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The Untold Truth Of The Good Doctor

First debuting on ABC's fall schedule in 2017, "The Good Doctor" stars Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon whose perspective transforms the people around him.

An autistic man with savant syndrome, Shaun is a surgical resident at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. His gift for photographic recall and understanding of anatomy make him a natural fit for medicine. However, Shaun's neurodivergence makes some colleagues like Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) doubt his gifts. Allies like his mentor, Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff), and Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) aid Shaun, but the young doctor ultimately has to prove for himself that he has what it takes to be a professional surgeon.

Over the course of several seasons, Shaun goes through a great deal of turmoil, but he also opens up his life to others, including agreeing to marry his girlfriend Lea (Paige Spara). Showrunner David Shore said in an interview with Deadline that he sees Shaun's experiences, regardless of his differences, as universal: "I think this series is about finding new opportunities and new challenges for him, and seeing that those challenges are the same that we all experience."

As the show, now in Season 5, gets closer to airing 100 episodes, we'll take a look at actor Daniel Dae-Kim's hand in producing the show, the original South Korean version, how the visual effects work, and much more. This is the untold truth of "The Good Doctor."

The Good Doctor was originally a South Korean drama series

The series is in fact a remake of a South Korean TV show simply titled "Good Doctor." Both shows have similar first episodes before they diverge into very different narratives. In the Korean series, actor Joo Won plays Park Si-on, who, like his American counterpart, is an autistic savant working as a surgeon. "Good Doctor" originally ran 20 episodes in 2013 to strong ratings (via Tenasia).

In 2014, "Lost" and "Hawaii Five-0" star Daniel Dae Kim bought the rights to remake "Good Doctor" overseas through his production company 3AD. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dae Kim's motivation was in part to translate the unique feeling of Korean television to American audiences, because as Kim commented, "in America, there are more serialized dramas and there can be room for something inspired by Korean TV...I believe good content can transcend cultural barriers." "Good Doctor" being a medical drama — much like successful shows like "Grey's Anatomy" or "ER"— also influenced the decision as well.

ABC later agreed to air the series with Kim serving as a producer and "House" creator David Shore hired as the showrunner (via Deadline). Shore's approach was not to "Americanize" the series but make something original: "I think we're just going, 'That's a great story. I would like to tell that story and make it my own.' And that's what happened here" (via TV Guide).

Paige Spara auditioned from a bathroom to land the part of Lea

Fresh off the "Psycho" drama "Bates Motel," actor Freddie Highmore appears to have been the first choice to play Shaun Murphy. Highmore originally turned the part down because he wasn't sure about leading another show so soon after "Bates Motel" (via Adweek). It's lucky that he changed his mind then, as he became the star of a highly-rated network drama with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor (via IMDb).

Antonia Thomas' casting as Dr. Claire Browne was actually announced first, shortly before Highmore signed on alongside Nicholas Gonzalez (via Deadline). According to Town & Country Magazine, she was attracted to the role of Claire primarily because "she's a ball of contradictions in that she's very smart and driven and has a huge heart, but...quite quickly she makes some very big mistakes."

Paige Spara, who plays Shaun's eventual girlfriend and fiance Lea, was meant to be a guest star but soon became a regular character on the series. This was despite having to record an audition for the show from her parent's bathroom. Spara also had no steady Internet connection, and no access to a computer or printer, not to mention poor lighting, but she landed the role anyway. She'd later attribute the success to her mother's patience and help: "I appreciated my mom so much that day...[with her help] I was able to be calm and collected and it helped me find who Lea was" (via The Blast).

The Good Doctor's depiction of autism has been criticized

David Shore did heavy research into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) before writing "The Good Doctor," telling a TCA panel that "we [the writers] saw a lot of doctors, we consulted with people, we've got people on the spectrum who we're working with" (via Deadline).

Nevertheless, the medical drama has been criticized by professionals as well as neurodivergent writers for, like other popular media such as "Rain Man," depicting ASD characters as primarily "awkward white male geniuses" as well as interpreting Shaun's differences and challenges as a superpower. Three experts wrote in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter that the series "creates a mythical autistic superhero who deceives the public by misrepresenting how disabling autism can be in this society."

An actual autistic doctor wrote that they liked the show but noted how many autistics have extreme empathy, not a disconnect from others as the series suggests, and wished it also depicted more of the range of behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder (via The Conversation). For Slate, autistic writer Sara Luterman also praised Shaun's humanity as a disabled character "even if it frequently seems to be by accident" on the part of the neurotypical creative team.

Ultimately, the series has received positive reception as well as sharp criticism from the autistic community.

You can thank MastersFX for the graphic surgery scenes

"The Good Doctor," like other medical dramas, isn't always accurate about actual hospital procedures, but it has to depict surgeries and gruesome injuries in a realistic way or it wouldn't feel believable. This is where visual effects company MastersFX comes in.

MastersFX works on the bodies shown during surgeries, intending to make the procedures look as real as possible. Artist Lori Sandnes told VFX Voice that "if the actors need to be dissecting, cutting or suturing something in the body, we want to make it easy for them to be able to perform the action as close as possible to the script." The team also works with the show's medical consultants as well as uses clips of actual surgeries for reference points.

The prosthetics and practical effects involved can include hearts, body casts, facial injuries, and even fake marlins. The most important thing for MastersFX founder Todd Masters though is "helping to create an organic, relatable character in service to the story –- [this] is always paramount" (via VFX Voice).

The Good Doctor is fairly medically accurate

In terms of medical accuracy and realistic depictions of hospital life, TV has always received mixed reviews from actual doctors. The hookups and egregious errors by interns and residents on "Grey's Anatomy" are considered extremely unrealistic by the medical community. "Scrubs" meanwhile has always been regarded as highly accurate and very aware of working dynamics in a hospital (via TV Insider).

"The Good Doctor" has some errors but is more realistic than many other medical TV shows. In an interview with TV Insider, the show's medical consultant Dr. Oren Gottfried discusses how he suggests actual medical incidents from real life to the writers. The doctor noted that "Some [cases] do seem so outlandish, but the fact is they're really medical truth."

Experts praised the drama in one article about medicine on television as "more accurate than other shows in terms of medical terminology, diagnoses, and treatments" but criticized small errors in depicting protocol and basic procedures (via Insider). Professional nurse and actor Rebecca Brown, who often appears on the show, said in an Instagram Live chat that "there are things we sometimes have to tweak but the steps that we're doing that the viewers are watching are correct" (via Country Living).

You can watch all five seasons of "The Good Doctor" currently streaming on Hulu.