Freddie Highmore – who had just finished a successful run on the TV series Bates Motel playing Norman Bates – has a very interesting reason for why he’s so happy to be starring in the new medical drama The Good Doctor.
“It’s nice to save people after years of killing them,” Highmore, says accenting the comment with a wicked smile.
He’s getting to be a healer, but as with most roles Highmore has played in his young career, his latest character comes with some interesting elements for him to play. His Dr. Shaun Murphy is a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who joins the surgical team at St. Bonaventure Hospital. His chief – and lone – advocate is Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), a member of the staff who must convince the hospital’s board and staff to look past their skepticism and prejudices. At the same time, Murphy must adjust to a world full of new people and new responsibilities.
Executive producer David Shore, the man behind another medical drama with a unique doctor in House, understands that the initial discussions will be about what the young doctor is able to do. But he expects that to pass because while Murphy is an “atypical doctor,” Shore argues that every member of the medical staff is atypical in their own way. What Shore wants Murphy to be is a catalyst for change because he can look at the world in a different way.The Good Doctor
is based on a TV Korean series that former Hawaii 5-0 star Daniel Dae Kim saw and brought to Shore’s attention.
“I loved the message of it, and it was a very familiar genre to American audiences in that it’s a medical show.
And I thought it would be a really good opportunity to make it in America. And so that was the impetus for me to try and bring it over,” says Kim, who is an executive producer on the series.
“But everyone knows that it’s not enough just to have an intellectual property. You have to have the right people behind it,” he adds. “That’s why it was such a crucial element to be able to bring someone like David aboard to bring this vision to life. And he wrote an incredible script and took it from there. We assembled a great cast, and if you’ve seen the pilot, you know that we might have something special here.”
The real challenge to make the series work falls squarely on Highmore, who had to figure out how to physically play the character. That was not an easy task, as the script for The Good Doctor
arrived three days after the last episode of Bates Motel was shot.
“Certain parameters have already been defined; at the same time – as with all characters – how to play him is something I’ll work out as I develop the character and get to play him episode after episode,” Highmore says. “I’ll continue to learn more about who he is and how he would react in certain situations.”
Highmore, along with many of the other cast members and production team, have talked with experts, read material and watched documentaries to get a better understanding of autism and savant syndrome. The main thing Highmore gleaned from all the research is how to find that fine line between reminding the audience that Murphy is dealing with these issues, while still giving himself enough room to act.
Finding the right way to play Murphy also meant coming up with the right cadence for the way he talks.
Highmore always finds it difficult to discuss how he finds the voice for a character because there’s no real formula. Just like how he knows when it feels right in the way he is moving as the character, Highmore can tell when he’s found the way of speaking that feels organic and real to him. In the case of Murphy, that organic feel means speaking with an American accent.
Highmore laughs and says that he has done so many films and TV projects where he has had to speak with an American accent, that it now feels a little weird when he’s speaking with what Americans would say is a British accent.
The 25-year-old British actor has been going with that instinct since he landed his first film role in Women Talking Dirty when he was seven.
Since then, he has amassed a list of credits that include Finding Neverland
, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
, August Rush
, The Spiderwick Chronicles
and Close to the Enemy
As with any medical drama, The Good Doctor
will have plenty of dark moments. Even on the darkest day, there will never be a situation where the action gets as bizarre or sinister or foreboding as any one of the episodes of Bates Motel. Highmore wasn’t looking for a project that would be lighter in tone after playing Norman Bates but just wanted to find something different.
“You don’t imagine that you could be so lucky as to finish a great show, and then three days later there’s a script for another show that’s equally as brilliant,” Highmore says. “I guess I would have doubted this would have ever happened.”– Tribune News Service ‘The Good Doctor’ premieres Wednesday at 8:45 p.m. on HOT 3 and HOT VOD.