‘The Good Doctor’ Star Freddie Highmore Likens Final Season to Graduation: ‘This Big Momentous Event’ | Video

Co-showrunner Liz Friedman also previews Shaun Murphy taking on fatherhood in Season 7

After seven seasons, ABC’s long-running medical drama “The Good Doctor” is coming to an end. For star Freddie Highmore, bringing the show to a satisfying conclusion feels like a graduation.

“It does feel like this big momentous event that fills you with nostalgia and extra love for all of these people that you’ve been working with for so long,” the actor told TheWrap ahead of Tuesday’s Season 7 premiere. “You realize how that world as you see it filled with those people doing a certain thing will no longer ever be the same. But at the same time it’s natural to move on, and there’s a part of me that’s excited to look at other things and new opportunities that come along. The graduation thing kind of sums it up for me.”

Executive producer and co-showrunner Liz Friedman told TheWrap that the decision to end the show came from ABC.

“ABC let us know that this was this was their decision. It wasn’t a complete surprise but I was sad about it. I do definitely feel like there were some more stories we could have done,” she said. “But I am relieved that they told us when they did so that we could wrap up the show and wrap up Shaun Murphy’s story — at least as far as the audience will experience it — on our own terms and give him a proper ending.”

At the end of Season 6, Shaun and his wife Lea (Paige Spara) welcomed their first child. This season will see the titular doctor balance the daunting task of fatherhood with saving lives at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.

“We do a fair amount of research on this show, and we have consultants who talked to us about working with people on the spectrum and how they made the transition to being parents,” Friedman said. “It was really fun to explore that and think about the ways that Shaun could be challenged that we were expecting, versus the ones that are surprising; where he could really excel and then where he could realize he had to change how he approached things. Babies are notoriously tough negotiators, so that was a fun situation to put him in.”

Freddie Highmore and Paige Spara in “The Good Doctor” Season 7 (ABC/Jeff Weddell)

“I certainly don’t envy him having the task of doing that. But it is exciting and it’s funny,” Highmore added. “I think this last season is going to be incredibly satisfying on multiple levels, but certainly seeing Shaun progressing and growing as a person and in his marriage with Lea now that they’ve got a little baby, which is crazy.”

While the character has evolved, Highmore says that his approach to playing Shaun has remained consistent.

“I’m consistently not very good at medicine in a real way. It has dawned on me that in the seven years we’ve been doing the show, I could have done a medical degree for real and now actually be prepared to save people’s lives, which probably would have been a maybe more beneficial thing for the world had I done that instead,” Highmore joked. “But I can say that all of us have wanted to make the best show possible. And I’m proud that right up until the end, we’ve always cared deeply about this and about telling these stories.”

Despite having the “tall assignment to wrap up a seven-year journey,” Friedman is hopeful that the show’s conclusion will stick the landing for fans.

“We’ve started working on it and and are just trying to look at what the legacy of the show has been, the ways that Shawn has grown and how we can really pay tribute to that and the people who have touched his life,” she said.

Fiona Gubelmann, Will Yun Lee, Christina Chang and Freddie Highmore in “The Good Doctor” Season 7(ABC/Jeff Weddell)

When asked about what they think the long-lasting impact of the show will be, Highmore believes it’s about giving people hope and reminding audiences that there’s “more good in the world than bad, and that people are more the same than different.” He also sees “The Good Doctor” as a positive way to raise awareness about individuals with autism.

“If in some small, tiny, little way, this show has been able to raise awareness with autism or challenge stereotypes, then that would certainly be the thing I’m most proud of,” Highmore said.

For Friedman, the legacy of the show is in realizing how valuable people’s differences are.

“I’m gay and when I was younger, everybody used the word tolerance a lot. I think what we’ve come to understand now is tolerance is not all it’s cracked up to be and not what we’re really going for,” she said. “What we’re really going for to make progress as a society is acceptance and understanding; that allowing people into your life who are different than you, are different from what you feel is a normal or typical person or outside of your comfort zone, is really beneficial.”

Moving forward, Friedman hopes that “The Good Doctor” will pave the way for more stories centered around neurodiverse people and other underrepresented groups on screen — both through programming and casting opportunities.

“We’ve cast people who are amputees in roles on the show,” she said. “So I do think there is some real, interesting things going on in terms of opportunities for real authentic casting.”

“The Good Doctor” Season 7 premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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