A new PBS TV drama that premiered Jan. 17, Mercy Street, weaves together the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War. Based on real events, the series is more about struggling with compassion and grace, rather than battles and glory. Viewers can catch the second episode on Sunday (Jan. 24) at 9 p.m. CST.
Mercy Street takes viewers into the lives of the doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists who intersect during the spring of 1862 in the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Va., and the Mansion House Hospital, which was a luxury hotel before the war.
Facebook fan Noelle Harrison posted the show is for people who love historical drama with a little medical history thrown in.
Two nurses care for wounded soldiers in Mansion House. Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma (Hannah James), the daughter of the hotel owner and naive young Confederate belle, butt heads as they try to balance their medical duties with their dueling allegiances. Both women face the challenges of trying to make their way through a man's world, headed by Dr. Byron Hale (Broadway's Norbert Leo Butz).
A moving subplot features Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher), a free black man who knows medicine but needs to keep that secret.
All who arrive at Mansion House receive treatment. Alexandria, a border town between North and South, was the longest Union-occupied city of the war. Ruled under martial law, the city served as the melting pot of the region: with soldiers, civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded fighting men from both sides, runaway slaves, prostitutes, speculators and spies. The location of the hospital highlights and strains the grace that the characters offer and experience.
Biblical allusions and religious sensibilities are readily on display as part of the backdrops.
One of the more interesting characters is Chaplain Hopkins (Luke Macfarlane), who, in spite of the mysteries he hides, reminds workers and patients that God does not see uniforms.
Mercy Street stars Josh Radnor as Dr. Jedediah Foster; Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Phinney; Gary Cole as James Green, Sr.; Hannah James as Emma Green; Brad Koed as James Green, Jr.; Norbert Leo Butz as Dr. Byron Hale; Tara Summers as Anne Hastings; McKinley Belcher III as Samuel Diggs; Shalita Grant as Aurelia Johnson; Peter Gerety as Chief Surgeon Alfred Summers; Jack Falahee as Frank Stringfellow; Anna Sophia Robb as Alice Green; Cameron Monaghan as Tom Fairfax; Donna Murphy as Jane Green; L. Scott Caldwell as Belinda; Suzanne Bertish as Hospital Matron Brannan; Wade Williams as Sillas Bullen; and Luke Macfarlane as Chaplain Hopkins.
The series is executive produced by Ridley Scott; with Lisa Q. Wolfinger, David Zabel and David W. Zucker of Scott Free. They called the movie plot "a cauldron within which the characters strive, fight, love, laugh, betray, sacrifice and, at times, act like scoundrels."