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New Amsterdam Executive Producer Shares Freema Agyeman's Reaction To Helen's Role In Season 5 Premiere

New Amsterdam returned to NBC with a Season 5 premiere that showed viewers that the medical drama could still be joyful and celebratory despite the absence of Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe, effectively bringing an end to the Sharpwin relationship. The episode did find a way to give Max (and fans) some degree of closure via a letter that she wrote to her former fiancé, with Agyeman making a voice cameo to narrate and make it feel truly real. Speaking with CinemaBlend, executive producer Peter Horton explained how the actress reacted to Helen's role and lending her voice for the letter. 

In the letter, Helen made it clear how much her “dearest Max” and “sweet Luna” meant to her and that she sees her actions in the Season 4 finale (available streaming on Peacock) as “unforgivable.” But she also made the point that her problems that kept her in London and from marrying him were real, and she couldn’t just get rid of them. It took Max the better part of the episode to realize that trying to fix her problems for her didn’t help, but he might not have been able to make it that far without her letter, narrated by Freema Agyeman. 

While executive producer David Schulner opened up about dropping clues throughout Season 4 that everything wasn’t alright with Helen since they knew that Freema Agyeman was leaving, she was still happy to help with the Season 5 premiere. EP Peter Horton explained the logistics of getting her voice work for the letter, and how she responded to the request: 

By then, Freema had left the show and was back in England. We reached out to her and asked if she would do it, and she graciously [and] enthusiastically said yes. So we had to get someone over in England to basically be there for her to help her and record it and have someone on our end be on the phone and make sure that we're getting what we need, or on video, I guess. And just do it from there. She was very, very cooperative, very helpful, very enthusiastic. She misses us, we miss her. Given the disappointment that she's not with us that we all feel, it's still with that same spirit that we started our show with.

The actress was back in England, but the show didn’t need her on set back on the American side of the pond for her narration of the letter. According to Horton, she was “gracious” and “enthusiastic” when they reached out, and the result was fans getting some answers from Helen in her own voice. Even if the split isn’t what Sharpwin fans were hoping for, Helen’s love for Max came through in Agyeman’s performance. 

Now, Max can truly begin what Ryan Eggold described as his healing process for Season 5, and the end of the Season 5 premiere suggested that maybe growing closer to Dr. Wilder could be part of that. Of course, Max’s entire group of friends came together to support him in his time of need. Peter Horton continued, explaining what was special about the cast and Freema Agyeman’s contribution: 

As David [Schulner] and I've said since the show began, this was a cast of adults who were just good, solid people. And it was just a joy. So often in shows you're having to manage people, you know, and try and put out fires left and right and try and strategically move around circumstances. This one was just a joy. I mean, everybody in the show is a grown up and everybody in the show has a great sort of spirit to them. And so that continues even with Freema across the pond.

Not all shows are able to hold on to so many of its core cast members from the first season to the last, and the executive producer had nothing but praise for them as the fifth season returns and continues. Of course, plenty of fans would prefer that the fifth season wasn’t the last (and had a longer run than just 13 episodes), but the premiere was proof that Max’s journey doesn’t have to end on a mournful note just because he lost Helen. 

See what’s next for Max and Co. on New Amsterdam with new episodes on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. It’s only one of several medical dramas returning to the airwaves as the temperature begins to cool, so check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule to plan ahead for primetime this fall.

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, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.