‘New Amsterdam’ Finale: Ryan Eggold and Freema Agyeman on That Major Max & Helen Moment
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the New Amsterdam Season 3 finale “Death Begins in Radiology.”]
The two start on separate continents — Helen’s in England with her niece and spending time with her mother — but leaving each other very flirty voicemails. “I can’t keep you out of my head. It’s very distracting,” Max admits. “I need to be with you in all of the ways I’ve been dreaming of.” In return, Helen shares, “I’ve been doing some fantasizing of my own.”
But upon returning and seeing his reaction to finding his missing wedding ring, Helen takes a step back. Max doesn’t quite let her and instead walks her home. He lingers for a moment before leaving and eventually deciding to take off his ring. That’s when he takes a page out of When Harry Met Sally‘s book and runs back to her and…yes, they kiss!
Elsewhere in the hour, Dr. Reynolds (Jocko Sims) is offered a promotion…by the husband of the woman he’s involved with, Lyn (Frances Turner). They have an open marriage. Dr. Bloom (Janet Montgomery) bribes the residency director to get girlfriend Leyla (Shiva Kalaiselvan) a spot at the hospital. And psychiatrist Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) decides he’s no longer going to see patients.
TV Insider spoke with Eggold and Agyeman about that seasons-in-the-making moment and what’s next.
Max has his big When Harry Met Sally revelation and runs to Helen in what definitely feels like a finally! moment. What were your reactions to that happening now?
Freema Agyeman: I was shocked because I thought that it might go a little bit longer. I remember one day Ryan and I were talking on set, and he was like, “I think it just has to happen now. It’s time.” I think it’s perfectly pitched timing-wise. You’re not going to please everybody all the time, but there seems to be a general consensus that it’s the right time.
Ryan Eggold: Yeah, I was really excited. As Freema mentioned, I was a little excited, a little eager to get to that scene. I just love their relationship so much, and I love working with Freema. It’s comfortable and we have a little bit of freedom to be adventurous and play between the lines, and it’s just so much fun.
Max and Helen’s relationship is unique and interesting. They’re friends and they’re colleagues. She’s been his caretaker. She’s saved his life on more than one occasion. And I hope he’s been there for her too, although she seems definitely to have pulled more weight than he and there’s been so much unspoken for so long so I was so excited, whatever that was, however it manifested itself, to confront it for these two characters, to voice it and to take a risk instead of playing it safe. So I was thrilled to see that moment on the page, which was beautifully written, and it was just a joy to shoot that stuff.
Agyeman: I was a bit nervous, I have to say. Not with you, but the expectation. You just think, “Is it going to be what people want it to be? Should it be tender? Should it be hungry? Should it not really be seen? Should it be really in your face?” There could’ve been a million ways we could have played it.
Because so much of their relationship is what’s not said, but what’s in the looks between them, it was kind of fitting that we had that build-up with so few words walking through the street and then waiting and waiting…
Eggold: Definitely. I love that this last sequence between them was without dialogue because that’s what’s been so fun playing with Freema is those moments in between and just that connection and just playing with a connection without commenting on it or without saying it explicitly or without having the lines and stuff. To just walk with someone just reminds me of life, of what it’s like if you’re falling in love or when you’re going there with somebody. When you get to that place with somebody, you don’t necessarily need words. You’re sort of past that place and just touching hands or just the look or just sharing the same view or whatever can be so charged and so full of something.
Max had to make the first move, right? Or would Helen ever have?
Agyeman: I don’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes I open the scripts and read stuff about the characters we’re playing and you kind of go, “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t really have ever thought to have gone there with her,” but we’re all just unpeeling the onions of these characters as we go. But I don’t think she would have, just because of the symbolism of his ring as well. There is no timeline on bereavement, but if someone is still wearing their ring of somebody that they love and lost, then it would be pretty crass to go there, I think, so I don’t think she ever would have. But I think the telepathy that she was trying to get into him from what she was thinking and feeling probably made its way in eventually.
What can you say about what might be next?
Eggold: Hopefully just a lot of making out. When you first fall in love with someone, there’s that puppy love phase, so I’m asking the writers for just one episode of just smooching and hand-holding. No, I don’t know. We were just wondering that ourselves.
I will say, all kidding aside, I would be very excited to see that joy, that excitement about falling in love and about finally admitting it and it being reciprocated. There’s no better feeling in the world, and it’s so rare. I would love to see all the tragedy and trials and tribulations that both these characters have gone through. I would love to see some really just sharing that connection and joy and discovering each other in a new way and admitting things and being honest and taking the mask off, taking the walls down, all that, and just connecting.
Beyond that, as Freema was just saying, there will be complications for other people, for [Max’s late wife] Georgia’s parents who are curious about [their granddaughter] Luna. Is Helen going to be a constant in his life? Are these characters getting together? Are they not getting together? Is this gonna affect their granddaughter? In the hospital, is it professional, or are other people going to be concerned that this is going to be messy at work? I think all those ramifications will be fun to explore as well.
Agyeman: Yeah, I would second all of that. Did we ever establish how long in real-time one episode roughly is?
Eggold: Generally a day, two days, three days, somewhere in there.
Agyeman: Right. So I guess it would be lovely for them to live in that happy place for a while, but I don’t know. Would they move into Helen’s place? Would they move into Max’s?
Eggold: Have you seen Max’s place? Although I will say the set for Max’s place is amazing. But Helen’s place is like a grand palace and I’m moving into that place 100 percent.
Agyeman: Are they going to become that kind of unit where they really work together and play together and are building a life together? Or is it just the first layer of these people getting to know each other intimately, which can take time?
Eggold: Yes. And to your point, Freema, it changes things when you cross that line with somebody. It can ruin a friendship. It can become a full-blown relationship and it can be everything in between. So it’ll be interesting to see how it changes it and how these two characters who are very guarded react to going there, to intimacy with somebody else, and what it means for them going forward and how they feel about each other.
We also saw Max fighting with the concept of fighting the season and we saw how he failed with the vaccines. How is that going to affect how he’s handling things at the hospital next season?
Eggold: Yeah, I really enjoyed that scene and that moment — that episode was written by Shaun Cassidy and Laura Valdivia and David Schulner, our writing staff’s so collaborative — because he does fight so much and I was feeling bad about the character that he’s fighting everybody all the time and that he’s always pushing and what is that balance? You want to push to tear down a system that isn’t working or to rebuild it in a better way or to repair it or make it better or to be more inclusive or to be more helpful or more efficient. And you want to change things and fight stereotypes and fight old norms that aren’t working, but you don’t want to alienate yourself from everyone. You don’t want to become an island that’s just swinging wildly for change and not connecting with anybody. So I think there has to be a new way forward for Max next year. I don’t even know exactly in what way that is, but I know that it includes other people and listening more and not being a one-man band and not changing the world by himself. I know that it includes learning from other people more.
There was this moment when I thought the season would end with Helen declaring she was thinking about moving to England to help with that clinic. How has seeing what happened with a place that meant so much to her affected her?
Agyeman: With Mina being introduced into her life, I think it’s really gotten her to thinking about family more and herself within context of family and loved ones and being in love and emotion and opening herself up because she says in Episode 313 that she doesn’t like to talk about herself or to open up really. I think she would be better in a relationship because we’ve seen her be in relationships but never really kind of fully perhaps allowed herself maybe that happiness. For her, I think the past needs to be unpicked before she can re-stitch some of the future tapestry. She has a pull for home, definitely for London, for her mum, for her life there.
New Amsterdam, Season 4, Fall 2021, NBC