'The Good Doctor's Jasika Nicole on Carly's Heartbreak and Shaun & Lea

Meredith Jacobs
The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 16 Jasika Nicole Carly Shaun Interview
Q&A ABC/Liane Hentscher

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 16 of The Good Doctor, "Autopsy."]

When Shaun (Freddie Highmore) struggles with doing what Carly (Jasika Nicole) suggested during their breakup — telling Lea (Paige Spara) how he really feels — he shows up at her door in Monday's episode of The Good Doctor.

"I know that this breakup has been hard on you. It's been hard on me, too," she tells him over the body of a Jane Doe. "But I know what I saw between you and Lea."

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"II love you, Carly, but you were right, I love Lea more," Shaun admits, and she again encourages him to speak with his best friend. "Look at how far you’ve come with me," she says. "How scared you were. How brave you were." And after hugging her, he walks away.

But is that the end of Shaun and Carly's relationship? Nicole hopes not.

"This is network TV. There's no real ending to anything," she tells TV Insider. "I don't feel like that hug to Carly meant goodbye forever. She fully intends they will be in each other's lives and be friends and continue to provide support for each other, just not in a romantic way."

Jasika Nicole Freddie Highmore Good Doctor 315 Shaun Carly Date

(ABC/Liane Hentscher)

Here, Nicole discusses "Autopsy," Carly and Shaun's relationship, and more.

What was Carly's reaction to Shaun showing up at her door?

Jasika Nicole: She was confused because for her, it's probably best to have a clean break to process the emotions and the pain of breaking up with somebody. I don't think that she wanted to break up with him. She really wanted the relationship to work out.

There was a part of her that was surprised to see him there and then another part I wanted to play personally was for there to be maybe a hint of her wanting to hear him say something like, "You're wrong. I am in love with you. I do want to be with you." She knows that wasn't necessarily likely to happen, but she probably still had that hope deep inside of her somewhere because she really does care so much about him.

Did she need to hear her suspicions confirmed?

I think so because in the scene where they're doing the autopsy — I tried to play both parts of this equally — there's a part of her that is validated in hearing him say that he does love Lea more than her, and then another part of her that, now that she's finally hearing it out of his mouth, it's just breaking her heart again. She has her heart broken a couple times. The initial heartbreak is obviously when she sees Lea and Shaun singing together in karaoke and recognizing that they just have a spark between them that she hasn't seen or felt between her and Shaun.

And then it happens again where he confirms for her that yes, he does care about her and loves her but he does have bigger feelings for Lea. Ultimately, Carly's priority is for both of them to find happiness, and she knows that he can't find it with her and she certainly can't find it with him if he's not in love with her. She thought [the breakup] was the best thing for her and Shaun — and Lea, honestly.

Carly Good Doctor Season 3 Shaun Lea Karaoke

(ABC/Liane Hentscher)

She gets closure with that conversation and then the hug.

Yes. We actually filmed a few different endings of that scene. It was written where Carly leans in to kiss Shaun goodbye, and then [writer] David Hoselton was there and Freddie was directing this episode. He's such a terrific director and he had a real vision of different ways this could play out. We did a few takes where he leans in to give Carly a kiss and then a couple where he leans in to give her a hug.

Even though it was written where Carly initiates that gesture, it felt really important for us to see some kind of a change in this relationship with Carly and Shaun. Obviously they're breaking up and that feels really sad, but there is some level of maturity and growth on both of their parts and he takes it upon himself to reach out and provide some comfort for her. We don't get to see Shaun do that super often.

Of course he's certainly capable of emotional intelligence and being affectionate with people, but I don't think it necessarily comes easily for him and so this scene was so bittersweet because he takes the initiative [and gives] her this sweet goodbye, this really sincere gesture, and it was so hard to film it. There was a lot of beauty in the scene, but I really wanted to see Carly and Shaun together in the end, so that was pretty heartbreaking.

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The actor also talks his second time directing the series with February 24's 'Autopsy,' and how his character has changed this season.

How do you think Carly's relationship with Shaun changed her?

It has shown her a greater understanding of what it means to really make space for someone in your life. I don't think she'd ever had a relationship with somebody who was neurodivergent before, and so there was a lot of firsts. There was a lot of navigating new areas for both of them, obviously, but ultimately she learned that she was capable of going into something and having it look completely different than she ever anticipated and still coming out on the other side of it, having felt like it was a really wonderful, valuable, worthwhile experience.

There were parts of her that were afraid to get into a relationship with Shaun's character or just didn't think it would have very much lasting power, just because they are very different culturally. But obviously, as was established in the show, she has a sister who's on the spectrum, so it's not that she is unfamiliar with people who are on the spectrum, it's a different relationship than being the sibling of someone with autism or being the friend of somebody with autism.

Freddie Highmore Jasika Nicole Good Doctor Season 3 Shaun Carly Relationship

(ABC/Liane Hentscher)

What did Carly think would happen when Shaun went to talk to Lea after she encouraged him to?

She doesn't know for sure [that Lea reciprocates his feelings], but she thinks it might be a possibility. For the most part, she's really not so interested in what happens. It's more important for her that Shaun shares what his true feelings are. She understands that requires a level of vulnerability he might not be comfortable with, and that's why it's so important to her that he does it because he has shown himself to be able to handle being vulnerable with another person in his relationship with Carly.

She probably feels like she knows he is absolutely able to handle sharing what his real feelings for Lea are. Ultimately whatever Lea's response is is less important than helping Shaun get to a place where he feels he can be open and honest with somebody that he cares about.

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Do you think Carly and Lea could have ever been friends, not just friendly, or did the Shaun of it just complicate things too much?

[Yes], and I hope the show is able to explore it at some point. Both Carly and Lea represent very different types of women in [and] very important parts of Shaun's life. Lea is really out there and silly and she has a free spirit and she's fun and she pushes Shaun to get out of his comfort zone and do things that he wouldn't normally feel comfortable doing, which is really important for him to have in his life. Carly represents a level of stability and intelligence that he feels that he can connect to. They're able to have conversations about the world and they share a very similar worldview. Carly is a really great fit for him in those terms.

What else are you hoping to explore in the future with Carly? We heard about her sister and saw her stepping out of her comfort zone and working with a patient …

I have my fingers crossed that we will get to meet Carly's sister at some point. I'm interested to see how Carly interacts with people who are on the spectrum that she's super familiar with and been around for a long time and not dating.

Jasika Nicole Fiona Gubelmann Good Doctor Carly Morgan

(ABC/Liane Hentscher)

The audience has only gotten to experience Carly through the lens of Shaun, so we get to know more about her because she's dating Shaun and they're getting to know each other. I'm really interested to see what Carly looks like outside of the world of Shaun. She and Morgan have a really interesting relationship. They come from different ends a little bit but there's some kind of commonality between them. They're both really honest and communicative about how they feel. Morgan tends to be a little bit more brutal on that end of it and Carly is certainly a bit more warm.

The Good Doctor, Mondays, 10/9c, ABC