The chance to visit the set of Nurses in April 2019 was fascinating because it was like stepping into a real hospital, plus there was a (sadly, not in use) full interior of a bar set that is going to come into play later in the season in the Global show. On the day that I visited, the cast was filming for an episode that will air later in the season, but also doing some pickups for an earlier episode. It was nice to see the contrast, but the bar in particular was significant, because while filming wasn’t taking place at this location, members of the personable cast would pop in and sit down at the bar.
We had the chance to speak with all of the main cast members of Nurses, though we were delighted for the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the lead of the series, who was termed the “heart”, actor Tiera Skovbye (who plays Grace Knight).
The following is a condensed and edited version of an on-set interview and a later extended phone conversation with Tiera Skovbye of the already renewed series Nurses.
*This interview originally ran on January 6, 2020*
Brief Take: What does it mean to be the heart of the series Nurses?
Tiera Skovbye: It’s amazing being the heart of something. As the story goes on, you see that Grace pulls everyone together in a way and through everything that ends up happening with some of her storylines throughout the season, it pulls everything together. Then you realize that by the end that five nurses really can’t…it’s much easier to function together in this environment and to support each other than it is to try to do it on your own.
BT: What was it like to play the scenes in the first episode that were inspired by a real-life incident?
TS: It’s always kind of crazy and kind of an honour when you’re shedding light on something that actually happened in real life. I think it adds a level of depth to it that I don’t think people realize. You really want to honour that story and tell it properly.
BT: Especially at the start of the season, how did you approach playing Grace, as I imagine she’s dissimilar from you in a lot of ways?
TS: No, totally. I think that especially in the first two episodes with Grace you see a very, very reserved, almost cold side of her that she’s got to this path. Things that she doesn’t want to talk about, that she doesn’t want anybody to know about. She doesn’t want to deal with them, she’s pushing them all down and she goes “I’m focusing on the work and that’s all that matters”. That’s kind of what you see from her at the beginning. And slowly as the season goes on, you see some of these walls come down and some of the vulnerabilities start to come through.
BT: You’re quite a caring person, as you’ve openly discussed caring for your sister as well as for your dog. How has playing Grace affected this perspective?
TS: It’s funny, my friends have always called me “Mama T”, because I have always been the responsible one in my friend group and in my family group. Always prepared to take care of everything, and I feel like it was a pretty easy transition to bring that in with Grace and to follow through with something that I think comes naturally to me. I feel like it helped me a lot with playing Grace and being a nurse and understanding that we both care, but I didn’t understand how much a nurse actually does and how vital they are and how they do go above and beyond.
BT: You posted a video in which you were crying when you first booked the role. What did it mean to hear that you’ve already been given a renewal for season 2?
TS: My gosh, I honestly was so shocked. I for sure didn’t think that we were going to know until halfway through the season airing, and then to get that email that we all got and I read it about a million times, thinking: “Is this a fake email? Is this real? What’s happening?”. It was amazing and it felt incredible. To have that confidence from the studio and the network behind us before it even airs is incredible.
BT: In the cast interviews which I had read, you mentioned that we need to be discussing mental health more often. What does being in Nurses bring to this discussion?
TS: Well I think that a big thing that people don’t realize, specifically with Nurses, is yes, they’re dealing with a lot of medical aspects of someone’s health, but so much that they bring to it is all the extra things that they do. All the things that they do to support somebody who is going through the worst day of their lives- even if it’s just sitting there- the way that they bring patients together or help them to deal with problems and situations in their lives, there’s so many elements that we don’t realize are happening that aren’t just life or death. I feel like that brings an element into the avenue of mental health because that aspect of relationships for patients and how a nurse can help with support as well is a major factor. Because that’s a huge thing for me, paying attention to mental health, and I feel like we see such a beautiful side of that in this series. You don’t realize that this is happening in hospitals every single day with every patient.
BT: Have you been able to use your platform to speak up about your own anxiety?
