Kevin Rankin is known for his numerous television appearances. Most recognized as the character of Herc on Friday Night Lights, Rankin has also appeared on Law and Order, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS,
The Closer, NYPD Blue, My Name is Earl, CSI, and Spin City, among others.
In addition, he has had recurring roles in Judd Apatow’s Undeclared, Six Feet Under, Bionic Woman, State of Mind, and My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star.
Rankin graces the small screen once again on NBC’s latest ensemble drama series, Trauma. Playing the character of EMT Tyler Briggs, Rankin joins fellow cast mates Cliff Curtis, Anastasia Griffith, Jamey Sheridan, and Aimee Garcia as they examine the life-threatening day-to-day plights of first responders.
The show follows these everyday heroes from the moment they arrive on the scene to the personal demons that they must deal with in their own lives. Trauma premieres Monday, September 28, 2009, 9/8C.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Kevin, you were born in Baton Rouge, correct?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, I was born in Baton Rouge, down in a little town called Morgan City, right on the gulf. I was there until I was about 11 and then I was in Houston, Texas and I graduated high school there. Then I moved to Los Angeles in the year 2000.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are your parents still living in Louisiana?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, they are and I have both sets of grandparents there. I have three older sisters. I was the only boy in a house full of women. I try to get back to Louisiana to see them whenever I can.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
Kevin Rankin: Oh man, it goes back to my earliest memory of watching action movies, like Rambo, and stuff like that. I wanted to be him, to run around with a machine gun and run from explosions, and… at first I wanted to be a stuntman. You know, watching the Fall Guy with Lee Majors. And when I realized he was just an actor playing a stuntman, I said, oh well that’s what I want to be. But, I’ve always been a fan of just the business in general.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What was your first acting job?
Kevin Rankin: My first actual acting job was Unsolved Mysteries. Then, not too long after that I did a film called The Apostle with Robert Duvall.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did you have any scenes with Duvall?
Kevin Rankin: Oh yes. My scenes were all just he and I. I had a scene where I wrecked in a car accident. He put his head through the window to give me last rights and I’m crying and dying as they say. I’m crying and dying right in front of Robert Duvall.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): How is Robert Duvall to work with?
Kevin Rankin: I couldn’t tell you enough good things about him. He knew I was just starting out and… you know, June Carter Cash played his mother in the movie. Billy Bob Thornton was in the movie, too and also Walton Goggins. I mean, they really had some great actors in that movie.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, if you had to start somewhere that was a good movie to begin with.
Kevin Rankin: Oh man, yeah, I faked everyone out (laughing). They were thinking, wow, he must really be good.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did Duvall give you any advice?
Kevin Rankin: He told me… and I’ve kept it with me ever since… if there is ever a doubt, under do it. If there is ever a question, under do it. So, that has really helped me in a lot of situations and in a lot of work that I’ve done. Because when you under do it and you underplay it, you can do it a little more based in reality. Like, instead of a performance, you’re giving some reality and truth.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You’ve guest-starred in so many television shows. Would you say any particular one has been instrumental in preparing you for the upcoming role in Trauma?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, I’d say that Friday Night Lights was the big preparation because I’m working with the same creative people.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Right, Peter Berg…
Kevin Rankin: Yeah, Peter Berg and Jeffrey Reiner, who was really responsible there on a daily basis for Friday Night Lights. Now he’s doing the same thing on Trauma. I considered Friday Night Lights as an acting school because there was a lot of improv, they were constantly challenging me, constantly throwing things at me, just constantly trying to get me to raise my game.
So, I’m realizing that got me ready for this job because now I’m having to try to do all of these things at the same time to portray a real profession in the EMT world and try to do that justice; try to get the medicine right and try to get the protocol right, and at the same time try to be a real person.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Peter Berg was on Chicago Hope, so he should know his medicine fairly well.
Kevin Rankin: Oh yeah, and I think Jamey Sheridan did a couple of Chicago Hope episodes also.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Tell us about Trauma, Kevin.
Kevin Rankin: Trauma, in a nutshell, is we’re dealing with first responders out in the field. This isn’t ER, you know, it’s not in a hospital. This is really the first twenty minutes before you get to the double doors of the emergency room. You get to see the stuff you don’t get to see on all of these other medical shows. It’s not just the aftermath of the accident either. You get to see before the accident and what causes the accident. And then in the aftermath, we show up.
So you’re really getting a 360 view of the entire world of emergency. And within that world, these characters are dealing on a daily basis with multiple strangers’ traumas – we’re meeting people on the worst days of their lives. Then we try to keep them alive for five to ten minutes and we’ll probably never see them again. We’re dealing with their traumas and then we’re going home dealing with our own traumas.
