Sam Trammell: 'Breakthrough' an 'inspiring, heartwarming story'

By Karen Butler
Actor Sam Trammell's new movie "Breakthrough" opens Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Jill Fritzo Public Relations
Actor Sam Trammell's new movie "Breakthrough" opens Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Jill Fritzo Public Relations

April 17 (UPI) -- True Blood and The Fault in Our Stars alum Sam Trammell hopes his new film, Breakthrough, offers a ray of hope to people in a divisive time.

"It really was an inspiring, heartwarming story," Trammell told UPI in a recent phone interview.


Based on a real 2015 event and set to open in theaters Wednesday, the film casts Trammell as Kent Sutterer, the doctor who treated John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) after the 14-year-old boy fell through a frozen lake in St. Louis while playing with his friends.

Although the rescued teen was clinically dead for 45 minutes, Sutterer bucked protocol and continued to work on him until John's devoutly Christian mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) arrived at the hospital.

Joyce prayed over her son, and 30 seconds later, his pulse returned. His family, friends and neighbors rallied around him by publicly praying, and he eventually emerged from his coma without brain damage.


"There's so much now happening in the world and in politics that seem to be tearing towns apart," Trammel said. "In our movie, you just see the community coming together and supporting the family."

The adaptation of the memoir The Impossible, by Joyce Smith and Ginger Kolbaba, co-stars Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter and Dennis Haysbert.

Trammell never met the doctor who inspired his character, but his actual father is a surgeon and the real Joyce and John Smith frequently were available for consultation on the film set.

"It was really amazing to meet this kid, who is a completely normal [young man,]" Trammell said of John.

Sutterer made the unusual move to continue performing CPR, in part because John was a classmate of his daughter.

He also wanted to offer what comfort he could to the boy's mom.

"Just so that she could see that they had done everything possible," Trammell said.

The 50-year-old, Louisiana-born actor previously guest starred on NBC's This is Us with Metz, but Breakthrough marks the first time they have shared the screen.

"It was a happy accident," he said of his casting in the film after appearing on the show.


"We had some good scenes together in the movie. She's just so cool and down to earth and just an incredible actress."

Homeland, The Order, Nancy Drew

Trammell is juggling promotional duties for this film, just as he begins filming in Morocco on the eighth and final season of Showtime's political thriller, Homeland.

"I haven't had scenes with Mandy [Patinkin] and Claire [Danes] yet, but I will," he said.

He is portraying the vice president of the United States, but won't divulge if he based his performance on anyone viewers might recognize.

"I follow politics pretty closely, so there were not a ton of surprises," he said of the research he did to prepare for the part. "One of the great side benefits of doing what I do is you get to plunge into current events or past events in detailed ways."

There's also a chance Trammell will return for more episodes of Netflix's university-set, supernatural series The Order, which was renewed last month for a second season.

"I'd never played a professor before and it's a really fun show. Pretty much anything could happen. ... It's like Harry Potter for adults," he said.


Neither Homeland nor The Order are projects Trammell can share with his 7-year-old twin sons yet, however. That's one of the reasons why he signed up to play the teen sleuth's dad in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase.

"They were so unimpressed with me. Not that they didn't think I did a good job, but I said, 'Was it weird to see your dad?' And they were like, 'No, not really,'" he laughed.

"I haven't done tons of things that my kids can see, but Nancy Drew and Breakthrough are definitely two of them."

Breakthrough, which is rated PG, hits theaters Wednesday.

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