TS: It’s definitely something that has been a very steep learning curve for me and initially was something which I felt quite vulnerable about. But I find that the more that I discuss it and the greater number of people that I discuss it with, the more that you realize that everybody is dealing with their own version of something happening. I feel like it’s actually helped to connect me to a greater amount of people, and as an actor, it has helped connect me to a greater number of stories about patients. It has helped me be more empathetic in my acting as well as in my regular life. It’s hard to talk about it, a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, but I feel like if we can, we’ll be surprised by how many people with whom we can connect and how much you can connect with people in your life.
BT: Tell me about people connecting with you through the work that you’re doing?
TS: It’s been incredible. I feel like that’s why I do this. I love telling stories that are meaningful to somebody and when I hear back: “Oh, I love your show, it’s a great show”, that’s awesome. And when I hear back: “I love your show and you did this, it affected my life, or “it made me feel this way”, or “you helped me through something or made me realize something”, that’s when it’s like: “Oh! I’m doing this for a reason and it’s important”. TV is wonderful and I think it’s a beautiful thing to entertain someone, but when you can have that extra step in the stories that you tell, I feel like it’s so much more valuable, it means so much to me. To be on these projects, it’s amazing. I’m so grateful.
BT: It must also mean a lot to you that your fans come from all around the world.
TS: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. I guess you don’t really realize that when you are sitting at home, but there are people all over the world that support what us actors do and yeah, it’s great. I hope that they love it. I hope that they get a chance to see Nurses and really support and can relate to it as well. I think that they’ll really like it.
BT: I found it amusing that on the winter finale of Riverdale, Polly Cooper violently killed a nurse and now here you are playing a nurse.
TS: [laughs] The transitions between Grace and Polly are so different, and every time I go to Riverdale, I feel like Polly’s thrown into the worst, craziest scenarios. I guess that Grace sort of goes through a version of that as well [laughs], but what I guess that I like about Nurses is that it’s more of a grounded reality, while Riverdale can be a bit of a heightened reality at times. [laughs]
BT: We were very excited to read that you will be a younger version of the title character in Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. What can you say about that upcoming series?
TS: The cool thing about that show is that every season is a whole new story and a whole new path and it’s all based on truth and true stories. The writers and creators this season, they really wanted to honour this woman and this story properly. I got to play her, a younger version of her, which was a very interesting challenge because obviously Amanda Peet had already started filming, she has already set the groundwork for how the character was going to be, how she was going to act. It was really important to me to find similar characteristics and similar things that could make the story very linear, from when they were younger, which I play, to when they transition into the older versions of themselves. It was incredible, I got to watch a lot of dailies that Amanda Peet was doing so that I knew how she was acting, and I got to do a lot of research. There’s documentaries and books and all sorts of things and it’s kind of eerie, there’s a wedding photo of Betty Broderick when she is young which we kind of recreated and I look very similar to her, [laughs] which is, hey, good casting, but it’s an incredible story and the writers did such a good job this season.
BT: Last time we spoke, you mentioned your Hawaii-shot movie with Jacob Elordi.
TS: Yeah! Two Hearts. We don’t have a release date yet but it should be hopefully some time by the end of this year.
BT: You’ve had a wealth of productions in which you’ve acted. What has that meant for you to be able to contribute to storytelling on different mediums and in tonally different material?
TS: I’ve been incredibly fortunate. It’s any actor’s dream to do a wide variety of different characters and different genres and to be able to have done that and to have played characters like Polly and then Robin (Once Upon a Time) and Grace, and then to play real people like Betty Broderick, it’s really been incredible. At conventions, the LGBTQIA+ fans come for Once Upon a Time who are supportive of my relationship with Rose on the show. The Riverdale fans are fans of the whole cult and everything, so it’s very interesting.
I started acting when I was very young and I always knew that this was what I wanted to do and what I was going to pursue. I never anticipated to be able to support myself so young doing it. As actors you always think ebb and flow, but to be able to do what I love and to be able to work kind of everywhere is incredible. I feel very fortunate.
BT: Is there anything that you haven’t yet done on screen that you would like to try?
TS: One of my favourite movies growing up as an actor was Girl, Interrupted. To be able to able to play something like Angelina Jolie’s character in that one day would be really cool. Somebody who’s a bit messed up and manipulative. I haven’t really done anything like that, to do something like that would be a very fun challenge. [laughs]
Nurses airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC