Shows taking place in a hospital, by virtue of their setting, are innately emotional. Around every corner there are people welcoming babies into the world, or families saying goodbye to a departing relative. There is sickness, disease and infection. In a nutshell, hospitals are an incubator for drama, as we’ve seen with previous dramas E.R. and House.
Jocko Sims, a star of upcoming series New Amsterdam, promises the intensity you’d expect from a show of this nature. Based on the real-life Bellevue Hospital in New York City — the oldest hospital in the United States — New Amsterdam follows the story of new arrival Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) as he does a complete overhaul of the hospital’s staff and approach to medical care.
Sims plays Dr. Floyd Reynolds, Dr. Goodwin’s colleague at the hospital, who is unsure about his new coworker and his philosophies. Global News sat down to talk with him about the show, its authenticity and whether or not you’re going to need some tissues.
Global News: Is this the kind of emotionally intense show where you need to have tissues handy?
Jocko Sims: Absolutely. What everybody is seeing in the trailer, that’s the tone of the show. We’re pulling at the heartstrings, week after week. I think people are really going to enjoy it.
This show is based on Bellevue, which is a special facility because it has the ability to take care of people with infectious diseases like Ebola, it has a world-famous psych ward, and if the president of the United States gets sick, that’s the hospital he’s going to. It has top-of-the-line technology, and it’s sort of like a mini-city. We actually shoot in Bellevue and we have access to the doctors, which helps make the show more authentic.
Your character is a cardiologist?
Yes, I go from being fired to rehired in the same day! I get put in charge of the cardiac surgical department. That happens because Max Goodwin comes in and revamps the system; he fires everybody.
Is that because the existing doctors are mostly concerned with money?
Yes. They’re putting billing ahead of patient care, which happens quite a bit in our country, unfortunately, one of the many things broken with the system. After looks over my file, he says, “Wait a minute, this guy didn’t do a whole bunch of surgeries.” Then Reynolds says no, he didn’t perform the surgeries because patients didn’t need them. He sees that Reynolds is different, so not only does he keep him on the team, he puts him in charge.
One of the key things my character is going to have to deal with is rebuilding that department of the hospital.
A lot of medical dramas tend to only show the surface of a problem — in this case, the U.S. health care system. Does this show examine it more fully?
Yes, I think that’s what’s going to make New Amsterdam different.
Does this show get political? Does it go deep?
We’ve only shot one episode, so at this point it’s tough to tell. But the sense I get from the producers that the idea is not to polarize. I think the more we focus on the actual issues rather than attempting to make any sort of statement… it’s almost in documentary form… we look at it from the top-down and shine light on the difficulties. For example: why is the waiting room queue this long? Why does it take a doctor half a day to see a patient for 10 minutes? These obvious questions we’re going to take a look at will get people to think, no matter what side of the political spectrum they’re on. I think everybody is going to be able to agree that health care is a right, not a privilege.
Is Reynolds at all skeptical of Goodwin’s intentions?
He’s a little skeptical at first; in fact, everybody in the hospital is. They’re like, “Who is this young guy?” It’s interesting, because Eggold the actor is actually a little younger than me, and he comes in and just blows me away with this scene we do. There are parallels there in reality. As time goes by, you’ll see that he’s onto something, while dealing with his own family, and as you saw in the trailer, he has cancer. There’s a lot going on.
This guy has cancer, yet he’s still asking “How can I help?” That’s what this show is going to be about: getting people to step up and help, and getting people in the health-care system to start putting patients first.
How was working with Eggold so closely?
We elevate each other. It’s great. Floyd Reynolds is set in his ways, and he can be a little stubborn. I look forward to the writers playing with that, making us butt heads. We’re going to grow to like the fact that he’s a bit unconventional, but if he takes it too far, we’re going to have to push back.
Aside from Ebola — yikes — are there any other teases you can give in terms of what the doctors encounter on the show?
I will tease that there’s a relationship that’s going on in the hospital between my character and another doctor in the hospital. It’s complicated. He has to take a hard look at himself and his morals, and make some decisions.
Is this like “illness of the week” or is it a longer, arcing drama?
It’s important in shows like this to wrap things up in that episode, and make sure they’re standalones. At the same time, you’re going to see stories carrying on throughout the season, and some storylines that have an arc. Reynolds has a transformation in the first season, as does Goodwin. These are characters that people will be able to attach themselves to.
There are a lot of hospital shows out there, but this one stands out. We focus on patient care, and I think that’s what’s going to resonate with the audience.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]Follow @CJancelewicz
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