One of the many things that make New Amsterdam one of the best medical dramas on the air is its dynamic characters, from the primary cast down to the guest stars.
New Amsterdam captures an authenticity with its storytelling and casting. If you needed any evidence of that, you needn’t look further than Michael Basile, who recurs as Paramedic Rob Moreland.
The born and bred New Yorker not only impresses in his role as the popular EMT who comes through those E.D. doors, but he’s a real New York firefighter who brings his experience as a first responder to his role.
TV Fanatic caught up with the charismatic star to discuss his experiences as a first responder both on and off the series. Check it out below!
Well, first, thank you for your service! Twenty years as a first responder is incredible.
Thank you so much! Yes, it’s actually 17. I’ve been there 17 years, almost 20. Thank you, I appreciate that.
What inspired you to get into firefighting?
I took all those city tests when I was a kid. Being a city kid, even when in school, I was encouraged to take civil service tests as a backup. It kind of worked out.
I was actually a school teacher for five years.
I went to school for Business Administration but also majored in Theater, and then I graduated and said, “Who can be an actor?” I became a teacher, and I was a junior high school and high school drama teacher, and it was cool.
Then 9/11 happened, and it changed my perspective a bit, and the fire department called a couple of times.
I said, “I might want to give this a shot and see how it goes.” I felt a calling towards it and loved helping people, and 17 years later, here I am.
You’re a Jack of All Trades. You dabble in everything, including things that seem like they’re on the opposite side of the spectrum.
No doubt. As far as the acting and firefighting thing goes, it’s very dichotomous. They’re very different from each other but also balance each other out.
When you deal with some of the situations you deal with as a fireman, it prevents you from getting worked up about things like an audition. You take things in stride, and the acting world informs my brain that there’s more to life than being a fireman.
Sometimes when you’re in that firehouse atmosphere, you get wrapped up in it, and it identifies you. Both worlds work against each other in a way, but it’s cool.
I think it still informs something because you ended up on this series about people who serve the community, doctors, EMTs — there’s still that element of service. It seems you’ve always been drawn to those types of fields.
I guess so!
New Amsterdam has a knack for hiring actors who capture the diversity and authenticity of the city. The characters feel like real people. Is that something that attracted you to the series and role?
I auditioned for the show; I didn’t even know what it was. I auditioned for David Caparelliotis, this awesome casting director. He just brought me in for this pilot.
It was an untitled pilot at the time to play an EMT, and I booked and shot it. I shot it with Stacey Raymond, who plays Paramedic Whitaker. We were the first EMTs. She’s also the one who was in the ambulance with me in New Amsterdam Season 4 Episode 7, who I carried into the ER.
We’ve been on a bunch of episodes since. I was a little thing that turned into more little things, that turned into a big thing.
It’s a cool series to be on. It’s a real New York series, and it also really goes out of its way to get representation or all walks of New York life. It’s not your typical network series in that it tries to have everybody represented in a way where we’re all real people and not just there to check off a box.
One thing differentiating New Amsterdam from many other series is that New York is its own character on the show. It brings authenticity to the series, and that’s reflected with the cast. You’re born and bred, right?
Absolutely. I’m born and bred, and it definitely has that New York feel. I know what I am and what I’m not, and I love getting cast in those New York roles.
When a show is shot in New York, the city becomes a character on the show, and that works to my advantage as an actor because they usually want that authentic feel. And New Amsterdam captures what’s best about New York.
How does your real-life experience as a first responder help with your role as Rob Moreland on the show?
Some roles are as easy as stepping on a curb as far as the character is concerned. I don’t have to do much character work to get into Rob. He’s a paramedic, and I’m a fireman; it’s not all that different. I’m comfortable in my skin, and I can just be me and not feel as awkward.
From being a first responder for so long — there’s a certain calmness and routine amid chaos in real life and on the show. There’s calmness you maintain in that. You have to be comfortable in the chaos.
As an actor playing a first responder on the show, even when there’s a life and death situation on it, for it to be realistic, you have to be centered, confident, and comfortable in that chaos.
In Harmony, in that episode, it was a different situation because I caused the chaos. [laughs]
Boy, did you cause the chaos! Your performance in that episode, especially on the rooftop with Janet Montgomery, was excellent — emotional and heartfelt.
Thank you so much. Thanks, I appreciate that.
It was a standout performance and moment for your character. We’ve seen Rob on the show before, but never at the forefront like this.
I appreciate that. It’s so nice of you to say.
