In the series premiere of TNT's new medical drama "Monday Mornings," Dr. Tyler Wilson's boss calls the talented neurosurgeon arrogant, careless and reckless.
Those words sting enough, but the boss delivers the verbal beating in front of Wilson's peers at a weekly M&M, or morbidity and mortality, conference in which doctors' decisions are scrutinized in the wake of patient deaths.
"We do get to see a human side of these guys, which isn't just who's having an affair with whom or the office politics," says Jamie Bamber, who plays Wilson, suggesting that by showing the "brutal" sessions in which doctors are picked apart, "Monday Mornings," which debuts at 9 p.m. CT Feb. 4, is a "departure from the way doctors are presented on TV.
"It's genuinely about their ability to open up someone's head and tinker around inside and get the right results, which is a massive responsibility which no human being can take on without any kind of sense of their own fallibility."
The new approach is provided by veteran producer David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Atlanta neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN, who has adapted his 2012 book that fictionalized many of his own experiences. Their participation is part of what attracted Bamber to the show, as well as his role.
"I loved the idea of playing the completely confident, cocksure surgeon who seems to have the rug pulled from underneath him the first time we really get to know him," he said.
But Bamber, most famous for playing Lee "Apollo" Adama on "Battlestar Galactica," says he would not appreciate those peer-witnessed reprimands in his line of work.
"I'd absolutely hate it."
Bamber tells why he'd hate it, and talks more about Wilson, brain surgery versus Viper piloting, and life after "Battlestar Galactica," in the Q&A below.
Before we talk about "Monday Mornings," I wanted to mention that one of my favorite roles of yours post-"Battlestar" was in "Outcasts."
Yeah that was fun. I enjoyed that one. It was a shame that the series didn't really take in the UK, but it was great. It was a funny one because I was approached to be a regular in it but I felt it was a little too close to "Battlestar." But I really liked this other role. And they took a real while to hem and haw but eventually they conceded that I might have a point. It would be more interesting to be the sort of red herring and to get killed off. But I had a great time shooting it. I loved the director, Bharat [Nalluri]. And the cast, they were great, but I was sorry to see it didn't last.
And it was fun to see you after playing Apollo as a bad guy.
Yeah, I go the other way a little bit, but it's funny 'cause when I read the script I honestly thought he was the lead of the show.
I did, too, when it started.
Yeah, I thought you know he's this outcast guy. The title is "Outcasts." He gets outcast from the "Outcasts." I thought it was perfect, but anyway, bullet to the head. [Laughs.]
On to "Monday Mornings," tell me what attracted you to this project?
In a nutshell, David E. Kelley, and then Sanjay Gupta--the great legal writer with the great medical communicator to the masses in this country and the perfect combination of the two together doing this medical drama.
The thing about this show is it does have this sort of legal with a small "L" kind of theatrical kangaroo court in the center of it that sort of fuses both worlds. David's natural flair for the podium and the witness stand and the judges' bench [combined], obviously, with Sanjay's talent for the medical stories and his talent as a storyteller that came through in his novel. So it was really those two names that give you a lot of trust.
When you read a pilot, the script can be great but without the pedigree of someone who knows how to turn one episode into multiple episodes, you're always wishing and guessing and sort of slightly leaping in to the dark. But with those two guys you know that leap was onto sort of pretty reliable ground. And we knew that we were going to find our footing.
The biggest single factor other than those two names was the character. He had a great arc in that first episode and I loved the idea of playing the completely confident, cocksure surgeon who seems to have the rug pulled from underneath him the first time we really get to know him. So it was a very exciting start and lends itself to many more permutations further down the track.
After seeing what happens to him in the morbidity and mortality sessions, I really thought we were in for another, "Uh-oh, Jamie's going to be out of the show quickly."
[Laughs.] There you go.