Why Erica Durance traded Lois for the spirit world of Saving Hope

Erica Durance admits she's on the hunt for "great, wild, passionate things." It's a quest that's taken her from growing up on a turkey farm to becoming Lois Lane on The CW's Smallville to her latest gig, playing a surgeon on NBC's medical fantasy, Saving Hope, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

While Durance sees similarities between the two roles as the high-flying Lois Lane and playing the high-flying brilliant surgeon Dr. Alex Reid, there is one significant difference between the two. And it's not just that she's traded in Smallville's Tom Welling for Stargate's Michael Shanks.

"Both of my characters are both very strong people, but the thing with Alex's character is that she works more from the brain. You know more from her head, less from her heart," said Durance. "It is based in real-life stuff."

Well, kind of. In Saving Hope, Alex is engaged to the hospital's chief of surgery, Charlie Harris (Shanks), who ends up in a coma after an accident AND finds himself walking the halls of the hospital in "spirit" form, trapped between life and death.

"It's such a high-stakes entry [that] you find yourself going, 'Okay. Wow, this is completely different. This feels so different,'" said Durance. "[As an actress], what I like about it is that I strip away a lot of the other things that you have in your arsenal, because it's just you. I'm standing there in some scrubs, my hair is back, there's barely any makeup on. So, for me, it's been really interesting and different. I do love that they added the other portion to it to give us that window into the spiritual realm, because it allows us to ask a lot of questions throughout the whole series. So there is no judgment either way, because there's always that battle. ... Is it a scientific thing, or is there something else out there? And I think people are fascinated by that conversation. We just we keep finding different things in each episode to ask a question. I'm really excited about the way the creators have done it."

As for her character, Alex, "she's this very driven, pragmatic person, believes only in what she can see and touch and the tangible," she said. "Her brain thinks just with the here and now and the present, and there's not that extra belief in anything else that's going."

However, after Charlie ends up in a coma, some of her perceptions start to change. "The fact that he's gone into this coma, she's forced to really look at what she really believes about life. And the whole concept of how we feel about things. But when tragedy comes into our life, what would or wouldn't you do to bring that person back to you?" said Durance. "You see that she slowly, throughout the season, starts to change those initial parameters and feelings that she had, and she's grasping at straws. She's incredibly loyal, and she's just this really awesome chick."

Well, let's just say she's playing "another" awesome chick, considering we're not going to forget about Lois Lane anytime soon.

"It's been a real, real roller coaster, and most shows work up to a point like this, but we started at this just high-octane place. And so, as an actress, it's been very interesting to try to find different levels and different ways to experience this huge emotional stake," she said.

One of the things the writers have done is to try to take Alex and the other characters through the five stages of grief, "rage, despair, denial ... all of those things," said Durance. "I love about what they've done, so that you don't always find her in this sense of cataclysmic despair. They do these wonderful flashbacks to her Charlie's relationship."

Through Saving Hope, you'll see "the kind of woman that she was before this happened, and then just how tragic it is that all of that other stuff is going on and how it's kind of changed her. And along with that particular storyline, the overall theme of it is about saving and holding on to hope in your own life and looking for positivity, and what do we do in our own ways to reach for human contact," she added.

"Having the Charlie character in this in-between world has allowed us to use the backdrop of a medical drama, which brings in a lot of those high-stakes situations, and basically give another perspective to it. And so you've got little vignettes of fun, quirky, light stuff going on, and then you have the main course of what's happening with me. And I think that they've tied it well, really, really beautifully together. It's a beautifully shot show," said Durance.

"I think it's really cool that I ended up being able to do this. ... I'm really grateful for it, because it's allowed me the travel. It's allowed me all of these great moments."

Great moments indeed. That's not bad for a girl who grew up on a turkey farm who set out to "experience something amazing. I wanted something big. Like, I wanted to have a bigger life. I wanted to go places and travel, and I wanted to experience the great, wild, passionate things," she said. "I did want to push out of my world, which I look back on it and I feel so fondly. But as a young girl I wanted to see the big, big world."

It's hard to imagine the world getting much bigger than it has for Durance.

Here's an interview with Durance about her character on Saving Hope:

Saving Hope airs on Thursdays on NBC tonight at 9 p.m.

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