411mania Interview: Jamie Bamber
Posted by Al Norton on 03.18.2013
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Jamie Bamber, star of TNT's Monday Mornings.
Jamie Bamber will likely always be best known for his role as Apollo Adama on Battlestar Galactica but since then he has been very busy, starring in Law & Order: UK and Outcasts in England and appearing on House, Body of Proof, Perception, and CSI: Miami here in the states. He can currently be seen starring as Dr. Tyler Wilson in David E Kelley's TNT medical drama Monday Mornings.
Al Norton: What's the secret to an American accent?
Jamie Bamber: Having an American Dad helps an awful lot, which I do. What's the secret? Remember that Americans pronounce their r's. That's the big one as we Brits ignore most r's.
Al Norton: Did you model yours after anyone in particular?
Jamie Bamber: No, I didn't. It changes from job to job. Sometimes there's a regional element you have to concentrate on. With this on, with Ty, I was trying to put a slightly West Coast thing in there but he's an educated guy so even though he grew up there, he would have a more American education accent. I have a pretty solid standard American speaking voice which can be my default mode and he's pretty much right in there.
Al Norton: What drew you to Ty both in terms of what you saw in the pilot and what you thought his journey would be?
Jamie Bamber: For me it really was about the pilot script and the novel that Sanjay (Gupta, co-creator of Monday Mornings), and that's all about a man who's completely self-believing having to confront the fact that he's made a colossal error, and the undermining of his whole identity that goes along with that. That event was really the hook for me. It's always fascinating to play someone who's completely self confident, who does not doubt themselves at all, and yet people like that have normally overcompensated for something. In Sanjay's work it's the difficult upbringing he's had, with a couple of tragedies his past, and his medical career is largely a path to make those things right. He prides himself on never making mistakes, on putting people's lives back together, and when he singularly fails to do that, that's a massive crisis and a fissure in the statute that he's created.
It was really that that drew me in, that and the world of neurosurgery, which is fascinating to me.
Al Norton: When you get a script from David E Kelley does it jump to the top of the must-read list regardless of what it's about?
Jamie Bamber: Absolutely. I'd never worked with David before but always admired the subtlety in which he has been able to blend very broad strokes within the same piece. He's able to shift things so many times in one script. When I got to the table read the thing was so funny; I was laughing out loud and I wasn't expecting that. With all of his work there is so much humor right under the surface, and the material is also quite dramatic and thought provoking as well. It's actually a huge confidence boost when you're dealing with pilots, dealing with a whole bunch of shows that will never see the light of day, having his name on it gets you much closer to that goal.
Al Norton: How much more medical jargon do you know now than you did six months ago?
Jamie Bamber: About 3000% more but unfortunately I don't have one of those brains where it sticks so now that we're on hiatus and not shooting anymore, I find it hard to remember some bits that were second nature while we were shooting. It's fascinating to have that exposure to a whole different world and get to know a little bit about the in's and out's of the brain and the life of these brain surgeons.
Al Norton: I know actors do a lot of research into parts but was the whole concept of neurosurgery so intimidating?
Jamie Bamber: Funny enough, I didn't find it intimidating initially because my whole introduction was through Sanjay's book and he emphasizes the manual side of the job, the fact that the point of the procedure is to get something physical achieved with the interaction of your hands and the blade and the organ itself, but as soon as I sat down in the offices of these neurosurgeon, and I did meet with a few of them, I'd see these books on their desk and pick them up and they're just so dense, and the amount of retention of nomenclature that you have to get through to get that far is truly ridiculous. It's so dry.
When it came down to it I was more interested in the thought process of the surgeon, the conviction with which the prescribe a course of action, and the fact that they have to actually open someone's heads to do it and have the steadiness, the sure handedness, and the strength to do it, that's what really drew me in because that's what I can relate to; I know what confidence feels like. It's just trying to reconcile the fact that these guys can't afford to ever have a bad day and that's something you have to portray to patients, to families, and to yourself. You can't afford to doubt yourself. Of course they do sometimes and our show explores those moments.
Al Norton: How often did they have to trim your beard just right for continuity purposes?
Jamie Bamber: (Laughing) That's a great question, I haven't been asked that before. That's funny. I would trim it when I got to work every second filming day, every other day.
Al Norton: You've done TV in various parts of the world; what are the differences between those and a US production?
Jamie Bamber: Budget is the real one, and that manifests itself in different ways, from the number of people on a crew to any number of things. It's more unionized here than it is anywhere else in the world, so there are more people working here. They're able to spend more on catering. And sets; it's quite rare in the UK to film something on an actual film set because it's just too expensive. It really comes down to budget; the quality at work here and in the UK is similar in terms of quality.
Al Norton: How often does someone come up to you and talk about Battlestar Galactica when you're out in public?
Jamie Bamber: Quite often. It's actually one of the more pleasurable things that can happen; when we shot Battleship the viewing figures we were getting were a couple of million a week but it seems so many more people have discovered it since it went off the air and it's really heartwarming that people not only remember it but are experiencing it for the first time. Anytime I meet someone in a social context it doesn't take long for someone in a big group to profess to watching it or be currently watching it and I personally enjoy it greatly. I hope to be able to repeat the phenomenon again on a different show.
Al Norton: I know it's been a few years but what did you think of the finale?
Jamie Bamber: I loved it, loved everything about it. It was very special to shoot, even more special to fly back for a big screening at Universal. I was living in London at the time and my wife and I flew in for three days just to be there. It was extremely emotional; the finale is the wrapping up of an extremely long saga, a lot of characters saying goodbye to each other and for us it was more personal, about real people moving on to different things. It was really profound and I think it completed the circle of the show very well. I thought it was elegant.
Al Norton: If Ron Moore calls do you say yes first and ask what the project is second?
Jamie Bamber: Oh yes. Ron's a dear friend. I haven't worked with him in a few years, since we did a pilot that didn't work out, but yes, he's one of those guys that in the future I'd give a huge benefit of the doubt to. I trust his sense of story and character.
Al Norton: What can you tell me about what's coming up on Monday Mornings?
Jamie Bamber: The next episode is very much a Ty episode. A lot of the drama happens in Ty's bedroom; he manages to perform a brain surgery halfway across the world from his bedroom with Tina's help, and what she was doing there I'll leave you to discover. From then on we have some really dramatic, personal stuff coming up for the characters, especially in the finale.
We've got some great guest stars; my buddy Ioan Gruffudd, he's my closest friend in the industry, and he comes along in a future episode and plays a Doctor who has to deal with Mr. (Alfred) Molina. What else? Lots of lawyers descend, David Kelley style, suing people for lots of different things, including Ty for something you wouldn't expect.
There's a lot to look forward to. I haven't seen any of the finished episodes from here on in so I'm waiting with bated breath. I have to say that as a viewing member I think the show is extraordinary and I am engaged on multiple levels. I hope other people out there find it, watch it, TiVo it, over the next four weeks; we've got four weeks to prove we're worthy of a slot next year.
Don't miss Monday Mornings, Mondays at 10pm on TNT.