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It’s been 11 years since The West Wing ended, and during that time, Richard Schiff has jumped from TV show to TV show, turning in memorable guest turns on everything from Bones to Manhattan, House of Lies to Ballers. However, apart from the short-lived 2010 Fox drama Past Lives, he hasn’t settled down as a series regular on a broadcast TV show in quite some time — until now. This fall, Schiff is returning to TV full-time on ABC’s The Good Doctor.
Executive-produced by David Shore (House) and Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0), this medical drama follows Shaun Murphy (Bates Motel‘s Freddie Highmore), a brilliant young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who begins a residency at a prestigious hospital. Schiff plays Dr. Aaron Glassman, the hospital’s president and Shaun’s biggest advocate amid a sea of people who doubt his competency. What made this role the right one to bring Schiff, who also received full-time offers from Ballers and Starz’s Counterpart, back to broadcast TV? Not much.
“I make up my mind kind of like how they do on Entourage, which is completely arbitrarily and what mood swing hits me that day, because I honestly couldn’t decide what to do,” Schiff, jokingly, tells EW.
In all seriousness, though, Schiff decided to “take the gamble to come back to a network” because he has a personal connection to the show’s subject matter.
“I generally don’t watch a lot of medical shows, so I didn’t quite know what to think about that, but I liked David a lot and I have a history with autism, and I thought that was a theme that struck me as being very personal and something worth exploring,” Schiff says. Although he declined to elaborate on his personal history with autism, he did share that he has been involved with the organization Cure Autism Now since his time on The West Wing. “I’ve been witness to kind of the whole spectrum, and I find it a fascinating subject.”
Although the series has yet to air, the gamble seems to be paying off in that he has been enjoying working alongside Highmore. “He’s delightful to be around, very positive, which is a good balance for me, and [he’s] very much into the work,” he says about his costar. “He gets my jokes, which not everybody does. I think we have a good foundation to build a good working relationship.”
And the feeling’s mutual. Says Highmore: “Getting to work with Richard has a been a real joy. He always finds something unique in the writing to play with and finds a new interesting angle that might not be the most obvious but it might be the most interesting. He digs out the humor in a very subtle way that always makes me laugh.”
As the season progresses, we’ll see Dr. Glassman help Shaun navigate office politics and “learn how to proceed in a proper fashion, because he’s making some mistakes of mannerism, let’s say, and he gets in a couple touchy situations, one of which I help him out of,” teases Schiff. “Early on, I’m basically his protector and his guidance person.”
The Good Doctor premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.