Interview: Freddie Highmore, from 'Bates Motel' to 'The Good Doctor'.
Freddie Highmore is politely thanking me for a lolly necklace, while we talk about the tumultuous weather - this is no joke. Living up to all expectation of a polite British actor, Highmore laughs that he’s “gonna be very bad” at drawing a self-portrait, but his stick figure provides us both with amusement regardless.
Starting out as a child actor in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, Highmore has had a long-lasting career in a variety of roles thus far - gaining notoriety playing Norman Bates in ‘Bates Motel’, and now in ‘The Good Doctor’, where he both produces and stars as Dr. Shaun Murphy, an autistic surgical resident. The medical drama (which was recently renewed for a second season) has been praised for its representation of the developmental disorder, something which Highmore is particularly passionate about portraying.
While in New Zealand on a promotional trip with Lightbox, we spoke with Highmore about the show, the optimism of Shaun Murphy, and more…
...I think he [Shaun Murphy] raises questions and asks questions without judgement, but in a way that hopefully will make us rethink certain things that we maybe assumed about life in general or the way that society is run. Maybe they are questions that either we haven't recognised ourselves or been made aware of in quite the same way, or perhaps it’s questions that we are just too afraid to ask.
COUP DE MAIN: Congratulations, Freddie! 'The Good Doctor' has just been renewed for a second season, it must be so exciting!
FREDDIE HIGHMORE: Yeah! Sorry, I was distracted by your selection [of candy] - are these all from New Zealand?
CDM: I think so, mostly.
FREDDIE: Thank you! But yes, it’s lovely that it’s been renewed. I actually had just got to Australia in the earlier stages of this little tour when we found out for sure that it was going to happen.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT ‘THE GOOD DOCTOR’ BEING RENEWED FOR SEASON 2…
CDM: You’re also a producer on ‘The Good Doctor’. What was it about this project that you wanted to be involved on a larger scale than just an actor?
FREDDIE: I guess I got the desire to be involved in the wider process in 'Bates Motel' when I wrote and got to direct for the first time too. So when this came along I sat down with David [Shore] and said how much I enjoyed being part of that wider process, and so it made sense in that way. I think also, it is such an important subject and character that I wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page in wanting to make sure that Shaun [Murphy] and his autism were portrayed as authentically as possible.
CDM: ‘Bates Motel’ gave you the opportunity to write and direct several episodes of the show. Is that something you want to pursue further, in addition to acting?
FREDDIE: Yes! I think in season 2 of 'The Good Doctor' I'm going to be able to be involved in that way too. It just came along naturally in the sense of putting everything into that short little period of shooting for five months a year, but instead of going away and not being involved at all between seasons, I kind of wanted to have a continuation of investment in it and coming up with ideas and being helpful in that way.
CDM: Shaun’s character has such a hopeful outlook and optimism about him, it’s so refreshing to what we’re used to seeing on TV. Why do you think its important that a character like this exists on the screen?
FREDDIE: I guess he reminds us or teaches us to stay optimistic and hopeful, ourselves. You turn on the TV, as you say, and there is so much negative news and pessimism, not purely in terms of antiheroes and other dramas, but just in general in the world. It is nice to have someone that isn't didactic, who isn't teacherly in saying, 'You have to do this!', but more sets an example of how the rest of us could perhaps behave better. In terms of questions too, I think he raises questions and asks questions without judgement, but in a way that hopefully will make us rethink certain things that we maybe assumed about life in general or the way that society is run. Maybe they are questions that either we haven't recognised ourselves or been made aware of in quite the same way, or perhaps it’s questions that we are just too afraid to ask.
MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT ‘THE GOOD DOCTOR’ IS…
CDM: What do you think would happen if Shaun Murphy and Norman Bates were to meet one another in real life?
FREDDIE: <laughs> I mean my first thought goes to this battle somehow between Norman and Shaun. I don't know... I think Shaun has got a feisty… inside. I think Norman, especially towards the end, was very manipulative but he is also loving. I think they are going to get on great - I'm going to go with that answer. They'd be like brothers and they would help each other out.
CDM: I can totally picture this. You should definitely make it happen!
FREDDIE: Maybe Shaun would help Norman realise that it didn't need to be the tragic end, hopefully he got to him before season three or four of 'Bates Motel' - in time to save the world.
CDM: You went to Cambridge University where you studied multiple languages, and you’re fluent in three languages in addition to English. Would you ever want to act in those other languages?
FREDDIE: I'd love to! Absolutely! Both of those would be great, so we shall have to see. I won't attempt to play a part of a New Zealander in the future, I hear that a fellow Brit did it very badly and was mocked for it for a while, <laughs> so I will avoid that.
CDM: It makes it harder to be lazy research-wise for an interview, but I really respect that you don't have any form of public social media.
FREDDIE: Thank you.
CDM: It’s really cool that actors like you, and like Alex Lawther (from Netflix’s ‘The End Of The F***ing World’) are doing so well, without the help of social media followings.
FREDDIE: I didn't know that he... I've never actually met him, even though we're both Brits and everyone assumes that you know everyone. You must have the same in New Zealand, like, ‘What do you mean? You must know everyone in New Zealand?’ <laughs> It’s not out of a dislike or a hatred for it, and I think it is more that I was just old enough growing up that it wasn't during my teenage years, this sort of necessity in terms of communication, and then from that point on it sort of just stayed with me in that way.
CDM: You starred in The Libertines’ music video for ‘You're My Waterloo’ back in 2015. If you could star in a music video for any song of your choosing, what would it be?
FREDDIE: That's right! I had forgotten about that. That is a good question. I don’t know… My thought goes to the idea of Norman or Shaun being in a music video themselves and how they would be. I like the idea of Norman listening to 'My Way' right at the end of 'Bates Motel' and being there as Frank Sinatra is singing it and Norman holds Norma's hand and.... I don't know, that intrigues me as an idea. <laughs>
‘The Good Doctor’ is available on Lightbox now - click here for more info. Watch the trailer below…