Wendi and I really enjoyed our recent trip to Richmond, Va., where I was there to write what became a series of stories on a local physician, Tony Tizzano, and his role as a medical history adviser on the PBS/Lone Wolf Media production, “Mercy Street,” a Civil War-era medical drama. While doing an initial interview for The Daily Record newspaper with Tizzano in the courtyard of the hotel where we were staying in downtown Richmond, actor Gary Cole walked past us.
Cole plays James Green Sr., a businessman living in the South whose city, Alexandria, Va., is occupied by Union soldiers. Green is doing his best to endure life in an occupied town, and he starts by trying to placate the Union soldiers. However, he realizes that might not be his best option.
Because TIzzano works with the actors who are involved in medical procedures, he had not met Cole on the set. So, he introduced himself and asked if he would be willing to talk to me. Cole graciously agreed to an interview.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with the actor who played Mike Brady in the reworked Brady Bunch franchise on the big screen and who played boss Bill Lumbergh in the cult hit, “Office Space.” Cole can currently be seen in the HBO series “Veep” and was featured in the CBS series “The Good Wife.”
As for working on “Mercy Street,” Cole said, “It’s always different when you do something that is a period piece.” Everything becomes limited, like the settings. “We’re not dealing with everyday life.”
Because the story takes place at the start of the Civil War and Cole plays a character who lived in the South, he had to learn what he described as a different language. Cole, who is from Chicago, also has worked with a voice coach on his Southern accent.
“The series is all based on historical happenings,” Cole said. “What’s unusual about this show — normally Civil War productions are laser-focused on the battles — but this is more focused on the aftermath of war.”
While Cole’s career has spanned a lot of different projects, he tends to avoid getting philosophical about them. Each one is a job, and he approaches each one as a professional. His focus is one scene at a time.
“When I’m acting, I only look at the scene that is taking place and focus on it,” Cole said. “What is my role in getting it done so it is the best it can be.
“I don’t get philosophical. Maybe later, but not on the day.”
Cole did say he is hopeful “Mercy Street” has an emotional impact on viewers. The show is currently filming its second season.