Back in early 2020, before the pandemic had really started, CBC premiered Nurses, their new medical drama. A year later, it premiered in the U.S. on NBC. And we're so glad it did!
We're only halfway through the first season at this point, so we're still getting to know the characters, but so far, we love them all!
We didn't love Ashley Collins so much to begin with. she doesn't make the best first impression, but she's growing on us. The talented Natasha Calis play Ashley.
Natasha's been acting since age seven. She's known for her role in Box Office Hit, The Possession, and NBC's The Firm.
Natasha took some time to talk with us about Ashley's character and what she thinks people have gotten and will get out of the show.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nurses came out about a year ago in Canada and is now airing for the first time in the States. Is it weird for you that we’re just watching Nurses Season 1 Episode 5 when folks back home have already seen episode ten?
Yeah, it’s definitely interesting, but it’s really fun to revisit it all. It’s fun to see and experience for the first time what people are seeing on NBC and hear their feedback.
A lot has happened between early 2020 and now. Obviously, the show won’t be tackling COVID this season. It might be the only medical show that isn’t. Do you think that will help or hinder its popularity?
I think it’s always good being different. Now that a lot of medical shows are tackling COVID and maybe we’re not, that makes us stand out.
I also think that other medical shows don’t necessarily pay tribute to nurses; they mostly follow doctors around, so I think we also stand out there. We’re shedding the spotlight on nurses, and following them around, so we’ll stand out because of those reasons.
And you’ve already been renewed for Nurses Season 2. Congrats on that, by the way. So, do you expect they’ll tackle COVID in Nurses Season 2?
We’ve actually already filmed Season 2. We started filming in, like, March, before COVID actually, and got shut down, and then resumed filming in July and finished in October.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but it definitely gave the writers an opportunity, the months that we took off, to write current events on things that are happening in our world ... it’s going to come in.
I understand you’ve been acting for a long time. This is a different kind of role for you. Did you have any knowledge of or experience in the medical field going in?
Did you do research; maybe pick something up when you guest-starred on The Good Doctor?
Yeah, it’s actually funny. I found out that I got the Nurses role on the set of The Good Doctor, so it was kind of fun.
I obviously wasn’t a healthcare worker in the hospital on The Good Doctor; I just had a small role.
However, besides being around Freddie Highmore and all of these amazing people on The Good Doctor, I immediately got to celebrate like, “Guys, I’m going to be a nurse now! I’m going to be one of you!” So that was really fun.
But yes, Ashley is definitely a really fun character to play, and I learned a lot throughout the process of playing her. We had a week of medical training before we started filming Nurses Season 1, and so we kind of learned the basics.
We had the onset doctor at all times (his name’s Josh, he’s very good) for answering any of our questions and showing us the ropes. All of the equipment and everything on our sets are all real, and so he actually showed us how to use it.
It’s been really interesting. I definitely learned a lot.
Do you think that medical professionals, nurses, and doctors who watch it, will feel that it’s accurate?
I hope so. I know that we try to portray the world as accurately and as real as possible. That’s why Josh is here, and he’s helpful.
At the same time, people have to understand that it’s a TV show. Lots of things are dramatized, and some of the situations are things that wouldn’t happen, but it’s still entertaining to watch.
Hopefully, people can separate the fact that we are a TV show, and yes, there are going to be some things that would never happen, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
What drew you to this show and the character of Ashley?
Well, she’s such a complex character. There’s so much more to her than meets the eye. There are lots of different layers to her.
She definitely has this tough exterior, says what’s on her mind, and doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but deep down, she’s so vulnerable. She has such a huge heart, and she’ll do anything to protect the people she cares about.
There are so many different layers to her, which is really fun and exciting to play. When I first read the character breakdown, I thought, 'Wow, Ashley’s so different from me,' and that can be really fun to play.
However, as the season went on and I got to know her better, it was really fun discovering more similarities than I thought we had. I’m definitely very empathetic and can be emotional, as is Ashley, so I think that was really fun to play.
