David Schulner and Peter Horton revealed they 'were hoping' to bring back Freema Agyeman for the series finale.
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched the series finale of New Amsterdam.
In the two-hour series finale, titled "Right Place"/"How Can I Help?," the New Amsterdam medical director made a surprising discovery about the cancer cure drug he was about to sign off on after learning that his ex, Helen Sharpe, was the one who instigated the experimental trial that would later prove problematic. Though Helen's intentions were likely to help Max during his cancer battle, the drug Max hoped would cure cancer was dead.
Even with that unfortunate hiccup, Max's last day as medical director was an intense one. After taking part in a complicated, down-to-the-wire medical case, Max said goodbye to the medical center he's called home for the past several years on a relatively high note -- opting to let his relationship with Dr. Elizabeth Wilder (Sandra Mae Frank) go for the time being and choosing to be a better father to his daughter, Luna (Nora and Opal Clow). The other doctors at the hospital also seemed to be starting new chapters, with Iggy (Tyler Labine) and Martin (Mike Doyle) getting remarried after their divorce, Bloom (Janet Montgomery) restarting a relationship with her sister, and Floyd (Jocko Sims) and nurse Gabrielle (Toya Turner) going strong.
The series, however, didn't end on Max but rather a flash-forward several decades later to a grown-up Luna standing in front of the staff at New Amsterdam Medical Center as its newest medical director. Officially stepping in her father's footsteps, she expressed a similar approach to medicine as her dad, explaining why it took her a while to realize the hospital didn't take her father away but gave him to her. Her inspirational speech ended on the same words Max would often say, "How can I help?"
"It was a blessing and a curse to know we were ending. A curse because we had more stories to tell and more places to go, and we thought we had a couple more years left. But a blessing because we got to end it on our terms and so few shows get to do that," co-showrunner Davd Schulner told ET over Zoom, admitting "there's an element of denial" over the show ending.
NBC announced last March that season 5 would be the medical drama's last. Four months later, longtime star Freema Agyeman, who played Helen Sharpe, confirmed her exit.
"I'm still in shock over it. Don't all shows go 19 years?" co-showrunner Peter Horton, who also works on Grey's Anatomy, joked when asked what was most crucial in crafting the ideal ending for New Amsterdam "But that's part of the frustration is we really felt like this had a number of years left. What you're pointing out is really a delicate path you walk, because you have to find that thing that's satisfying, but not pat and not romanticized too much. But that is also going to tell you enough that you feel satisfied by it, which is one of the reasons that we didn't tell you what happened with Max and Wilder."
"It's like, you got to leave that in a place of wonderful ambiguity, of not knowing and being able to imagine for yourself what happened with them based on what you know about them. Are they together? Are they not together? How did that evolve and resolve?" he continued. "We certainly know by the time we're in the future and Luna's giving her speech, there's an ACL interpreter in the background, so what does that all mean? And that's kind of where we wanted to leave Max with an unknown future, but a promising one."
Schulner shared that the series' final scene was first pitched by his 11-year-old daughter, which then followed with similar ideas floated by a few staff writers.
"I was like, 'OK, 11-year-old daughter, leave the heavy lifting to me, please. Finish your Cheerios.' And then Laura Valdivia, another writer on the show pitched me, 'What if Luna came back as medical director?' And then I was like, 'Oh, OK. That's interesting, now that you're saying it.' Then a week later, Erica Green [Swafford], another writer on the show said, 'Call me crazy, what if Luna comes back as medical director?'" he recalled. "And now all of a sudden, something was in the air those three weeks where the collective ending of the show was just screaming itself out loud, wanting to be known. So I'd be a fool to fight against that, the universe was telling me."
The fact that New Amsterdam didn't end with a final image of Max, but rather his grown-up daughter was a decision Schulner, Horton and the writers pored over as it left some questions about what happened in the time after Max left to that moment with Luna unanswered.
"It just gave us the best of everything. As Peter always says, 'Leaving a door open is better than [closing one].' That was his one thing. First thing Peter said to me when we started producing the show, 'Just a word of advice: Yes is almost always a better answer than no,'" Schulner explained. "And so leaving the door open is so much more satisfying than telling you what to think, telling you what happens exactly. Because then you get to participate in it. Then you get to be an active part of the show too."
"It's so delicate. If you imagine that ending being on Max's face compared to it being Max's daughter saying the same line, it's so much more satisfying for ineffable reasons to a degree," Horton added. "For some reason that just feels fresh as well as moving, as well as a resolution. And so it's always trying to find your way to that right note to end the symphony on. And I think we found it."
The duo was candid about how they felt the show still had a rich well of stories to tap into, leading them to remain open about revisiting the world down the line. Had New Amsterdam continued on, the producers shared what they would have explored in future seasons.
"We've always been a medical show that incorporated current events into its storylines. Eric Manheimer, who wrote Twelve Patients on which the show is based on, is still sending me medical stories. And I'm like, 'Eric, we're done. I don't have any place to put [these]. These are amazing, but we'll save them for the reboot," Schulner said.
"And David came up with amazing, rich, full-bodied characters and there's so much more to talk about with them," Horton said. "Can you get divorced and say, 'Let's go on a date, will it work and get remarried?' Does that work? I don't know. I would sure want to know. I'd like to explore that. Now that Bloom has her sister back and her sister's going to try [to get clean], is that going to work? And on and on. Everybody's got very human, convoluted stories to talk about. So yeah, this could go for a long, long time. Maybe not 19 years, but a couple of them."
Though Helen makes a brief appearance in one of the series' last episodes via old footage, efforts were made by producers to bring Agyeman back for the finale.
"We wanted Freema back for the finale. That was our goal," Schulner said. "We knew Peter's episode, episode 11, where that shot of her at the bar, we knew that we had that in the can, so we knew we could use that. But we were really hoping to have her in the finale. That would've been special. But we couldn't make it work."
"Yeah, we tried. We tried. And it just was timing," Horton confirmed.
As for whether they're satisfied with the way the series wraps up, they confessed they're "never satisfied." "We're never content, we're never satisfied. But no, please, we'll give you our phone numbers, call us. We'll do the reboot," Schulner quipped.
"We'll do the reboot in a heartbeat. There's so much more to tell. There's so much more to talk about," Horton said. "Send letters, send emails, inundate Universal [Television] with requests and demands. Take a look at how well we're doing on Netflix. There's so many reasons for them to just bombard the executives at Universal [Television]."
Schulner and Horton expressed gratitude to the fans who have stuck with the show since Day 1.
"Thank you to the fans who were there for all five years. It's why we did it," Schulner said.
"Quite a five years too, between all the political craziness and the pandemic and all that stuff. So yeah, definitely. Thanks for sticking with us through all that," Horton added.