While Chelsea General Hospital is said to be in Portland, Oregon, Monday Mornings actually shoots on soundstages in Manhattan Beach, California. That may be the most unrealistic thing about the setting. The hospital is incredibly accurate, with operating rooms so realistic that production members quip that they could be used in an emergency. What's it like for the cast to step into them? Stars Jamie Bamber and Jennifer Finnigan, who play neurosurgeons Tyler Wilson and Tina Ridgeway, weighed in via phone.
"[It's] very empowering," said Bamber. "Everything in those rooms is real. Sanjay [Gupta] has told me and others that were 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.
"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 - that’s very empowering.
"I find it exciting. 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 gloves and surgical gear.
"But 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.
"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."
"It is interesting being in there," agreed Finnigan, whose character has a personal storyline with Bamber's this season. "It’s fascinating because we really do get a sense of what actual surgeons experience while they’re in there, 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 it's of our hand, 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. 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."