Bone-Deep Facts About The Medical Drama The Good Doctor

Since it first aired on ABC in 2017, The Good Doctor has become a major hit. Fans can’t seem to get enough of Dr. Shaun Murphy, a surgical resident who happens to be autistic. But it’s time to dive deeper than that character trait and learn about different behind-the-scenes facts, including how lead actor Freddie Highmore only had three days to rest between gigs!

Freddie Highmore Is In It For More Than Acting

Highmore Graduated From Emmanuel College, Cambridge
ABC
ABC

When Freddie Highmore was cast as Dr. Murphy, he made it apparent that he was in this ground-breaking show for more than the acting. He wanted to contribute more, something he made developer David Shore aware of early on.

This is the reason why Highmore is also credited as an executive producer on the series. He even contributed as a writer, coming up with the script for the season two premiere, “Hello.”

A Lot Of Research Went Into Dr. Murphy’s Character

Highmore Graduated From Emmanuel College, Cambridge
ABC
ABC

The one aspect that sets The Good Doctor apart from other medical shows on TV is that the main character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, is an autistic surgical resident. Because of this, a lot of research went into learning about how the autistic mind works to portray the character accurately.

According to developer David Shore, “We consulted with people. We have people on the spectrum who we’re working with…we want to make sure that we don’t represent him as being representative in any way.”

Antonia Thomas Was The First Actor Hired For The Show

Good Doctor (South Korean TV series)
ABC
ABC

One of the biggest complaints about season one of The Good Doctor is the fact that there was no depth to Antonia Thomas’s character, Dr. Claire Brown. Everything with the character seemed only skin deep. An interesting quirk on the writers’ part, considering Thomas was the first actor to be hired for the ABC series!

She was even hired before lead actor Freddie Highmore came into the picture as Dr. Murphy.

Dr. Neil Melendez’s Elk Tattoo Is Fake

Dr. Neil Melendez's Elk Tattoo Is Fake
ABC
ABC

While actor Nicholas Gonzalez is ink-free, his character on The Good Doctor, Dr. Neil Melendez, has an intricate tattoo of an elk head on his shoulder/neck. The tattoo has more than one fan asking questions, questions that have yet to be answered by the writers and showrunners.

During an interview with Shine On Media, Gonzalez spoke of the meaning behind this character’s tattoo, saying, ‘I don’t want to just give some quick little thing to satisfy people.”

18 Episode Seasons Was Freddie Highmore’s Idea

Freddie Highmore
RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

One of Highmore’s brilliant ideas was to make each season of The Good Doctor 18 episodes instead of a standard 22-24. This is because he didn’t want the writers to push for quantity instead of quality.

During an interview with Adweek, Highmore said, “It’s the idea of making the show as good as it can possibly be… You’d never want to just be doing more for the sake of it, and so it seems like a wise idea to start with that and see how things go.”

A Famous Actor’s Company Produces The Series

Daniel Dae Kim
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura

The Good Doctor is produced by the company 3AD. And the founder of the company is none other than Daniel Dae Kim of Lost, Hawaii Five-0, and Angel fame. Kim first founded 3AD back in 2013 after signing a deal with CBS Television Studios.

Now, he’s one of the executive producers on the hit ABC series and even played a huge part in the South Korean series become an American adaptation, buying the rights to the production for 3AD.

Freddie Highmore Didn’t Want To Commit To Another Show

Presentation Of The Good Doctor In Madrid
Borja B. Hojas/COOLMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Borja B. Hojas/COOLMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Freddie Highmore was offered the role of Dr. Murphy in The Good Doctor, he was fresh off another hit series, Bates Motel. He knew how much time and effort went into a series of that caliber and wasn’t entirely sure if he wanted to make the commitment.

Thankfully, developer David Shore is very convincing. He wound up being able to talk Highmore into the starring role and the rest, as they say, is history.

Paige Spara Was Originally Only Hired For Two Episodes

Daniel Dae Kim
ABC
ABC

Outside of the St. Bonaventure Hospital and in a series of flashbacks, fans were able to see where Dr. Murphy grew up. Some of those storylines had to do with the doctor’s growing relationship with his neighbor, Lea Dilallo, played by Paige Spara.

Originally, Spara was only signed on to appear in two episodes. Spara was eventually promoted to a full-time cast member for the second season of the show. She gave viewers a bit of “fun” away from the hospital drama.

It’s Based On A 20-Episode South Korean Series

Good Doctor (South Korean TV series)
Korean Broadcasting Company
Korean Broadcasting Company

The concept of The Good Doctor might seem original, but it’s actually based on a South Korean series that aired back in 2013. The series, also Good Doctor, might have only been 20 episodes long, but it received great reviews and even wound up winning a whole lot of awards.

Some of the honors include a Korea Drama Award for Best Writer, a KBS Drama Award for Excellence Award, Actress in a Mid-length Drama, and even a Baeksang Arts Award for Best Drama.

Viewers Like The Series More Than Critics

Daniel Dae Kim
ABC
ABC

When the first episode of The Good Doctor aired on ABC in 2017, it was way more popular among viewers than actual critics. Not only did over 11 million people tune in to watch the pilot, but the first season’s audience score on Rotten Tomatoes reached a solid 88%.

That percentage is much higher than the TV critics’ score of 61%. And, on Metacritic, they gave the series a staggeringly low 53 out of 100.

Three Of The Main Cast Members Are From London, England

Daniel Dae Kim
ABC
ABC

The Good Doctor might have the main character Dr. Shaun Murphy’s hometown in Casper, Wyoming, and his hospital in San Jose, California. Still, neither the actor who plays him nor two other main characters are from the states.

Freddie Highmore, Antonia Thomas, and Chuku Modu are all from London, England. While Modu’s character utilizes the actor’s actual accent, fans might have never known Highmore and Thomas were born and raised outside America.

Freddie Highmore Had A Three Day Break Between Gigs

Freddie Highmore Had A Three Day Break Between Gigs
Presley Ann/FilmMagic
Presley Ann/FilmMagic

Before working on The Good Doctor, Freddie Highmore portrayed a young Norman Bates in the popular series Bates Motel. The series is actually one of the reasons Highmore originally didn’t take the role of Dr. Murphy.

The time between filming the final Bates episode and the first day of The Good Doctor was only three days! Talk about an actor with a quick turnaround and who can switch up personalities with the snap of a finger!

People On The Spectrum Appear On The Show

Freddie Highmore Had A Three Day Break Between Gigs
ABC
ABC

It’s no secret that Freddie Highmore, the lead actor who plays Dr. Shaun Murphy on The Good Doctor, isn’t on the spectrum himself. The fact is actually one of the biggest critiques about the show, the lack of representation for people on the spectrum within the media and popular television shows.

That being said, The Good Doctor does have a few actors in its cast who are actually on the spectrum.

Initially, The Series Had A Lot To Improve On

Freddie Highmore Had A Three Day Break Between Gigs
ABC
ABC

Upon its 2017 release, The Good Doctor wound up securing 11.22 million total viewers for its premiere episode. That was the most ABC had seen for a pilot in 21 years! Even so, not everyone enjoyed the concept, first-ever episode, or even the first season.

The website Rotten Tomatoes says, “The Good Doctor‘s heavy-handed bedside manner undermines a solid lead performance, but under all the emotionally manipulative gimmickry, there’s still plenty of room to improve.”

The Series Is Following The Lead Of Other Medical Dramas

Freddie Highmore Had A Three Day Break Between Gigs
ABC
ABC

One thing a lot of medical dramas have in common is the departure of main cast members. As it turns out, The Good Doctor is no different. The first main character to leave was Chuku Modu’s character Dr. Jared Kalu and the second was Beau Garrett’s Jessica Preston, the hospital lawyer.

It was recently announced in 2021 that Antonia Thomas was going to be leaving the series after four seasons as Dr. Claire Browne.

Dr. Glassman And Debbi Are Real-Life Husband And Wife

Richard Schiff and Sheila Kelley.
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

The character of Dr. Glassman might be known for mentoring Dr. Shaun Murphy. Still, there was something else that piqued fans’ interest about the former hospital president — his relationship with Debbie Wexler, the hospital barista.

Starting off a bit rocky with the nerves, the doctor and Debbie soon found a rhythm with one another, something that formed undeniable chemistry on-screen. Their chemistry makes sense, too, since the characters are played by real-life husband and wife Richard Schiff and Sheila Kelley.

David Shore Has Worked On Other Popular Dramas

David Shore
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Television
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Television

One of the reasons The Good Doctor has done so well might be thanks to not only the stellar cast but also because the man behind the series development knows what he’s doing. Aside from The Good Doctor, David Shore has worked on some other very popular dramas.

Shore has not only worked on Law & Order but also the award-winning medical drama House M.D. The skills he learned while working on those shows undoubtedly translated over to the ABC series.

CBS Sent The Good Doctor Walking

David Shore
ABC
ABC

When Daniel Dae Kim originally adapted The Good Doctor for an American network, his first choice was CBS. They began developing the show but, eventually, decided against picking it up as a regular series.

Kim bought the rights back and began working with David Shore, Sony Pictures, and ABC Studios. In 2017, ABC picked up the entire 18-episode of The Good Doctor‘s first season. CBS is most likely now losing sleep over their little mishap.

Highmore Graduated From Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Highmore Graduated From Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Greg Doherty/WireImage
Greg Doherty/WireImage

Freddie Highmore didn’t attend medical school, but he did wind up attending and graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 2010 to 2014, he studied Spanish and Arabic, obtaining a double first in both languages (the British equivalent of high honors in America).

Before attending Emmanuel College, Highmore attended a primary school and then went on to win a scholarship to an independent school in Highgate London, Sir Roger Cholmeley’s School at Highgate.

Nicholas Gonzalez Comes From A Family Of Doctors

David Shore
ABC
ABC

In 2017, Nicholas Gonzalez was cast as surgeon Dr. Neil Melendez. And while he isn’t exactly a doctor in real life, he comes from a family of them! Both his father and brother are doctors. Gonzalez has even said his character is based on them.

His mother even works in a hospital as a bookkeeper at South Texas Radiology in San Antonio. Fun fact: Gonzalez’s brother was an uncredited medical consultant on an episode of The Good Doctor!