Quick, what show am I describing: A small group of idealistic young interns are shepherded around a bustling hospital by their domineering boss with a quippy nickname, who explains the rules to the interns as they go on a quick tour. They soon meet the boss's boss, an experienced, take-no-prisoners doctor who's worshipped far and wide as being the best in their field. Sound familiar? If you guessed ABC's Grey's Anatomy... you guessed wrong. That's actually the premise of CBS' new medical procedural, Code Black . This time, there are only four interns instead of five; their boss is a male nurse nicknamed "Momma" rather than a female doctor nicknamed "The Nazi;" and the top dog is a brilliant ER residency doctor played by Marcia Gay Harden, not a brilliant neurosurgeon played by Patrick Dempsey.
But, for all their surface similarities, Code Black promises to be a very different show than Grey's Anatomy. While the latter is more concerned with the personal lives of its doctors, the former will be more concerned with the medicine — specifically, the crucial moment when an emergency room's patients outnumber its resources, referred to as a "code black." Based on a 2014 documentary film of the same name about the real-life L.A. County Hospital, Code Black will take viewers behind the scenes of one of the country's most hectic hospitals.
Here are the faces you'll meet along the way:
Marcia Gay Harden as Dr. Leanne Rorish
Dr. Rorish, who runs the overwhelmed ER, is played by Harden. She has been nominated for Oscars (for 2000's Pollock, and for 2003's Mystic River), Emmys (for a 2007 guest role on Law & Order: SVU and for the 2009 TV movie The Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler), and Tonys (for the 1993 Broadway premiere of Angels In America, and for the 2009 play God Of Carnage). She has won twice: An Oscar for Pollock and a Tony for God Of Carnage. When she's not busy racking up trophies, she's starring in a diverse array of movies, from violent Coen Bros. movies (Miller's Crossing) to family friendly films (Flubber), from '90s comedies (The First Wives Club) to Woody Allen romances (Magic In The Moonlight), from Oscar bait-y dramas (Grandma) to erotic adaptations (Fifty Shades Of Grey). Or maybe she's on your favorite TV shows like HBO's The Newsroom (as litigator Rebecca Halliday), ABC's Trophy Wife (as rigid first wife Diane), and ABC's How To Get Away With Murder (as Annalise's sister-in-law, Hannah Keating). Basically what I'm trying to say is, she's everywhere.
Luis Guzmán as Jesse Salander
You've never seen a "Momma" quite like Guzmán's Nurse Salander. The Puerto Rican actor has appeared in over 70 films in nearly four decades, playing supporting roles in films as varied as the Brian De Palma crime drama Carlito's Way and the lavish kids movie Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events. He has worked closely with two of our era's most famous directors: Paul Thomas Anderson (on Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love) and Steven Soderbergh (on Out Of Sight, The Limey, and Traffic). He has also recurred or starred in various HBO shows (Oz, John From Cincinnati, How To Make It In America) and can currently be seen as Colombian drug lord José Rodríguez Gacha on Netflix's Narcos . He even briefly had his own self-titled FOX sitcom, Luis.
Raza Jaffrey as Dr. Neal Hudson
Born in Liverpool, Jaffrey changed his initial plan to join the Royal Air Force when he worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company during his last year at college. The newly-minted actor drew great acclaim on the British stage before landing his first major television role in the BBC spy series Spooks. His first regular TV gig stateside was as Dev, Karen's supportive boyfriend in Season 1 of NBC's Smash. Jaffrey's character was dropped as part of a major creative overhaul of Season 2 of the musical drama, but the actor didn't let that stop him: He has since been on ABC's Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, CBS's Elementary, and most recently as Pakistani counterterrorism chief Aasar Khan in Season 4 of Showtime's Homeland .
Bonnie Somerville as Christa Lorenson
You probably know Somerville as "Screaming Woman" from Spider-Man 2, but if that's not ringing a bell, then her role as Ross's girlfriend Mona on Friends probably will. Code Black will be Somerville's fifth series regular role on television following the 2002 NBC sitcom In-Laws, ABC's NYPD Blue (on which she joined as Det. Laura Murphy in the show's 12th and final season), the 2005 FOX comedy Kitchen Confidential (starring a pre-fame Bradley Cooper), and the short-lived 2013 CBS drama Golden Boy (starring a pre-Divergent Theo James). Here's hoping that Code Black is Somerville's first starring gig that lasts more than one season!
Benjamin Hollingsworth as Mario Savetti
This Canadian actor's first starring role on American television was as Chris Andrews in The Beautiful Life , the 2009 CW drama about models living and working together in New York City. Although the series also starred The O.C.'s Mischa Barton, Darcy's Wild Life's Sara Paxton, and High School Musical's Corbin Bleu, it lasted a mere five episodes before the network pulled the plug. But, the suits at The CW must have loved Hollingsworth's work regardless, since they hired him again for two more shows, with recurring roles on the thriller Cult and the action series The Tomorrow People (both of which ran for one season in 2013). Now the 31-year-old actor has finally graduated to The CW's big brother network, CBS (both of which are owned by CBS Broadcasting, along with Showtime).
Melanie Chandra as Malaya Pineda
Chandra got her start on TV with her future Code Black co-star Guzmán, appearing as "Hot Hipster Girl" in a 2010 episode of HBO's How To Make It In America. (I wonder if they ever met on set...) Since then, she has guest starred on the likes of CBS's Rules Of Engagement, ABC Family's The Nine Lives Of Chloe King, and NBC's Parenthood, before returning to HBO earlier this year with a recurring role on the network's new comedy, The Brink.
Harry M. Ford as Angus Leighton
Angus Leighton may be a newcomer at L.A. County Hospital, but Ford is also undoubtedly a newcomer to your TV screen. Code Black is his first television credit, and his feature film experience is limited to an obscure 2009 comedy called Skiptracers, and an upcoming drama called Louder Than Bombs, the English-language debut of director Joachim Trier (a distant relative of Lars von Trier). The film received positive reviews when it debuted at Cannes this summer.
William Allen Young as Dr. Rollie Guthrie
Young is most famous for his role as Frank Mitchell, the father of the titular character on the beloved '90s UPN comedy Moesha, starring Brandy. More recently, he has recurred on both CSI: Miami and CSI: Original Flavor — in two different roles, of course. You may also have seen him in the Oscar-nominated sci-fi film District 9 as the CEO of the nefarious MNU corporation.
With a cast like this, you won't want to miss Code Black when it premieres on CBS this Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Images: Neil Jacobs, Kurt Iswarienk (6), Monty Brinton (2)/CBS