‘New Amsterdam’: Ryan Eggold on Directing Sharpwin’s Emotional Connection
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for New Amsterdam Season 4, Episode 15 “Two Doors.”]
Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) is probably (definitely) trying to do too much right now. He’s building a life in London with Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) and his daughter, and he’s back in New York trying to save New Amsterdam from his replacement as medical director, Dr. Veronica Fuentes (Michelle Forbes).
In the latest New Amsterdam episode, which Eggold directed, he takes an important step in accomplishing his goal in the U.S.: starting work at a trauma clinic that will get him a seat on the hospital’s board. He even has some friends — including Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery), whom Veronica had fired — with him. Plus, after poor timing all episode, Max and Helen reconnect for an emotionally charged phone conversation that has her certain they’ll be OK.
Eggold takes us inside the episode, teases what’s ahead, and addresses that “mother-in-law” comment.
Do you think Max has been a bit too optimistic about taking down Veronica? Sure, his friends did show up for him in the end, but he does seem to be thinking this is a quick stop in New York thing when it can’t be.
Ryan Eggold: I have a better question for you: When has Max ever been too optimistic? Never. Yes, optimism is Max’s greatest strength and sometimes his greatest flaw because he assumes things are gonna work out or assumes the best in people. That’s what I love about Max and Helen’s dynamic too, is Helen is so much more pragmatic and more of a realist and that’s a beautiful part of their relationship. But yes, I think Max is all heart and is basically just saying, “I’m gonna make it work. I’m gonna figure it out. I don’t know how entirely.” But he’s starting with his board seat and he’s gonna take it from there.
Speaking of that board seat, is getting that at all as helpful as he thinks it’s going to be?
Yeah, of course it will not be as easy as Max thinks it will be or hopes it will be, but I do think that is his door in, his first step towards getting his hospital back.
There was a disconnect between Max and Helen in this episode that we haven’t really felt since they got together, but by their last phone call, she knows they’re going to be fine. So are they? Would you say they’re as solid as they’ve been going forward?
I think so. I think it’s a real turning point at the end of 14, when Max kind of admits that his greatest fear is in trying to save this hospital that he loses his relationship. I think he feels like he can’t really have both ’cause they both take up a lot of space and time and energy and when Helen sort of empowers Max and says, “You’re never gonna lose me and go get ’em, go take this hospital back,” that’s very emboldening for him. I think the distance will certainly be a challenge as we see in this episode, phone tag and time differences and all that, but yeah, I think they’re in a good place.
Talk about directing that final scene because we can feel Max and Helen’s connection and chemistry even though it’s a phone call, other than when she imagines he’s there with her.
It was so much fun. It was fun to do my side in the kitchen and it was even more fun to direct Freema doing her thing because it is kind of sensitive stuff and delicate. And for me that scene was not about sex or physical connection or anything like that. It was about two people trying to reach across a huge space and connect emotionally. I feel like we got to a good place and it was really fun. And of course, what Aaron [Ginsburg] wrote there and David [Schulner] — they just wrote a beautiful scene of two people just desperate to be near each other that are so far away. And so to have Freema there who’s always, always fantastic, and to have those words to work with, it was really a lot of fun.
Fans need to be able to feel that emotional connection because of the long distance right now.
Absolutely, and in the same way that Max and Helen need to. So many of us have experienced some form of distance in a relationship and that challenge. So I think it’s a really relatable thing to miss someone, want to be with someone, want to see someone, want to connect with them and not really be able to in person in life. So you do what you can.
Max called Helen’s mother his mother-in-law. Does that mean he has plans to propose?
I think in Max’s mind, whether he proposes or not or where they’re going, he’s kind of there emotionally. I think there’s really nobody else for him and he’s totally head over heels in love with this woman and I don’t think he sees the future without her at this point.
What was your favorite scene to direct from this episode? You had some emotional scenes, you had the surgery scenes, you had flashbacks.
The flashbacks were fun. I was really excited to explore another side of Veronica and humanize her character a little bit, and Michelle is such a great actress and it was exciting to see her get the opportunity to play more than the bad guy and to sort of see where did this character Veronica come from and why is she the way she is? That was some great, great stuff to play with. The scene you mentioned at the end on the phone, that was one of my favorites.
And of course the scene where everybody shows up for Max, that was a great scene, in the urgent care, just because I was sort of worried about the size of the space and if we’d be able to make the scene feel kinetic or big enough or land in the way that it landed on the page. What Aaron wrote was great, so I was like, can we do this? And then with everybody there and the camera moving around and Janet showing up at the end, it was just a really nice sort of New Amsterdam family moment, and I was happy with how that turned out. Tyler [Labine]‘s stuff was fantastic, shooting those guys, that was basically one long day in primarily one room, and those guys did like a play that day. They did so many pages and all of it, top to bottom, was a real joy.
How much will we see Max struggling between the pull of London, because he talks about how he’s building a life there, the woman he loves is there, and also New York where now he has a job? He does not have a job in London.
He sort of doesn’t have a job anywhere. Yes, he does get a job at this urgent care, so he is back in employment. But yes, he’s a man on a mission, he’s coming back to take back this hospital, and I think he’s gonna do whatever it takes. I don’t think the urgent care is his ideal place to be, but because he loves this whole hospital so much, it’s a good place to start.
As Casey (Alejandro Hernandez) points out, they don’t know who would be medical director after Veronica.
Exactly. There’s no guarantees that Max would even take over.
Max needs to clone himself.
Yes, that’s the next episode. He goes to a science lab and clones himself and six Maxes show up and just remove Veronica from the building. Now that would be cool. That’s like The Matrix version of our show.
That would be Veronica’s worst nightmare.
Yeah. That would be fun. But yeah, you’re right. Max does need to clone himself because he’s trying to be in London and New York at the same time and is trying to raise a family and be all in this relationship and come back and save the hospital and do all these things at the same time. Along with his optimism, he’s certainly someone who overcommits, overreaches and tries to do a lot at once.
What else can you tease that’s coming up for Max?
There’s an interesting challenge coming up for Max and Helen that’s unique, not something we’ve ever done, and I’m excited for Freema. She has a cool opportunity to explore something that she hasn’t explored before.
New Amsterdam, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC