ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — When Chicago-born Freddy Rodriguez was offered a role in a 2012 pilot for hospital drama, he took the gig and just hoped for the best.
But after NBC's "The Night Shift" finally began airing last summer, surprising critics with its strong ratings, the network ordered another season. Rodriguez then was bombarded on social media by adoring fans that had been following his career since his days as Rico Diaz in HBO's "Six Feet Under."
The sleeper hit "The Night Shift" returns for a second season Monday and producers hope the unexpected social media push and its diverse cast will keep viewers coming back.
Set in San Antonio and filmed in Albuquerque, the drama stars Dublin-born Eoin Macken, who plays Dr. TC Callahan, and Rodriguez, who plays hospital leader Michael Ragosa, as they try to run a red-eye emergency room in a largely Mexican-American city.
It also stars Jill Flint, who plays Dr. Jordan Alexander, and Ken Leung, known for his roles in "Lost" and the "The Sopranos."
Co-creator Gabe Sachs said producers picked stronger actors who they thought would best represent the real diversity of a hospital.
"We didn't go out and cast Freddy Rodriguez because of his ethnicity," Sachs said. "We went out to get Freddy Rodriguez because he's Freddy Rodriguez. Everything else fell into place."
The Sony Pictures TV production stunned critics when it averaged around 6.9 million viewers per episode thanks to a lead-in from "America's Got Talent."
Sachs said he believed part of the reason it caught on was because the actors were engaged on social media.
Macken said he didn't know what to expect when the series finally aired and was glad to see people talking about the show on Twitter.
"I don't know the numbers or anything, but I'm always happy to talk directly with fans," said Macken, who just finished filming a role in "Killing Jesus," a movie adaptation of the book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.
Like many hospital dramas, the series follows staff as they try to navigate a busy emergency room amid personal challenges and love triangles. However, some characters, like Callahan, are battling PTSD following military service in Afghanistan.
In addition, former Army medic Drew, played by Brendan Fehr, must face his past as he tries to care for a boyfriend who is recovering from an amputation.
This season, producers are promising more developed characters from patients, allowing creators to paint an accurate portrayal of San Antonio.
Though most of the series is shot at Albuquerque Studios in Albuquerque, Sachs said the show will likely capture some scenes from San Antonio. He said it's important to him that viewers believe they are watching a story out of the Alamo City. That's why there will be mentions of popular San Antonio restaurants, he said.
And what about references to civil rights lawyer Gus Garcia or the late-Tejano star Selena?
"Selena..." Sachs said with a pause. "That's a great idea."
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter: http://twitter.com/russcontreras