My name is Melissa Reiner, and I am the Autism Consultant on ABC’s show, The Good Doctor. I work with the writers and producers to help ensure that the role of Dr. Shaun Murphy, as well as all of the other characters who may interact with him, is portrayed with a level of authenticity and specificity. Having a diagnosis of autism is one aspect of who this individual is, but it is imperative that we are also able to fully reveal who this impressive young man is, as a doctor and as a person first. The notes that I contribute often shape the way a scene is written, and in some instances, the way a scene is rewritten. The integrity of the show is paramount, and I am honoured to be involved in such an important show. Here are a few examples of how my input affected change in certain scenes from each episode in Season 2 of The Good Doctor.
There is a scene in this episode where Shaun is trying to prove that people are still good in this world, as he is looking for a tumor that may have been the cause of a woman’s infidelity. Claire reminds Shaun that sometimes people betray other people, plain and simple, and that sometimes people are not good.
This was one of those circumstances where my notes were not accepted by the writers and producers, and in this particular case, the lead actor. Right after they have performed an MRI on the patient’s brain and it comes up clean, showing no tumor as cause for her behavior, Shaun says, “It’s sad. The world is sad and very complicated. I wish it wasn’t.”
I valiantly fought for Shaun’s line to read instead, “It’s confusing. The world is confusing and very complicated. I wish it wasn’t.”
Freddie Highmore, however, stood his ground on this one. He insisted that his character comment on how sad the world is.
Watching this episode, seeing how masterfully Freddie expresses his rich emotional life with just one word -- “sad” -- made me so proud to know that my initial stance did not prevail. The scene played out beautifully, because Freddie’s instincts to have Dr. Shaun Murphy speak to sadness, not just for this patient but for the state of our world, were spot on.