Actress Sarayu Rao and her co-stars took a crash course in doctoring before they started filming TNT's new medical drama, Monday Mornings.
They didn't learn enough that you'll want them assisting the real doctors in surgery, of course.
But Rao did pick up a very specific skill she's now looking to put to use somehow.
"I practiced suturing a banana," she says, "and I'm proud to report that the banana made it."
Alas, the surgically repaired banana ultimately bruised and started to rot and was thrown away.
But could anyone expect a different outcome there? It was a banana, after all.
"Still, my sutures are pretty good," Rao says, getting back to the point. "I'm telling you, if you need someone to come suture, I'm your girl."
There are many better-known actors walking the halls in Monday Mornings, which premieres Monday. The cast includes Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames, Jennifer Finnigan and Jamie Bamber.
But Rao, as feisty Dr. Sydney Napur, is the early standout in this interesting medical drama from producer David E. Kelley and neurosurgeon/CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
It's a doctor show that has familiar elements -- set in a large metropolitan hospital, Chelsea General in Portland, Ore., where a staff of charismatic surgeons put their skills to the test -- but it also strays from the formula and ups the stakes by focusing more on the surgical failures than on the triumphs.
Welcome to the weekly morbidity and mortality conference, aka M&M, the behind-closed-doors meetings in which doctors discuss the cases that went wrong.
There will always be deaths that can't be avoided -- the patients are sick and broken, after all, often beyond repair -- but sometimes it boils down to human error, a doctor's error.
In the pilot episode, we meet one sloppy surgeon who's so inept that his colleagues call him Double O Seven, which is to say he has "a license to kill."
Later, in the same hour, we see a much better doc, widely respected for his brilliance and dedication, lose a patient because of a tiny oversight.
The two doctors couldn't be more different, but their patients wind up just as dead -- and it's up to the Monday-morning M&M meetings for their peers to assess blame and to learn from the mistakes.
In a very real sense, this is the medical version of Monday morning quarterbacking.
"That's one of the things I was so drawn to about the script," says Rao, whose character enjoys one of the few medical triumphs in the premiere. "So often, doctors on TV are like superheroes. This time, we really see them as very human. It gave me a different spin in terms of empathizing with them.
"I mean, how scary must it be to have this high-stakes career, all the while knowing that if you make one mistake that career could be over?"
In contrast, in Rao's line of work, if she makes a mistake, the worst that can happen is the director yells "cut" and they shoot a scene again.
Rao shadowed a real-life counterpart and noted how cool the surgical team was in the operating room.
"In a way, it was like watching ladies who give manicures and pedicures," she says. "It's so everyday for them that while they're working they can also be chatting away about anything and everything.
"These doctors were like that. It was just second nature to cut someone open and do this incredibly detailed procedure, all the while having a casual discussion about something else, like another surgery."
After thinking about it, Rao decided that's the kind of doctor she wants if she goes under the knife.
"I don't want the person who's nervous making the first cut," she says. "I want confidence from my doctors. I want my doctors to bring their 'A' game every time."