The brilliant surgeon who comes in at the last minute to save the day is a tired trope of TV shows — particularly TV shows created by David Shore.
This is probably one of the reasons fans find ABC’s The Good Doctor, Shore’s latest medical drama, so refreshing. Freddie Highmore stars as Shaun Murphy, a young doctor finding his way. He’s by no means perfect and is learning on the job. The fact that he is both autistic and shown to be a functioning member of society only helps the cause.
“Shaun is never going to be able, nor should we try to make him, represent everyone on the spectrum,” Highmore told the audience Thursday during The Good Doctor’s panel at PaleyFest LA at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. “In order to make him authentic, it was remaining true to the realities of autism, but at the same time constructing Shaun in his own right. It was finding out about his hopes and desires and his sense of humor and the people he connects [with] that may not, necessarily, have anything to do with the fact that he has autism. Yes, of course, we hope the show brings awareness to some extent. But it’s also about following Shaun on his individual journey.”
Here are other insights about the show gleaned from Highmore, Shore and the rest of the The Good Doctor’s cast and producers, after fans at the event got to watch a surprise peek of next week’s Season One finale.
Like so many with autism spectrum disorder, Highmore’s Shaun has issues with eye contact. Does this mean that other actors have trouble interacting with him in scenes?
“You sort of have traditional ways of resolving scenes or of getting points across or building an emotional arc, so you kind of rely on that over time,” Highmore says. “You have to reevaluate those ways of expressing emotion.”
Hill Harper, who plays chief of surgery Marcus Andrews, admits it did take some getting used to; he says he finds himself trying to catch Highmore’s eye during scenes.
Shaun is autistic. But that doesn’t mean he can’t date.
“To a certain extent, it’s treating the character as a human being,” Shore says of Shaun’s love life. “It’s recognizing that he goes through what everyone does, just in a different way. We want to continue to take those steps forward.”
Highmore adds that Shaun “will grow as a person… Many broadcast shows, in general, encourage an amount of stability; that the characters are the same week in and week out so that you know what you’re getting. I think, with a character like Shaun, he has to change. He’s still the same person, but we get to see that progression.”
Lost actor Daniel Dae Kim is an executive producer of The Good Doctor. Will he actually appear on it?
“I would love to, at some point,” he says, adding, “As satisfied as I’ve been watching behind the monitors, there’s a part of me that really wants to play with these talented people. If there is the right storyline and the right character, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m in it sometime.”
Shore adds that Kim was in the first episode, but his scenes were cut.
The show is a remake of a Korean television drama—the first time this has happened—and Kim is Korean-American. Does that mean the crew is diverse?
Kim says that, thanks to Shore and other executives, the show does have considerable “diversity behind the scenes and a very diverse group of writers, as well.” While this is significant, he stresses that “the most important thing is that we’re making an entertaining show and we’re doing it with a diverse group of people at the highest level of talent in Hollywood.”
The show has also cast actors with autism, such as Coby Bird, who was in the audience Thursday night.
Richard Schiff plays Shaun’s mentor on the show, Aaron Glassman. And his real-life wife, Sheila Kelley, recently guest-starred as a potential love interest for his character.
“It was David’s idea,” Schiff admits. He says he’s cool with it because “I could not be more in love [with] and awe of my wife.”
Despite their matching careers, Schiff says he and his wife have shared relatively little screen time. They were both in an episode of NCIS in 2012 and they were also in the 1997 movie Santa Fe.
Don’t assume Tamlyn Tomita is just like her character, boss lady Allegra Aoki.
“I love that she’s portrayed as a calm and cool and collected person of high power and I’m such a dork,” Tomita says.
This season’s sexual harassment story involving Antonia Thomas’ Claire Browne was written before #MeToo gained steam.
“To me, the resolution of that story is that she didn’t choose to accept it,” says Shore. Thomas adds that she likes that her character “refused to be victimized” and that she appreciates what a positive reaction it has gotten from fans.
Nick Gonzalez plays Shaun’s superior, Neil Melendez, an attending with a very noticeable neck tattoo. What’s up with that?
“There was a draft where there was an explanation for it,” Gonzalez says, adding, “I feel like it’s something important. And I know that, for me, I feel like there’s some backstory… it’s the same thing with romantic possibilities [with other characters].”