On the set of TNT's new medical drama "Monday Mornings," which premiers Feb. 4, several steps are being taken to reduce the production's carbon footprint. "We use as little paper as we possibly can. The scripts are e-mailed. I read them on my iPad," says showrunner Bill D'Elia, also one of the shows directors. "There are fewer plastic bottles on set, and the lot is powered by solar panels."
The series is based on the book of the same name by neurologist and CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and adapted by writer-producer David E. Kelley, who created "Chicago Hope," which D'Elia produced. But what separates it from other doctor shows is its focus on the morbidity and mortality conferences common to all hospitals, where doctors convene to analyze cases that went awry, discover who's accountable, and assign blame where necessary. "There's a lot of suspense involved," says D'Elia. "It's a very interesting way in to a medical drama."
"It's both procedural and also has a kind of courtroom drama element to it," observes Alfred Molina, who plays surgery chief Harding Hooten, a man who has to "walk a fine line between arrogance and professionalism. He's not interested in being liked. He's not particularly interested in being respected. He's interested in doing his job and his job is to call people on their mistakes. He's not a father figure. He's not a mentor. He's a boss."
For research, Molina "spoke to some doctors, one surgeon, just to get a sense of it. What I discovered is that there's a level of performance involved in their job as well. One of them said to me, 'The fact that we call it an operating theater is not just an accident of language.' There is a theatrical element to it. Everyone's coming together to do one thing, and has a specific job," says the actor, who drives a Prius, separates his trash for recycling, and uses paper bags.
Ving Rhames also recycles, something he was taught to do as a boy by his mother, a North Carolina sharecropper. "We recycled cans and bottles because you could get money for them. Growing up poor, you have no other options. So it's always been in me. I may go overboard sometimes, because the trees are alive, the ocean is alive; I've always been pro-nature."
Rhames plays surgeon Jorge Villanueva, who's divorced, sleeps around, and has an estranged son. "There are a lot of layers to him that make him extremely vulnerable and extremely strong," he says, noting, "The writing is really what attracted me to this and why I'm doing it. I think the show is really trying to say something about mankind, man's inhumanity to man, power. Are doctors gods? It will really make you think."
Pointing out show's state-of-the-art medical equipment and stories involving cutting edge treatments and procedures, D'Elia finds that such realism is rubbing off. The lesson learned? "If you get sick don't go to a hospital!" he declares. "Since doing the show, I always think I have a problem."