Rob was sort of a pawn, if you will, between his superior and the season’s primary villain, of whom the fans hate right now, Veronica Fuentes.
He was entangled in red tape. Is that ordeal realistic? You know, first responders and those on the ground getting tangled in a bureaucracy where you want to do your jobs, but all these other factors come up?
Yeah, maybe not directly in that way, but yes, whenever you’re working for the city or any kind of bureaucracy, sometimes red tape is involved, and sometimes you just want to do your job and not have to worry about it.
Shaun Cassidy is an excellent writer, and he wrote the episode and was able to weave all of that in somehow within an hour. You know what I mean? I don’t know how he does it, like a magic trick.
It was a very action-packed hour. What was it like filming the episode and that accident scene?
The accident scene was my first day on set. It was so cool.
Yeah, we made quite a mess on this one. Art Department did an incredible job. And both Michael Basile and Stacey Redmond have played paramedics on our show since the pilot. Tonight, they get the chance to shine. #NewAmsterdam #DamFam @stacey_raymond #MichaelBasile pic.twitter.com/psjfhbhvYg
— Shaun Cassidy (@shaunpcassidy) November 3, 2021
I walked out onto the set — the location, and there was a big crane because they were doing a crane shot and the ambulance. I was like, “Oh, wow, this is all here because of my character.” And one of the AVs was like, “What did you do, Michael? What did you do?!” [laughs]
It makes it easier when everything is there for you as an actor, and you can do your thing. What a job!
Dinh Thai was the director, and I give him all the credit. He was clear about what he wanted as far as the emotional heavy lifting that he wanted me to do, and he gave me the space and inspiration to do it.
He was super awesome. Janet Montgomery — I’ve worked with her a few times now because my character is usually coming into the ED– she is, I can’t say enough about her in general as an actor and a nice person. She was super supportive and totally had my back.
As soon as I walked in on the second day, she looked up and said, “I’m so excited for you for this episode,” and she was completely supportive of me in every way and helpful and had my back much like the character had Rob’s back.
Being on set there over the past four years, I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass; it’s a fantastic set to be on.
I think a lot of that has to do with the crew, but every crew is awesome, but the lead actors are such supportive, genuinely kind people, Ryan, Janet, Freema, Jocko, and everyone on down, they set the tone for a nice atmosphere to be in.
It was easy for me to come in as a guest star on the show because I’ve been on set so much that it was super comfortable for me to come in and do the work.
That is so awesome! The series has a way of making even their recurring and guest characters so dynamic. And they’re always memorable and resonate with the viewers. Your character is one of them.
Yeah, I agree with you. I was just so grateful because Shaun [Cassidy] told me that they were looking into a character to lean into for this episode. I was recommended to them by casting for them to write this story around me, and I’m super grateful for that.
I love the collaborative effort that comes with being part of the show, from David Schulner all the way down. It feels like you’re part of a team, which is similar to working as a firefighter.
It is the most exciting thing I’ve done as an actor so far on TV. I’m really grateful. Now, as a firefighter, my best day was delivering a baby myself. Getting to work on New Amsterdam is the same kind of feeling like that.
Aww, a baby?!
Yes, that was a while ago and one of the best days of my life. We got a call about a sick woman. I got upstairs, and the baby was coming, and she said she had to go to the hospital, but I told her she wasn’t going to make it there in time, and I delivered that kid. It was awesome!
That is so cool! Did you ever get an update?
I saw the baby and the mom maybe two years after that in the store. He was a healthy, strong boy. It was great.
I’m sure you treasure that one forever. If that was your best day on the job, what was one of your scariest days?
One of my scariest was the Chelsea Bombing. I happened to be working in Manhattan and was one of the first companies on the scene.
We had to search the building, and if there were any second devices around, it could’ve been bad. I didn’t feel particularly safe then, but, you know, it’s the job, we had to do it.
Of course, “Staying calm in the chaos.”
Do you think you’ll be guest-starring on another episode again and having a more prominent role like in Harmony? It would be nice.
It would be nice. I learned as an actor never to expect that stuff and just be grateful for what happens. If that does happen, I’ll be super excited about it again. But sure, I would love to revisit Rob in that way and see if more is left in his story.
I’ll maintain the expectations then and keep the faith for both of us.
Thank you! [laughs]
New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays on NBC, and it’ll return in January with all-new episodes!
Until then, you can watch New Amsterdam online here via TV Fanatic to relive the season or series thus far.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.