Premiering Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 10pm on WMHT TV
PBS announced today that MERCY STREET, a new Civil War era drama produced in and around Richmond, Virginia, will debut Sunday, January 17, 2016, at 10:00 p.m. MERCY STREET will follow the final season of “Downton Abbey” on MASTERPIECE highlighting PBS as a home for internationally acclaimed television drama.
The series is executive produced by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma and Louise); David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife” and “The Man in the High Castle”) of Scott Free; Lisa Q. Wolfinger (“Desperate Crossing, The untold story of the Mayflower”) and David Zabel (ER). Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment secured all foreign rights to the series early in the process, and will continue to sell to international territories.
Based on real events, MERCY STREET takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of Americans on the Civil War home front as they face the unprecedented challenges of one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history.
Set in Virginia in the spring of 1862, MERCY STREET follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict; Mary Phinney, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green, (Hannah James), a naive young Confederate belle. The two collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel that has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army Hospital in Alexandria, a border town between North and South and the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war. Ruled under martial law, Alexandria is now the melting pot of the region, filled with soldiers, civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded fighting men from both sides, runaway slaves, prostitutes, speculators and spies.
The intersection of North and South within the confines of a small occupied town creates a rich world that is chaotic, conflicted, corrupt, dynamic and even hopeful — a cauldron within which these characters strive, fight, love, laugh, betray, sacrifice and, at times, act like scoundrels. This series is not about battles and glory, it’s about the drama and unexpected humor of everyday life behind the front lines. It’s a fresh twist on an iconic story, one that resonates with larger themes we still struggle with today.
MERCY STREET cast in leading roles includes:
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“The Returned,” The Spectacular Now) as nurse Mary Phinney, a feisty New England widow who is a newcomer at Mansion House Hospital.
- Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother,” Liberal Arts, Broadway’s Disgraced) as Dr. Jedediah Foster, the civilian contract surgeon who grew up in a privileged slave-owning household as the son of a wealthy Maryland landowner.
- Gary Cole (“Veep,” “The Good Wife,” “Entourage”) as James Green, Sr., patriarch of the Green family, struggling to maintain his family business while living in an occupied city.
- Newcomers Hannah James as Emma Green, an entitled Southern young woman who volunteers as a nurse at Mansion House Hospital, and Brad Koed as James Green, Jr., working alongside his father on the family businesses while he desperately wants to be on the front lines for the Confederate cause.
- Norbert Leo Butz (“Bloodline”) as Dr. Byron Hale, an old-school Army Surgeon who does everything by the book.
- Tara Summers (“You’re the Worst,” “Rake,” “Boston Legal”) as nurse Anne Hastings, whose claim to fame is her experience working with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War.
- McKinley Belcher III (“Show Me A Hero,” “Chicago PD”) as Samuel Diggs, a black laborer who works in Mansion House Hospital and harbors a secret knowledge of medicine.
- Shalita Grant (“NCIS: New Orleans,” “Bones”) as Aurelia Johnson, a stoical “contraband” working as a laundress at the hospital.
- Peter Gerety (Syriana, Charlie Wilson’s War, “The Wire,” “Prime Suspect”) as Chief Surgeon Alfred Summers, a career Army surgeon who has risen to the rank of major by virtue of his age, not his skill
- Jack Falahee (“How to Get Away With Murder”) as Frank Stringfellow. a Confederate spy who is betrothed to Emma.
- Anna Sophia Robb (“The Carrie Diaries,” The Way, Way Back, Bridge to Terabithia) as Alice Green, Emma’s younger sister who at first frivolous and naïve, becomes the most radicalized member of her family.
- Cameron Monaghan (“Shamless”) as Tom Fairfax, a Confederate soldier and Alice’s childhood friend and secret beau.
- Donna Murphy (“Resurrection,” “Hindsight,” Broadway’s Passion and The King and I) as Jane Green, wife of James Green, Sr. and mother to three, she is the quintessential Southern belle.
- L. Scott Caldwell (“Southland,” “Lost,” “ER,” The Fugitive) as Belinda, the Green family servant adjusting to life as a free woman.
- Suzanne Bertish (“Rome”) as Hospital Matron Brannan, the formidable Irish head nurse who sees and knows all at Mansion House.
- Wade Williams (“Prison Break,” Draft Day) as hospital steward Silas Bullen, a scheming, conniving, morally bankrupt man.
- Luke Macfarlane (“Brothers and Sisters,” “Over There”) as Chaplain Hopkins, who, with a dark past, is newly committed to God and his work.
- And special guest star Cherry Jones as Dorthea Dix, known as “Miss Dix,” the formidable superintendent of Union Army nurses.
