The second season of PBS’s acclaimed series Mercy Street returns January 22, 2017 on KCTS 9. The story, which is set in Virginia during the Civil War, follows the lives and the difficulties faced by the people of the Mansion House Hospital.
We spoke with cast member Tara Summers — who plays controlling and unapologetic nurse Anne Hastings — about her character and her experience on the show.
For those who are just finding their way to the show, can you tell us about your character, Anne Hastings, and what she brings to the series?
Tara Summers: Anne Hastings is an English nurse who trained with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Prior to Mary Phinney’s arrival, Anne was the head nurse of Mansion House. She could be seen as the antagonist to Mary. She’s also Doctor Hale’s girlfriend, and at times she acts as his Lady Macbeth.
How has Anne grown from Season 1 to Season 2?
TS: Anne’s journey is a little different in Season 2 — there are more challenging aspects to her job that threaten her life at Mansion House. Whereas she spends much of Season 1 trying to usurp and undermine Mary, Season 2 brings Anne different hurdles.
How did you get involved with Mercy Street? What drew you to this project?
TS: When I got the audition, I read the first five scripts in one go. I’m obsessed with Gone With the Wind. I had the video as a child, and I must have seen it a hundred times. So an opportunity to play an English nurse in a Civil War period drama was too amazing for words. I was immediately drawn to Anne. I felt I understood what drove her and how some might perceive her as a villain. I greatly admired her strength and determination. She’s the most fun I’ve ever had with a character.
Mercy Street not only provides entertainment to viewers, but it acts as a source of history lessons for many. Did you know a lot about the Civil War before joining the cast?
TS: I knew embarrassingly little about the Civil War (other than the Margaret Mitchell version) and even less about the medical world. It was thrilling to shoot this in Virginia in locations so steeped in history. The amazing designers of this show created a world for us so painstakingly authentic that you begin to understand firsthand what life was like during this time. The conditions during the Civil War were appalling, and they had such limited resources and knowledge. It’s not surprising that real medical advances were made during the war. The number and severity of the injuries made them have to think quickly on their feet. The volunteer nurses were really the unsung heroes of the Civil War. And to think they did it all in corsets — quite literally the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever come across.
One can only imagine how intense and heavy the shooting days can be. What is the atmosphere like on the set? How do you and your colleagues keep yourself busy between takes?
TS: Corsets aside, we had such a laugh on and off the set. We have some of the most brilliant storytellers on our show. There was never a dull moment. We also loved Richmond — we were a strangely inseparable group and loved going out. I miss Richmond. It’s an awesome, awesome city.
Favorite holiday? Christmas.
Sweet or savory? Savory.
Book or Kindle? Book, no question.
Tea or coffee? Both.
Guilty pleasure? Sour Patch watermelons.