A Conversation with Saving Hope’s Daniel Gillies

The two-part Season 3 premiere of Saving Hope was nothing short of magical, and a big part of that was what was set in motion for Dr. Joel Goran. I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of speaking with Daniel Gillies, the actor behind Saving Hope‘s Joel … who just happens to play one of my absolute favourite TV characters ever, Elijah on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Read our conversation below, and be sure to watch Saving Hope on Thursday nights at 9pm on CTV, and The Originals starting Monday October 6 at 8/7c on The CW.

I’m a long time Vampire Diaries fan and have been watching The Originals religiously. The end of last season, especially the arc with Hayley, was phenomenal. I can’t wait for Season 2.

Buckle up. Just wait for these first few [episodes].

I’d have to say that Joel on Saving Hope is the character where we’ve seen the most growth. It’s been a very discernible evolution. Can you talk about that journey? His beginnings were very superficial — although he was clearly a gifted doctor, he was known for being a bit of a bad boy, a playboy — and now at this point, he’s looking for meaning in everything.

What a wonderful navigation through the history of Joel up until this point. I couldn’t agree with you more. I felt it was a little superficial in the beginning. I found that I discovered more about him during the pilot than I did in the ensuing several episodes. He was sort of piecemeal-y, and doing these jobs and story arcs where I wasn’t learning particularly much about him other than he was this sort of Lothario, and the more mysterious he was, it generated more intrigue about him, which was good and worked in my favour, I suppose. And now this season, all bets are off. This season, we’ve flipped it on its head. It’s now “Who’s Joel?” The writers decided that this is a real priority this season, and that’s what they’re doing. I’ve never explored a character more voraciously. As I said before, I’m not even in two episodes of this season, and yet … he gets into so much trouble. I mean buckle up. It’s weird and great and wonderful and splendid. We discover why he’s there, we touch on where he’s come from, and the kind of father he had, why he is the way he is, why he and Alex have their attraction, and we explore much more from her perspective about who he is. It’s been fun, but it’s been really hard work and I hope it pays off. I’m looking forward to it.

That sounds amazing. The scenes toward the end of the Season 3 premiere’s second half, first with just Joel, and then with Joel and Alex — especially the scene with the St. Jude medal — they were extremely powerful. Was there a specific turning point in playing this character where you realized Joel was completely different from your first impressions of him?

Whenever I go into a role, I always expect them to be everything I expect them to be, otherwise I wouldn’t proceed forward. So no. I always go in thinking I want it to be as great as I imagined it, and in truth — I think — the beautiful thing about if an actor’s good, hopefully what they bring is that desire, because if they don’t and they’re just waiting for writers to write it, everything dies. Everything is stagnant. Everything has no purpose. I was waiting for something to really happen that would be more revealing than just the weekly scenario and patients. Now it’s like dam-busters. In terms of discoveries I didn’t expect, there are several and they all occur this season.

There’s one episode that really stood out for me in Season 2, and that was the one where Joel is trying to enlist Dr. Kinney to come back to Hope Z and help out with the refugee from Africa.

I loved that one as well and I liked discovering that Joel worked in a refugee camp, which speaks to his sense of global understanding and the importance of medicine, and also let’s not forget that there’s a degree of ego. I had always suspected there was a sort of saviour complex to him — not to diminish those efforts, because those people are heroes, those who work in those camps — but I think for Joel, why didn’t he remain there? Why is where this former flame resides? I think we all know the answer to that. He’s seeking some kind of fulfillment, as you said at the beginning of this interview, some kind of identity. Now that he’s remaining in the same place, I think he’s being forced to find identification in areas other than just his job, which he used to define himself as before. Because Alex is here, he’s staying here and spiralling into this thing where he’s all of these other things as well and not all of them are pretty to look at.

In first two episodes of this season, the thing that I find most interesting — and that I’m guessing will be an overarching theme for the upcoming episodes — is whereas Charlie has been actively helping lost souls, now Joel is kind of heading down a similar path without ever having crossed over to the other side, so it will be interesting to explore that from the more practical side of things rather than the more fantastical.

You touch on something interesting. Today, the one question I’ve received that stumped me was if there was a superpower that Joel could have that would level the playing field in terms of being the eligible bachelor against Charlie’s being able to see inter-dimensionally, what power would level the playing field? And I thought for what honestly felt like 200 years — but was more like 3.5 minutes — and I eventually just said the truth is that I don’t think he requires a superpower for that playing field to be level. I like that Joel is a man. First of all, I think that these orthopaedic surgeons — and I’ve watched them in action — are superheroes to me. I feel like they have superpowers. They’re all like Beethoven. But medical prowess aside, I like who Joel is. He’s calculated in his recklessness. I don’t think his ego comes before the needs of a patient. I like who he is. He’s just a little lost, and more in love than he wants to be.

And the journey to finding himself will be through helping other people along the way, the first of which we see is Alex.

Yes. Definitely.

Photo Courtesy of CTV

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