Before the shutdown of the century, we attended the SCAD aTVfest in Atlanta.
New Amsterdam's showrunner David Schulner and cast member Tyler Labine (Dr. Iggy Frome) were on hand to answer a few questions for us.
As you prepare for the next explosive episode of the thrilling NBC series, check out this short interview.
How do you come up with all of the cases showcased, and how do you determine what social issues you explore?
David Schulner: It really all comes from the writers. I was telling people I have a huge wall in the writer's room full of note cards of stories that I think are incredible and New Amsterdam should tackle. I love them. I'm passionate about them, and no one wants to do them.
All the writers look at the wall and say "that's really nice that you like those, but I have this amazing story that I want to tell." So all our stories originate with each individual writer.
Something they saw on the news, something that happened to them, and they bring it to me, and we develop it in the room together, and it becomes an episode. But, we don't go looking for stories. The stories come from us.
Tyler Labine: They're very topical and you should see this room. It's the most... I know the word diversity gets thrown around a lot, but really, all walks of life. Everybody is represented in that room. David has said on a number of occasions, like that's why we have such good storytelling because everybody's telling the story. So, you know.
And Iggy is so different than anything you've played in the past. He's so multifaceted with so many different layers. Where do you find your inspiration to become Iggy?
Tyler: I don't know. I mean from, from these guys. Honestly, from the get-go it was like, I sort of felt like I had to play catch up a lot in the beginning. I was like, "oh my God, I'm out of my depth."
I've played a lot of real funny characters, and I can definitely hang with a bunch of comedic actors, and I can ad-lib until the cows come home, and I know how to do that. I spent 30 years perfecting that, and then I did this show, and I've done some dramas before, but nothing really...
This is deep.
Tyler: This is deep, and I honestly, the first half of [New Amsterdam Season 1], I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing, now why did they hire me?" Like I don't... I guess this is what I should do; this is how you be Iggy or whatever. But I feel like something really funny happened within that.
Ans I'm sure you probably see a point where I settled a little bit, but in the beginning, I remember very actively being like, "I can do anything. I can, literally. Iggy can be anything." I don't know. There's no rules. I felt like the drama, sort of playing field is much more open than the comedic playing field. Does that make sense?
Yes, absolutely. It's more realistic to life.
Tyler: You get to tell a story and you can, I sound like an idiot, but comedy is very constricted. It's very restrictive. You have one rule, make people laugh. And often the story gets dropped by the wayside and it's just like, do that thing.
Drama, everyone wants to feel, and everyone's there, and they want to have a good scene with you, and no one's trying to like one-up you, and it really feels good.
So I found that the cast was very inspiring to me, to work with these guys who are all so incredible and have all done a lot more drama than me. And then the material just kept getting better and better.
I was afraid that they were going to start writing me out of the show because I didn't know what I was doing, and they kept giving me more, and I was like, "why in the world do you think I could do this?"
But I wouldn't know that.
David: No, I wouldn't know it either. And we cast him because the list of actors who could play Iggy is about four people. And Tyler was always at the top of that list. And so people say they didn't see Tyler in the role. I always saw Tyler in the role.
Tyler: It's an interesting role. It's like there's a trope on these dramas and procedurals where it's like, got to have the kind of the schlubby, funny dude who brings some levity to this otherwise very dramatic show.
And I was wary of that until I read the pilot, and I was like, "oh, I don't think that's what they want. I think there's going to be a certain level of levity that I think is necessary for a show, but this isn't going to be just another goofy character I play."
And my hunch was right, and it just kept opening up and opening up and opening up. And I think, in that regard, the role of Iggy is very different from any of those Iggy-type roles on TV because those end up being very one dimensional, almost all are.
No offense to any of my friends who play a lot of those roles, but they know. They know they complain to me about it all the time. But the storylines, the depth of this character just kept opening up. So it's been really rewarding and I think it's really rare on TV.
So tell me what we have look forward to. Can you tease anything that's coming up?
David: Boy, we have Tyler's storyline. Dr. Frome's story's going to come to a head on [New Amsterdam Season 2 Episode 18].
Is that with the narcissistic personality disorder or the eating?
David: The eating, it's... And it's going to really mirror the way that Dr. Frome helped Dr. Bloom in Season 1 with her addiction. We're going to kind of flip that on its head, and it's going to be Dr. Bloom and Iggy again, but on opposite sides.
Oh nice, nice.
Tyler: Yeah, we just shot that. Fantastic. And Janet Montgomery, who's such an outstanding actor, yeah, we really drew a lot out of each other. So I think people are going to enjoy it.
David: It is pretty explosive.
New Amsterdam Season 2 Episode 17 airs tonight on NBC.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.