Based on both historical and composite characters, MERCY STREET combines real and dramatized places and events as backdrops for an absorbing array of colliding storylines. A pair of nurses from opposite worlds and political persuasions opens a window into a world where the unprecedented medical demands create a chaotic atmosphere and challenge doctors, nurses and patients in unimaginable ways, while the pressures of Union occupation threaten to tear apart a proud Confederate family.
To ensure historical accuracy, the producers engaged an all-star team of advisors headed by noted historian James McPherson and including leading experts on Civil War medicine, military history, African-American history, women in the Civil War era and more. Each script was vetted with the entire advisory team, many of whom were on set during the show’s filming in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.
Along with McPherson, the advisory team included Dr. Stanley Burns (19th century medical historian, “The Knick”), Shauna Devine (Learning From the Wounded, the Civil War and the Rise of Medical Science), Jane Schultz (Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America), George Wunderlich, director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Audrey Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, and Anya Jabour (Scarlett’s Sisters, Young Women in the Old South).
“MERCY STREET is a story about love, war and medicine. Thematically, it’s about how the experience of war brings out the very best and worst in our characters. It’s also about the consequences of social upheaval: the war creates unique opportunities unthinkable just a few years before. Doctors are pushing the boundaries of medical science, women are leaving the confines of the home and volunteering as nurses, and thousands of escaped slaves are getting their first taste of freedom. All of these elements come together in Alexandria’s Mansion House Hospital. It’s a dysfunctional and unpredictable world filled with conflict and passion,” said Lisa Q Wolfinger.
The show also has deep roots in another of television’s longest running medical themed shows thanks to David Zabel, former “ER” showrunner and writer of 45 of the NBC hit show’s episodes. “This is such a quintessentially American story that encompasses not only history, but also so many themes that are relevant today, issues like economic imbalance, racial struggles, the morality of war and medical progress.”
“What is so enticing and compelling about this material,” David W. Zucker said, “is that you recognize the challenges these characters are facing. These are people who were trying to survive and find love, find purpose and find meaning in this turbulent time, and MERCY STREET brings audiences very much into the very heart of that world, and into the grit and the reality and sweat of these lives.”
“MERCY STREET exemplifies the very best of what PBS has been, is and hopes to be,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Officer and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “It speaks to our extraordinary track record of world-class dramatic and historical programming that both educates and entertains.”
Roxann Dawson directed the pilot and next two episodes of MERCY STREET. Her recent credits include “Hell on Wheels,” “Bates Motel,” “Bosch,” “ Aquarius”, "The Good Wife" and "Treme." She has been producer-director on multiple shows, including “Scandal,” “Cold Case" and "Crossing Jordan." She is also known for portraying B’Elanna Torres on the series “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Jeremy Webb, who directed episodes four-six, has recently directed episodes of “Masters of Sex,” “Turn,” “The Red Road” and “Downton Abbey” for MASTERPIECE on PBS, for which he received a 2013 Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The extensive body of his television work in the UK includes episodes of “Doctor Who” and “Merlin” for BBC1 and Shine, respectively.
MERCY STREET producer David A. Rosemont has produced more than 45 films for almost every major television studio including ABC, NBC, CBS, Showtime, Lifetime, The History Channel, A&E, among others. Rosemont is best known for his work on the critically acclaimed “Door To Door” (Emmy Award for Best Picture, 2003), “Gifted Hands” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., and “America” starring Rosie O’Donnell. His recent credits include “In My Dreams” and “One Christmas Eve,” for the Hallmark Hall of Fame and ABC, respectively.
PBS Digital is creating a comprehensive web experience to complement the MERCY STREET broadcast. In addition to materials about the characters and the show episodes, the site will focus on the medical history presented in the series. Additionally, there will be special features covering various aspects of the production, from costume design to set dressing, with an eye to the series’ historical and social elements.
PBS LearningMedia will offer a range of materials designed to bring MERCY STREET into classrooms around our nation including a series of student-facing videos that will explore ties between current events topics with roots in Civil War era history, clips from MERCY STREET and teacher-focused classroom support materials, such as background essays and lesson activities. These resources will enable teachers to connect content covered in MERCY STREET with curricula topics in Civil War era history, and connect themes covered in the series to issues relevant to students’ lives today.
In February 2016, Little Brown will publish Dr. Pamela D. Toler’s Heroines of Mercy Street. The book explores the lives of the real nurses of Mansion House – such as Dorothea Dix, Mary Phinney, Anne Reading, and more – as depicted in the MERCY STREET series. Toler highlights the contributions of the women who gave their time freely and willingly to save lives and aid the wounded during an astounding time of medical advancement. Toler has also authored Mankind: The Story of All of Us and The Everything Guide to Socialism.
Full episodes of MERCY STREET will be available for viewing on the PBS Video Portal for a limited time after each national broadcast. The series will also be available on Blue-ray and DVD from PBS Distribution: ShopPBS.org; 800-PLAY-PBS, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The film will also be available for digital download.