CHICAGO MED's Steven Weber on Getting to Showcase the John Ritter Foundation in the Medical Drama - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

CHICAGO MED’s Steven Weber on Getting to Showcase the John Ritter Foundation in the Medical Drama

October 4, 2022 by  

CHICAGO MED John Ritter Foundation

CHICAGO MED — “Winning the Battle, but Still Loosing the War” Episode 803 — Pictured: Steven Weber as Dean Archer — (Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC)

Recently, CHICAGO MED star Steven Weber was talking to his longtime friend/former WINGS and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT co-star Amy Yasbeck about her desire to find a “wider audience” for the John Ritter Foundation.

Yasbeck started the foundation in honor of her husband in 2003—shortly after Ritter’s death from a misdiagnosed acute thoracic aortic dissection—and was hoping to expand its reach “for educational, life-saving purposes,” Weber recalls.

Then, Weber read the script for CHICAGO MED’s Wednesday, October 5 episode, “Winning the Battle, but Still Losing the War”—which found his character, Archer, handling a patient who needs open-heart surgery after an aortic dissection.

“It came out of the blue,” Weber marvels, noting he hadn’t even had the chance to talk to the writers about working the topic into the show. “It really was kind of a gift. It feels like it was manifested, in a sense.”

John Ritter Foundation

VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA – MAY 05: Patrick Fabian, Mandy Fabian, Kelly Steckelberg, Amy Yasbeck, Daniel Bucatinsky, Steven Weber and Rhea Seehorn attend as the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health hosts an Evening from the Heart LA 2022 Gala at Valley Relics Museum on May 05, 2022 in Van Nuys, California. (Photo by Araya Doheny/Getty Images)

Weber quickly sent Yasbeck the script. “The funny thing was, that show had been written weeks in advance—if not longer—but it was exactly what she and the organization had been looking for in terms of a dramatization [of the condition],” Weber recalls. “A vehicle to disseminate this message that affects more people than we know…It’s pretty wild. It’s pretty supernatural.”

After she read it, Yasbeck asked Weber if the writers might be able to help spread additional awareness “during the credits or on some social media platform that says, ‘For more information about aortic dissection’ or give a way to contact the John Ritter Foundation as a way to share more information on how to save lives.”

The actor acknowledges it’s “no easy thing” for the producers to add things into the show, but is delighted that “Wolf [Entertainment] and NBC are going out of their way to make that happen.”

“They saw the efficacy and possibilities of helping Amy spread the word about aortic dissection,” Weber says. (Ritter also notably appeared in a 2002 episode of the NBC/Wolf Entertainment series LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.)

As important as the showcase is, it did hit close-to-home, emotionally. “It’s hard not to be affected by certain fictional or dramatic circumstances, when they mirror events that may have happened directly or indirectly to you,” Weber acknowledges. “And this is one of those cases. Obviously, with Amy speaking [to me] about [this] and then suddenly the script showing up, it seems kind of like divine intervention—or maybe John pulling a few strings, wherever he is, to make it happen.”

“Also, the way it was dramatized, it’s very realistic and authentic,” he continues. “It’s not a fairy tale. It’s something that comes up, out of the blue. If it’s not looked to, if it’s not thought of [when a doctor is trying to diagnosis what’s going on, things can go awry]—and that’s part of the issue: people don’t think of this; it masquerades as a heart attack, and frequently gets misdiagnosed. That’s what happened with John on the set of his show [8 SIMPLE RULES], years ago. And so it’s hard not to be affected by the parallels and similarities.”

Though Archer has been tough to work with at times, he’s a bit more reasonable in the episode. “The show is taking pains to the de-psycho-fy him,” Weber acknowledges with a laugh. “He really came into the show slightly out of his mind, and did a couple of things that were really questionable, morally and technically. The guy pulled out an organ without consent!”

“But I think it’s almost like watching the earliest episodes of the original STAR TREK, with the earliest incarnation of Mr. Spock—before he became the Spock that we all know, he was loud and occasionally given to laughter—people forget that,” he continues. “I’m hoping that that’s the trajectory with Archer…characters develop [beyond their starting point]. And I think the writers saw that it would be more efficient, dramatically, to keep Archer around and therefore make him a little less volatile, a little less psychotic, and sociopathic. And give him reasoning for it.”

One of the ways the writers have showcased that is by introducing Archer’s estranged son. “They’ve really enriched his backstory, to the point where a lot of his moodiness, a lot of his terseness is justified,” Weber says. “And we realized that we know a person like this; most people have personalities like this in their lives, whether it be somebody they’re related to, somebody that they work for or with. And so we’re learning more about his story.”

Though there’s “suggestions” of his drama with his son in “Winning the Battle, but Still Losing the War,” it’ll be tackled more thoroughly later. “We do see further and deeper development of that as we move ahead…it’s an ongoing story, and it seems to be a rich, fertile one for the writers, and certainly for me,” Weber says. “I’m enjoying how he’s being written [and] playing this character.”

John Ritter Foundation

8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER. Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images – © 2002 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

In addition to MED fans becoming more informed about aortic dissections and the John Ritter Foundation, Weber notes he also hopes people take the time to appreciate the work Ritter himself did. (In addition to his iconic role in THREE’S COMPANY, Ritter’s resume includes over 140 titles including THE WALTONS, SCRUBS, FELICITY, and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.)

“People’s memories of John are vivid and loving [if you knew him],” Weber notes. “Maybe it’s time [those who didn’t] do a bit of a deep dive into John Ritter’s career again. There’s been so much time that has elapsed since he was alive, and I feel that he would have done [more] amazing work had he lived. He’d still be a young guy, hilarious as always. And he was actually really starting to develop himself as a serious [drama] actor.”

“I would encourage people to look for his work online and reinvest in his work,” he continues. “And also invest in this organization, because it really affects far more people than we know.”

For more information on the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health, be sure to check out their website or social media accounts.

CHICAGO MED, Wednesdays, 8/7c, NBC


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