopes to return to someday: a TV biography of Toronto Maple Leafs' legendary founder Conn Smythe. "It's kind of on hiatus right now," he says, his time consumed by the demands of "Code Black" as well as fatherhood.

"You have no idea how many gadgets and things there are now for babies — it blew my mind," he says. "The 4moms rockaRoo — those terms are more difficult to remember than the medical terms."

Hollingsworth is bracing for the demands of parenthood. "If Mario has a couple of dark circles under his eyes this season, you'll know why."

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Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.