Interview: Luke Macfarlane on “The Night Shift,” Gay Military Couples, “Brothers & Sisters” & More

Luke Macfarlane If you’ve been watching NBC’s new hospital drama The Night Shift, we’ve heard mention of Rick, the BF of semi-closeted Drew (Brendan Fehr). In this week’s episode we finally get to meet him, and it’s not under the best circumstances.

In the episode, Rick is brought into the hospital for more of a medical than personal reason and Drew is immediately not comfortable having his personal life crash up against his professional life, where he’s tried very hard to keep the fact that he’s gay close to the vest.

Luke Macfarlane plays Rick and the Brothers & Sisters alum talked to TheBacklot about the role, how gay couples in the military handle their relationship, working with Fehr as well as what else he’s been up to.  Let’s check in with one of our favorite out actors.

TheBacklot: Where are Rick and Drew in terms of their relationship? They’ve been apart but is it a pretty solid relationship or is it a more tenuous relationship?

Luke Macfarlane: I think they’re pretty solid. I think they’re actually representative of a lot of the military guys that I’m actually friends with in that they have these really clear boundaries about what can and can’t be discussed, but I think that they really value each other and they bond over this sort of separate life that they have together. I think it’s healthy. They definitely vacation, they spend time together. I don’t think necessarily anybody’s bringing them home to meet Mom and Dad, but like I said, it’s really a good representation at least of a few of the gay, military couples that I know that both happen to be enlisted. But I think they’re pretty healthy, other than the distance between them, which technology has made easy.

Being out is still an issue in the military for some, but it sounds like even though ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, it’s still not perfect in the army. Is that how you see it?

LM: You know, it’s such a complicated issue. Frankly, I’m not entirely well-equipped, but I’ll offer some insight. I think that it’s like anybody in the world. It always takes a certain amount of courage to just say, ‘this is what I am.’ People are very reluctant to define themselves. It takes a lot to say, ‘I’m this, I’m that.’ We know it’s okay theoretically to be gay, but sometimes you just don’t want to be known or seen. You want to keep your secrets. We do this in all kinds of aspects of our lives and, especially in the military culture, I found that any sort of expression itself is kind of frowned upon. I mean, they all wear the same thing, they have the same haircut and a lot of them have the same interests, so to say, ‘I’m this,’ is not necessarily a good thing or they’ve been taught that it’s not a good thing if that makes a little bit of sense. That’s my little two cents on it. It’s not that anyone’s going to get kicked out, it’s just it takes a certain stepping outside of the fold that’s not always something they want to do. They want to be with their unit.

We’ve seen on this show, Drew is very bullish and has a lot of rage that he gets out through his mixed martial arts. Do you think Rick kind of balances out that more aggressive side of Drew?

LM: I think that would make sense. I mean, like most couples, he’s sort of the gardener and I think you’re right, I’m sure they balance each other out…I will say this. There might be sort of a role reversal, with Drew as the caretaker. My rage might come out a little bit later [and] Drew might have to sit on his anger for a bit while I deal with mine.

Brendan Fehr, Luke Macfarlane

With Brendan Fehr in this week’s episode of The Night Shift.

What can you say about working with Brendan and how you guys worked on the relationship between your characters?

LM: Brendan, he’s great. He’s a fellow Canadian. I really enjoyed him. He’s very serious about his work and really enjoys talking about the scenes. I was tremendously impressed with him. He really did his work. Everybody really did their work. I think sometimes you show up on sets and you can just tell that everybody’s a little bit tired. Everyone was just really, really working hard, and Brendan especially. He’s great and very handsome.

It’s funny because people know him from Roswell, and now it’s like, ‘oh, he grew up to be a hunky guy!’

LM: Yes, totally! Isn’t that weird, you know? We watch people grow up on TV. It’s very strange.

Speaking of good-looking guys, you got to work with Scott Wolf on the show, which is exciting.

LM: Yes! Scott Wolf. Another good looking fella. I really liked him too. I actually interacted with him a few years back and it’s always that nice thing when someone really remembers you, and they’re like, ‘oh, yes, Luke, we met when so and so and so and so’ and when someone’s famous like Scott Wolf, you go like, ‘oh really, you remembered me, how nice,’ so it shows good character.

From what you know, will we be seeing more of Rick in the future?

LM: Well, that’s all I’ve filmed to be perfectly honest with you. If the show continues to do well, which I understand it’s doing very well, I think they want to bring me back, and hopefully they can.

I hope so. I  liked seeing you on my TV again.

LM: Oh, thank you. I like being on TV. I like being on network TV.

Luke Macfarlane, Mathew Rhys

Luke Macfarlane and Matthew Rhys in Brothers & Sisters

Tell me, it’s been several years since Brothers & Sisters was on the air, but safe to say you still hear from people about the show?

LM: I do, yes. It’s very nice, yes. I had a really nice experience just the other day. I was walking out of an audition with these two other people that I had just been auditioning against, and this lady passed me on the street, and she said, ‘no disrespect to the other two of you, but I just have to say I’m such a huge fan of Luke.’ And I turned to the people beside me, and I said, ‘I swear to God, I didn’t tell her to say that.’

If the right role came along would you want to do another series like Brothers & Sisters or another drama. I know you did a comedy [Satisfaction] last year in Canada.

LM: I did and that was a really fun experience. Yes, I mean, you’re always looking for the opportunity and kind of hoping…we were so blessed with Brothers & Sisters. It was just such a wonderful role for me and such a wonderful cast and show, but yes, I would be very happy to do that and hopefully something comes along, I keep hoping for it.

You’ve played a mix of gay and straight roles. Have you seen a change in the last five or ten years since we have out actors like Neil Patrick Harris playing straight roles? You played a straight role on Satisfaction, for example.

LM: That’s right and I think that that’s why I got into acting, you know, to play all kinds of different roles. Yes, it’s really exciting, and I think the other fields are opening up. I think Michael Sam has been just a fascinating and an amazing thing to watch unfold. Yes, I really do believe it’s easier and I’m so grateful for that. It’s going to make for a better world, a better country, I think.

Ryan Belleville, Leah Renee, Luke Macfarlane

Macfarlane with his Satisfaction co-stars, Ryan Belleville & Leah Renee

What would your advice be to a young actor, or not even young actor, but somebody who was out in their personal life but not in their professional life?

LM: Oh, God, Jim, that’s a hard question. It’s so personal. I would say that my education by my family was very special and different and accepting and I don’t know if that is the right thing for everybody, because everybody has different families and different friends and different circumstances. You really just have to figure it out for yourself, I think

What else is going on with you, Luke, besides The Night Shift?

LM: I filmed a new movie for the Hallmark Channel, which is a sort of romantic comedy so I’m excited about that, and I think that’s coming out later in the summer, maybe in August…it’s called The Memory Book.  And I have my fingers crossed for another television show.

Anything in the personal life we should know about, any dating or marriages or anything going on?

LM: On marriages and dating, no. You know, Jim, I never talk about my personal life. I’m a healthy and happy guy.

The Night Shift airs Tuesdays at 10pm on NBC.