Day 1: September 25th, 2007

I know what you're thinking. "Nip/Tuck? Isn't it time for this aging show about plastic surgery to get a facelift?" Indeed it is.

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

When last we saw Dr. Sean McNamara and his partner Dr. Christian Troy, they were standing at the foot of the Hollywood sign having just moved to Los Angeles from Miami. After a shocking season four finale, the guys up and relocated their plastic surgery practice to Malibu. On October 30th, we will finally get to see the consequences of that move.

Once big fish in a small pond, the two surgeons are now but tiny specks in the plastic surgery capitol of the world. This has brought a whole new freshness to the controversial FX series. The actors, writers, and producers have been offered an opportunity to go in a whole new direction with the show's style and subject matter. It is the true rejuvenation of an American classic. And the cast is quite happy about their season five transformation.

To use a giant cliche, Nip/Tuck has itself gone under the knife, much like the guest stars on its show. That theme has become one of the underlining metaphors this season. Even when you change your outside appearance, your true self still shines through. And that is evident here. Though some of the characters' attitudes have changed, they are still the same people beneath the skin. Five years into its run Nip/Tuck is still proving to be a shocking expose on the triumph of the human spirit.

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

Part of the renewal process included a giant overdraft of the old sets. They have been changed and upgraded drastically, improved upon in both space, comfort, and mobility. Where the old stages were cramped and hard to maneuver within, these new sets offer total freedom. Especially in terms of setting up that perfect shot. I was recently invited down to Paramount Studios to take a look at the remodeling of McNamara/Troy and to chat with the actors. I also got to sit in on a few crucial scenes from an upcoming episode of this new season.

Stepping onto the studio lot I was greeted with a friendly, "Fire in the hole!" This was followed by a loud cannon blast. Surely I was walking into a World War II reenactment. Nope. On the lawn just outside of the Nip/Tuck sound stages sat a mall store Santa and a bunch of elves avoiding aggressive gunfire. I couldn't quite get a lock on whether or not it was for this week's episode of the show. It actually looked more like a department store commercial with a twisted bit of violence.

Vice President of Media Relations Scott Seoman, otherwise known as "Lord God King", greeted my in the reception area of the production offices. He passed off the Santa shoot as something quite ridiculous, "Oh, who knows what that is for." He then walked me over to Stage 4. Christian Troy's Malibu condo. "Today, we are shooting episode nine. What you will be seeing is a scene where Sean and Christian are in an argument. Sean has hired Gina Russo as the new receptionist. She is played by Jessalyn Gilsig, and she has a long history with the show. She always refers to Christian as 'Hey, Asshole'. I think that's actually her first line today."

We walked into the soundstage; "Dylan told me that he couldn't possible shoot another scene in his kitchen." We entered the waiting room of McNamara/Troy. Two very long couches lined the wall. Scott pulled a dust cover off one of the couches, "I'm not really a fan of this color." It was too dark to get a good grasp on the fabric, "I think its teal. These new sound stages are enormous. They are the size of a football field. They are not so limited. Not so defined."

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

We then walked into Sean McNamara's office. In the middle of the floor was a huge fish tank. It used to sit behind Sean's desk, but has been relocated in the set schematic to twist the flavor a bit. I ask about the fish. Who takes care of them? Do they live in here all of the time? "Let me tell you. Those fish are treated way better than the crew people. They were relocated in the move. Everybody always asks about the fish."

Scott took me on a mini-tour of the surgical compound. The scrub room was quite spacious. There were real Omniwell X-ray machines and other items that had been purchased from an actual medical equipment warehouse. The back wall was an illuminated cabinet full of real drugs, "Most of the good ones have already been consumed." Scott showed me an empty space on the wall, "In the first couple of episodes, there was a basketball hoop here. It was used to sort of show a passage of time. That no one was coming into their new practice. But business is good now. They've had to take it down to accommodate the procedures."

