With the pickup for season two of The Good Doctor, Christina Chang, who plays Dr. Audrey Lim, an attending trauma surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, got the good news that she was being upgraded from recurring to series regular — and the show is making excellent use of her ever since.
Last week on the “Middle Ground” episode, Dr. Lim risked a lawsuit and her career to help a teenage girl repair the damage caused by the archaic custom of genital mutilation. Even though she was underage, Dr. Lim accepted her fake ID, despite being warned by Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper), president of the hospital, that she was putting her job on the line.
“I think she puts her medical practice before herself,” Chang told Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “That’s what came up in that episode with Dr. Andrews saying, ‘Well, that’s the difference between you and Dr. Melendez [Nicholas Gonzalez] is that you’re willing to fight for what you believe to be an important procedure or issue.’ She jeopardizes herself, basically, and believes very strongly in that.”
But this week, we will get to go outside of the hospital to take care of some personal business with Dr. Lim as she leaves oversight of the emergency room to Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) and Dr. Morgan Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann), so we will have the opportunity to see what she’s like when she’s not constrained by the hospitals rules.
“She spends a majority of that episode outside of the hospital and then runs into a little trouble. Let’s put it that way,” Chang says.
What is it about Dr. Lim that would make her take a chance that could cost her career?
She’s driven by the fact that she’s one of very few females in this position. Statistically speaking, in reality, only 19 percent of surgeons are women. I actually can’t imagine a real-life, female surgeon being aware of this because there’s so few. They’re in the minority.
I think she is driven even more so to standing up for and with women and girls, as evidenced in season one when she had her conversation with Antonia’s [Thomas] character, Dr. Claire Browne, in which she said, “Stop fighting me so much. We need to work together. I’m already swimming upstream with the men at this hospital and in our field. Can we please work together?”
So, going forward what would you like to see for Dr. Lim? One of the things Dr. Andrews pointed out was that the position of Chief of Surgery was available. Does she want to get into more of a position of power?
I think what’s most important to her is not that title. I think she sees being Chief of Surgery as a leg up in that she would be able to be a somber voice in what she’s already doing, but also what an amazing feat that would be, too, for the Chief of Surgery to be a woman. So, I think for those reasons, that’s what is attractive to her, and it’s an alluring position. That said, she’s not about the title and I don’t think she would do very well in the politics of the administration and the hospital politics of the board. I think that would be possibly trickier for her.
Obviously, The Good Doctor gets attention for having an autistic character. What it’s like to play scenes with Freddie and when he’s not acting, does he break character?
Working with Freddie, and it sounds like such a cliché, but it is really easy. It’s so fun to play with him in a scene. He’s playful as well. You don’t always get — even with good actors — a sense of playfulness or an ability to, not improv, because we don’t really do that with lines so much, but just playing with the delivery, or the button at the end of the scene. He might try different things, which is always delightful because you never know what’s coming next in terms of a choice he might make for the character.
Then he’s just so kind and nice, and he’s brilliant. He wrote the premier episode for season two, and he’s going to direct further down the line. So, he’s capable of wearing many different hats at the same time but when we’re on set and we’re acting together, he’s very present and it’s easy to be with him in a scene.
The second question was: Does he break character? I don’t know if I should be revealing his methods. I will say this, obviously, he’s English and when he is on set he can flip back and forth, but he often stays in the American dialect, especially right before a scene. He does do just to keep in character and, right before we shoot, he’s not goofing around. He’s focused.
Do you think that storyline wise, Shaun is more accepted by other doctors in season two?
Yes, I think the idea of Dr. Murphy is less new. So, it’s less about accepting him as a fellow resident, and it’s more focused on how to manage him sometimes and how to help him. Also, I think they’re starting to really get that they can learn things from him, you know? Dr. Lim’s never had a problem with him. She treats him the way she treats everybody else, which is: “If you’ve got something for me, great. If you don’t, please go away. I’m in the middle of something.”
Do you have any personal experience with autism?
Yes, I do. I have a handful of friends whose children range from severely autistic to the other side of the spectrum. It’s interesting because just because you’ve met one person doesn’t mean you’ve met them all. Every single person that is on the spectrum is different from one another in that it presents differently. Some of them are similar to the way Shaun Murphy is on the show and then, for example, I have a friend with an 18-year-old son now and they work very, very hard with him and I just ran into him about three months ago and he was able to look me in the eye and shake my hand, so it’s different for every person.
You have recurred on a lot of series — Nashville, Rizzoli & Isles, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, 24, and you started on this as recurring, but you’ve gone to series regular, so what’s that transition been like?
Pretty seamless, which I think speaks to how great the production is. The cast was very welcoming. I’ve been very lucky, I feel like. Every cast that I’ve gotten to work with has been fairly nice and welcoming, and the same with this one. Then when I got promoted to series regular, everybody seemed very happy about it. The only difference being that I’m just working more, but it’s been a pretty seamless transition.
It’s a good thing, working more, because it gives you more time to discover who Dr. Lim is and all that kind of good stuff.
It’s so fun to discover. When we read the script, it’s new to us so it’s fun to see like, “What is part of her back story today?” or “What’s going to come out of her mouth?” So, yeah, it’s great to discover this character. I like her. I do.
The Good Doctor airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.