After five years of playing murderous Norman Bates on A&E's Bates Motel, actor Freddie Highmore (pictured above) is switching gears and playing a character known for saving lives rather than ending them. In his latest project, ABC’s new fall drama The Good Doctor, Highmore stars as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a brilliant young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who has difficulty connecting with those around him. It’s a role that is drawing comparisons to another TV doctor, Gregory House, the title character played by Hugh Laurie in the long-running Fox series House and one long suspected of also being on the spectrum.
“There was speculation as we went along about Dr. House, and we certainly didn't shy away from that,” David Shore, the creator and executive producer of both shows, said during his appearance at the Summer 2017 Television Critics Association tour, where many critics picked The Good Doctor as the most promising of ABC's upcoming fall dramas. (Shore is pictured below, third from left, with the stars of the show.) “The characters ultimately couldn't be more different and yet, in a sense, [they are] asking many of the same questions. They're asking why we do the things we do.’
“Dr. House, whom I loved, was asking it somewhat from a cynical and a challenging point of view,” he continued. “Dr. Murphy, whom I also love, is asking it from an innocent and nonjudgmental point of view. There are so many things we do in life and so many things we do in our interactions, so many dances we have in our interactions that we just take for granted, and I think he comes at them in a different way and looks at them from fresh eyes.”
As the show’s lead, Highmore was looking for something fresh and very different from Norman Bates. “It's nice to save people after years of killing them,” he said with a smile. “I think what drew me to this show was, first of all, the conversation with David that I had about his script, which was just so brilliant. There's subtleness to it -- lightness -- but, at the same time, it manages to delve into those deeper issues without being melodramatic.
“I was certainly looking for something different, whether it was another television show [or something else],” he continued. “It was literally three days after I had been killed off on Bates Motel. You don’t think you’ll be as lucky in that you finish a great show and three days later are reading a script that is equally as brilliant, so I guess I doubted that this was even possible.”
British born Highmore also treads familiar territory by using his American accent for this role. “It’s almost weird for me now to speak in my British accent,” he admitted. “On set in Vancouver I try to stay in my American accent as much as possible. So I am relearning how I genuinely speak and will probably go overboard with a [very British] ‘Oh, hello there!’”
Highmore said that while he “couldn’t have been more thrilled” about this project, the fact that it is filmed in Vancouver (where Bates Motel had also been produced) created quite the conundrum. He was ready to move on -- literally -- only to discover The Good Doctor would be filmed there, too. “I’d packed up all my stuff and moved out, even giving away my blender!” he laughed. “And a couple of weeks later there I was -- back again!
“What’s nice about being back in Vancouver on The Good Doctor is we have managed to assemble some of the same crew that I was so close to on Bates Motel for five years,” he continued. “In a sense it feels somewhat like home -- again.”
The Good Doctor premieres Monday September 25 at 10 p.m. on ABC.
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