She seems very close with Wolf. They live together; he calls her his best friend and favorite person. Is there a back-story there that we’re going to get at some point?
I don’t know much more than has already been said: that they’re living together and we’re best friends. I think they have a really special bond ... a special connection, which will obviously develop throughout the season, as do the rest of the nurses.
They all form different relationships, and ultimately, by the end, they’re like a big family. You’ll definitely see the other relationships form and develop throughout the season, which is really lovely to see.
She and Grace didn’t get off on the best foot, but now it seems like Ashley’s really there for her.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that goes back to what I said about how Ashley maybe wasn’t the most likable person at the beginning, and she butts heads, especially with Grace.
But then once Grace kind of explains what’s going on, Ashley ultimately has her back, and their relationship forms and develops, which is really fun.
And Kieran and I are actually best friends in real life, so it was really fun for us, but also hard to pretend like we hated each other at the beginning.
As the series progresses, we grow closer on camera, which was fun to play because we’re just playing ourselves.
So you guys knew each other before the show?
No. We’re both from Vancouver, and we met to do a trial for the chemistry before either of us were cast.
I got a message from her on Instagram, and she said, “Hey, we’re staying at the same hotel, we’re both from Vancouver, so you want to practice lines together?” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.”
So, I went to her room, and we hung out for hours. We really hit it off and have been best friends ever since.
Of course, we can’t talk about Ashley without talking about the serious sparks with her co-worker Caro.
Can you tell us a bit about that relationship is going to work going forward, with Caro not wanting to date someone she worked with and now things are happening?
Yeah. That was really fun and exciting. Ashley is very charming, so I think that was hard for Caro.
I think there were obviously some sparks between them, like right off the bat, from the first episode, you can see it.
So I think it was inevitable, no matter how hard either of them tried to stay away from each other. It was like they were magnets towards each other.
It’s really fun and so sweet. They are so sweet together. It’s a really lovely relationship that develops.
How do you feel about representing the LGBTQ community?
It’s amazing. I’m so honored to share these stories and recognize such a community that is so welcoming.
It’s really empowering to hear people's responses and hear people’s stories about how Ashley and Caro touch their lives. It’s a huge, huge honor. I’m just so happy to bring this character to life and share her story.
We touched a little bit on Ashley’s religious beliefs. Is that going to come back around?
Yeah. Not in this season.
I don’t know how much I can talk about this; I don’t want to spoil anything. But, yeah, you do get to see a little bit more of Ashley’s family kind of side and aspect of why she the person she is.
That’s touched on. I think it's episode 8, where you kind of maybe meet a family member from Ashley’s life, and they have a conversation. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but yes, that is definitely touched on.
What personally would you like to see happen with Ashley going forward?
I think the audience is continually getting to know Ashley better from episode to episode because she does like to portray this rough, tough, macho exterior. Still, really she’s so vulnerable, and so tender, and has the biggest heart deep down.
So I think that would be fun to play, and I’d love to play that more and show why she is the way she is.
I mean, she grew up in a small town, in a Christian family of nine people. Being gay, she was always the black sheep of not just her family but of her town too.
There are reasons why she has these defense mechanisms and why she has this more rough exterior because she had a hard life. So I think showcasing that is lovely.
We know you have some skills as a dancer; are we going to see Ashley dance at some point or any other special skills that you have?
I don’t know. We have a karaoke scene in Nurses Season 2, where we were singing and dancing, which was really fun. But actually, legitimately dancing or playing soccer? No.
That would be fun, though. Maybe I’ll have to talk to the writers. But I don’t know how good of a dancer I am anymore, though, honestly. It’s been a few years.
You have some interest in directing, right? Do you direct any of the episodes on Nurses Season 2?
I do not. It’s definitely a dream of mine. I think I will at some point, no doubt.
However, I’ve really enjoyed shadowing directors and just kind of learning all that I can before I dive into that scary but exciting world. I know it’ll happen very soon. I’m very passionate about directing.
Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..