AlloCiné: Medical series have always been numerous on television. What do you think differentiates The Resident from Grey’s Anatomy, New Amsterdam, or Good Doctor?
Manish Dayal : I think what really characterizes The Resident is its very realistic, frontal, and unfiltered vision of the American healthcare system. The series really shows the consequences of this system on the organization and functioning of hospitals today. What this means in terms of hierarchy, staff but also patients. And the enormous pressure that doctors and nurses have to deal with day after day. We really realize thanks to The Resident restrictions that are raging in American hospitals, whether at the top of the pyramid or much lower, at the level of interns, who are notably represented by my character, Devon Pravesh. All of these rules ultimately prevent hospital staff from doing their jobs properly today and that is a real problem. And this vision of the hospital seems fairly new to me in the world of medical series.
When you know how hot the health care system has been in the United States for the past few years, do you have the impression that this is the series that American television needed?
In any case, we are doing our best to highlight the problems that caregivers have really encountered in recent years. Through, among other things, the staging of real medical cases that made people talk. And I think that today, more than ever, putting forward what is really going on in our country, without embellishing things, is a good way to educate people about the problems that affect our society. This awareness also goes through television and fiction, and I think that television will have more and more this role to play in the years to come. And then The Resident also sets out to show that doctors and nurses are above all human beings, and that is always good to remember. Many people tend to think that doctors are gods and that they always make the right choices, but I don’t think that is always the case. They are human and they have faults, like everyone else.
Your character, Devon, arrives at Chastain Memorial Hospital as an intern in the first episode and arrives with a lot of preconceived ideas about the hospital world and his work. And from the first day, this vision collapses and he is forced to confront reality. What did you like about this character and his trajectory over the episodes?
Right from the start, what fascinated me with Devon was precisely all the possibilities for development that flowed from this character. Because we realize from the first episode that he still has a long way to go, that he is not quite ready for this unforgiving universe. He arrives with a very idealistic vision, because all his achievements are based on his academic background. And he is very proud of everything he has learned and everything he thinks he knows about his job as a doctor. But he quickly realizes that it will not be enough, that his intelligence and his benevolence will not make the weight. He will have to find a way to survive this hostile environment he has just entered.
The image that comes to me to sum up season 1 of The Resident is really that Devon is throwing himself in the mouth of the wolf. He does not know what awaits him and, episode after episode, he will have to be very resourceful, know how to listen to listen to those around him, and be able to observe in order to become the doctor he has to be. This is really his trajectory during the first season of the series. And also the need to choose the medical specialty in which he later wants to evolve as a doctor. This is what interested me in this role. And then obviously I was happy to contribute to more representation on American television because Devon is of South Asian origin. And despite the fact that many medical students or many doctors are notably of Indian origin in the United States today, these doctors are rarely put forward. I liked the idea of changing that and playing a young doctor of Indian origin who was full of freshness and ideals.
From the start, the tensions were numerous and palpable with Conrad Hawkins, the doctor who supervised him. How would you define their relationships?
They compete a lot during the first season, it’s true. Conrad (Matt Czuchry) and Devon are very different and they conceive and practice their trade in opposite ways. Devon tries to follow the rules, to do according to what he has learned in medical textbooks. Getting off the beaten track, from the lines of action he has set for himself, is not his thing. While Conrad is like that and that’s what he’s trying to teach Devon. He wants to show her that in medicine nothing is ever all white or all black. The gray areas are numerous and necessary. But in the end I think they have a positive effect on each other. During the first season, you will see Conrad trying to make Devon understand the complexities of this job. He wants her to understand that he has to change. And opposite, Devon realizes that there are things he refuses to change in his behavior and his vision of medicine. He must be able to look in the mirror. And Conrad plays an important role in this awareness. So yes, they oppose, they often disagree, but they will also become friends and end up respecting each other. It’s a great relationship that you will see evolving throughout the three seasons that we have already filmed.
The Resident is your first hospital series. Didn’t you have too much trouble starting with medical jargon?
If, clearly, it was a huge challenge at the start (laughs). When you open a screenplay and discover all of these learned terms, it’s always a challenge! The hardest part at the beginning is simply to understand what they mean. So you have to manage to associate a correct meaning and pronunciation with each medical term, and it is not always obvious. But after a few episodes you get used to it.
You have made yourself known thanks to the role of Raj in the teen series 90210 Beverly Hills: New Generation. What memories do you keep of this series and this period of your career?
I loved working on 90210. It was great to be part of a brand, a franchise as iconic as Beverly Hills. I learned a lot about this series and I made very strong friendships there. I really liked my character, who was present in seasons 3 and 4, and this series will always remain special to me.
You made and wrote your first short film two years ago, which is called Fifteen Years Later. Are you planning to get behind the camera again?
Of course. I loved trying my hand at directing, it has always been a goal for me, and I intend to repeat the experience. I had to make a second short film this summer but obviously, for the moment, given the health situation linked to the coronavirus epidemic, all this is on hold and the shooting will certainly be postponed. But I hope to be able to make this second film this fall or next year.
And making an episode of The Resident, might you be interested?
Absolutely. We talked a little bit about it with the production and I hope that if the series is renewed for a season 4 I will be able to go behind the camera at that time.
Interviewed on April 17, 2020 by phone.
The Resident trailer, which begins this evening at 9 p.m. on TF1: