My name is Melissa Reiner, and I am the Autism Consultant on ABC’s show, The Good Doctor. I work with the writers and producers to help ensure that the role of Dr. Shaun Murphy, as well as all of the other characters who may interact with him, is portrayed with a level of authenticity and specificity. Having a diagnosis of autism is one aspect of who this individual is, but it is imperative that we are also able to fully reveal who this impressive young man is, as a doctor and as a person first. The notes that I contribute often shape the way a scene is written, and in some instances, the way a scene is rewritten. The integrity of the show is paramount, and I am honoured to be involved in such an important show. Here are a few examples of how my input affected change in certain scenes from each episode in Season 2 of The Good Doctor.
In the penultimate scene of the third episode, Shaun sees Lea and says, “You’re here.”
However, in the original script, the line written for him was, “I’m glad you’re here. Because there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
In my notes for the writers and producers, I shared that, especially with Shaun being caught off guard by Lea’s unannounced arrival at the hospital after his 36-hour shift, he might revert to a more black and white way of thinking. Rather than being able to adeptly address her in a fairly sophisticated and nuanced way, by saying that he was glad to see her because there was something he wanted to talk to her about, I went on to explain that I wasn’t even sure if Shaun would say that he was glad that she was there. I didn’t know how glad he actually was to see her there, as her presence would inevitably mean that Shaun would have to face, head on, this very nuanced social/emotional interchange. I mentioned to the writers that I imagined Shaun in a place where he might just state the fact, noting her arrival. He might be really thrown by her unexpected presence and feel incredibly unprepared to deal with this right now, further to the point that he would not necessarily be glad that Lea was there. Additionally, there was something going on between them that he really did not want to have to talk about. In the end, it was agreed that he may not be so glad to see her if it meant having to talk about this situation which would potentially be fraught with tension and stress. So, instead, Shaun did just say, “You’re here.”