Q&A Interview with actor Windell D. Middlebrooks, “Body of Proof” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
October 6, 2011 by Dennis Amith
With the DVD release of “Body of Proof – The Complete First Season”, we will be featuring Q&A interviews with the cast of ABC’s “Body of Proof”.
Our final interview is with actor Windell D. Middlebrooks, who plays the character of Dr. Curtis Brumfield, the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in the ABC drama series “Body of Proof”.
Windell has appeared on TV shows such as “Scrubs”, “The Suite Life on Deck” and the film “Miss March”, but on “Body of Proof”, his role as Dr. Curtis Brumfield has him playing the recently hired Deputy Chief Medical Examiner.
And Dr. Brumfield is always keeping a close eye on Dr. Megan Hunt (played by Dana Delany) as she tends to order expensive tests without consulting with her superiors. Also, Dr. Hunt is quite upfront of asking Dr. Brumfield to prove himself to her. Needless to say, because of that, initially Dr. Curtis Brumfield is often in not in the best mood when he is around Dr. Hunt.
But when he starts to see how effective she is in her job as well as helping the detectives solve their crimes and show his usefulness around her, the two begin to warm up to each other (slowly).
With season two of “Body of Proof” airing on ABC and the DVD release of “Body of Proof: The Complete First Season”, actor W.D. Middlebrooks took part in a media Q&A and reflected on the first season as Dr. Curtis Brumfield on “Body of Proof”.
How would you describe your character, Curtis Brumfield, in Body Of Proof?
Windell: Curtis has just been promoted to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, so he is under pressure to deliver. This is his chance. However, he’s constantly challenged by the women around him. Firstly, there’s Dr. Kate Murphy, who is the Chief Medical Examiner who thinks she’s brilliant. Then there’s Dana Delany’s character, Dr. Megan Hunt, who challenges Curtis to prove himself to her and prove that he deserves this promotion. He fights them both all day long.
It sounds like there’s plenty to get your teeth into, character wise…
Windell: It’s wonderful because these characters are very human – and that’s what I love about the show. You get to see the layers, the complexity, and why the relationships work and why they don’t work. You get to see why one case moves Curtis more than another, or why a case affects Kate or Megan more than anyone else. It’s fascinating, but there is a wonderful conflict underneath everything.
Why does Curtis dislike Dr. Megan Hunt so much?
Windell: Megan messes up his budget. I visited a Medical Examiner’s office to research the role and they explained the importance of coming in under a certain number. There’s a huge pressure to do that. But on top of that, there’s also the side of being a doctor where you care about each case. You want to know why this happened and you want to solve it. However, Curtis has to put that on the back burner to manage the numbers. That’s why there’s always this fight in him, which in turn becomes a fight in the office. We all want to do our job well, but there are rules and regulations that we all have to abide by. Megan doesn’t care about the costs. She just wants to solve cases. Curtis wants to solve everything, but under his budget.
Do we see many arguments between Megan and Curtis in Season One?
Windell: You see a few arguments in the first season. If Megan was a man, we could step outside and go toe to toe – but Curtis has a lot of respect for her because she’s damn good at what she does. He knows that. As much as Curtis hates it, he knows that he has to run a certain test in order to solve a case – and he knows it’s going to blow his budget, but at least they will get results. You get to see a lot of respect between these two characters, but you also get to see him fighting against her and wanting Megan to be wrong for his own sake.
Is it fair to say that Curtis provides the comic relief in the show?
Windell: It’s very fair to say that Curtis provides the comic relief in the show – and that’s also what I love about him. The show deals with murder and death, so it’s nice to have Curtis and Geoffrey (played by Ethan Gross) run behind Megan like little puppy dogs. She stirs up an excitement in us to get back into the field and be hands-on – and it’s this circumstance that causes the comedy. It’s not because Curtis and Geoffrey are dumb or don’t know their jobs, but they’re awkward at times and it’s fun to add this lightness to the show. To me, it’s very true to life. I don’t know any office or any situation, even in the heavy world of medical examinations, where you can’t find laughter.
Does this mean you think you can find comedy even when dealing with death?
Windell: I come from a family where there is always a place to laugh, whether dealing with death or drama. I remember being in college and I would meet people who had been to two funerals in their life. I said to them, “I had been to eight funerals by the time I was eight years old!” When people died in my family, you just deal with it. It’s just a process, even at a young age, that wasn’t hidden from me. This was the reality that my family gave me.
How do you deal with all the medical terminology on the show?
Windell: I work on it all the time. In rehearsal, I’ll nail it, syllable for syllable. I’m dead on. Then I get on the set and I can’t get one syllable out. “What is it? Acetylsalicylic acid? Why can’t I just say aspirin?” I don’t care how much you work on it, you will mess up – but it’s a lot of fun. You basically have to study it and know it as second nature.
How much feedback did you get from the technical advisers on the show?
Windell: They have tons of feedback, but it’s always fascinating. They comment on everything from the simplest of actions, like learning what to do with the gloves. On our first day on set, we shot a scene where we walked out of an autopsy and I pulled off my gloves the wrong way. One of the technical advisors told me, “No, fold them down. You don’t want to contaminate.” These are the details that they pay close attention to.
What research did you do for the role?
Windell: I went to a real autopsy for research purposes and it was a fascinating experience. At first, I stayed behind the glass for a while – but then I inched forward as I became more comfortable with everything. The first one was just an inspection, not a full autopsy. It was a 20-year-old who had died in a motorcycle accident – and it was tough for me. It’s easier to understand death when it’s an older person who has lived their life fully. It sits better with me when that happens. But it’s hard to grasp when it’s someone young. You see it as a body but then you see what they were wearing, and the note in the pocket that someone wrote to him. I made an emotional connection and it shook me up.
Was the second autopsy easier to watch?
Windell: The second autopsy was an older woman and it was easier because you knew she had led a full life. It became more about the science to me because I had more peace about it. However, I don’t think I could have taken it if we’d done a full autopsy on the 20-year-old.
How do medical examiners deal with these tough situations?
Windell: The medical examiner that was handling that case had a son around the age of the 20-year-old, so he said, “This has to be a case number for me so that I don’t connect personally with it.” So it definitely makes you appreciate life. You take everything more seriously and you evaluate a lot of the shallow stuff that we deal with. When you’re working on this show and you’re standing there watching the autopsy, it definitely changes your thinking.
Body of Proof: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD.
Photo credit: ABC
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