What’s Up, Doc?

Freddie Highmore takes viewers inside the new season of The Good Doctor

Freddie Highmore takes viewers inside the new season of The Good Doctor

As this season of The Good Doctor launched in dramatic fashion, it left viewers with no doubt that the events of the premiere would long reverberate among all the docs and nurses. But as tension settles at St. Bonaventure, Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, is about to be tested in other ways. “One thing I think is exciting is Shaun becoming an attending [physician] and taking on a wider sense of responsibility,” says Highmore. “It’s going to be exciting to see how he is going to deal with teaching people. He’s had so many mentors to him in the past, how is he going to be able to be a mentor to others? I don’t think it’s his natural arena, so that’s going to be a challenge.”  

For Highmore, who also serves as an executive producer for the medical drama, giving Shaun a new professional role is a way to reboot the series as it goes into its sixth year. “It’s an exciting new perspective on the show, having Shaun be a bit more in control,” he says. “But that also means that the errors he is going to make are going to have bigger repercussions. We find out about that early on in season six.”   The Good DoctorCTVOn the personal front, it should be smooth sailing, after Shaun and Lea (Paige Spara) finally exchanged marital vows on the hospital roof in the season-five finale, right before the stabbing of Dr. Audrey Lim (Christina Chang) in the break room by Nurse Villanueva’s (Elfina Luk) violent domestic partner. Yet, according to Highmore, the couple continues to face recurring storms together. “Now that Shaun is married, those bigger questions with him and Lea don’t go away, they just become even more important and urgent,” he teases. “They both want to have a family—we’ve seen that desire in the past and obviously that first pregnancy ended in tragedy. This season, they’re going to have to make that decision again, as to whether or not they want to try again, whether or not they’re able to try again medically, and that’ll be a big thing for them to be faced with.”  The Good DoctorCTVRelationship hurdles aside, the season features a special milestone, with The Good Doctor reaching its 100th episode. For cast and crew, it has been an opportunity to look back at how far they’ve come. “[Series creator] David Shore is directing that one, so the idea of, truly, coming full-circle with him made it more special as well,” says Highmore. “It’s lovely to celebrate those moments. It caught all of us unaware, the fact that we tallied up that number of episodes. It was never the goal, like, ‘We need to get to 100 to feel fulfilled,’ but it was definitely very special to be able to celebrate that with all the cast and crew.”  

The fact that the show continues to receive praise for its honest portrayal of autism is, for Highmore, what is most meaningful to him about the experience. “We always wanted The Good Doctor to be more than just a television show,” he says. “The greatest responsibility that all of us had was the fact that we were representing autism on screen and wanting to do so as authentically, meaningfully and lovingly as possible, while also being focused on telling Shaun’s individual story and his individual journey.” Highmore stresses that Shaun was never meant to represent every person on the spectrum. “Making his individual journey truthful might be a starting point for people to understand autism more widely,” he says. “It’s been such an honour to get to play Shaun and hopefully, in some small way, we may have changed people’s perceptions.” The Good DoctorCTVWhile Highmore believes that, as a genre, audiences are drawn to medical procedurals for the high stakes that push characters to their limits every week, he maintains that The Good Doctor is ultimately not about medicine. “The show isn’t really about whether or not Shaun is going to solve the case every week. That’s the tableau on which you can tell nuanced stories about autism and, as we look back from season six, seeing the way that he has evolved and grown. I think that’s an easier arena to get to tell those stories rather than autism being the subject of every episode.” 

And indeed, over six years, it has been near impossible for parts of Shaun Murphy not to seep into the actor himself. “Hopefully, I have become a bit less cynical playing Shaun,” says Highmore. “Shaun is optimistic and hopeful and, as a Brit, we can often be quite cynical. It’s been lovely to play a character who always sees the good in people, who always believes that people are inherently good. Hopefully, a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.”  

The Good Doctor airs Mondays on CTV & ABC