‘New Amsterdam’: Max & Helen’s Friendship Has Been Taken ‘to Another Level’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episode 10 of New Amsterdam, “Code Silver.”]
The hospital is under lockdown in the New Amsterdam winter premiere, and as a result, the doctors are put into some tense situations. (Reynolds is even stabbed, but don’t worry, he’s fine — and willing to move to San Francisco to be with Evie!)
At the center of it are Max (Ryan Eggold) and Helen (Freema Agyeman), who end up hostages of Jackie as she seeks to take out a fellow inmate. And to stay alive, Helen comes up with a plan that requires Max to put his complete trust in her (which he does).
“It’s reassuring for her to see the lengths to which [Max] will trust her because that does take the friendship to another level,” Agyeman told TV Insider of that moment.
This “Code Silver” comes just after Helen was stripped of her titles as co-chair of the oncology department and deputy medical director. “[Helen] is in such a place right now where anything can go any way,” the actress said.
Here, Agyeman discusses the winter premiere, Max and Helen’s relationship, and more.
That was an intense episode. Did Helen need the distraction of the Code Silver after being stripped of her titles?
Freema Agyeman: Yes, I actually think that was a blessing in disguise in a weird way because she’s obviously been going through a re-direction really. Ever since she came back, she always has in the back of her mind this other life she leads and also the idea of motherhood and her being back in the hospital after being a patient … There’s so much going on that when it all [comes] to a head and she was essentially demoted, yes, there’s nothing like sometimes surrendering to the universe for an answer. She was flailing at that point and in a rare moment of indecision, she doesn’t know what to do and then this comes along.
We see just how much Max trusts Helen in this episode with regards to her plan when Jackie has them at gunpoint. How important is that for her, especially considering that trusting her judgement has been called into question in a way with the demotion?
She knows that Max always fundamentally has her back because obviously the demotion didn’t come from him, and she knows he does trust her, but the demonstration of that has always been in a work capacity and with his health. This is in terms of his life and potentially his daughter’s life, so that takes the friendship to a whole other level. It’s not unreasonable to have a moment of doubt because if it had gone wrong, it has quite serious consequences.
At least for now, Helen’s staying at New Amsterdam, and the hospital certainly needs her, but is this going to be an ongoing struggle for her without being co-chair of the department or deputy medical director since she’s used to making decisions?
That is very true. That is another big factor in her mind that’s calling into question her direction at the moment. She has been so used to being the decision maker. But I think ultimately if she still gets to do right by the patients then she’s okay. Any instructions coming that stop her [from] putting the patients first, is what’s going to cause a problem. Of course it will sting no longer being in that position, but she’s able to look at it professionally and as long as she can still fulfill her role as a doctor, as an oncologist, and help people, she will be okay.
Helen’s past came back to haunt her with Valentina, and we’ve been seeing that while both want to help people, they are very different doctors. What’s it been like for Helen to be dealing with that conflict and will we see that continue?
They are very, very different in the way they work, and they could work well together provided Valentina allows Helen to practice in the way she has become accustomed. Helen thinks that Castro is a good doctor, definitely. She has respect for her in a professional capacity. It’s her conduct she doesn’t like. It’s not her ability. She’s proven that she is an accomplished oncologist, it’s just the way in which she executes things they don’t see eye-to-eye.
In another lifetime, they could’ve been friends, though. They do have stuff in common. We noticed the other day that animal print is one of them. [Laughs] They reflect each other in a way that they are quite yin and yang.
There’s been quite a lot of talk about Max and Helen’s relationship, and when I spoke with David Schulner, he noted Helen doesn’t need Max like he needs her, which is addressed in this episode. Where do you see that relationship now?
They do have a complicated friendship/relationship insofar that it does fit into so many different categories. We’ve seen them go from patient and doctor to colleagues to confidants to teacher and student to whatever else. It just keeps flowing into different places, but ultimately they are trusted work colleagues, and when everything else starts to get too blurry and complicated, they can lean into that and that’s where they’re very effective together and they work together in that capacity.
He’s obviously had this huge bereavement but how far she can be there for him to rely on and lean on, how far he actually wants her to be there, to let her in, to be able to help him at all, it’s too muddy and too murky. That’s real life.
I really like the depiction of that friendship and that relationship because it’s not black and white, it’s not cut and dry. We do meet people every day in our lives that we actually can’t pinpoint or box in or categorize who they are and what they mean to us because it changes. Our own requirements change and our needs and requirements from other people change, so what’s unique about their friendship and relationship is they’re able to do that dance and still have a friendship on the other side of it.
Are those blurred lines why Helen doesn’t give a complete answer about finding a reason to stay?
What’s interesting about that line is she says “I found a few.” Whether he is one in there or his well-being and her desire to see him succeed professionally and personally after his heartbreak … It’s going to be a fascinating journey to explore.
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We’ve heard more about Helen wanting to be a mother. Will we see more of that and the effect of having kids be part of most of the characters’ lives on her this season?
It’s definitely something that’s always on the forefront of her mind.
I’ve had some brilliant feedback from women in their 30s and 40s who have said this is such a great storyline to be exploring because as career women who also want to be family women it’s great to talk about when that time is right and it’s not a subject that is often broached in television in terms of freezing eggs and maybe going it alone, finding a family through a donor. All these brilliant debates and conversations are happening [and] it’s great that’s being furthered in mainstream television.
I like the pace that it’s going at because that’s very realistic. There’s lots to consider. … The way it’s being handled is quite truthful because it’s a big decision. I certainly think her looking around and seeing, for example, Max through no choice of his own having to raise a child on his own through bereavement, but seeing the support network around him and the love and pleasure you get from a child will be resonating in her head, thinking that maybe she can do it alone. Or maybe as the season progresses, she will find love and decide to get married and wait to start a family with that significant other.
New Amsterdam, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC