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Why Dr. Helen Sharpe From New Amsterdam Looks So Familiar

Riding the wave of popularity that seems to come with setting soapy narratives against a backdrop of U.S. health institutions, NBC's medical drama "New Amsterdam" takes place at the fictional namesake hospital in New York City. The series tends to center on the newly hired Medical Director and passionate reformist Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), but plenty of other major characters are brought in to vie for the audience's heart.

One key member of this ensemble is New Amsterdam's head of oncology, Dr. Helen Sharpe. At the beginning of the show, Helen spends little time doing hands-on work in the office and focuses more on promotion and outreach. As Max pushes Helen to pivot back to her in-house duties, the two start off clashing with each other. Throughout the series, though, they grow to share a deep friendship, which then turns into a constant question of something more.

Helen is a beloved character in this series, but viewers may recognize Freema Agyeman, the English actor who plays her, from some of her previous television appearances, which expand across other genres like sci-fi and crime drama.

Agyeman played an iconic companion in Doctor Who

Freema Agyeman's first big acting role came when she starred as Martha Jones in the BBC's "Doctor Who," which is the longest-running sci-fi television series (period). The show follows the endeavors of the Doctor, an extraterrestrial agent of change who travels across time and space. The longevity of "Doctor Who" is partly thanks to its protagonist's own ability to subsist. Whenever the Doctor's body becomes too old or damaged, a new form can be regenerated (which means a new actor can take on the role). But the endless cycle of adventure can get a bit lonesome at times, which is why each Doctor travels with a companion.

As a fan-favorite companion to the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), Martha Jones joins him on all manner of escapades while serving as a surrogate for the series' audience. She meets the Doctor when he intervenes to save the hospital where she works — did someone say "New Amsterdam" foreshadowing? — after it gets teleported to the Moon. She soon shares what she's told will be a single trip with the Doctor, which leads to her becoming a permanent companion. Eventually, Martha develops romantic feelings for him, and upon realizing he will never return them, she lets go of their partnership. However, fans can see more of Martha in "Torchwood," a "Doctor Who" spinoff series.

London's courtrooms served as her training grounds

Freema Agyeman also starred as Alesha Phillips, the Junior Crown Prosecutor in "Law & Order: UK." Like the original American "Law & Order" franchise, this international adaptation depicts the inner workings of two main parts of the criminal justice system: police work in the field and legal action in the courtroom. It's the latter half that concerns Alesha's character; the Crown Prosecutors of England and Wales essentially replace the district attorneys of the U.S.

Alesha is portrayed as someone who has sharp intellect paired with strong emotion. Often sided with the underdog in court, she's not afraid to stand up for causes that she's passionate about. As a Black woman having grown up on the streets of London, Alesha also possesses a deeper awareness of the nuances of justice than some of her peers. Agyeman made her mark on "Law & Order: UK" as Alesha for its first three series before parting from the show due to scheduling conflicts.

Her lover shared a mental bond with worldwide strangers

Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Netlix's "Sense8" has a unique premise. The show is about eight strangers who one day suddenly become psychically linked (or sensate), meaning that they all share the same thoughts and feelings. Each one of them experiences the lives of the other seven in real time. In the story that unfolds, Freema Agyeman has the role of Amanita, a central character who is the girlfriend of one of the sensates named Nomi. Together, they work to learn more about this mysterious connection while also trying to protect the group of sensates from enemies who seek to hunt them down.

Unfortunately, "Sense8" was cancelled after two seasons, but that doesn't mean it wasn't well-received. The show garnered positive critical attention and a cult following due to its impressive cinematography, captivating music, intriguing narrative, and diverse cast representation, among other things. After a passionate fanbase reacted strongly against Netflix's dropping of the series, the company relented, and assembled one last two-hour special episode in an attempt to tie up loose ends (via Radio Times). 

Regarding the decision to end "Sense8" so prematurely, Agyeman commented, "It's a business! But I think the fans felt really cheated that it ended on such a huge cliffhanger."

She worked with Neo to help him make a Matrix video game

Freema Agyeman's collaboration with the Wachowski siblings on "Sense8" may have led to this more recent opportunity. In "The Matrix Resurrections," which serves as something of a blend between sequel and reboot for the original "Matrix" trilogy, Agyeman appears as a video game developer named Astra. She's part of a dev team led by Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) himself, who, inspired by his faint memories as Neo, is working to build a new Matrix gaming experience. Astra exhibits some meta-awareness of the project she's involved with when she states, "This cannot be another reboot, retread, regurgitated—" before being cut off by a coworker who says, "Why not? Reboots sell."

That is certainly debatable for "The Matrix Resurrections." Its box office performance, although optimistic at face value, was not nearly enough to offset its massive production costs. For Agyeman's career, though, the film is definitely a win. While Astra, as a more minor character, doesn't get much screen time, fans of the actor were no less ecstatic to see her join the franchise.