Chicago Med’s Steven Weber On Behind-The-Scenes Antics And Fan Reception – Exclusive Interview
Since joining “Chicago Med” as Dr. Dean Archer in Season 6, Steven Weber has quickly moved up the ranks, both on screen and off. The veteran actor went from recurring guest star to series regular at the start of Season 7, after his divisively gruff character was promoted to head of the emergency department to replace the ailing Dr. Choi (Brian Tee).
It’s a move that’s not too surprising, considering the long and nimble career Weber has under his belt. While he may be best known for his starring roles on the 1990s sitcom “Wings” and the 1997 television adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” he has also starred on “NCIS: New Orleans,” “iZombie,” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” among dozens of other high-profile appearances.
Portraying Dr. Archer may be one of his most formidable roles, as the character, a Navy vet with PTSD, is not necessarily a fan favorite — yet. His arc got off to a bumpy start in Season 6 with his brusqueness — and inadvertent hand in getting Dr. Choi shot by a disgruntled patient — but as Season 7 rolls on, with the NBC series returning tonight (February 23) after a winter hiatus, he’s beginning to soften a little.
That issue of Dr. Archer’s likability (or lack thereof) was discussed during an exclusive interview conducted by Looper with Weber, who also revealed the behind-the-scenes bloopers that keep the “Chicago Med” cast cracking up and why he doesn’t see a “Wings” reunion in the cards anytime soon.
Steven Weber finds it 'disconcerting' that Chicago Med fans don't like him
Here’s something I think about every week when I watch the show and I want to know your take: Is Dr. Dean Archer a good guy or a bad guy? Should we like him or dislike him, because I personally waffle back and forth.
He’s a good guy, but he’s a guy that has been through a lot of stuff in his life, as so many people have. He’s a guy that was a Naval surgeon, he’s seen action. He’s had some issues maybe relating to that. Maybe he’s had some personal issues. He’s a bit of a mystery. He can be very short with people. Certainly, in the beginning when we saw him, he made some choices that were really questionable and rough around the edges. I think the show has softened him a little bit, but he’s still not immediately likable. He has proven himself as a person who has a heart, even though it might be encased in a lot of armor. I think he is a good guy, but like so many people in this world today, it’s hard, he’s seen a lot.
Well, that “is he or isn’t he” mentality makes for a great character, for sure, because you never know what’s coming. Does that make him fun to play, or is it challenging?
It’s always fun. First of all, it’s fun being on this show in the way that getting to work at your life’s dream is fun. The character does present some challenges because, listen, I’m starting to hear from people and fans of the show that he’s not particularly liked, and that’s a little disconcerting coming from a guy like me who has worked all his life specifically to be liked. It’s a little weird, but it is fun. It is challenging because I know that he comes off a certain way, so the challenge is for me to try to inject a little heart and soul underneath, and people are beginning to see it, and the writers certainly are beginning to pick up on it, that he’s not just a wrinkled, mean, ticked-off guy. He’s got some layers to him, and in the upcoming episodes, we will begin to see those layers revealed.
Well, that takes me to my next question, which is, in the last episode we saw you in [before the winter hiatus] we learned that Dean hasn’t spoken to his son in 15 years. Might this half of the season reveal more about his personal life? We know some stuff about his past, but not much about his present.
It’s really hard for me to speak to that for a couple of reasons — one, because I don’t want to give away any secrets, and two, I really don’t know. I can tell that, like I said, they’re starting to scratch away at this guy and we’re getting hints of his past. When I read that line, “My son hasn’t talked to me in years,” I thought, “Oh, he has a son, good to know.” It’s exciting to see what happens. I don’t think the writers and the show would have spent as much time on keeping Dean around if they weren’t going to reveal some stuff about him, the why’s and the wherefores that make him such a pain in the ass half the time.
Playing a doctor brings plenty of 'hilarious' moments behind the scenes
You’ve had some good scenes with Oliver Platt [who plays Dr. Daniel Charles]. What’s it like working so closely with him?
I really love that guy. We were friends back in the olden days, the 1980s, and palling around in New York a little bit, so it’s been a nice reunion. We just had dinner the other night, actually. He’s a wonderful actor. He’s so rich and informed, and his looks are so penetrating. He’s really hooked into the scene and the character, and that’s hard to do, and it’s not always necessary to do on a TV show because it’s produced so quickly, it’s done so fast. It’s a bit of a factory. There’s quite a good amount of satisfaction derived from that, but he imbues it with more detail that’s really fascinating and fun to be around and to work with.
Nice. He injects this cool dude attitude, even though he can be intense on the show, but he seems like a really relaxed guy…
Oh, he’s relaxed in one way, but he’s also very animated in another way. He’s complex in the best sense. He’s a complex carbohydrate. He’s smart, and involved, and interested, and articulate, all those things, all those things I’m looking for … and he and I are getting married next year. We haven’t announced it yet, but yeah. [Laughs.] Hey, that’d be great publicity. He’s so nice…
In general, whether it’s Oliver or somebody else, any funny or memorable moments from last season or the first half of this season that really stand out from the set?
Well, I have to say that this is the only show I’ve ever been on that doesn’t have a gag reel, and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it might be a [“Chicago Med” creator] Dick Wolf dictum that they want to preserve the image of the show and the integrity by never showing the tons of gaffes and mistakes that we make reeling off tooth-shattering medical terminology.
We may, hopefully, appear to be credible as doctors, but I can tell you that we’re not, we’re just actors. Daily, there are often hilarious moments where people lose feeling in their face from reeling off the amount of milligrams of Solu-Medrol, and God knows what else that we’re prescribing.
Plenty of that stuff goes on, but nothing stands out as being too ridiculous, because we also do have a job to finish and people want to get home. If we took too long laughing at ourselves screwing up the dialogue, then there would never be a show on TV.
Portraying a Navy vet with PTSD is a cause close to his heart
There hasn’t been a major One Chicago crossover event since you came aboard, but certain cast members are always popping in and out of different shows. Do you have a dream scenario for a crossover event involving Dean, or someone in particular on either “Chicago Fire” or “PD” you’d like to work with?
I’ll tell you, I’d love to work with Eamonn [Walker] on “Fire.” He’s a great guy, and maybe even Jason Beghe [on “PD”], who I also have known for years. It would be fun to cross over. I think my character is an interesting guy because he’s so gruff, he’s so complicated. He’s a little dark, he can get into trouble, and I can see where he either bonds or goes head-to-head with one of those other tough, complex characters. It’d be interesting.
“Med” not so much, but “PD” and “Fire” are, generally speaking, pretty tough, testosterone-ridden shows … but not really. It’s like it has a certain gruffness about it, but everybody on the show, men and women, are all so complicated. It’s such a complicated world that I think Dean would fit in in any crossover scenario.
In general, what would be your dream scenario on “Chicago Med”? Where do you hope to see Dean go, in terms of storyline?
It’s hard because the stories are so satisfying every week. I’m not just saying that. We have script reads that are on Zoom, because we’re not ready to meet together in the same room, and every week there’s a moment where most of us are moved and are really hit by it. My dream scenario is where I’d love to really tell this particular guy’s story, as a guy who was a veteran and who has PTSD, and that was in the package of ingredients that was given to me when I was first approached about doing this character. It’s a particular cause that’s close to my heart and I’d like to do something along those lines, if that’s not being too vague.
He's all for a Wings reunion but doesn't see it happening
You’ve had a long relationship with Stephen King and his material, dating back to your portrayal in “The Shining” miniseries, and you’ve worked on several other projects of his over the years, including the narration of the “It” audio book. How does it feel knowing that you made such an impact on one of the greatest writers in American horror?
It’s stupendous. It’s so flattering on the one hand, and it’s also very moving to me. He’s such a fantastic writer, he’s so great, and I’m so proud to have been involved with his work. As much as I love doing all the stuff onscreen, the “It” audio book was really my crowning achievement, in a way. It was so much fun and there was so much imagination involved with everybody … not just me, but the writer and the director of it, and the engineer. It was a very involving process, one that I’m really proud of, I have to say.
Now, I know everybody must ask you this, but…
No, there’s not going to be a “Wings” reunion!
[Laughs.] Well, what would need to happen in the universe for there to be one though? Anything?
I’m in. I guess there would have to be actual interest on the part of a network. I read yesterday that “Night Court” is being [rebooted]. The way things are going, eventually, they’ll get to “Wings” … as soon as they do a “Charles in Charge” reboot, and a “Partridge Family,” and “Here Come the Brides,” and “My Mother the Car,” they’ll get to us. Hopefully we won’t be too old, or else it will be called “Broken Wings.”
I can’t make it happen. I’m already happily ensconced, but I’m on NBC [which also aired “Wings”], so maybe they’ll give me time off to do “a very special TV movie.” People loved that show, but I don’t know if there is that kind of interest in the industry for it. It was never a sexy show, it was never an edgy show, but if they want it, I’m sure they could scrape enough of the cast up to do it.
You’ve done some voice work for animated “Batman” projects as Alfred, and various voices on “Ultimate Spider-Man,” among other comic-related animation. Are you a comic book fan, and is there a dream role in the Marvel or DC Universe you’d love to take on, whether live action or animation?
I was a big comics [fan] when I was a kid. God, I even remember specific issues and stories and images and stuff, so the idea that I was able to do “Ultimate Spider-Man” and play the Green Goblin and [Norman] Osborn was really a dream come true. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Universe — and I’m not dissing DC by any means, I love that too — but there’s got to be an X-Man or some superhero that I could play that maybe his secret power, his superpower, is being able to do endless limericks, or something like that … Or I could be the Avengers’ accountant, something that is suitable to my look and my appeal, and that I don’t have to work out too hard to do. I don’t want six pack abs.
Season 7 of “Chicago Med” returns to NBC tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern, with new episodes airing every Wednesday.