New Amsterdam Director Jean Lee Opens Up About Her 'Meaningful' Episode Airing During AAPI Heritage Month

New Amsterdam Fuentes and Max
(Image credit: NBC)

New Amsterdam picked up the pace and raised the stakes higher than ever in the second half of Season 4, including with an episode helmed by Korean-American director Jean Lee. She directed the episode that featured Max and Fuentes’ final big confrontation before Michelle Forbes’ character’s downfall, while Helen went through an impactful arc with her mother in London after her stroke. Lee’s episode, called “Truth Be Told,” also aired during May, which is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and she opened up to CinemaBlend about the experience and the timing. 

Jean Lee came to New Amsterdam as part of NBCU’s Female Forward program, which works to create gender parity in scripted TV directing. That program promotes opportunities for female directors who have been underrepresented in their profession in television, and Lee’s episode of New Amsterdam proved just what is possible when directors are given the chance to work on a major network show. The Korean-American director spoke with CinemaBlend, and shared her thoughts on “Truth Be Told” airing during AAPI Heritage Month:

It's so meaningful. What are the chances? I don't have any control over any of that, so that was extra meaningful. It's a big deal. There was a [Directors Guild of America] inclusion report that was released that was giving the statistics about diversity and inclusion in the TV landscape and even though there's been gains for Latino and Asian directors, there have been minimal gains. So just having that representation and that example out there is incredibly meaningful. Even being on set and having people of color – particularly PAs and aspiring TV directors – coming up to me and talking about how cool it is to see a woman, and a woman of color, in the director's chair was so rewarding and so meaningful. So that all aligning with the timing of the airing was super cool.

While progress has been made about promoting diversity for Asian and Latino directors in the entertainment industry, there is still a long way to go, but Jean Lee’s directing stint and episode broadcast date during May were “meaningful” to her and others on the set of New Amsterdam. The May broadcast date also came as a surprise to Lee, as she had no idea when she directed that her episode would air during AAPI Heritage Month. She explained:

I did not know! There's a general guesstimate, but as far as the exact timing of things, there's so many elements that the network is dealing with. It's just something that I wanted to be flexible about and wait for that to happen.

New Amsterdam’s broadcast schedule was certainly unusual during the fourth season, first due to the 2022 Olympics that bumped a lot of NBC programming from the usual primetime slots, and then due to Renée Zellweger’s The Thing About Pam taking over Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. for several weeks. The showrunners opened up about how the schedule meant a big change for what turned out the be a two-parter packed with cliffhangers about the fates of many key characters. 

The pace picked up quickly following the spring premiere, which meant that Jean Lee’s episode had a lot to cover that has turned out to be important for the final arc of Season 4. She shared how she prepared to enter a show already four seasons in with so many established characters and storylines: 

It's all in the prep, so anything from watching all the episodes in the past to understanding not only the visual style, but also the characters' histories, the language, the tone, and the world of the show. Then, above all, mind-melding with the showrunners, the writers, the professionals, the experienced people who are making the creative decisions, to make sure that I am able to both emulate and elevate their vision. That was the best way to approach this. I got that advice from other incredible mentors in the industry and experienced TV directors.

Jean Lee can now officially count herself as a director with experience in scripted TV, with an episode under her belt that delivered some turning points for the whole season. She also shared some photos from her time working on New Amsterdam to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into her episode:

You can revisit Lee’s episode of New Amsterdam streaming with a Peacock subscription, as well as those before and after to remind just how essential some of the twists were to the season overall. The fourth season also isn’t over just yet, so be sure to tune in to NBC on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET until the finale on May 24. For more important dates for the biggest shows on television, check out our spring TV finale schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).