New Amsterdam EPs Talk Overturned Roe v. Wade Episode: 'The Show Was Made to Tackle' Such 'Horrifying' Issues

New Amsterdam Preview

Never one to shy away from real-world healthcare issues, New Amsterdam this Tuesday will tackle the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this past June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had previously made access to an abortion a federal right.

The episode (airing at 10/9c on NBC) finds all of the show’s doctors reacting to the news that fateful morning and trying to navigate their feelings about it, personally, and as medical professionals with a responsibility to their patients, even those with whom they do not agree.

Although it is sometimes challenging and saddening to explore, “these kinds of issues, both in our country and the healthcare industry, is why I wrote the show to begin with, is why I created New Amsterdam,” showrunner David Schulner tells TVLine. “As depressing and horrifying as it was, the show was made to tackle these issues. And so, we all put in everything we had into the episode.”

In addition to giving credit to the episode’s writer, Shanthi Sekaran, and the rest of the women in the writers’ room, Schulner also gives props to Universal Television and NBC, “because my worry was they weren’t going to let us do this episode,” the EP shares, “and the response when we handed it in [was], “We were waiting to see what you would do with this.” So that’s the kind of support we got, and [we] couldn’t be more grateful for that, to have partners like that.”

Below, Schulner and executive producer Aaron Ginsburg preview the timely installment, what the New Amsterdam docs are grappling with, and the futuristic version of the episode that almost was.

TVLINE | Can you walk me through the conception of this episode? Was this something you started talking about as soon as the news hit that Roe v. Wade had been overturned?
DAVID SCHULNER | Once the news leaked that the Supreme Court was going to address the issue, then we knew it was going to be overturned. So we knew we wanted to address everything, but we felt like we couldn’t do it until it actually happened. So once the Supreme Court leak went wide, Shanthi Sekaran, who is the writer of the episode, immediately emailed saying, “What what are we going to do? What are we going to write?” and I said, “We can’t write anything speculative, but start thinking of ideas now, start putting together the episode you want to write, so when it happens, we’re ready for it.” So she was noodling for months about what stories she would want the episode to have. And then once the news hit that it was overturned, I was in New York, and Aaron was in the writers’ room.
AARON GINSBURG | Shanthi brought so much great work in with her concept of the episode, and then as the room started talking that day, everyone was so emotional and passionate. And while we were all sitting around discussing it, we realized we needed to frame this episode in a way that was unique, that was a story in and of itself. And so we decided to sort of play it as this moment in time, this capsule where we can take every issue that that Supreme Court decision led people to think about, all in one episode through the eyes of all of our characters. It just like electrified the room. Everyone was contributing in this incredible way. And the result is this episode that we couldn’t be more proud of.
New Amsterdam PreviewSCHULNER | But you guys had a bunch of different framing devices. Talk about the one in the future. I got a call because I was in New York, and Aaron was saying, “Here’s what the room came up with,” and I remember one of them was modeled after those encapsulated episodes The West Wing used to do, like they did it after 9/11. They did one where they just took a moment at a time, and one of the things the room came up with was the Roe decision was a precursor to a national ban on abortion. So we had one episode that took place in the future once abortion was completely outlawed nationally.
GINSBURG | That pitch was really cool. It led us to have this discussion of like, “What will this road lead to?” But the thing that our show does so well is showcase the emotion and the cost of health care right now. David said, “Well, can we find a way to keep the framing device that’s so interesting without becoming a science-fiction version of this, where we’re guessing what might happen?” And so I took it back to the room, and the room used that frame as the morning of the decision, and can we tell five different stories with our leads that bounce around with what people’s reactions were that day, and can we make a testament to that moment in our country’s history, this really sad, tragic moment, and hopefully, leave the audience with some hope at the end of it?
SCHULNER | What was interesting was there was a conception in blue-state America that we would be protected, especially in California. Like yes, this is a tragedy for the nation, and yet, nothing changed at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, which is obviously where New Amsterdam is modeled after. But I wanted to challenge that perception that we would not be affected, that New York would not be affected, California would not be affected. That this decision that was left up to the states would have national consequences, and no one would be safe, and how could we dramatize that? That was something that I felt was a good challenge for us. Hopefully, we met that.

TVLINE | Bellevue or New Amsterdam is not affected, but the people within New Amsterdam are affected. It touches every character, and every character’s storyline this week is focused on this one story. There’s not really a B-plot as you might have in other episodes. How are Max and the rest of the characters handling the news, both on a personal level and as doctors?
SCHULNER | I will speak to Max’s character as a parent myself, raising two small children. I would never let my kids go to a college in a state that outlawed abortion. We used to spend Thanksgivings in Texas every year. I don’t want to go to Texas anymore. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, if you’re having a miscarriage, doctors are afraid to save your life because they can be prosecuted. We are not safe. And that’s where Max is coming from as a parent to a young girl. She’s not safe in this country anymore, medically speaking. That’s the country that Max is raising his daughter, and it’s devastating, and everyone has a personal connection to this issue, both as a doctor and as a human being.

New Amsterdam PreviewTVLINE | Obviously, it greatly impacts your female characters, Dr. Wilder and Dr. Bloom. Can you talk about what they’re going through in this episode?
GINSBURG | The Bloom story is hard to talk about without giving it away. But on the Wilder side, it was an interesting story, because we wanted to try to show a character who is trying to set politics aside and just be a doctor and not let politics sort of seep into what she’s trying to do, which is just to help people. And as we were breaking that story, we found it so fascinating to just challenge Elizabeth Wilder, to be like there’s some times when you can’t set politics aside these days. She tries the whole episode to do this, but we wanted to challenge her as a character to see at what point are people making healthcare decisions based on politics, which is obviously what we should not be doing. Obviously, it’s going affect her and all the other doctors in real life and in our show going forward.

New Amsterdam PreviewTVLINE | In the writers’ room, was there a lot of debate? Was there a lot of argument over pro-choice vs. pro-life as you were breaking this episode?
GINSBURG | It’s interesting, there wasn’t debate like that. Our room is, I would say, primarily pro-choice, if not entirely pro-choice. But the discussions that we had were basically how do we dramatize not just this decision, but what are the repercussions that this decision is going to have for the other characters? On some level, it was clearer how we can throw this issue into the minds of Lauren and Elizabeth and Max’s daughter, but we were talking about how can we bring Reynolds, how can we bring Iggy into this story and show people how this decision is going affect everybody in all sorts of different ways? And so, we had lots of different debates in terms of how best to do that. But the room is one of the best rooms I’ve ever been in, if not the best. It’s just a supportive, warm brilliant room of people who are constantly challenging each other to push the ideas even further, to make people feel something even deeper in their heart.