Below this empty space was the crowning jewel of the operation room. The Bang & Olufsen. A state of the art sound system that acts as a key prop in every surgical procedure scene, "When Liz waves her hand over the Bang & Olufsen, that's your cue to turn away. That's when you know it's going to get bloody." I am then walked through the rest of this area of the set. There is a prep room recovery station. "It's for people who have maybe just had a facelift and aren't ready to go home."

Next to this area is the break room. We turned the corner just as Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh's stand-ins were preparing to map out an upcoming shot. This is where we would be watching them create the magic. Scene 29: Sean and Christian argue over the fact that Gina has just been hired. Scott handed me that day's sides. He pointed to the WARDROBE section of the front page, "See where it says 'modesty covering'? That's what they call it when there is going to be nudity. That's usually a closed set." It is explained to me that Julian likes to refer to his 'modesty covering' as a cock sock.

A grip walked into the break room. Everyone in the area broke out into copious amounts of applause. "It's appreciation day. The crew picks out someone to appreciate, and when they come onto set they get applause." Charles Haid, the director of episode nine, took this moment to turn away from his monitor to acknowledge me. He gave me the once over, then nodded without an expression on his face. He turned back to his monitor. "That's Charlie. He calls himself the oldest director working on the hippest show."

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

Haid asked, "Are you a blogger?"

"No, sir. I don't blog."

"I keep hearing about these bloggers. What is that? I don't understand it. People keep coming in here, and introducing themselves as bloggers. When I was younger, we didn't have blogging. We had girls." Charlie pointed to the monitor, "This is a very stylish show. They are very rational about it. It takes forever to light."

The actors stepped into frame. I could see both Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon gearing up to shoot the scene. They went through their motions, rehearsing a tiny bit. But not very much. They already had their dialogue pretty much locked down. Haid continued, "They brought me on for a few shows last season. They wanted me to bring a stylistic change, add a little spin to it. They wanted me to Hollywood it up. There are a lot of notes to classical literature in the show. It is like a Greek tragedy, instead of doing these small stories. This is not a kitchen sink drama. That sort of lets us justify our material. Bad things happen to bad people. We are taking shots at our own genre, and our own writers here. Characters in most procedural dramas don't make-out. Marcus Welby never made-out."

A crewmember tapped Haid on the shoulder. He quickly turned away from me, pulling on his headphones. The first take of Scene 29 was a go. The shot is "almost" perfect. The actors are flawless in their delivery. A tiny nod or facial gesture from McMahon has Charlie squeezing his fist. He knows when the scene is a lock. He's been doing this since Gunsmoke was on the air. "Take it again!"

Take 2. We get a two-shot, a close-up, and an over the shoulder shot all in one precise move. Jessalyn Gilsig as Gina Russo is supposed to catch a set of keys that are being flung at her face. She flubs her line. Haid tossed the headphones on the floor and screamed, "What!?!" He hopped off his chair, his demeanor hard to read. He seemed to be joking. Yet, he's a little too serious all the same. He hurried into the break room, "What the Hell is this! I was an actor myself once! I could get it right!"

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

He disappears for a few moments. When he comes back, it's obvious that he is joking. He isn't mad about the blown take. He mutters something about working on Gunsmoke, but I don't quite understand the gist of his statement. He's a funny guy. Take 3 is completed. And the actors nail it perfectly. It's a slightly bizarre moment. Sean McNamara exits the screen, and seconds later he comes walking through the door in front of me. Its as if this character has materialized from the antimatter of television snow. Actually, it's kind of spooky. I feel like I'm sitting at the mouth of a portal that has opened up inside the McNamara/Troy facilities. It's a moment that any true fan of the show would literally die for. It's the kind of moment they give to Make-A-Wish kids. Ones with cable, whose parents are bold enough to let them watch this overtly gratuitous show.

The actors do Take 4. Perfect. Then Take 5. Haid's face lit up. This was the one. He called cut and ran into the break room to reset the scene for coverage on Dylan Walsh. Julian McMahon would not be participating in this particular shot. Scott called him out of the room. I soon found myself shaking hands with "the" Christian Troy, also know as Victor Von Doom to a whole other audience of faithful devotees. Julian McMahon walked me into the surgery room. He wheeled a scalpel tray over and sat it between us, for the microphone...

