Joshua Jackson stars as Christopher Duntsch in Peacock’s true-crime drama “Dr. Death,” which chronicles the case of the ex-Texas neurosurgeon who earned his nickname by maiming dozens of patients — and killing two of them.
“The first and hardest thing for me to do was to take my judgement about this man and what he did, and put it to the side and try to see his life from his perspective — where he’s the hero of his story rather than the villain,” Jackson, 43, told The Post.
“After that, everything sort of fell into place. When you are willing to recognize that even though the outcome is monstrous, the journey is human, [and] then you can start to figure out how he behaved why he behaved in that way.”
Duntsch, 50, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 in what’s considered a precedent-setting case — one of the first instances in which a doctor was incarcerated for malpractice.
Premiering Thursday (July 15) on Peacock, the series’ timeline jumps around in focusing on Duntsch’s life and career while also following fellow doctors Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and Randall Kirby (Christian Slater) as they realize that he’s been harming his patients and set out to take him down. They’re aided by Dallas Assistant District Attorney Michelle Shughart (AnnaSophia Robb).
“Those guys are so good and so good together, and they had so much fun playing off of each other,” Jackson said, referring to his co-stars. “I just wish I had the opportunity to be in more of those scenes. I got the heavy side of the story! They got the light side, but I’m at a place in my life and career where the beginning, middle, and end of a job for me is good work with good people. So, this was definitely both of those things.”
Much of the action in the first few episodes takes place in 2012, leading up to the following year, when Duntsch’s medical license was revoked. He was arrested in 2015 and tried and convicted in 2017.
The show’s dark material was not a picnic to re-enact, Jackson said.
“There were lots of days that were quite difficult… it’s just an evil place to live. And I don’t think I even realized the amount of pressure that I was under until it was done,” he said. “The relief of finally putting him down [at the end] and knowing that I didn’t have to be with that man anymore was pretty intense.”
But, there was a bright spot: Jackson was going home to a full house, since he married “Queen and Slim” star Jodie Turner-Smith in 2019 and became a first-time father in 2020.
“That is a joy,” he said. “To be inside of a supportive relationship, to have a wonderful wife who’s also an actor — who gets what you’re going through and is gracious enough to try to create space for me to work in — is incredible. And then no matter what emotional state I was in [while filming], this little engine of joy that we created together just wants to be with Daddy. So, that is the best tonic for any bad day.”