The Good Doctor producer on Shaun's vanishing act and that sexual harassment story line
In Monday’s midseason finale of The Good Doctor, Shaun (Freddie Highmore) goes AWOL after Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) tries too hard to micromanage his home life, Dr. Claire Brown (Antonia Thomas) is sexually harassed, Dr. Jared Kalu (Chuku Modu) loses his job, and Jessica (Beau Garrett) tells Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) that she doesn’t want kids. We asked executive producer David Shore to recap the episode and tease what we can expect when the drama returns to ABC in January.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The gamer provided a great way into addressing Shaun’s need for independence. Has it been a challenge balancing out how much to focus on Shaun’s autism and your need to get busy telling medical stories?
DAVID SHORE: The answer is that one services the other. Whenever we look at medical stories to begin with, what we are really looking for are opportunities to highlight something about the way Shaun sees the world. What will it allow us to say? One of the things I really like is how Shaun says these things like, “You are very arrogant. Does that help you be a better doctor?” The things he asks are the things we ask ourselves. The medical stories give us the opportunity to allow Shaun to face these challenges.
In real life, I would think that patients would ask a guy like Shaun every day, “What’s wrong with you?” But you can’t keep doing that, right?
Yeah. There are certain things that may happen all the time. What I liked about the [gamer] is that he has dealt with autistic people in his life. I think the gaming world has more than its fair share of people with autism. He embraces them and thinks they are great. [With stories like that] we don’t have to go to that well and have [Shaun] explain that over and over again every week.
We already want to see Shaun beat the odds and succeed. Will we ever see him get diagnoses wrong?
I think we have to, and we already have seen him make mistakes and he has to continue to make mistakes, otherwise the victories become false. He becomes a cartoon character who is just getting everything right. We want to play him fully dimensional with great strengths but he has weaknesses as well. He will be wrong, just like we all would be.
Freddie Highmore is so believable. Do you have to give him any notes at this point, or is he just off and running, all on his own?
He is pretty much off and running, all on his own. We continue to talk regularly, and the directors contribute stuff. But he is so fantastic. He understands this character and he works very hard and is very insightful. He’s a pleasure to work with.
Is there much more to say about Shaun’s autism? When do you stop mining his condition for B-stories?
It can never just be about the autism. The condition is there, it’s part of who he is. If it’s just about the autism, I think it will grow tiresome at some point. Who he is and what his strengths and weaknesses are, we can continue to explore that, hopefully, for many years.
Can you say what will happen to Shaun next? I’m assuming he just found another apartment.
Well, he’s gonna disappear. He is gone and hasn’t just rented another apartment. He is gone and not sure what he wants to do. He has to find those answers and he will go on a little journey.
Will Aaron learn to lay off?
Aaron is who Aaron is. He will learn he needs to lay off. How effective he will be in that, is another question.
Did you come up with the plot about Claire being harassed after the Harvey Weinstein allegations surfaced?
It was before.
Did you make any adjustments to the script after the issue of sexual harassment became big news?
We did a rewrite but only because we would have done that anyway. We suddenly became very aware. We knew we were dealing with something important, but it became a much more sensitive issue. A different eye was brought to it.
Will we see the harasser again?
There will certainly be a shadow left by him.
How the heck is Jared going to get out of this?
Attorneys will be involved. I’m an ex-lawyer — that’s where I go on everything.
Have we heard the last from Jessica’s rich dad?
He has set something in motion that will have substantial consequences.
You did a nifty thing a few weeks back where you had Neil and Shaun work on a 3-D heart. Will you be doing more of that?
I hope so. You don’t want to go to that same well over and over again, but there are some really cool things being done, really cool cutting-edge medical technology, and we’re looking into that stuff.
So where does this show live, the medical mysteries?
I like where it is right now, I like these emotional stories. I like the impact that these stories have on our characters’ home lives. That has always been the sweet spot for me and what I always wanted to do. These are young people who are literally saving lives by day, literally reaching into the human body and saving lives. At night, they have to try to figure out what their place in the world is. I like seeing both sides of that and how one impacts the other.
The Good Doctor will return in January on ABC.