4 Things We Learned from The Knick's Creators

Mary Cybulski/Cinemax
Mary Cybulski/Cinemax / Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

Jack Amiel and Michael Begler co-created The Knick, a medical drama starring Clive Owen and directed by Steven Soderbergh. We have a lengthy interview with Amiel and Begler; here are four highlights.

1. Cable Dramas Don't Have to Be Wall-to-Wall Nudity

I asked the guys about the restrained depiction of nudity and sex on the show. Here's part of their response:

Michael Begler: [We] felt that this is about a hospital, first and foremost, and this is about medicine, and it's about the progression of medicine, and it's about racism, and it's about sexism, and those social issues were more important to us than just having a bunch of naked bodies.

Clive Owen in an opium den / Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

2. Technology and Medicine Came Together Nicely in 1900

In the context of a discussion about setting the show in the year 1900, Jack Amiel said:

Jack Amiel: [1900] is a time of amazing technological advancements, and you also have a country that is looking towards medicine for the same advancements. Suddenly you have X-rays. Suddenly you have electricity that can be used within medicine. Suddenly you have ether that can safely put someone under, and safely wake them up. You understand germ theory now, so you can at least try to mitigate infections. All of these modern advances were allowing doctors to try new things and experiment—new understanding of drugs, of chemistry, and pharmacology were allowing you to have new treatments as well. So we thought, "Wow, what an amazing confluence of events that were all coming together at this exact time."

3. They Shot Multiple Episodes at Once

The Knick was directed, shot, and edited by Steven Soderbergh. This is not typical for a TV show, but it has major benefits:

Jack Amiel: We cross-boarded it, which means instead of shooting episode one, then episode two, then episode three—which isn't terribly efficient—you could shoot scenes from four different episodes in a day if they all happen to be in one location. [It's] much harder on the actors, but it's a very efficient way of shooting, and so that was how we shot.

Andre Holland in the operating theater / Mary Cybulski/Cinemax

4. Dr. Burns is "The World's Most Specific Hoarder"

Amiel and Begler worked with Dr. Stanley Burns, The Knick's medical advisor, whom we interviewed a few weeks back. Burns's collection of medical photography is impressive:

Michael Begler: The first time we went to see Dr. Burns...his brownstone is covered from the basement to the roof with photographs. He has something like a million photographs from this era. I mean, he's the world's most specific hoarder. He showed us a photograph from the turn of the century of a black surgeon in Paris, who was the lead surgeon in a surgical theater, and he's surrounded by an entire white staff of doctors and nurses. This is basically the only photograph in existence of this, but it affirmed what we had created.

Read the Rest

We have a full interview with Amiel and Begler touching on various aspects of The Knick, its creation, writing a period drama, and working with Steven Soderbergh. (We also have an interview with Dr. Burns.) The show airs Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax.