Following last season’s near-confession, “it’s sort of time to figure that out, for better for worse, whatever that means. It’s time to sort of address it,” Eggold tells TVLine in the following Q&A.
But first, Max and the rest of the doctors at New Amsterdam must contend with the devastating effects of COVID as Season 3 kicks off this Tuesday (NBC, 10/9c). Below, Eggold previews the toll of the virus on the hospital staff and how Max is handling being separated from his daughter in the midst of it all. And of course, the actor talks all things “Sharpwin.”
TVLINE | We’re returning to a hospital that has been hit pretty hard by COVID. How has that impacted the doctors?
We’ve all been living through so much, and we’ve all been affected by it one way or another, and, particularly, obviously, the frontline health care workers, our nurses, our doctors, everybody who has been sacrificing so much to fight this and to try to keep people safe and healthy. So when we start the season, our first responsibility was to reflect that fight and the intensity of that experience for these healthcare workers, and how much they have sacrificed and how difficult the job they had and continue to have [is].
TVLINE | As the head of New Amsterdam, how is Max, personally, handling this new reality? What is his state of mind?
His feeling, his sentiment, has always been, “How can I help?” and this year, it’s sort of evolving from, “How can I help?” to “How can we rebuild? How can we start over? How can we make this work?” Not just improve it a little bit at a time, but maybe there’s a better way to do it, in terms of very fundamental reform, which is something I think we’re looking to many of our institutions for right now. He’s still in the throes of that process of putting his feet on the ground and realizing how idealistic he is, without losing his sense of optimism or his ambition to change the world, change this hospital, change the lives around him. But he’s certainly discovering that he can’t do it on his own, and that change doesn’t come overnight. So he’s trying to see the whole situation differently about what it does really need, and how we make this better for everybody.
TVLINE | You can’t go through something like what Max and all the doctors at New Amsterdam did without it taking an emotional toll. Is that something that is explored, his mental well-being?
Yeah, I think so. It comes up in moments. I think in Episode 4, there’s a moment where he lets his guard down for a second and has a private moment, and we see what’s going on with him. It’s such an intense fight that they’ve all been fighting, and it certainly takes a toll, perhaps even in ways that they don’t even realize. At the same time, Max has been keeping his daughter Luna with Georgia’s parents to keep her away from the hospital and from him to try to protect her from getting sick. There’s a real sort of guilt and questioning of himself that’s happening of, “Is this too long? Have I been away too long? Does she remember who I am? Am I doing the right thing? Am I being a bad father? Do I need her around more? Should I be there? Should I not be there?” He’s trying to figure out how to incorporate that into this larger-than-life situation that they’re in with the hospital.
TVLINE | The promos for the new season reveal that Vijay has contracted COVID. How does seeing one of their own in that condition affect the rest of the characters?
It just shows them how close to home it can hit, and that nobody’s invincible or above a virus, a pandemic, and just further reminds them that this situation is extraordinary. They can’t even keep their own doctors healthy, and they’re the ones who are supposed to be providing the care. So it’s just another reminder of the magnitude of this fight that they’re in.
TVLINE | Last season, Max attempted to move on, romantically, with Alice, but he wasn’t fully able to. Obviously, he has way more life-and-death things on his mind right now, but as the season progresses, how is he feeling about romance and his love life?
I think it’s a real question for him, whether or not he’s ready to move on from his wife, which he tried with [Alice] and didn’t quite make it. And I think more so than even for him and his own sense of romantic fulfillment or anything, it’s for his daughter. I think he wants a partner and a mother to Luna, and I think he wants to figure that out. I don’t know that he’s entirely ready, but I think that is coming to a head soon.
TVLINE | You could say that he sort of already has that in Helen. There was a moment last season where it seemed like Helen was pushing him to confront his feelings with the “I did it for you” scene. Is that going to be addressed in this coming season?
Yeah, absolutely. There were a lot of plans for the end of Season 2, in terms of storylines and scripts written and things, and then because of the pandemic, like everyone else, we just had to walk away. And so the writers had to rewrite a lot of the story, I think, and a lot of the direction and, certainly, incorporate this new reality. But I do think that Helen was pushing Max to voice whatever has been unvoiced between them. And I think there is something that Max is running from there, because it’s probably part of the reason he keeps himself so busy and overwhelmed with trying to help other people and the amount of workload he takes on is to avoid some sitting with something, some vulnerability. The tables kind of turn a little bit on Max, and that situation is complicated this season in a great way. But it’s sort of time to figure that out, for better for worse, whatever that means. It’s time to sort of address it.
TVLINE | A lot of people have very strong feelings about whether Max and Helen should remain just friends, or if they should be a romantic couple. Do you have a preference? Or are you willing to let the writers steer you and see where the story goes?
I have a preference. I have some thoughts on where that story might go, but I don’t want to say because I don’t want to color people’s opinion or perspective on it. But [showrunner] David [Schulner] and the writers do a great job of steering that ship and telling that story and crafting that relationship, and David’s very generous in allowing me or Freema [Agyeman] or whomever to contribute a thought or an idea or suggestion of which way we may want to go. But I do know, whichever way that relationship goes, that it’s time to go somewhere, in the sense that there has been something unvoiced between them for a long time, and I think the time for introspection or wondering or figuring it out has sort of passed, and it’s time to go to a new place in their relationship, whatever that means, whether that means friends, whether that means together, whether that means not speaking to each other. It’s time to clarify what that is.