A five-minute conversation can barely encompass all that we want to talk about with Freddie Highmore, who has become synonymous with his character Dr Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor. The medical drama comes after a spate of interesting projects that includes Finding Neverland (2004), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), August Rush (2007), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), Astro Boy (2009) and Bates Motel.
From Grey’s Anatomy to House to ER, there have been umpteen medical dramas, but Highmore feels that The Good Doctor stands apart “because of the central character”, a young doctor with autism and savant syndrome. “There is an attempt to look at minor and important issues of the world. [It tackles] sensitive issues and attempts a genuine debate. [It talks about] accepting everyone, and [believing] most people have a valid point of view that is worth listening to,” begins the actor.
Through the five seasons of the series, the lead character has evolved from being a student to a doctor, while finding love in neighbour Lea and a trusted friend in Dr Glassman. For Highmore, it is a delight to play the complex character with an ever-evolving arc. “The Shaun that we met in season one is different from the doctor [he is] now. It wouldn’t have been genuine to his journey [if he did] not change the way he has.”
Bigger changes are in store for the latest season, which is streaming on SonyLIV. The edition began with a new corporate takeover as the hospital is unable to sustain itself financially, with new protocols, uniforms, and rules being put into effect. The new setting has brought new challenges for the central character. “He will become the underdog again because the hospital is now owned by someone who wants to shake things up. Shaun will have to fight for his position again.” Ask him if the new storyline is an attempt to bring forth how the medical profession too has become dominated by business, and the actor says, “I am not sure whether it is an attempt to comment on hospitals widely. We’ve always tried to tell bigger stories through personal [stories]. The storyline at least initially is an attempt to spark a debate. The person who is coming into the hospital is not necessarily an evil person, but he sees the world differently than Shaun does.”
While Highmore began his acting career as a child, he graduated to writing and directing while working on Bates Motel. He was only too happy to give it another go on The Good Doctor, where he wrote an episode in the second season, and directed three episodes. Why hasn’t he continued writing and directing on the series? “I have always wanted to contribute to the show beyond acting. I haven’t been able to write because of the lack of time. Writing and directing is something I don’t want to do unless I can [fully] commit to it. I was in the writers’ room for two months to write the script [of the episode in the second instalment]. [Such time] hasn’t been available to me since then. But it is certainly something I would love to do in the future.”
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