Parade – Ryan Eggold on How COVID Affected New Amsterdam and What’s in Store for Max and Helen

New Amsterdam

When COVID-19 shut down production last March, it especially hit hard for NBC’s New Amsterdam. The show not only films at several real-life hospitals, including Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn and Metropolitan Hospital in Harlem, but it also had a pandemic storyline planned. Of course, not the coronavirus specifically.

“There was so much fear and anxiety at that time around the pandemic, we didn’t want to air an episode where people were getting sick left and right and further scare people,” says series star Ryan Eggold, who plays medical director Dr. Max Goodwin, in this exclusive interview.

But New Amsterdam will touch on the COVID-19 pandemic in its Season 3 premiere. It will feature a very powerful montage showing the doctors and nurses at work trying to save lives, working until they are exhausted, showing people getting vaccinated, and then moving into post-pandemic stories.

“Working on a hospital show, post-pandemic, our first responsibility is to tell the stories of the nurses and doctors who have worked so tirelessly to try to keep people safe and healthy,” Eggold continues. “Peter Horton directed that episode. And I think his and [executive producer] David [Schulner]’s intention was to honor the healthcare workers and what they’ve been through and start in that place of, this has been Ground Zero of fighting the pandemic, and it has taken its toll on everybody.”

“It’s kind of like that wartime mentality with soldiers coming back and having trouble adjusting to civilian life,” Eggold says. “These doctors were so overwhelmed with patients, not enough beds and trying to keep up. What are the ramifications on their personal life and their psyche? And how do they get back to the new normal?”

Also, viewers will get a long-awaited moment between Max and Helen. Expect some resolution regarding their feelings for each other, despite the fact that Helen has moved on with new head trauma surgeon Dr. Cassian Shin.

“I will say that I think Max and Helen have a unique relationship that they are forced to confront this season and figure out what it means for better or for worse, and finally name what has been unspoken for a while,” Eggold adds.

How did the New Amsterdam pandemic episode compare to what actually happened?
I haven’t seen that episode because it didn’t air, which is usually how I see them, so I would be curious to know myself. It’s pretty wild. It’s happened to the writers a few times where they’ve written something and then it happens later. But nobody could have predicted COVID was going to happen.

I saw the first two episodes and it feels like a sadder show this year. Will that continue?

No. There’s a lot of humor. I was saying to David, “Is Max getting too broad?” There has been a lot of humor on the show lately, which is nice. I think it’s important to find humor and joy amid a pandemic because we have to remind ourselves what we’re fighting for. The intention is not to make it super heavy and sad, but certainly in the beginning to discuss it; it is a heavy, overwhelming, larger-than-life situation that we’ve all been through.

Max also seems to have lost his “How can I help?” attitude–which is what inspired him to take the job and kept him going when he lost his wife. Will he get that back?
Yeah. I think it’s evolved from how can I help, or how can I fix the system and make it better, to how do we begin again? And how do we build from the ground up because we weren’t prepared for this and it changed a lot of things. I think his perspective has widened in a good way and he will see things differently this season.

What will be the new challenges for Max this season?
One thing is he’s a single dad who is trying to get his hospital through this pandemic. And he has left his daughter Luna with [late wife] Georgia’s parents in an effort to protect her and keep her safe as he is going to the hospital every day. But I think there’s a lot of guilt like, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I being a bad father by not being there? Am I neglecting her?” So, that’s something that he wrestles with.

Then the question of romance. Is there a partner for him to find and is he ready to start a relationship with someone after losing his wife? In the back of his mind, I think it’s something he wants, not only for himself but for his daughter.

There’s a moment where Max realizes that some of his great, crazy ideas aren’t always the right way to do things. Is he growing?
Absolutely. He’s a character who’s full of ambition to change things and to make things better. And he’s very headstrong and optimistic. He’s certainly overly idealistic about how to make those changes happen. The show is about finding out the reality of how that change happens. You have these lofty ideas of, “I want to make everything better, I want to do X, Y and Z,” and you can’t do that overnight, so what does it look like on a daily basis? How does change occur on a systemic level, which is certainly bigger than the individual?

To your point about admitting fault, I think he’s learning that he can’t do this on his own and he can’t change the world overnight and that you need other people. You can’t be a one-man band, so I think he’s going through a lot of change and evolving a lot.

What was it like filming in the hospital in March 2020?
Our last day of filming we were at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, and it was weird. People were starting to get nervous, “Should we be filming in a hospital?” We didn’t know a lot about it. Is this real? Is this really growing the way people say it’s going to grow? And very quickly, the world changed overnight.

It’s the right decision not to film in the hospital right now, not for our show, but to get out of the way of the hospitals and to let them function to the best of their capacity when there are so many serious things that need to be addressed. And, then for the show, to keep everybody safe, of course. But I hope we can get back to that once this pandemic is behind us because there’s always this wonderful authenticity to be found when we can shoot in those places because you are near the reality of healthcare so it helps you reflect that story.

Did it take New Amsterdam longer to come back because you had to change your filming locations?
We had to build a lot of sets. We had to build a lot of the hospital locations that we use, and we had to add more sets and locations we could film in. Then everybody was just making sure it was safe and making sure we had the practices and protocols in place to do our job, be safe and not put anybody at risk. To everyone’s credit, it feels really safe. We’re tested every day and we have a lot of protocols in place that keep the set running efficiently and safely. It’s a good place to be.

How did you handle the pandemic?
I look back and that was so much time that we had. I feel like I should have written a novel, climbed a mountain, or something. But, no, I slowly went crazy and did all the usual, like slept. I did do a fair amount of writing. I wrote a screenplay, trying to put my brain to work a little bit. I was in denial like, “This will only last a month of weird whatever.” Then a month goes by and you’re like, “I guess it’s still going.” Seven months go by and it was crazy. It was nice to slow down and catch up with family and unplug for a minute. I wish it had been under better circumstances and people’s lives weren’t at risk, but, yeah, there were some positives.

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