TV gods show Tupper 'Mercy'


POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2009

Five years ago, actor James Tupper was a carpenter, performing on stage at night and shooting the occasional commercial. Now, he's starring on a new series that NBC just picked up for a full season of 22 episodes.

“;Mercy”; is a hospital drama told from the perspective of a few bright, strong-willed nurses, and Tupper plays the hunky Dr. Chris Sands, who is having an affair with Veronica Callahan, a married nurse who served with him in Iraq.

When asked about the emphasis on nurses, Tupper laughs and says the press is confused. “;No, this is a show about a doctor,”; he jokes.

He is on the phone in a cafe in Los Angeles with the 8-month-old baby he has with actress Anne Heche, talking about visiting Kauai, her old stomping ground with Harrison Ford in “;Six Days Seven Nights.”; It will be Tupper's first trip to Hawaii. The two met when he worked with Heche on ABC's “;Men in Trees,”; have been together for three years and are what he describes as “;eternally engaged.”;





        Airs Wednesday nights on NBC

Full episodes are also available online at nbc.com


The conversation wanders, as it does when people sip coffee in bustling cafes while tending to infants. Easy and accessible, Tupper is not a celebrity who seems terribly impressed with himself. But after struggling in the business for longer than he will admit, he appreciates where he is now.

“;I like working with good writing,”; he says of the show and the challenge of tackling plot twists around complicated medical issues. “;So I feel blessed. When this came down the line, I loved it. It was quick and funny.”;

He often consults UCLA Medical Center's outreach program that provides physicians as consultants to any production dealing with medical topics, and helps actors understand the dialogue they are reciting.

But there's much more than medicine to the series. The love triangle that drives much of the conflict makes sense because of the connection his character and nurse Callahan cultivated in Iraq. Furthermore, her relationship with her husband is a “;disaster”; because he cheated on her, explains Tupper. “;That's why it's so complicated.”;

He dismisses any talk of heartthrob status.

“;I don't wake up in the morning and see that,”; he says. “;I see ... how do I make this work? I appreciate it, obviously. My main goal is to have Anne think that every day!”;

Clearly, he admires Heche's work and constantly searches for ways to share the screen with her again. “;I've pitched her to be on the show, and the writers are really into it,”; he says. “;They've been attracting some big stars,”; including Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara for a recent episode.

A new movie is a welcome part of any actor's blossoming career, and he has one coming out on Nov. 25 with Zac Efron and Claire Danes. In “;Me and Orson Wells,”; he plays Joseph Cotton, an old-time movie star in a story about one of Wells' early productions in the late 1930s that served as an early indication of his genius.

After a quick discussion about the movie, which Tupper describes as “;really fun,”; he's back to talking about the baby, making it clear that the feature film, the new television show and trip to Hawaii on the horizon are all part of a journey he is thoroughly enjoying. “;I think the key to being happy in life,”; he says, “;is being curious and opening up the world in detail.”;