With a title like Mental, you might think this new show is a dramedy about high-strung, pill popping therapists who treat crazy people and sleep with each other. That sounds fun, but this time the writers have taken the subject of mental illness seriously. Chris Vance, who plays Dr. Jack Gallagher, talks more about the show’s premise.
“Everything is scripted,” Vance says. “A team of consultants work with writers and cast…we have to bear in mind that, although we’re playing on the fun of being crazy from a dramatic license point of view, we also have the responsibility to be sensitive to the issues at hand.”
Vance’s character “is very upbeat and very determined,” and he takes an unconventional approach to treating his patients.
“He doesn’t view patients with a mental health disorder as (having) anything wrong with them; he understands they’ve got a different state of mental health. All he does really is to try and help them, get inside their heads and find the best way of bringing them back to function in what we call a ‘normal’, functioning reality,” Vance explains. “Jack’s passion is to find out on an individual basis where in the spectrum of functionality, so to speak, the individual patient sits, not to cure them or to give them a magic pill, not (to be) a super hero, I want to understand it and know how you’re feeling.”
So if he doesn’t give them a magic pill, what does he do? While he couldn’t give us specific details of his unorthodox treatments (you’ll have to watch and see!), he did say “Playing Jack, I’m not likely to get bored, there’s always another phobia or illness to treat.”
When asked if Mental was at all similar to House, Vance explained “the two shows are similar in construct but the two characters are very different. The central protagonist is completely off the wall and is on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of how he treats patients.”
Like House, Dr. Gallagher’s colleagues don’t always agree with his idoelogy. His position as Director of Psychiatric Services allows him to implement the methods he pleases, but it has also caused jealousy among Nora (his ex-lover) and Carl, both psychiatrists who were vying for his job.
Vance concludes by saying he wanted to stay true to his role by researching the science. “We have a team of professional psychiatrists, they’ve opened my mind to phobias and disorder and the real pain and trauma people with mental illness go through in life…the human mind is a cosmic field which we know very little about.”
Will you be tuning in to Mental or is it not your cup of medical drama tea?