The new series “Nurses” is set in Toronto, in a Dec. 31, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New Toronto-set series ‘Nurses’ to debut with fictional van attack storyline

TORONTO — The first episode of new Toronto-set drama series “Nurses” may look chillingly familiar.

As a group of five young nurses start their first day at the fictional St. Mary’s hospital, news breaks of a nearby terrorist attack in which a white van crashed into pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Later, one of the nurses realizes a van-attack patient is the suspected perpetrator who says misogynistic, white-nationalist viewpoints while being treated, highlighting the ethical struggles frontline health workers can face on the job.

Series creator Adam Pettle says the episode is loosely inspired by the April 2018 van attack that killed 10 and injured 16 in Toronto, and inspired by similar incidents in other cities around the world.

But he put a fictional spin on it and avoided showing the actual attack onscreen so he wouldn’t trigger viewers.

Pettle says the premiere, airing Jan. 6 on Global, is meant to portray an event that brings the new nursing team and the community together, and showcase the heroism of frontline health workers.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like we were exploiting it or using it, so I did try to use it as the … incident of the episode but not focus on the horror if it,” Pettle said in a recent phone interview.

Pettle said he was also inspired by an article written by a Jewish nurse who treated the wounds of the gunman in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018.

“It’s just a beautiful piece of writing about having to care for him, and how that’s not a professional’s job to be judge and jury, about how difficult it is and how complicated it is.”

Vancouver actress Tiera Skovbye, who stars as nurse Grace Knight, says the episode brought back memories of calling her best friend who lived in Toronto at the time of the attack to make sure she was OK.

“To get that in the very first script was a lot to take on,” Skovbye said.

“But it just goes to show that as a nurse you never really know what you’re going to get any given day, and that no matter what, the care of the patients come first and you have to put all other aspects of it aside.”

Pettle has long been immersed in hospital settings.

The Toronto-based writer/executive producer’s dad is an obstetrician and his stepmother is a nurse, and he has fond memories of hanging out at the hospital nurses’ station as a child.

At age 21, the theatre graduate underwent surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer, which spurred him to write about such subject matter in his first play.

Pettle has since explored the medical world in several projects, including the Canadian show “Saving Hope,” on which he was an executive producer.

On the ninth episode of “Nurses,” a patient undergoes one of the treatments Pettle went through 25 years ago.

Pettle hopes the series will bring a new element to the medical drama genre through the lens of nurses “who are usually relegated to background performers in hospital shows,” he said.

“With the focus being on nurses, it’s less about medicine and the high-stakes surgeries of it,” said Pettle, “and it’s more about the psychology and spirituality and families, and the stories are more domestic than they are medical.”

“Nurses” has already been renewed for a second season.

Pettle shot the show in Mississauga, Ont., and Hamilton, and consulted with health-care professionals to add authenticity and accuracy to the script. He also had nurse consultants on set to help the actors.

The other core group of young nurses are played by Canadian actors Natasha Calis, Jordan Johnson-Hinds, Sandy Sidhu, and Donald MacLean Jr.

With its blend of serious and sudsy stories, “Nurses” will no doubt draw comparisons to the long-running American hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Like “Grey’s,” “Nurses” also has a local watering hole where the characters go to unwind after their shifts.

But “Nurses” has a different tone and younger characters than “Grey’s,” said Skovbye, who’s happy with the comparisons.

“‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is a show that’s been on for what, a million seasons at this point?” she said with a laugh, ”and people love it and there’s a market for a show like that.

“So if we’re being compared to a show that was as successful as ‘Grey’s Anatomy, then I think that’s great.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP is certain to tire of propping up Trudeau’s Liberals

To impose his will on the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Mariah Bell of the United States competes during women’s freestyle program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Canadian Keegan Messing earns bronze at Skate America in Vegas, Chen wins gold

Messing earns 266.42 points at Skate America in Las Vegas

In this Oct. 7, 2020 photo, chef Sohla El-Waylly prepares Swedish meatballs during a taping of “Stump Sohla,” in New York. El-Waylly became a familiar face on YouTube as a standout on Bon Appetit’s test kitchen channel. But during the nationwide racial reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd, she was among members of the test kitchen who accused the channel’s owner, Conde Nast, of discriminatory practices. She departed Bon Appetit in August after failed negotiations. Her new show is her own, pushing her to deploy her talent, charm and encyclopedic culinary chops to solve challenges. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
‘Babish’ expands as pandemic boosts YouTube cooking shows

Daily views of videos with “cook with me” soaring

FILE - Oprah Winfrey arrives for the presentation of Stella McCartney’s ready-to-wear Fall-Winter 2019-2020 fashion collection in Paris on March 4, 2019. Winfrey is setting aside her usual book club recommendations and instead citing seven personal favorites ranging from James Baldwin’s landmark essays in “The Fire Next Time” to Mary Oliver’s poetry collection “Devotions.” She is calling her choices “The Books That See Me Through,” works she values for “their ability to comfort, inspire, and enlighten” her. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
`The books that see her through’: Winfrey suggests seven

Mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and spirituality

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

Most Read