Of all the pandemic-filmed shows that have debuted so far, The Good Doctor might just have ended up with the biggest responsibility of them all.
It's the first of the medical dramas to make their return during the coronavirus pandemic, giving viewers their first taste of what TV hospitals might look like now. How do you make an escapist hospital TV show that also realistically deals with the biggest medical crisis in recent memory? We're about to find out.
E! News chatted with star Freddie Highmore ahead of the season four premiere, and he spoke about how the show is balancing the real with the TV fantasy.
"Of course we want to make a show that people are interested in watching and excited to watch, and it feels like we're getting to see our characters in a way that we haven't before," he said. "But also it was very important to pay tribute to the real-life doctors who have been fighting this this virus for the last few months. I think it would have been remiss of us to have not dealt with it for that very reason."
"The show is always been about hope and finding hope in these dark times and in sad moments," Highmore continued. "I think that's what the show will continue to do. It is emotional and the stuff that these doctors have had to deal with is awful. And at the same time I think all of us have been a become more aware of how we can celebrate those little moments in life, the things that perhaps we took for granted before—even just a hug with a friend or getting to spend a dinner with a small group of friends. I think those things have become more and more meaningful and similarly, they are to the doctors on our show."
Highmore, of course, plays Shaun Murphy, a brilliant doctor who's great at medicine but not so great with the unknown, so COVID-19 is certainly something he struggles with.
"I think for Shaun there's a sense of confusion because he usually understands everything," Highmore said. "He's read all the textbooks. He knows how things work. He struggles in other ways, but a lack of understanding of the illness or disease in front of him isn't really something that he has ever had to confront before and certainly in the early days of the pandemic that we reflect towards the beginning of the first episode, I think that's the most tricky thing for Shawn to have to navigate—understanding something that he has never dealt with before and that no one has ever dealt with before."
While the pandemic dominates the first two episodes of the season, there's a lot more to season four of The Good Doctor. Life in the hospital goes on, and Highmore explained that the show will move on towards "a more hopeful future" as it returns to mostly business as usual in the hopes of providing that escape many people seem to be in need of.
While Shauna and Lea (Paige Spara) continue to nurture their new relationship at home, Shaun now gets to be the boss at work.
"One of the big exciting things I think about this season is the arrival of new residents," Highmore said. "So we've got four new people who are joining the cast and what that means for Shaun and for Claire and for Park and Morgan is they will no longer be the kind of bottom of the rung and they will be forced to take responsibility for other people. We'll get to see Shaun in particular struggle and and grow as he tries to be someone else's boss. He's great at giving them medical wisdom and teaching them in that way but they'll definitely struggle when it comes to the more personal side of it and and trying to teach them how to do something that he himself isn't particularly good at."
It all starts Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC.