If Nicholas Gonzalez looks familiar it’s for very good reason. In what many are calling the golden age of television, Gonzalez is appearing on some of the best television out today. From turns in Netflix Narcos, BET’s Being Mary Jane, and ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder to his most recent series The Good Doctor, which debuts on September 25th on ABC.
‘LLERO had an opportunity to chat with Nicholas and after speaking with him you know exactly why he’s lighting up prime time. Whip smart, giving, gracious and infectiously passionate about his craft and family Nicholas shared what appealed to him about The Good Doctor, how he hit his stride and what lies on the horizon.
‘LL: First, thanks for taking the time to chat with us, and congratulations on the show. The Good Doctor is based on a South Korean television series. Will this incarnation be faithful to that version or a show all its own?
Nicholas Gonzalez: It’s really something all its own. The original show which was an amazing show with an incredible following, possibly one of the bigger Korean dramas out there. It was a really great premise that Sebastian Lee and Daniel Day Kim saw the potential in and brought to David Shore. The set-up is the same, but after that we deviate from the original.
‘LL: What was it about the show that appealed to you? You play Dr. Neil Melendez, head of surgery on the show. Can you tell us about the character? What can we expect from him?
Nicholas Gonzalez: For one, across the board, if you ask any of the actors what appealed to them with the project, it was the writing. Hands down, when you’re doing a David Shore script it really stands in high regard. I’ve seen every pilot script there is. I’ve been doing this for how many years [laughs] and a script like this really stands out. And that’s saying a lot when it comes to network shows, because network shows used to be the powerhouse, used to be the titans of this industry and now there are streaming platforms and so many other places so a lot of network shows rather than continue to throw out the same thing, need to turn it on its ear a bit, and that’s what David’s done with this project. So for me, not only was I attracted to work with the crew and creative individuals that have been achieving on a very high level but the script.
Dr. Neil Melendez is a very exacting surgeon, who is a tough boss with the team at the hospital. He’s not a mean guy, he just has to be sure his team is ready. See them in action. It’s very high risk, lives are at stake and Neil has to constantly impress that upon the team. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly and has to know he can trust them implicitly and that’s the conflict when Dr. Shaun Murphy enters, because he is unpredictable. [Melendez] job is to reduce the unpredictable in the operating room.
Dr. Shaun Murphy represents an unpredictable factor in there until [Melendez] can see how he works. I’m going to be there to help him with things that he can’t solve, but he has the power to help me with things I can’t figure out. It will be a learning process for both, the teacher will become the student and [vice-versa] the roles will flip-flop a lot.
‘LL: Harkening back to prior medical dramas it sounds like Dr. Melendez is a bit like Peter Benton from the E.R. days. Was that an influence in developing the character?
Nicholas Gonzalez: It’s hard not to look at that. I remember watching that show when it first came out so you’d be wrong to say I didn’t think about any of that, I didn’t go back to study that per se, but that character is iconic in television as well as some of the characters I grew up watching on St. Elsewhere. My brother is a surgeon, he’s a graduate of Stanford University and Columbia Med School and did his residency at Harvard at Mass General, he’ s now a general surgeon practicing in San Antonio, Texas, his name is John Joseph Gonzalez, or I call J.J., he was more the inspiration for me. He’s very much like this character, so I often times find myself channeling his character, I know the way he talks to patients, people around him. He very much embodies a lot of that. I consult with him all the time on research, he even came when we were filming the pilot and was an unofficial technical advisor. We had him right there, we’d cut, ask him – Is that right J.J.? If he’d say yes, then ok, moving on. I talk to him on the way to work and discuss my surgery for the day which he gets a kick out of [laughs].
‘LL: There are not a lot of roles for Latinos on television that are of the stature of a Dr. Neil Melendez. Was that appealing about the role?
Nicholas Gonzalez: It’s always a great feeling to have a well thought out three-dimensional character. It’s what any actor looks for. The fact that it’s an aberration is a sad fact of our business, but I always try to find roles that not just show Latinos in a great light, but something I can give an understanding of or well-rounded view of rather than just a stereotype. That being said, this is the golden ticket of them all.
More on Nicholas’ future in television and how he hit his stride after the jump…