In the first episode there is an event that really affects us. You’re going to see our posttraumatic symptoms simmer to the surface in different ways. You know, we’re all going to deal with them differently. My character deals with it through humor quite a bit. Sometimes it is inappropriate, so he’s really trying to cover some stuff. He’s a workaholic; he never wants to go home. He’d rather look into a patient’s face than go home and look into the mirror at his own face.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Your character has been described as “edgy.” Does that mean you have extreme moods?
Kevin Rankin: I would say yeah, he’s walking a fine line there. I mean, he gets along with everybody. I think edgy means he’s very unpredictable. You don’t know if he’s going to hug you or punch you in the face. He does have that look in his eyes.
That was how the character was described to me when I first met with the Executive Producers. They said Tyler is the guy that you see across the room and you want to go and say hi to him, but then you get five steps closer and you see that look in his eye and you think oh, that’s not the guy I want to say hi to. So, he’s very unpredictable and I think that’s where that description of edgy comes from.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I guess he’s dealing with being gay also.
Kevin Rankin: Yeah, and I think that’s something we’re just trying to keep quiet on as well. When you meet someone in the real world and you don’t know their sexual preference… well, we’re just trying to let the audience learn it as if you were in the real world, you know, not just start the series off knowing that there is a gay character. So, it did slip out a little, but we’d really like to keep it to where they are watching these characters and then they get to know them and maybe even get to love them… and then find out that, oh, he’s homosexual.
We’d really like to have that revealed in the show and to try to take a different approach with it, as opposed to starting the series off by saying “this person is gay.” You might have a preconceived notion before you even see me, whereas we’d like for you to get to know me, and then find it out just like you do in the real world. You don’t know right away what people are about and we’d like to have everyone just to get to know these characters by watching, you know.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is the show filmed entirely in San Francisco?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, it is all on location. This is such a beautiful city. Have you been here?
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): No, I’ve been to LA a few times, but not to San Francisco.
Kevin Rankin: Oh, wow, you have to come. I have my in-laws coming; I’m bringing my parents out here… I’m telling everyone that they have to come and check this place out.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I’d love to see the city. It appears you’re going to have a couple of explosions in the pilot episode. Is that going to be something that happens every week?
Kevin Rankin: No, to quote the creator of the show… we’re not going to blow the world up, you know. But, there is going to be a major event… there is going to be something that happens (one big one, a couple of little ones) – there is always going to be something pretty major happening. It doesn’t have to involve fire and explosions every time, though.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you doing any of your own stunts?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, so far, I’ve been doing all of my own stuff. In the pilot I get to run from an exploding eighteen-wheeler on the freeway. I really actually did that. Hey, not a lot of acting there (laughing)… just running.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, it sounds like you’re getting a lot of exercise.
Kevin Rankin: Wow, my thighs! You know these guys squat down a lot! They squat over a patient, you know, and man I feel like I’m bleeding battery acid in my thighs. They have us doing core exercises because we’re actually out there carrying bodies and we’re actually carrying heavy equipment, but it’s great.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. It’s not just the project, but it’s the people I’m working with, the city I’m working in… I’m just on top of the world right now.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you working on any movies?
Kevin Rankin: Well, I did a foreign film that was a follow up from some German filmmakers who won the Academy Award for best Foreign Film about three years ago… a movie called Lives of Others. Their follow up is a film called Friendship and I shot that and it’ll be out on November 5.
I also did another pilot for FX and that show is called Lawman. That’s with Timothy Olyphant. So, hopefully, if schedules work out I’ll get to recur and guest star more on Lawman over on FX because that won’t come on until the Spring of next year. Until then it’s just trauma, trauma, trauma.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What do you do when you’re not working?
Kevin Rankin: I love to pet my kitty… I love my cat. I play guitar and write music, and that’s pretty much all my spare time… playing and singing and creating as much as I can.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you in a band?
Kevin Rankin: I have sort of a band with my fiancée. We sing together and we write music together. We gave ourselves a name… it’s called Show Preference for Daddy. It’s one of those nice psychedelic names.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you set a wedding date?
Kevin Rankin: Yes, I think we’re going to do it on October 23. I let her set the date. I said anytime… whenever you want. I popped the question during the pilot while we were here in San Francisco. I just felt like it was time. I carried that ring around for two years, trying to find the right time and the right place and then everything just sort of clicked into place when I was here and I just went ahead and did it.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is she someone you met there?
Kevin Rankin: No, I met her in Los Angeles about eight years ago and it just sort of worked out where we were friends for a while and then…here we are!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is she in acting?
Kevin Rankin: She’s an actor also, yeah.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well Kevin, Congratulations on your engagement and congratulations on Trauma. I’ll definitely be watching.
Interview by Melissa Parker
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