Elias Koteas knows well what it’s like to go from job to job in movies, but he’s learning what it takes to be a weekly series star.
A chameleon who has played often-edgy characters in a vast range of films — from “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “Shutter Island” and “Let Me In” — the Montreal-born actor is back in Canada making “Combat Hospital,” a drama about a military medical unit in Afghanistan circa 2006. ABC debuts the show Tuesday, June 21, the same night it’s set to premiere on Canada’s Global network.
Koteas has done guest roles on such shows as “The Sopranos” and “House,” and he tells Zap2it, “I’m all in” as he plays the colonel in charge of the “Combat Hospital” doctors. “It really is a lot of hard work. It’s an endurance thing. You’re so immersed in it, you don’t really have time for anything else. You have to adjust in a major way, because it’s all you’re doing.
“Any time you’re able to pull off a great performance week-in, week-out in a TV show, my hat goes off to those people,” Koteas adds. “And then, to have a family life, and to be able to balance all that? It’s definitely a life-changer.”
Acting has changed Koteas’ life a number of times, starting early in his career when he studied at New York’s legendary Actors Studio. His teachers were Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn and actor-director Peter Masterson … the father of Mary Stuart Masterson, later a Koteas co-star in both “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Gardens of Stone.”
“That was a gift for me,” Koteas reflects. “I will forever be indebted to them. They were just so warm and loving and nurturing, at a time when it’s very important for a young actor. They opened the doors to me, and their homes, and they’ll always be a part of my heart.”
“Combat Hospital” is following the example of two police dramas that also are American-Canadian co-productions, ABC’s “Rookie Blue” and CBS’ “Flashpoint.” While he’s pleased to be working on his home turf again, Koteas maintains, “Nothing has changed at this point. I don’t know what it’ll be like if the show does well.
“People either recognize me and approach me or not. If I’m in an elevator and somebody asks me, ‘What are you here for?,’ I’ll tell them — and they’re genuinely interested and pleased. It’s very welcoming, but it’s been that way across-the-board for me.”