On the most recent episode of Sun Records, titled “Never Better“, Sam Phillips, portrayed by Chad Michael Murray, continued his downward spiral into his self-proclaimed rabbit hole. In the preceding episodes, we learned of Phillips’ struggles, both financially and with his mental health, that seem to have followed him from Nashville to Memphis.
After Phillips has yet another close call, his wife Becky takes him to the doctor, who recommends electroshock therapy. Despite initial objections, Sam’s continued erratic behavior leaves him convinced it’s the only way to save himself.
As the episode came to a close, and Elvis Presley serenaded the audience with a cover of Bing Crosby’s “I Apologize,” we watched Sam undergo the electroshock therapy. Becky and Marion are seen in a nearby room, comforting each other as they wait for the procedure to end.
“It was really important to me that we justified the use of the electroshock therapy,” said Murray.
“I remember, I was on the plane headed to Memphis and I had just been given the scripts, and that episode totally brought tears to my eyes. You’ve got the singing in the background while Sam is going through the shock therapy, and the people that he loves so very much are watching him go through this traumatic thing.
“For me, I just wanted to make sure that everything rung true. I wanted to make sure that we hit upon the fact that these pills were not working, and he wanted very much to do the right thing and that he wanted to stay grounded.”
Phillips’ reliance on his pills had been seen several times throughout the previous episodes, but his mental health continued to deteriorate.
“Even though [the shock therapy] was a very true event,” said Murray, “we had to make sure that people feel like it was necessary. There was a lot of building to that, and I think the ’six inches’ scene really makes you realize, ’OK, he’s losing his mind, and it’s time to get himself right and do what he’s got to do to get there.'”
“We could have done four episodes alone based upon that journey. This was a man that was very sure of himself, so he would make a decision and he stuck with it, and that was his decision.”
In preparing to film the shock therapy scene, Murray looked to those closest to the real Sam Phillips.
“From the information that I had been given, from everyone from [son] Jerry Phillips to other friends in Sam’s life, they believe that the shock therapy really did help. They say it helped him with his anxiety, it helped him with his depression, it helped him keep his mind from running. So we had to make sure it didn’t look like it was out of the blue.”