SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot points from the series finale of New Amsterdam.
Goodbye, Good Doctors of New Amsterdam: The drama about a former public hospital from creator/executive producer David Schulner, director/executive producer Peter Horton and Universal Television wrapped its five seasons Tuesday on NBC. Launched in 2018, the series is inspired by the book Twelve patients: life and death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer.
Here, Schulner and Horton reflect on what they did and didn’t do in the final episode, and why they think it’s way too early to conclude the drama which stars Ryan Eggold, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims, Tyler Labine, Debra Monk, Matthew Jeffers and Sandra Mae Frank.
DEADLINE Did you have a checklist before the final with things you wanted to include, like a chainsaw accident?
Pierre Horton Yes, that was the whole basis of the episode. We thought about chainsaws, what can we do with chainsaws?
David SCHULNER We only thought of our hard core. How do we honor these characters we’ve come to know and love over five years?
DEADLINE Did you know how it was going to end from the start? Had you imagined this ending for a while, that you would come full circle with ‘how can I help you?’
SCHULNER We knew the ending should come out of the beginning, just because it’s good storytelling. So we definitely went back to the pilot to find where these characters started and what a satisfying yet surprising conclusion would be.
DEADLINE Did you talk for a while about killing Max (Eggold) to cancer?
SCHULNER It was a little too easy. And ER did it with Dr. Green. There are many shows that have preceded us. We just wanted to avoid any duplication.
HORTON And then we could never come back and start over.
DEADLINE Was it a challenge to determine what your final medical case would be? Did you go back and forth on that?
HORTON Since every single case in the history of medicine has been exploited by TV shows, including us…
SCHULNER We were stuck all day. We couldn’t think of the right thing. We butted heads for a whole day, and finally I fired everyone. I said, “We leave Zoom, take an hour, take two hours, then everyone comes back into the room and comes up with something, just have one thing that you think would make a great final operation.” Came back with a weird $5 million computer generated thing like laser beam surgery. We were all trying to come up with something big and crazy. And then Jai, our screenwriter’s assistant, is the one who launched an operation that takes 50 people. We immediately knew it was the one because it was about our characters. This is not some crazy surgery. These are all the characters we’ve had on our show for five years, for 92 episodes. And this operation was a way to bring back all the characters that had previously operated in New Amsterdam for a one-time operation. It was about the patient, but more importantly, it was about our characters.
HORTON Our Covid team were not thrilled. Other than that, it was a really cool idea. The show is essentially a character piece. The medical cases are there so that we can talk about these people and these themes. When you asked about the ending, one of the things I love about how it happened was how David’s 11-year-old daughter introduced it to him in first, that Luna [Max’s daughter] comes back as an adult. So it was group work.
SCHULNER And then a week later another writer sent me the same ending. And then a week after that, I was on set with Erica Green Swafford and she was like, ‘This is crazy, but what if this was the final scene of New Amsterdam and Luna came back to age adult ? So, three people in the space of three weeks had this collective vision.
DEADLINE I really expected the drunk woman Iggy couldn’t get into the system to be found dead on a street somewhere.
HORTON Well, I think one of the reasons you feel that way is because she’s such a good actress. You want to see her again. It’s just that she doesn’t really connect with our people. The ending really had to be about the people we lived with for five years. It wasn’t about our cases, it was about our people.
SCHULNER And by the final scene, it’s very clear that she’s going to die in the street. We don’t need to see that.
DEADLINE Did you know that no matter what, you would want to end this with some hope?
HORTON We had to leave people with a taste of hope in their mouths.
DEADLINE Are we to assume that Max and Elizabeth (Sandra Mae Frank) stayed together?
SCHULNER It’s up to you to decide.
DEADLINE Did you feel like you had plenty of time to finish exactly how you wanted?
HORTON I do not know. I still think this thing could have, should have lasted a few more years. There are still so many stories to tell and these characters are so interesting. David came up with just a bunch of amazing characters and I want to know more about each of them. We’re #3 on Netflix right now. I don’t think the public is ready for it to end either.
SCHULNER And we’re still tied for number one in our timeslot.
HORTON It’s a bit of a mystery as to why it got canceled, to tell you the truth.