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Clive Owen Discusses ‘The Knick’s’ Shocking Cliffhanger

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the season 2 finale of “The Knick,” titled “This is All We Are.”

The season finale of Cinemax’s “The Knick” was filled with a series of shocking twists, but none more surprising than the climactic surgery that seems to have claimed the life of Doctor John Thackery (Clive Owen). His insistence on performing a complicated surgery on himself proves tragic, leaving him collapsed on the operating table as his colleagues scramble desperately to try to save his life. Bertie does a mad dash down the hall to find adrenaline — and then we see a clean, sterile operating room, leaving us guessing as to his ultimate fate.

Here, Owen talks to Variety about “The Knick’s” shocking cliffhanger, and what he’s enjoyed most about playing Dr. Thackery.

Just to get the elephant out of the room, is the last we’ve seen of you as Dr. Thackery?
It certainly looks that way.

Did you and Steven talk at the beginning of the season about your fate? Was this pre-conceived or did you just get the script and realize where this final episode was going?
It is something we talked about. It was always kind of the intention to do a two-season arc. I signed on for the two seasons, and it was always about trying to map a journey through that factory. The beauty of doing this project is the script came in very good shape and all ten were written before we turned over anything. So we have the full arc of the whole journey of the character before we even begin. For an actor that’s great, you have time to plot things through properly.

Bringing this kind of talent, between you and Steven, made it feel like something never seen on television before. Was that your feeling too when they first came to you about playing this role?
What I do know is when I read the first script it was unlike anything I had read before. I felt it was so rich, it was so intelligent and well researched and informed, but also sort of exciting and wild and unpredictable and I felt it depicted a time and a period in a most unbelievably and original way. That was kind of what brought Steven in. It’s what brought me in and then those writers delivered script after script that maintained that level.

What is it that Steven brings? Obviously he’s known for movies but he’s made a great jump into TV. 
I think it’s the fact that he is such an auteur and he is completely on top of all aspects of it. You’ve got a singular vision — I mean, “The Knick” is Steven Soderbergh’s vision. It’s him that sort of pulled everybody together, he’s the heart and soul of it. Knowing that as you go in there, to have that continuation, to have that one singular vision, is what separates it from a lot of stuff.

In terms of this season, obviously the addiction was at the forefront again. What did you find most challenging about playing Thackery this season, opposed to the season before? 
I felt that the first season was very ambitious and we developed the characters and built this really incredible world. The beauty of doing the second season is that you can hit the ground running and you don’t have to do all the building up. The audience had followed him and knows where he’s at and it means you can take things farther. That’s the beauty of television, you have the time to do that. The great thing is we don’t have to do any establishing when it comes to season two — we can just move forward into deeper stories.

If this is the last time we’ve seen you as Dr. Thackery, what is it you’ll miss the most about playing this role?
It’s two things. It’s working with Soderbergh and being in such good hands. The best thing for an actor is when a director really really knows what they’re doing. Then the actor feels that, one, they can concentrate on what they’re doing and, two, that they’re going to be looked after. That’s a joy, that’s a privilege for an actor to go, “I’m in great hands and I can concentrate on what I’m doing and he can capture it in a really beautiful way.” The second thing for me is playing such a brilliantly drawn character. It was original, it was visceral, it was unpredictable. It was crammed full of life and as an actor, that’s a joy to get your teeth into.

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