Gotham's Ben McKenzie Lands First Big TV Role Since Playing Jim Gordon

James Gordon being named commissioner in Gotham
(Image credit: HBO Max)

For five seasons, Ben McKenzie maintained the peace within one of TV’s most whackadoo comic book universes, starring as DC’s iconic non-vigilante hero James Gordon — Jim to his friends — in Fox’s Gotham. He hung up that trench coat a few years back, however, with the proto-Batman action-drama having to hang up its cape and cowl back in 2019. Now, after taking something of a small-screen hiatus for the last few years, McKenzie has landed his next big network TV role. 

Having first rocketed to fame as Ryan Atwood in Fox’s neo-classic teen drama The O.C., whose hit pilot episode aired nearly 20 years ago, Ben McKenzie won’t be returning to his familiar home at Fox for his new project. Rather, the actor has teamed with ABC for a medical drama pilot that boasts the arguably unfortunate name of The Hurt Unit, which is the kind of title that MAD Magazine writers don’t need to put in the effort to land a spoof angle. But that doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the subject matter.

The Hurt Unit, which was ordered to pilot in December 2022, has been described by ABC as a “cutting-edge medical drama” that centers on the heavily qualified and highly stressed-out team of trauma surgeons and nurses who are responsible for going out into the world to handle emergency surgeries and situations in cases where those in need of help aren’t able to make it to the ER. The “HURT,” in this case, stands for “Hospital Urgent Response Team.”

Ben McKenzie has been tapped for the role of Danny, according to Variety, who serves in a leadership role as the head of the Hurt Unit. As a surgeon who set his own path to success, Danny is tasked with the daily duty of making life-or-death decisions during the most pressure-filled and chaotic situations, where every new second counts that much more than the last. First and foremost, Danny is great at what he does, and is considered to be a hero. (Presumably one without a mustache, similar to his take on Jim Gordon.)

Where To Stream Ben McKenzie TV Shows

Ben McKenzie is Ryan Atwood after making bail in the pilot of The O.C.

(Image credit: Fox)

- The O.C.: Stream now on HBO Max and Hulu
- Southland: Stream now on Tubi
- Gotham: Stream now on HBO Max

But there’s a downside to Danny’s more virtuous side, as he’s known to be a risk-taker, and not always in ways that best serve everyone around him, even beyond frequently putting himself in danger. And it sounds like the pilot might put a task in his path that requires him to change his ways. Something that won’t change, though, is the tight bond Danny has with the others in the Hurt Unit, a group that seems to thrive on their devotion to saving people’s lives.

ABC does seem like the perfect place for medical dramas starring former teen breakouts. (I’m looking at you, Patrick Dempsey and Freddie Highmore.) And with Grey’s Anatomy heading into a new season in the fall without either Ellen Pompeo and current showrunner Krista Vernoff, it only makes sense for the network to get the ball rolling on other potential hospital-related series to possibly take its place in years to come. Beyond The Hurt Unit, ABC is also developing a feel-good pilot titled The Front Line, with Michael Strahan as an executive producer, and a creator who’d previously written and EP’d for The Resident

Ben McKenzie, who also took on Gotham City’s key vigilante role by voicing Batman himself for the animated feature Batman: Year One, popped up in one film in 2022, Prime Video’s rom-com I Want You Back, in which he played the father of Isabel May’s Leighton. Before that, his final year of Gotham coincided with a pair of film roles in Line of Duty and The Report, while he also took part in the celeb-filled Mueller Report reading The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts

The Hurt Unit, which is being co-written by Matt Lopez (Promised Land, 2022’s Father of the Bride) and John Glenn (Eagle Eye, Allegiance), will likely be on the road to filming soon, now that its lead has been cast. Only time will tell, however, whether it makes it into the 2023 TV schedule or not.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.