Based on the real-life Bellevue Hospital in New York City — the oldest hospital in the United States — New Amsterdam follows the story of new arrival Dr. Goodwin as he does a complete overhaul of the hospital’s staff and approach to medical care. He’s not doing it subtly, either; he fires an entire department of surgeons because they value money over the patient.
In a time where Americans are questioning universal health care, it’s a sensitive topic and a brave one to broach, one of many that New Amsterdam addresses. The show’s bravery is one of the reasons Eggold signed on to lead. Global News sat down with the TV star in Toronto to discuss his new role, the show’s inherent political subject matter and what’s to come after its full-season pickup.
Global News: New Amsterdam has been picked up for a full season. You must be feeling good!
Ryan Eggold: It’s exciting. It’s nice to get the support from the networks, their encouragement really helps guide the show. The first season of any show, you hope you have time to play and really find “it,” you know? I do think the episodes are getting better and the show is growing, the cast is getting more comfortable and the writing is getting stronger. I’m excited to continue developing it!
There are a lot of medical shows, and have been in the past as well. For some reason people are really responding to this one.
I hope what people are responding to are the characters being written, that the cast is playing. I hope they feel like human beings they know. We’re telling stories that come from real life and real patients, so obviously they’re reflective of that, but I hope they feel real or you can see yourself in it. Or if you know somebody who’s battled cancer, that it’s relatable. That’s what I look for when I watch something: if I can personally connect and relate it to my own experience.
Your character, Max, received a cancer diagnosis. Is this a storyline that’ll be resolved this season, or will it be an ongoing thing? Do you know?
I don’t know the timing of it all… but if I had to guess, it’s based on Eric Manheimer’s life and he did battle this disease; he was out of work for some time dealing with treatment, so at least for now will be fighting it.
WATCH BELOW: Eric Manheimer, Ryan Eggold talk ‘New Amsterdam’
One of your character’s main motivations is to provide everyone with access to health care. It’s actually quite brave to venture into that territory, considering the status of this issue in the U.S.
We’re all fairly conscious these days of everything that’s happening, politically and otherwise. People want to get involved and it’s exciting to be on a show that is talking about things. It’s a balance, because you don’t want to become preachy or start pointing fingers. What I like about Eric and the show and the message is… how do we help? The U.S. is so divided right now, how do we come together?
There’s a note of optimism on the show, in that regard. There has to be a way to repair some of this division and get something done. We’re engaging in a real conversation, something that affects all of our lives. And there are some really great episodes coming up that deal with some tricky material.
What sorts of things are we going to see?
Oh, man. Everything. Obviously the health care issue, we’re taking a look at race, gun violence, all sorts of different issues that people are talking about at the dinner table. You’re not going to save the world with a TV show, but you can be a part of the conversation.
I agree with that sentiment. People dismiss the impact of TV, but in reality, masses of people are watching these shows every week.
Yes. You don’t want to overstate the effect, but you do want to understand that you have a platform of potentially millions of people around the world. So, once you have that platform, what are you gonna say?
Switching gears, how is the challenge of playing a doctor?
Well, I come from a medical family, so they finally let me sit at the Thanksgiving table again. “At least you’re pretending to be a doctor!” The fun thing about Max is that yes, he’s a doctor and he’s providing health care, but the spirit of his character could be applied to any institution, I think. He wants to help. For him it’s all about how he can make things better, where are the areas where we’re failing, how can we repair those areas? He’s universal.
And I know it’s been a while, but was it difficult for you leave The Blacklist?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that it was my family for a long time and it was a great character arc. It was a lot of fun following the twists and turns of Tom, and the fans really responded to him. At the same time, you do get hungry after a couple years for new roles and new stories.
On New Amsterdam, are you discovering a whole new camaraderie?
I want to set the record straight: they are a bunch of frikkin’ jerks. No, no, obviously I’m just kidding. We got really lucky with this bunch. They’re so much fun. It’s a good group of people, it’s rare to get that kind of chemistry with everybody. Usually there’s a bad apple here or there, but everybody is great. Except for Tyler Labine, who’s Canadian and a madman.
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