Whether you remember her best as Vanessa in the glitzy TV soap Gossip Girl or for the horror movie Piranha 3-D—which earned her a MTV Movie Awards “Best Scared-As-Shit Performance” nomination—you’ll find a very different Jessica Szohr in the new USA series Complications.
Szohr, whose credits also include Tower Heist, The Internship and upcoming movies Two Night Stand with Miles Teller and The Lie with Jerry Ferrara, takes on her first medical—and gay—character. In USA’s Complications (Thursdays, 9/8c, premiering June 18th), she plays ER nurse Gretchen Polk, who gets caught up in a dangerous situation when her colleague Dr. John Ellison (Jason O’Mara) saves the son of a gang leader in a drive-by shooting; smuggling the boy out of the hospital, she becomes his accomplice.
That’s just the beginning of this medicine-meets-crime drama, which is why Szohr just couldn’t pass it up, as she explains in this chat.
“When my character wants something done, she will do it at almost any cost, which is, for me, super scary. They’re crazy situations and they’re super intense. It’s been very fun to play, very opposite of anything I’ve done.”
What drew you to this project and character?
When I read the pilot for Complications I wasn’t sure where the series was going to go. You don’t know what to expect. But each episode I read it and go ‘this can’t be happening.’ It’s complicated! Gretchen is one tough cookie. She goes after what she wants even when she might have to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. She gets personal with patients because she sees them in tough situations and wants things to be better for them. It all comes from things she dealt with in her past.
Gretchen’s relationship with John is very much like Batman and Robin. They don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things but they both have very big hearts and do a lot to help other people. He gets under her skin sometimes but she also needs him to help her get away with things she needs to do to make their situation better. She will do anything for her sister, and you see that throughout the series. With the rough background that Gretchen had, she’s stubborn. She’s in the moment. When she wants something done, she’s a go‑getter and will do it at almost any cost, which is, for me, super scary. They’re crazy situations and they’re super intense. It’s been very fun to play, very opposite of anything I’ve done.
Miles away from Gossip Girl?
This is a much more mature character. Vanessa and Gretchen were both go-getters and said what was on their mind, which is in me and comes out in these characters. Gretchen had a really rough past and she’s trying to make a better future. It’s a much more mature, edgier role for me.
There’s a lot of physicality in it as well.
Almost every episode I’m doing crazy stuff like breaking into places and shooting guns. I do most of it but they were really nervous about one with broken glass, so they didn’t want me to do that stunt. But I’m doing 99 percent of them.
What has been most challenging about the role?
All the technical things: getting the dialogue down, drawing blood, putting in oxygen tubes, but we have nurses and doctors to show us everything.
And another first for you—she’s gay.
Yes. She has a girlfriend named Liz, played by Chelsea Hayes. How I grew up, you love who you love, and this is who she’s in a relationship with. It’s fun. It’s been awesome to play.