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March 03, 2011

'Body of Proof' Producer Matthew Gross: The Doctor - No, the Detective - Is In

Veteran producer Matthew Gross says ABC was looking for their version of House. He talks to Emmy Magazine about why he believes new procedural drama Body of Proof, starring Dana Delany, is just what the the doctor - rather, network - ordered.

By Graham Flashner
It’s okay to call Matthew Gross an old-school producer — he does so himself. “I’m known for coming up with the big ideas, bringing in the right writers and packaging the project with the right elements.

“I am,” he says with a laugh, “an idea factory.”

He’s not kidding. As president of Gross Entertainment, he’s produced numerous TV shows, including Dirty Sexy Money and Day Break, and feature films like the Beatles’ musical Across the Universe, Fired Up! and Joe Somebody. His latest project is ABC’s new medical drama, Body of Proof, which he executive produces with creator Christopher Murphey and Sunil Nayar.

“ABC was looking for their version of House,” Gross says. “I came up with the idea of a neurosurgeon who gets the rug pulled out from under her, personally and professionally.”

Dana Delany plays Megan Hunt, who loses her career (and marriage) after a car accident leaves her hands partially numb and a patient dies on her operating table. Hunt is banned from surgery, but she reinvents herself as a medical examiner who solves crimes with clues obtained from the dead.

Like the heroes of House and The Mentalist, Hunt favors unorthodox methods that draw the ire of her superiors. Gross describes the show — set in Philadelphia and shot in Providence, Rhode Island — as a “character-cedural” and a “cerebral procedural.”

“We’re not trying to reinvent the genre, but we want to change some perceptions about it,” he says.

A director as well as producer, Gross added writing to his hyphenate, partnering with Murphey (screenwriter of the Karate Kid remake) to script the pilot. The collaboration worked so well, they wrote the second episode.

Show biz, he says, is addictive. “Once you get a little taste, you’re hooked.”

Growing up in L.A., Gross had a bigger taste than most. His father is a business manager; his mother, a TV movie producer. He was originally set on being an actor, but at nineteen his destiny changed. A short he made as a thesis film at AFI was nominated for an Oscar. “After that, there was no turning back,” Gross says.

He amassed more than seventy-five credits as a production executive with Wilshire Court Productions and later, as president of Arnold Kopelson Entertainment, where he was one of the first producers to cross feature film writers into television, back in the heyday of movies-of-the-week.

Beyond TV and film, Gross has two Broadway musicals in the works: an adaptation of The Sting and You Make My Dreams Come True, with the songs of Hall & Oates.

“When I get passionate about something, I’m unstoppable,” he says. “That’s what it takes to be a producer.”

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