TNT’s Monday Mornings starts tonight, and FanBolt caught up with the medical drama’s two stars, Jamie Bamber (of Battlestar Galactica fame) and Jennifer Finnigan (Crossing Jordan) to find out what you should know about the new series.
“It was really three things for me,” said Jamie of why he signed on to the project. “When you read David E. Kelley’s name on a script you get a good feeling, you know that this is going to get a chance, people are going to give it a chance.
“And then Sanjay Gupta coupled with that. You have David Kelley’s dramatic experience and then you’ve got Sanjay Gupta, the medical angle and a great communicator in his own right that everyone’s heard of. You’ve got two great authorities right there.
“It was [also] about the character in that first episode, because when you read one episode you don’t know really what the series is going to look like. I knew that there was a really good character that I could get my teeth into, someone who has been blessed with natural confidence and his own ability, whose confidence is shattered in the very first episode.
“So I knew there was massive dramatic potential and I trusted that David and Sanjay would know how to make more of the same.”
Jennifer called her thought proces “very similar to Jamie. First and foremost, the David Kelley aspect and then the fact that we had Sanjay backing us. Not only that, [but] it was based on a novel and I’ve never played a character that was based on a novel before. I liked that there was a very clear outline of who this character was. I liked that I had someone to guide me if I had any questions.
“Then I think there were a couple of other ingredients that were important to me as well. I’ve wanted to be part of a very strong ensemble for a long time, and I was fortunate enough to do that in comedy in my last show, but I truly was wanting to do that in drama.
“And then the other thing being, I desperately wanted to work on a cable show. I think that especially TNT is notorious for allowing their shows to grow and giving them a chance and their expectations are more realistic. They allow a show to breathe, allow the creators to really have their own space and they don’t try to interfere so much. They just really allow the show to grow and to sort of do it’s own thing without trying to poke their heads in.”
Explaining how the novel affected his approach to creating the character of Dr. Tyler Wilson, Jamie said, “Sanjay really served it up on a plate for me, and David presented it to the viewing public. I think that the real blessing here is that normally as an actor you have to create your own character backstory to the world, and Sanjay’s largely done that for me with his novel. I mean, there’s a few differences but basically that was a real treat to have someone’s creation be so much broader than just one episode.”
Agreed Jennifer, “David has this uncanny ability to, within an episode or two, start nailing down the actual person’s characteristics and somehow infusing their character with those. I would notice by episode three, episode four, there were just little things that resonated with me personally, and so it just became easier and easier from episode to episode, because I just started to understand her so much more through David’s eyes and Sanjay’s eyes as well.
“I think for me my biggest challenge was [that] during the pilot, my character was largely there to facilitate the Ty storyline and the agony that he was going through. My biggest challenge in the pilot was really trying to create a character given a little bit of information about who she really is. I just tried really hard to give her a lot of heart and a lot of warmth. I wanted her to be a rock for a lot of the doctors at that hospital and so that’s something that I really tried to put forth. But after the pilot it was just easy.”
Monday Mornings also features Jennifer’s husband, actor Jonathan Silverman, in a recurring role as another doctor who becomes involved with Dr. Sydney Napur, played by Sarayu Rao. “We’ve worked together in the past. We have a great time and it’s always nice when I have very long hours and I get to see him pop in and visit,” she said. “He’s also very well liked there. Everybody is always asking me where’s Johnny, when’s Johnny back on the show? So that’s quite nice.
“Aessentially he adds a levity to the show that I think is really necessary. His character is just sort of quirky and funny and I think matched with Sarayu, they’re just adorable. Ironically I think we have one scene together the entire time, and I believe we exchanged a hello, maybe not even. There were times when if he was working, I was not, and then we were like ships passing in the night all of the sudden. But it was lovely having him.
“I do remember one table read where my character and Jamie’s character were sort of in a physical something or other, and he and Sarayu’s character had a kiss, and it was just so funny sitting around the table and thinking ‘Yeah, this is what we get paid to do.’ You just have to laugh!”
For Jamie, tonight’s pilot episode brings a crushing blow for his character, and he talked about preparing himself for those tough scenes. “I bring the feeling beforehand, I think,” he explained. “It never stays with me afterwards but it’s with me all day until I get to the necessary scene,vbecause I know that I have got to have that experience as real in my mind to play the scene. I’m not the kind of actor that can go completely cold into an emotional scene. I have to transport myself emotionally by whatever means possible, and that basically means you carry the situation with you all week, all episode or all day beforehand.
“But as soon as they say cut it’s done and it’s a huge relief,” he added. “and it tends to be an excited, very perky, Jamie that emerges.”
You might ask what sets Monday Mornings apart from other medical series such as Grey’s Anatomy or ER. Jamie addressed that as well. “For me the concern wasn’t about any specific medical show that we would be compared to. My concern is always kind of about the medical genre in general. Everyone is very cynical about new cop shows, new medical shows, new law shows saying, why are you so special?” he explained. “And secretly I knew that this one was a little different. It had enough difference in it all based around these set pieces that nobody seems to really know about, I didn’t know about before doing them, and they’re everywhere. They’re in every single hospital across the country and truly what fuels the show is this added element of scrutiny that the audience applies to the show. Just watching the patients live or die, you’re watching the surgeons’ careers live or die week in, week out.
“You know Grey’s is a great show and we have elements of that, for sure, but I went back to [David E. Kelley’s previous medical drama] Chicago Hope, and I was blown away by what I saw. It was a very complex show, and having a legal mind to attack the medical genre really does bring a different prism to it. You see every decision through many different angles. They’re not just moral, ethical, surgical, there are legal responsibilities, there are politics involved and our show [is a different] medical drama because of those layers.”
Monday Mornings starts tonight at 10 PM ET/PT after Dallas.