Created by David Shore, ABC’s The Good Doctor follows a surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome as he makes a name for himself at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Over the years, the series has seen its leading man, Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), cross paths with many memorable characters at St. Bonaventure, including Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez). As a surgeon tasked with monitoring hospital residents, it didn’t take long for Gonzalez’s Neil to impress Shaun and viewers alike.
Since the early days of the medium, TV dramas involving the exploits of doctors have been a part of the entertainment landscape, from such venerable series as Dr. Kildare and General Hospital, to more recent hits like ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and Chicago Med. With so many offerings over the years, it’s become key for a medical drama to have something that sets it apart from the rest, and The Good Doctor certainly fits that bill.
Making its debut on ABC in the fall of 2017, The Good Doctor follows the exploits of young doctor Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore), whose brilliance in medicine stems from his autism, his savant syndrome providing him with an almost photographic memory. and an almost uncanny ability to detect details that may be imperceptible to others. The series quickly struck a chord with viewers and became a huge hit. In fact, it was reported that in 2017 it was the most watched medical drama.
While developing The Good Doctor for American television, producer Daniel Dae Kim had some specific ideas about the type of actor he wanted to cast as the lead for the series. He “he wanted an Asian female lead.” After David Shore came on board as showrunner, Kim said, during conversations with him “it became less clear to him how an Asian lead would work.”
“The first time we developed it, it was with an Asian leader.”
The real deciding factor, however, came when the studio suggested Freddie Highmore, who had just finished his run playing young serial killer Norman Bates in Bates Motel. As Kim noted, he and Shore “absolutely loved” Highmore for the role.
Once Freddie Highmore was cast, there was a change in how they approached casting the other characters in the series, with a focus on “creating a diverse ensemble”. Compromising the original vision of him by casting a non-Asian lead, Kim said, was a practical solution that helped bring the show to the screen.