Sophia Bush Says It's an 'Honor' to Play a Surgeon on CBS' 'Good Sam' (Exclusive)

The actress and producer previews the new series, co-starring Jason Isaacs, with ET.

Sophia Bush is taking the mantle.

The star and producer of CBS' freshman medical drama, Good Sam, plays the titular character, Dr. Sam Griffith, a talented heart surgeon who finds her place at the top of the food chain as the new chief of surgery after her boss falls into a coma. The twist? Her boss happens to be her father, the arrogant and difficult but iconic Dr. Rob "Griff" Griffith (played by Jason Isaacs), who's never respected Sam's brilliance in the operating room or in life. So when he wakes up from his coma months later, Sam is stuck with the difficult task of supervising him while navigating the treacherous waters of a father who's never respected her. Therein lies the crux of the series' dramatic tension.

"Sam Griffith is phenomenal. She is incredibly smart, a little anxious like me. Very willing to think outside the box to find solutions because she really believes in people. She's the kind of person who views empathy as a superpower just as much as she views being an incredible doctor and I have such a phenomenal time embodying her world every day," Bush tells ET of her character, whose "contentious" relationship with her father drives much of the conflict at the start. "I think Sam would love for him to be more her father than a surgeon and he only knows how to be her father by being her teacher. It's a really beautiful conflict to witness because both of these characters have been written with enough nuance to feel full and you see where they're both coming from -- even when one feels a bit like a villain and when one, at times, feels like a kid."

"Sam is in charge of the department and for her father to return to it under her leadership is incredibly difficult for him, and it feels timely. I don't know anyone in their adult life who isn't trying to figure out how to recreate our relationship with our parents, so that they can be two sets of adults who love each other and how hard it can be for parents to see us, despite how grown-up we get, as anything but their babies," the Chicago P.D. alum says, adding that Sam is "tenacious," "ambitious," "deeply empathetic" and "sensitive," and also happens to take solace in playing the piano. "There are the dynamics of their parent-and-child relationship and there's also the dynamic of shifting gender [norms], who gets a seat at the table, who gets to be in charge in these giant businesses so it feels really fun for all of us to be exploring something with characters that are unique. But with stories that everyone can relate to."

Interestingly enough, Bush had desires of becoming a doctor herself before getting hit with the acting bug. One of her goals "as a young person" was to "go to medical school and become a heart surgeon, and then I started doing plays and realized I loved theater," the 39-year-old actress reveals. "I told my parents, much to their dismay, my senior year in high school that I wasn't going to go to medical school, I was going to go to get a BFA. You can imagine the thrill and here we are all these years later when I've made all of this television and all of these films and I’m playing a heart surgeon!" 

"Sam speaks very fast, so when I have to spit out seven symptoms and one of them is 'superficial venous thrombosis' and I have to say that fast in a line with other terms, it can be a little insane but I love it. I really, really love it," Bush says of tackling the complicated medical jargon. "I feel like all the stars have aligned in the wildest way and I've learned a lot about myself. I'm not a fan of needles but I can literally watch a surgeon cut someone's chest open with a bone saw and go, 'How do you know how much pressure to apply there?,' and it doesn't bother me at all, so I'm clearly doing the job I'm supposed to do."

Ramona Diaconescu/CBS

During a particularly difficult time amid a pandemic, Bush acknowledges that playing a doctor on TV and shining a light on frontline workers and healthcare professionals has been "an incredible honor."

"It's not something that I take lightly and it's something that we really try to do right by, whether it's the doctors on our writing staff, the background actors that come to play with us every day who are actually firefighters and EMTs and nurses and, at times, even doctors themselves," Bush expresses. "It's really important to us to do this right and if anything has come out of the last two years especially -- living through a global pandemic, seeing what our healthcare workers went through, being able to tell their stories accurately -- it feels like a huge responsibility and it's something that I’m really proud of."

"We are living through an age where we are seeing a lot of propaganda for profit, which is wounding frontline workers, that’s actually doing a detriment to public health," she notes. "So for us to be able to come to work and tell the truth about this kind of environment feels really really big and I’m proud of our whole team because everyone takes it seriously and we're just hoping that all of the healthcare professionals that watch this show, we hope we're doing right by them. We hope we do them proud."

And the One Tree Hill alumna shared a key piece of advice she'd offer to Sam.

"We're both women really learning to own our worth and really stepping into their own power and saying, 'I'm good at this and I deserve to be here and I earned my place here and I fought to be here and me being in charge makes sense,' and that is not a lesson that any of us learn quickly," Bush says. "It's a lot of fun to be having that experience, to be reminded of that by my co-workers and also by my dearest friends and to see Sam being reminded by her dear friends and co-workers as well. There's a lot in this whole experience that has that sort of stardust or sparkle on it. It feels very kismet. There's magic in the air here."

As for the show as a whole, Bush has high hopes that it's just what viewers need right now. 

"The show is, no pun intended, good... It's really grounded and it's really honest and the stakes are high but there's also so much humor and there's so much hope. If there's anything that a setting like this could give to viewers, it's hope for support and help and assistance and a miracle at times and for connection and for depth. It feels inspiring to read every script, it feels inspiring to watch the show. It's a show that makes you happy and I think people really deserve some hope right now," the actress says.

"It's genuinely special to be making a hopeful show," Bush shares. "And I think in a world where so many people feel divided, where stress has been so high, where we've all gone through this pandemic together, to come into a space like this and see so many people from different backgrounds and opinions and places working toward the common good, that makes me feel inspired."

Good Sam premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For more, watch below.

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