the knick algernon

*Race becomes in an inevitable factor for the lone African American doctor at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital in the upcoming Cinemax drama “The Knick.”

There aren’t a lot of black doctors at all in the United States during the 1900s – the time period reflected in the series, premiering Friday, Aug. 8 a 10 p.m.  Harvard graduate Dr. Algernon Edwards, played by Andre Holland, has to battle for respect among his white peers, as well as within the city itself and among his own people.

Andre Holland as Dr. Algernon Edwards in the Cinemax series "The Knick" - a look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century.

Andre Holland as Dr. Algernon Edwards in the Cinemax series “The Knick” – a look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century.

“That’s one of the things that really excited me about getting a chance to play him,” Holland told TCA critics last month. “One of the first things I connected to was W.E.B Du Bois’s idea of his double consciousness, right? Like black people having to develop these two different ways of living in the world in order to get by, and I think Algernon is very much a good example of that.”

“The Knick” stars executive producer Clive Owen as Dr. John W. Thackery, the newly appointed leader of the surgical staff at the Knickerbocker.

Despite struggling financially, the hospital has become known for  employing innovative surgeons and nurses who think outside of the box.  But, helping Thackery to do just that is his addiction to cocaine and opium, a vice not uncommon among surgeons of the era.

“In a lot of our research, what we were finding was a lot of them were using drugs like cocaine,” said series co-creator and co-writer Michael Begler. “And then some of them, William Halsted being the best example, who was one of the founders of Johns Hopkins, he was taking cocaine to do his job and to progress medicine, but he also needed to come down and needed to balance that, and his drug of choice was morphine. And we just felt that at that time these doctors were trying to do so much to progress at such a high rate and at such a quick rate that the character of Thackery, it just made sense for him to want to drive forward and keep driving forward.”

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The 10-episode series has already been renewed for a second season ahead of its Friday premiere, and season one director Steven Soderbergh will direct all ten episodes of season two as well.

Below, Begler (first) and his co-creator/writer Jack Amiel reveal what about the show is fact, and what is fiction – including the hospital itself, the innovative surgeries depicted in the series and the hiring of African American doctors in the 1900s.

“The Knick” premieres Friday, Aug. 8, at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.

Watch the trailer below: