TNT’s newest drama “Monday Mornings” will debut on February 4 at 10:00 PM. It comes from executive producers, David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Jamie Bamber plays Dr. Tyler Wilson and Jennifer Finnegan plays Dr. Tina Ridgeway and they recently talked about the show, their characters and what viewers can expect to see this season.
Q: What was it about the script that attracted you to this show?
Jamie Bamber: It was really three things for me. 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 so 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 and you’ve got two great authorities right there.
But for me it was 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 but I knew that there was a really good character that I could get myself and 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 and it was really those three ingredients.
Q: Do the flaws of your character make him a challenge to play?
Jamie Bamber: Every character is a challenge, for me the particular challenge of this guy is the unquestioned confidence with which he confronts everything that he does. That’s certainly not who I am in life and, yeah, so that aspect of it was a challenge it’s always a challenge to sell the idea that I’m actually a neurosurgeon and I know what to do with all of these instruments and tools and all of these words. Would I say – I don’t know if it’s the greatest challenge. I think I felt more challenge when I started Battlestar just because I felt very unprepared for the whole American TV machine and I was trying a new accent on and….And I did have anxiety when I started Battle. So yeah, I felt pretty – you know, I was nervous because of David’s reputation. He’s a great producer over here and I didn’t want to let myself or him down so I was definitely apprehensive and nervous but, no, he was challenged enough, put it that way.
Jennifer Finnigan: Yeah, I had a reaction very similar to Jamie first and foremost the David Kelley aspect and then the fact that we had Sanjay backing us and not only that 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 and 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 there expectations are more realistic. They also allow a show to breath, 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 and…and you know that’s something that networks used to do.
I mean, everybody knows the story about how Cheers used to be, what, Cheers was like number 99 and then they gave it a couple of years and it was number one for eight more years. So, you know, there is something to be said about allowing audiences to discover a show over time and it’s certainly a blessing for us actors if we get more than a season to really discover who our characters are and get down deeper as performers.
Q: Was there anything about your characters that wasn’t originally scripted for you that you’ve added to your roles?
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, a yellow watch. I added that.
Jennifer Finnigan: And the orange drawstrings?
Jamie Bamber: A yellow wristwatch is me and that’s all I can say. Maybe my haircut. I think I added the haircut and the beard. Yeah, I did, actually I did. I brought the hair and I brought the beard and I picked out a yellow watch strap. But no…
Jennifer Finnigan: That beard is unpredictable. I never know how closely you’re going to be trimming that beard from episode to episode. You really kept me on my toes.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, I have my own thing going on but, no, Sanjay really served it up on a plate for me and David present it to the viewing public and I think that the real blessing here is that normally as an actor you have to create your own character back story 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 of the pilot would give you under normal circumstances. So I just used everything that Sanjay really threw my way.
Jennifer Finnigan: On that note my braid, my “iconic braid”… But, no, aside from that David has this uncanny ability and the best writers too to within an episode or two start nailing down the actual person’s characteristics and somehow infusing their character with those. And I would notice by Episode 3, Episode 4, there were just little things that resonated with me personally and so it wasn’t – 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.
So, I think for me my biggest challenge was during the pilot my character was largely there to facilitate the Ty storyline and the agony that he was going through and so my biggest challenge was really in the pilot trying to create a character given a little bit of information about who she really is. And so, yeah, 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.
Q: Many of the cast has joined Twitter as a way to interact with fans and Jamie, I’m wondering if you’ll ever join Twitter.
Jamie Bamber: I have no plans to join Twitter yet. I am not going to say never but, yeah, it just doesn’t feel like me right now. So, I’m not going to – my wife occasionally tweets on my behalf and that’s good for me for the moment.
Jennifer Finnigan: His fan club, he’s got a couple of fan club people on Twitter who I basically feel like I – that its him because they represent him so well and they post up all of the clips of the show and photos of him so they do a beautiful job.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, there is a feed that is run for me and, yeah, whenever I need to find out where I’ve been I look on there and they tell me.
Q: Jennifer, what is it like working with your husband on the show and then seeing him date someone else?
Jennifer Finnigan: Well, both are fun actually. 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. 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 and essentially 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. So 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 and 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 and you just have to laugh!
Q: Talking about laughing, what was it like when you saw Alfred Molina without hair?
Jennifer Finnigan: I think he sports it really well, he’s got a great head.
Jamie Bamber: Well, the funny thing is we’d all been to see him on the stage in Rent at (The Paper) and so we had seen him before as a different character. So it wasn’t that weird to see him shave headed and I think it really works for Hooten, the shaved head and the big black framed glasses. He looks like a 70’s talk show host especially on our set, on (that 311 set) and there’s something about that authority, the simple lighting, the very harsh, the glass of water, and the jug that is ubiquitous 70 talk show paraphernalia makes me chuckle every time I see it.
But no, I think it works for the character. I really enjoyed the story point, the way they explain it, it brings a humanity to the character and I think Fred really enjoyed it too and it’s fun to watch his hair grow back, it’s really entertaining.
Jennifer Finnigan: It is, it’s like a Chia-Pet.
Jamie Bamber: He’s like the class science experiment.
Jennifer Finnigan: Yeah, exactly.
Jamie Bamber: Watching his hair grow.
Jennifer Finnigan: Right, and I know there was discussion about him briefly sporting a wig but he – but they decided against it and I’m very glad of that.
Q: The show has a lot of medical terminology. What has been the hardest word that you’ve had to say on the show so far?
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, for me it’s always a simple one like – because the terminology is one thing and you just have to work at it and we all do and it becomes second nature but occasionally for me there’s a double whammy of medical terminology that’s also slightly accented differently in English than it is in American English. So I’m trying to think of…
Jennifer Finnigan: What’s the one – I’m trying to think, I was there and I can’t…
Jamie Bamber: There was one, oh, what was it…
Jennifer Finnigan: And it was so easy, it’s an easy word.
Jamie Bamber: It’s an easy one, it’s an easy one but it threw me completely and I couldn’t get it right. Let me just think what it is. I always get this… You answer and then I’ll
Jennifer Finnigan: Okay, well, I mean – because I’m not going to be able to come up with something specific either unfortunately but I will say it was one of the times that I was up on the podium and I was making a presentation about a procedure involving basically lasers, it’s called a gamma ray and I had this monologue that was just stressing me out so bad, I was pacing and I was just trying to focus and, you know, I had my iPod on to tune out all of the outside noise and I got up there and I just really nailed it the first ten times but these are seven page scenes and there’s so much coverage and there’s 50 different setups and by the 20th shot, I would say, I could not – I literally could not say it anymore. I mean, I remember I was almost in tears trying to keep it together.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, it’s the simple ones that sometimes bite you. I mean, yeah, we have significant differences. Like we say (anesthetist) and you guys say anesthesiologist. Most of those I’ve got down but occasionally one will creep up but I actually use in sort of common parlance and those are the ones that bite me, not the really technical ones.
Jennifer Finnigan: He’s amazing because he’ll be, we’ll be, talking literally right up till action and he’s, you know, a Brit, and then all of the sudden he just switches over on a dime, it’s shocking! I mean, especially involving all that jargon.
Jamie Bamber: I can’t do it the other way. I can’t do it the other way where you stay in character all day. I find that…
Jennifer Finnigan: That’s just exhausting, isn’t it?
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, it is. And you end up doing nothing well, it’s all bad.
Jennifer Finnigan: But then it’s weird because I think being Canadian I’m sometimes conscious of that slipping in which really it doesn’t when I’m sober but so sometimes talking to Jamie at length, because we do tend to sit together at those meetings and so 15 hours later I have a quasi-British accent for sure.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah.
Q: I wanted to ask following up on Jennifer’s thing where you guys were kind of seeing your characters flushed out through the subsequent episodes, David E. Kelley is known for creating kind of quirky yet very lovable characters, maybe you could describe what’s quirky and what’s loveable about each of your characters?
Jennifer Finnigan: Well, I would say we’re the least quirky. Hopefully yet still loveable but, yeah, there haven’t been – I mean, I would say the quirkiest is definitely when Ving has a sort of fun quirkiness to him and Sarayu’s character is kind of a little pitbull.
Jamie Bamber: Are you going to say Keong? I would say Keong.
Jennifer Finnigan: Oh and Keong!
Jamie Bamber: …is standout quirky because he has this repetitive joke of his monosyllabic unemotional bedside manner which…
Jennifer Finnigan: Right, right.
Jamie Bamber: …makes me laugh every time and he relies on repetition, the same joke several times and episode and it really works. My character, no quirks I’m afraid.
Jennifer Finnigan: Yeah, mine not so much either. I mean, we’re sort of the grounded ones, the “straight men” but we – I hope that Tina is kind of the heart of it in a way. Like I love to see people come to her and rely on her and she is there to sort of comfort people and, I don’t know, I just think she’s a very warm grounded women, not quirky so much but maybe that’s Season 2, you never know.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, I mean, there’s room for that for sure but I think in the first season our characters were very much carrying their sort of emotional – we’re sort of the emotional needle within the compass, we tend to carry the emotional stories.
Jennifer Finnigan: Yeah, true.
Q: You’ve been talking about tough dialogue. Was it tougher doing legal jargon, military jargon from Battlestar Galactica or this one in comparison to all three? You had a lot of legal things in Law & Order.
Jamie Bamber: Yeah, I think the hardest is – the hardest is goofy sci-fi language for sure. Because I was very proud of Battlestar as being raw and real and immediate and when it dissipated into goofy language, sort of (fo-)science, becauseit’s not even real science, it’s pretend science then I find the conviction waivers.
