It was just three days after filming the finale of Bates Motel in Vancouver, Canada, that Freddie Highmore flew to Los Angeles to discuss about another role on another series – The Good Doctor.
The 25-year-old actor plays Dr Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome. Because of his condition, he has to overcome prejudices from the St. Bonaventure hospital’s surgical unit to prove that he can, in fact, do his job.
When the role came along, Highmore wasn’t looking at accepting a job so soon after completing a gig that took five years of his life. But he couldn’t shake off the connection he felt after reading the script.
“It just jumps into your head … you hear (the character) speaking already in your head and what you can bring to the part,” explains Highmore, calling from Vancouver where he’s in the midst of filming the 18-episode series. “That is what I see when doing anything (new) really, what I feel most drawn to.”
Having seen him nail the American accent on Bates Motel for five seasons and, now, The Good Doctor, it’s easy to forget that Highmore actually hails from London.
“Shaun’s voice is quite distinctive, so it’s not really an accent – his is more of the cadence, the pitch at which he speaks,” Highmore clarifies.
“I try to stay within the normal British voice,” he laughs. “I feel like I am overcompensating actually. On the set, I try to maintain an American accent, so I am not thinking about it and it becomes second nature. Whereas now I’m like, ‘No. I have to speak British otherwise it would be weird.’ You’d probably hear American vowels now and then, I apologise.”
With the help of books, documentaries, and autism expert Melissa Reiner, who’s consulting on the show, Highmore hopes to bring some authenticity to his performance. However, he emphasises this is just a story about one person.
“It’s an impossible task and somewhat ignorant to try and claim that we’re going to be representing, through one singular individual, all people who are on the spectrum and tell everyone’s stories,” he says.