A female pilot is no different than a male pilot: That's what Aimee Garcia learned when preparing for her "badass" role as Iraqi war veteran and helicopter pilot Marisa Benez on NBC's Trauma (Mondays at 9/8c). Garcia told TVGuide.com about how she prepared for this challenging role, how the paramedic community's response has influenced future episodes and what's in store for Marisa in future episodes.
TVGuide.com: Last week, Marisa got a taste of the action. Will she get to do more in upcoming episodes?
Aimee Garcia: She will. When we were preparing for the show, all of my co-stars were taking EMT classes and I thought, "I'm going to spend most of my time with the helicopter pilots, in hangars and inside actual choppers." All of a sudden, they're starting to write Marisa out of the helicopter and onto the streets and all I can think was, "I should've taken my EMT classes with everyone else." It's not really my forte [and] more work for me, but good news for Marisa [since] she's going to get out of the helicopter and get out of her comfort zone.
TVGuide.com: Will we learn more about Marisa's life before she joined the rescue team?
Garcia: Absolutely. In fact, in the episode we're shooting now her Army buddy decides to go AWOL and puts her in a predicament. It's a very serious offense, and I thought I had this huge responsibility to represent soldiers accurately and I wanted to explore the bond a soldier has with another soldier that no civilian will ever understand.
TVGuide.com: How did you prepare for that?
Garcia: I was fortunate enough to interview female pilots who had flown in Iraq, and I asked one, "What is it like to be a female pilot?" There was a pause and she said, "I'm just a pilot." She's right — a female pilot is no different than a male pilot. She actually had one of her engines go out and had to do an emergency landing while being shot at. I got to interview her among 12 others. I [also] tried to up the egg whites so I could get a little more push-up cut on the arm.
TVGuide.com: Is it safe to say this has been your most challenging role to date?
Garcia: Definitely. I've never been shot at, I've never flown a helicopter, I've never gone to war and Marisa has done all of those things. I had no reference points and really had to rely on my interviews. I'm starting to get more into the medicine, so not only do I feel a responsibility to represent a woman who's really comfortable in the boys' club and a Latina who is the commander-in-chief of a helicopter, I also feel a responsibility to represent EMTs accurately.
TVGuide.com: Can you talk about Monday's episode where Marisa believes Rabbit has post-traumatic stress disorder?
Garcia: She's very quick to recognize it because she has it herself. It's a very important episode for the development of her character because she has more street cred than any other character. She's probably seen more than Rabbit and she's seen people have PTSD and have it not end well. Rabbit is reckless, but he's not dumb and he knows who to listen to about certain things. She's had many near-death experiences, and he's had one, so when she talks about what that does to you mentally, he listens, and that's what this episode is about.
TVGuide.com: Were you nervous Trauma would get lost among the shuffle of medical dramas?
Garcia: Not at all because it's the only medical drama that's shot on the streets of San Francisco. We aren't only doing surgery in an operating room; we are doing surgery in a moving helicopter, in the middle of a gang shootout, on the Bay Bridge, so I think that brings a raw, kinetic energy to it that you don't get when you're in nice, sunny L.A. in the comfort of a studio.
TVGuide.com: What has the response been from the medical community?
Garcia: The paramedic community is very passionate. They voiced their input and we've actually been doing reshoots to include what the paramedics are saying. For example, it is true that not every day things are exploding and helicopters are colliding. Most of the time you're doing medical runs where you're helping a kid with a broken arm, a grandfather who fell down the stairs or someone who they call a frequent flyer is trying to get drugs for free or fake a cardiac arrest so they can get a free bed. Those aren't as visually stimulating, but they're just as accurate. We're incorporating much more reality, which is just as intriguing to future episodes.