You know, with the medical world I’m surrounded by advisers. I know this is the language they speak, it is 100% necessary to say it and so the conviction with which you learn it and say it is just second to none. Whereas with Battlestar everything was kind of up for grabs. If there was something – you could call the writer and say this is bullshit, let’s come up with something better. Whereas I can’t do that to Sanjay Gupta or David Kelley, the reality that we can’t mess with which gives you confidence.
Q: I enjoy the way that you embrace Battlestar Galactica, there’s a lot of actors who like to try to forget things from their past but I still watch it, it comes on everyday on either SyFy or one of the network channels and I think they’re – I watch it everyday when it’s on.
Jamie Bamber: Oh my God, I’m never going to forget it! I have more pride for that experience than anything else I’ve done so, no.
Q: Jamie your character gets a little tortured because of something that happens. How are you at dealing with that kind of hing? Are you the type of actor that just goes and shoots it and the minute they stop filming that’s it or do you bring a little bit of the feeling with you afterward?
Jamie Bamber: No, I bring the feeling beforehand I think. I think afterwards it’s a sense of relief that you can take the costume off and then it’s gone. No, it never stays with me afterwards but it’s with me all the day until I get to the necessary being beforehand because 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, no, as soon as they say cut it’s done and it’s a huge relief and it tends to be an excited, very perky, Jamie that emerges.
Q: Jennifer, how would you describe Tina?
Jennifer Finnigan: Well, I was saying before, I mean, I think she’s definitely driven by passion and love for her job and carrying for her patients. And I know that every doctor has a different bedside manner, some much better than others, but in doing research for this part the person who made the biggest impression on me is this very successful neurosurgeon, female neurosurgeon out of New York. And I – one of the first questions I asked her was how much she’s impacted by her patients? How much she feels along with them and she was very quick to say that she holds their hands, that she cries with them, that she puts herself in their shoes.
I know that not everyone can do that for every patient, I mean you can’t become a complete sponge, I think it then starts to affect your work, I think it then starts to just bear down on you, you have to deal with losses everyday but I was really – that left a huge impression on me and I really wanted to infuse Tina with that same level of caring and compassion for her patients.
So I would say that’s there. I would say that she is very authoritative and confident in her job. I would say that she falls apart a little bit at home whereas you see her in her element at work and she’s happy and she is in control. I think that all goes by the wayside the minute she walks through her front door. And I really like seeing those two sides of her.
Q: And are we going to see more of her home life with her husband?
Jennifer Finnigan: Very much so, yeah, especially in Episode 4.
Q: I wanted to say I had the opportunity to visit the set recently and I was just shocked by how realistic these operating rooms are. So I wanted to know, what’s it like for the two of you then to step into these operating rooms?
Jamie Bamber: Very empowering, you know, everything in those rooms is real. Sanjay has told me and others that where anybody to have an aneurysm on the set he could do everything in that room to get in there and solve the problem. They’re not sterile that’s the only difference.
So, knowing that we have that level of reality and we also have real OR nurses working with us so when an instrument is handed to Jen or I it is done by someone who has been operating the day before in exactly that situation and that’s very empowering and you can’t look bad really, they sort of prop you up.
So it’s exciting! I find it exciting. I mean, it’s a challenge because you wear all this gear and it’s uncomfortable after a while and it takes hours, probably as long as the surgical procedure would, but with timeouts between takes which are frustrating because you can’t eat anything or drink anything because you’re covered in masks and (lubes) and surgical gear. But it’s – you get a buzz. You get a buzz about being the center of that theater. You’re at the heart of the theater, you’re the lead. You’re the practitioner, it’s where the God complex comes from for these surgeons. They are making life and death motions with their hands and decisions and the acting is very interesting because it’s all eyes only, you can’t even see their mouths move so it’s a real thing and you have to take a deep breath in and be up for it but it’s an aspect of the show that I actually have really learned to enjoy.
Jennifer Finnigan: And I get too – I think it’s sort of fascinating to learn all of these – the way to hold the instrument and we obviously try to do it with as much authority as possible. I remember in one shot where they were going down from my
hands where I was suturing the patients head and then up to my eyes and I had to say, my suturing was pretty impressive and I’ve never felt better! Like I had just recited a monologue but it was really just a couple of sutures but I was so proud of myself.
It is interesting being in there, it’s fascinating because we really do get a sense of what actual surgeons experience while they’re in there. I mean, you know, from all of the instruments and the procedures which are heavily choreographed by the way, because prior to doing these scenes we rehearse them over and over again, we get our movements right, our positioning right, everything has to be just so because on Monday mornings they’re really big on very close shots whether it’s of our eye, whether its of our hand, you know, everything is very measured. So those movements have to be down pat and then we get the feeling that these doctors go through when they’re wearing all that gear and standing on their feet for six, seven hours. I mean, I know Sanjay has even spoken about doing procedures for eight hours straight without taking a bathroom break.
And here we are complaining that we can’t get to catering because we’re wearing a face mask. So, it’s definitely eye opening. I think I’ve tried to cut a slit into my mask at times to fit a little straw so I could just have just a little bit of water. But of course real doctors could not do that.