Parade – Five Things to Know About Tonight’s Premiere of New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam

NBC’s new medical drama New Amsterdam was inspired by the oldest public hospital in America: Bellvue.

We enter the story following Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), the institution’s newest medical director, who sets out to tear up the bureaucracy and provide exceptional care. The doctors and staff have heard this before, but Dr. Goodwin is on a mission and will stop at nothing to breathe new life into this understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated hospital.

There’s a personal reason behind it. He and his sister were born at Bellevue, and his sister died of an infection she contracted during a later stay at the institution. It was her needless death that launched him into medicine.

“Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, everyone was having the most incredible, passionate conversations everywhere you would go about immigration and health care,” says show creator David Schulner. “I thought, ‘Why would I want to write about anything else?’ So I decided to use all these great conversations we were having and look for a way in to talk about it. I found this book called Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital: Twelve Patients by Dr. Eric Manheimer, who was the medical director of Bellevue in New York for 15 years. When he came in, the hospital was at its lowest point in its 264 year history, and the book is the story of his 15 year struggle to restore it to its glory.”

Here are five things to know about New Amsterdam before it premeires tonight:

No. 1. It’s based on Dr. Eric Manheimer’s memoir Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital and his 15 years as medical director at the hospital, but it’s been updated for 2018.

David Schulner: I didn’t have to go that far out of my way. When people say Bellevue, most people just think of the mental institution, which is the furthest thing from the truth. Bellevue today is 25 stories high, and each story is one acre, so it’s a 25-acre complex that is a city unto itself. It has an isolation ward; it has a prison for Rikers Island patients; it has a public school for kids in the psych ward, so there wasn’t much we had to do to update it, because it’s this fully functional, incredible hospital already.

No. 2 Why Ryan Eggold is perfect as the brilliant and charming Dr. Max Goodwin.

David Schulner: Have you seen his smile? I only knew Ryan from Blacklist. When his name was brought up, I watched every ounce of him on Blacklist and I didn’t see him smile that much, so we asked him to read for us. He did. We were watching the monitor, and as soon as he came on screen, we all just looked at each other. He didn’t even open his mouth, and we were just, like, “Oh, yeah, that’s him.” The hope of the show, the tone of the show, the optimism of the show is embodied in Ryan. So we’re just beyond thrilled to find an actor who does everything you’re working 12 hours a day to do as effortlessly as he does.

No. 3 Dr. Goodwin has cancer. How will that affect the story?

David Schulner: This is all based on the real story of Dr. Manheimer, who was the medical director. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in his third or fourth year at Bellevue, and spoiler alert, he’s alive and he wrote a book about it. As a result, Dr. Goodwin is someone who can’t slow down, so his diagnosis is the ultimate challenge for him. So, he has that struggle, plus the struggle to be the kind of medical director that he wants to be: to be effective, to fight the system.

Dr. Manheimer was still practicing while getting chemo-radiation treatments, chemo in the morning, work all day, radiation at night, and he did that for as long as he could until eventually he collapsed of exhaustion. We’re going to be using that as our template for the first season.

No. 4 It will explore the personal lives of the staff, but not to the same degree as Grey’s Anatomy.

David Schulner: The show’s more about the doctors than the patients, so exploring what’s going on in their lives, their personal struggles, it was really exciting to us, especially because these doctors can all be working somewhere else making tons more money, so why are they here? What kind of a person works harder for less money as a choice? We find these characters really fascinating and complex because of that.

No. 5 New Amsterdam is actually filmed at Bellevue.

David Schulner: We shoot on Sundays at Bellevue, and we’re also shooting in Kings County in Brooklyn, and then we have sets in New York as well. The beautiful atrium is Bellevue. They took the original façade from the 1800s and built a modern wing around it, so the modernity embraces the old, which is the perfect metaphor for our show.

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