‘New Amsterdam’ Director Peter Horton on Helen’s Ache, Bloom’s Journey & More (VIDEO)
New Amsterdam is doing something special in this week’s episode, both on-screen and behind the scenes.
And that collides in the opening for “Righteous Right Hand,” as a group of women on a retreat end up in the ED in a scene director (and Thirtysomething star) Peter Horton shot as a oner.
“Everybody was so thrilled about it when we pulled it off,” he told TV Insider. “There are no tricks in this thing. Once that first gurney comes in, it’s one shot, all the way to the end.”
Here, Horton discusses directing this episode, what the accident reveals about the hospital’s latest patients, Helen’s (Freema Agyeman) desire to be a mother, Bloom’s (Janet Montgomery) arc this season, and more.
In this episode, a group of women are in an accident that just so happens to be near the hospital. What can you say about that accident and how it affects the doctors?
Peter Horton: As you see in the very first act, which is a holistic piece — almost all of it done in one shot — it’s an absolute invasion of the emergency department because patient after patient after patient comes in in need of immediate attention. The initial impression of this case is that it’s an onslaught. What happens past that is when our show is at its best because it’s one case and it involves every single doctor and every single character on our show.
Every one of these women has a specific need because they come in not only with the injuries from the accident, they come in with pre-existing conditions, and those get revealed as each doctor gets involved with each woman. It allows us to have this plethora of awesome characters out of the pool of seven Alabama church women who are on their way back from a religious convention, so you can imagine how interesting and colorful those characters are.
And you see that each woman has her own personality in the interactions with the doctors.
Yeah, this was written by Erika [Green Swafford], who is from the South. A lot of these women come right out of her life. They’re her aunts and relatives, so they have just amazing specificity to them. I put Erika in charge of dressing these women and making sure they had the right look because they came out of her life. She was there the whole time, very clear on what these women would do or not do, which was really helpful. What you end up with is a pretty credible group.
The last episode returned to Helen’s desire to be a mother. How will we see that continue to play out for her?
That’s ongoing for her. That’s something that’s been there from the beginning. It’s one of those things that lives for her and her character throughout, as all of these cases that also, from time to time, involve women trying to get pregnant, women who can’t get pregnant. It’s an issue she has to deal with as a doctor all the time, all the while having this low-grade ache about her own predicament.
She really wants to have kids, doesn’t want to do it alone, something that she realizes after the accident last year, that life’s too fragile for her to do that. Yet she really wants it and yet her biological clock is ticking.
She’s also seeing Max with Luna now.
Yeah, exactly. Here’s Max now who is trying his best to take care of a new baby, which is what she so longs for and she so wants to help him because she cares about him, and yet, he’s not able to accept her help yet.
Watch an exclusive clip of Helen’s next attempt below:
These subterranean aches are going on in all of our characters. For me, one of the primary foundation stones that sets the tone for our show is nothing is simple. Everything’s convoluted. Even when a scene is about just medical terminology or an operation or a patient, it’s really constantly carrying in this low-level convolution and character complexity that braids in with an ache, which I think is really what makes television emotional, if you can do that.
And we got that at the end of last episode, when Helen hears Max tell Luna they have to show Georgia her laugh, which was just heartbreaking.
Right? You wait. We’ve got some stuff coming up about all of that that’s just so wonderfully achy.
In happier news, Bloom had a breakthrough while meditating with Kapoor in the last episode. What can you say about the Bloom we’ll see moving forward?
Bloom’s got a wonderful journey ahead of her. We started out this year thinking her primary story would be Ligon and that would be the path we would go on with her character, but the actor who’s playing Ligon, JJ Feild, suddenly had other commitments, so we had to change course mid-stream. What we’ve come up with for her, which you’re going to see starting fairly soon, is a whole new arc, which is a really, really cool one. It’s a different side of her we haven’t seen yet. It’s a very personal side.
This is the third episode you’ve directed of New Amsterdam. Was there anything about it you approached differently or wanted to do you hadn’t in the previous two?
Written into the script was an invitation to do a big oner, do a whole act as one shot. That’s something I’d never done before. It was both initially daunting and challenging and ultimately just so engaging and thrilling for everybody. That scene, which is an eight-page scene with one shot, full of gurneys coming in and out, and different characters, is like a big ballet that has to be performed live.
We rehearsed it for five hours, kind of like you learn how to play the piano. We would do the first gurney coming in, get that down, then do the second one, get that down, then go back and do the first into the second, then do the third… It was a very, very tedious process of getting the logistics down. Then we got to the point where Janet was starting to get worn out a little bit, and we hadn’t put a thing on film. We said, “We gotta just go for this.” And so, we did.
On take nine, everything came together, and it just worked perfectly. We all just stood up and cheered. Even had this moment with the whole crew and cast afterwards where we got together and just pointed out each department and gave them their own moment of glory because it was such a group effort.
New Amsterdam, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC