Depression during pandemic urges Fil-Am doctor and U.S. Navy veteran, Mark Labella, to produce his first award-winning screenplay “MisDiagnosed,” streaming on Amazon starting June 1st 2022

By Oliver Carnay

As the end of the pandemic appears on the horizon, Mark Labella, a Filipino-American actor-writer-producer and Army veteran, recounts the essence of the previous two years with an award-winning screenplay pilot.

In 2020, Mark’s empathy began to bog him down after coming home from his hospital rotations with his preceptor, Dr. Marcel Filart, M.D., as well as working sixteen-hour shifts as an infection control supervisor in five elderly care and mental health facilities in Los Angeles. Empathy, which was once his superpower, became his biggest weakness. He plunged into severe depression.

“It was hard to have people in my life tell me that COVID was fake. One person even dared me to take a photo of a patient in the ICU to prove COVID was real.” Mark fought to provide essential tools for the people he served. He partnered with local distilleries to acquire hand sanitizers, partnered up with laboratories for testing, and even presented to the entire LA DHS and LADPH on a seminar.

Despite Mark’s best efforts, he lost dear friends and colleagues in the fight. It was a tough three years. Thankfully, with his screenwriting training at the WGA-Veterans writing program, he was able to put his pain into writing. He credits mentors like Oscar-award winner Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Shadow and Bone), Tim Wurtz (Hungry Hearts), Roger Director (Moonlighting), Peter Casey (Frasier), and Matt Corsman (Covert Affairs).

“Comedy comes from pain.” Mark denotes. He wrote a screenplay that triumphed with a first-place win at the Chicago Screenplay Awards. Most shocking is that the screenplay garnered accolades in a unique script format based on a zoom teleplay. Mark created his own format because the format had not previously existed (this was written before NBC’s Connecting series premiered). The screenplay went on to other high placements, and Mark partnered with Argentum Studios to produce his first pilot: MisDiagnosed.

“I wanted to show that our lives in the medical field still went on despite the hard work.” When pressed on what the show is about, Mark states, “I wanted to ask, what flawed medical professionals have to do when forced to take it upon themselves to survive one of the country’s worst hospitals during a worldwide pandemic.”

MisDiagnosed stars Kimberly Alexander (NCIS) as the series lead, Dr. Jane Thomas, and is surrounded by her very imperfect cohorts played by Alexis Figueroa (Generation Z), Johannes Aspergen (Stranger Among Us). The pilot premiere red carpet took place last May 15, 2022 with cast and crew in attendance.

“The ensuing episodes will be mockumentary-style now that the pandemic is ending.” Mark appears to have the right formula. As The Office and Grey’s Anatomy remain top of the viewership rankings, Mark combines the personal drama of Grey’s and makes fun of it through a mockumentary set in the United States’ worst hospital.

The MisDiagnosed pilot will be available for streaming on Amazon starting June 1, 2022. As for Mark’s plans to pursue his career in medicine, he notes, “Writing has always been my first love, and now more than ever, I am convinced that there are perspectives that people still don’t see. As a writer, it is my job to offer them up on a silver platter for people to enjoy. If one person learns something about my experience as a veteran, MD, or Filipino-American, it would mean the world.”
Mark Labella is an accomplished actor who has appeared in films and different television series such as “NCIS: Los Angeles” and recently on “Magnum P.I.”.
He is currently in production with “To The Last Girl Ever Loved,” a short film he wrote which turned into a feature film under Sun and Moon Films Production, directed by Livi Zheng.  He also just finished writing and producing the feature film “Catholic School” (soon to be released) and shooting a half-hour television pilot comedy series “Soul & Spice” starring Philippine’s Comedy Queen Ms. Ai-Ai de las Alas, currently being pitched to networks.