Murphy's Law: More Sex for 'Nip'

Getting a facelift for each new season is a must for FX's Nip/Tuck. The racy plastic-surgery drama is back for a fourth season. Logging a healthy 3.9 million total viewers and 2.7 million adults 18-49 last year, the Golden Globe-winning show returns Sept. 15 with 15 episodes. Creator/Executive Producer Ryan Murphy, who continues to write and direct episodes, talked to B&C's Anne Becker about what's on tap for the cosmetic surgeons of Miami this season.

Are you looking to push the boundaries even further this season?

I actually think last season—even though it was the most popular ratings-wise—was our darkest season and certainly our most violent, so I want to do the unexpected this season. Instead of pushing the boundaries and making it more dark, I'm making it more fun and light and sex-filled, flipping it in a different direction and making it more accessible to some people, adding a lot of guest stars and cutting back on a lot of the gore in the surgeries. Sometimes when you're doing a TV show, the unexpected thing is to make it not more boundary-pushing but more accessible. I think if people heard me say that, they'd be shocked.

You've made a lot of interesting choices for guest stars this season: Brooke Shields, Melissa Gilbert, Larry Hagman, Kathleen Turner. How do you choose them?

It's always been a very industry-favorite show because of the subject matter, and for the most part, I've always declined the calls because I didn't think it was the correct thing to do. But this year, I just decided, you know, if the patients' stories could inform our main people's stories, I'd be happy to do that. So pretty much all the people I'm casting are people who I found out are big fans of the show or have called or written. I went after Kathleen [Turner]. But Rosie O'Donnell, Brooke Shields, Catherine Deneuve—they're all big fans of the show.

One guest star—Mario Lopez (best known as “A.C. Slater” on Saved by the Bell)—is in a pretty hot and heavy shower scene with Julian McMahon's character Christian. Are you introducing a gay love story?

I don't know why people think that's some big deal. It's not. It's one episode where the character he played was a competitive plastic surgeon. He's 33 and has a rock-solid body and makes Christian question middle age. It was not something gay or something homoerotic, none of that. I don't know what that's about. It's just the style of show: beautiful bodies in close-ups.

FX original series Rescue Me was criticized for its rape scene last season. Did that prompt a crackdown from the network?

No. They've pretty much always given me free rein as long as can I prove it's character-based and responsible and not gratuitous. I haven't felt some big McCarthyism coming at me because of their big controversy with Rescue Me. This year seems to be easier than ever in terms of what we're doing.

Nip/Tuck has become infamous for its graphic surgery scenes. What kind of research do you do to inform them?

We use the Internet a lot, and we have a nurse on staff full-time. She helps with the surgeries and is there when we're doing prosthetics, and sometimes she's the hands you see on camera.

How much longer can you see the show going?

It could easily go for seven or eight years. I don't know if I would go along for the ride, but it's the highest-rated show on the network. It's a flagship show. I know they really want it to continue. It has gone for four years, so I don't see why it couldn't go for four more. They've always promoted it very heavily. It's getting more attention because of the level of guest stars. We've never had that before. It's upped the profile and the ante of the show.