“New Amsterdam” springs back into action Tuesday night — with the pandemic and psychiatrist Dr. Ignatius “Iggy” Frome (Tyler Labine) at the forefront.
The NBC hospital drama’s Season 3 premiere, delayed due to the industrywide shutdown, opens with a five-minute (silent) montage dramatically relating how the pandemic impacted the New Amsterdam medical staff, both mentally and physically — followed by hospital chief Dr. Max Goodwin (series star Ryan Eggold) scrambling to solve the season’s first medical crisis after a plane crashes into the East River. Janet Montgomery, Freema Agyeman and Anupam Kher are back as Drs. Bloom, Sharpe and Kapoor.
While Iggy performs his professional duty, treating the doomed flight’s pilot, he’s also wrestling with long-repressed personal demons — an eating disorder, which will eventually bubble to the surface and mirrors Labine’s psychological journey.
In fact, the story arc was his idea.
“There were seeds planted [in previous seasons] with Iggy’s weird behavior around food,” said Labine, 42. “He’d be eating a Crudite and then eating Gummy Bears and pigging out on chocolate bars and then talking about some juicing diet.
“Those stories are all true and are all from my life,” he said. “As a person who’s struggled with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia my whole life…I felt a little irresponsible, at some point, by having Iggy suffer from these, like, ‘What are you guys playing at?’” he says of the show’s writers.
“So I wrote [showrunner] David Schulner a big e-mail and said, ‘I don’t think we should play at something that’s so serious to a lot of people unless we’re really going to go for it.’ I also talked to David Foster, one of our writers, who’s a doctor. And to their credit they came to me and said, ‘What’s the story you would like to tell? It’s interesting to us.’
“I talked with them and with [executive producer] Shaun Cassidy and was on the phone for a couple of hours and we basically decided that if we’re going to represent eating disorders in men, which we never see, we should do it.
“So it became very clear for me what the next arc for Iggy was going to be.”
In next week’s second episode, viewers will see how Iggy’s eating issues relate to his childhood — particularly to his relationship with his father, which cuts close with Labine.
“It’s obviously my story and it was really hard for me to see that written in a script,” he said. “It made me really look at it differently and realize that a lot of people have these stories [of] body issues and body-shaming. And it comes from a place of love. I don’t think my dad is a bad guy. I love him. He just had some…bad information given to him when he was a kid from his dad, and it became an epidemic of your worth being caught up in how much you weigh.
“I don’t blame my dad. I did for a long time,” he said. “He’s a huge fan of the show and I haven’t told him about that episode and I know when he watches it he’s gonna be like, ‘That sounds pretty familiar.’ I should probably tell him before it airs.”
Labine said that Iggy’s storyline has been extremely “cathartic” for him.
“I’ve had huge breakthroughs with both of my parents and I have tattoos on my biceps that commemorate my experience on what we’ve shot on the show and telling these amazing stories. One [tattoo] says ‘All the Good’ and the other says ‘All the Bad.’ I just had this unification happen to me. I’d been walking around with all these shadows and demons for years, trying to extricate them or pretend they’re not there. And finally, in and around shooting some of this stuff and talking with my therapist I had this moment where it was like, ‘This is who I am.’
“And it’s f—ing cool.”