New ABC drama 'Off the Map' keeps Mamie Gummer on her toes, out of familiar theatre realm
New Yorker Mamie Gummer had no idea what to expect when she landed a starring role on ABC's new drama "Off the Map."
"It was a steady and stable job in a down economy," she says. "And [with] a little bit of naivete, I thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun to be living in Hawaii? I guess I wasn't anticipating fully I could be here for a long time."
If she didn't know what the job might have in store for her, it's no surprise. "Off the Map" is Gummer's first regular series role — in fact, her first leading TV role in a career that started in 2005 and has included Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (for the latter, she earned a Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress). She's also a familiar face for her work on HBO's "John Adams," in which she played Adams' daughter.
Despite being something of a newcomer, though, Gummer is no stranger to fame; her mother is Oscar winner Meryl Streep.
"Off the Map," which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m., is the latest series from Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, the forces behind "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice." It revolves around six doctors looking for a new start who have gone to an outpost in the Amazon to help others while also helping themselves.
The easy label - one everyone involved in the show hates — is "'Grey's Anatomy' in the jungle." The two series are similar in many ways, considering that they're both about the lives and loves of a group of attractive doctors, but "Off the Map" also has a bit of adventure thrown in.
The show is shot in a remote corner of Hawaii. "I feel transported," Gummer says. "It's down this winding dirt road. They had to clear a road into the valley. You do feel far away."
The series also stars Jonathan Castellanos, Valerie Cruz, Caroline Dhavernas, Jason George, Zach Gilford, Martin Henderson and Rachelle Lefevre.
"The people and the place have revealed themselves in fascinating and unpredicted ways," Gummer says. "We're actors in this unique assignment in Hawaii. It's all about navigating this new world."
But the job is transformative in ways beyond the work.
A New Yorker at heart, Gummer, 27, had never truly lived alone. Now she is - and in Hawaii, no less.
"It has been really interesting," she says. "It's been kind of revelatory and profound to be so far removed and living on my own lonesome dove. It's been nice in some ways. I guess I never really lived alone. In college, I always had roommates, and post-college, and then boyfriends. This has been slightly monastic, to take this time, and developing this ritual of keeping home and making my coffee in the morning and doing laundry and making the bed. It feels very adult."
Gummer's character, Dr. Mina Minard, studies infectious diseases. As a preparation for the part, she read Mark Pendergrast's book "Inside the Outbreaks" to get a handle on what might drive a doctor to chase such illnesses.
"That's what she'd have you believe is driving her," Gummer says of her character. "There's a harder truth she's kind of running from and atoning for, as well." (In fact, each of the doctors has a hidden motive for seeking redemption in the jungle.)
The acting on "Off the Map" is fundamentally different from her theater experience, where she is used to getting an instant reaction.
"I guess you have to trust yourself or make friends with one of the grips on the set and make him your audience," she says of the TV gig.
The crew and her fellow cast members are helping out along the way. Most of them have much more TV experience than Gummer does, though "I can usually tell when I'm doing it wrong," she says. "When it's right, it's just a gut feeling."
Acting, she adds, "feels holy and wonderful, and if I can touch something in a stranger, that makes me happy."
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