Exclusive: Nip/Tuck Set Visit Part 1

We visit Julian McMahon and Guest Star Jessalyn Gilsig for a look at the show's fifth season

Interview: Julian McMahon (Christian Troy)

So, can you tell me a little bit about the scene that you're shooting today?

Julian McMahon: The scene you were just watching? You know that Christian and Sean have their little tiffs throughout the year. They always have them throughout the entire season. Are you familiar with the show?

I watched the first season, but then I lost my cable.

Julian McMahon: Lost your cable? For three years you lost your cable? That's a good excuse. I like that one. Anyway, every season we always have our tiffs. We have our rouse against each other. And this is our midseason row. Where we get a little pissy with each other. I have started a relationship with his (spoiler). And he's not very happy about it. So he's decided to hire a bunch of different people who are going to egg me on in different types of ways. The first person he hires is this very beautiful, large breasted receptionist. And that sends me on my merry way of unfaithfulness. Then he hires Gina, a character that has been around for a long time. Her and I have always had issues and problems. This, what your seeing today, is the start of that. We are shooting with Jessalyn, who is playing Gina. She has been on the show since we started. And this is basically about us getting pissy with each other.

Do you feel rejuvenated as an actor, having the show switch locations from Miami to Los Angeles?

Julian McMahon: Absolutely. It's funny, because you do the same television show for a while and things get stale. I get bored. You keep coming back to the same sets and you keep hammering out the same stuff. For us, it was really coming back to these new sets, which are three to four times the size of the sets we had before. We are shooting right now in our surgery suite, which is at least double the size of the surgery suite we used to have. And these other rooms we have were never anything like this. And the lobby is just enormous. There is this feel of changing things over. It gives you an injection of newness. Which is difficult to do in the sixth season of a show. So, there is that. And it's exciting for the writers and the actors, especially in regards to the new characters and storylines. Because the topography of Los Angeles offers up something different. It's a different city with a different clientele. There are different kinds of characters, and a different orientation. There are just a whole bunch of things to work with.

What are some of the challenges your character is running into, being the small fish in the big pond?

Julian McMahon: Well, like you said, he is the small fish in the big pond. It's that kind of thing. Its not like Miami was a small pond. It was a different kind of pond. My character doesn't really understand it. Christian has always had this ability to charm his way through things. And use his looks and style to intimidate people. That kind of stuff. He comes to this city and finds out that he is not as good as other people at it. That's difficult for him, and he goes through a lot of different phases trying to rectify that.

How much push do you have in developing your character?

Julian McMahon: I don't do anything. You know, I wouldn't want to. They have a cool job, those writers. What am I going to do?

I was told to ask you about the "cock sock". I think it's you that has named his "modesty garment"?

Julian McMahon: Yeah, well, the "cock sock" is something we made. I'm sure its been made before. Our design is a little specific. It's just a thing that we use. I am supposedly naked a lot. And we have this little thing called the "cock sock" that comes out. It comes in this beautiful leather case. It's well traveled. It's just something that we have a bit of a joke about.

Well traveled? How often does this thing get washed?

Julian McMahon: No, once it's used a new one comes in.

Oh, so you don't have this one immaculate "cock sock", like a lucky "cock sock" that you have to use?

Julian McMahon: No, no, no! You mean like the golden "cock sock". That's not a bad idea.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. That it was like a lucky pair of underwear.

Julian McMahon: If we had a golden "cock sock", we would never use that one. We'd have to put it up on a plaque , or something. That is a good idea. I just might have to do that.

Now, what kinds of problems are you going to be encountering during your fifth season?

Julian McMahon: I really only know up until what we are currently shooting. I don't really pay attention to what is going on. Sometimes I don't even pay attention to the stuff I am doing.

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange