Jason Isaacs (who famously portrayed Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series) acts, produces & is making his directorial debut in tonight’s episode of CBS original series, Good Sam.
The show, from Katie Welch (Jane the Virgin), is part medical drama and part family drama, and follows gifted heart surgeon Dr. Sam Griffith (Sophia Bush), who finds herself chief of surgery after her boss, Dr Rob Griffith (Jason Isaacs) – who also happens to be her father – falls into a coma. The show picks up as “Griff” wakes up and demands to return to work, and sees the father and daughter go head to head to determine whose approach to the position is better, putting new strains on their relationship.
Good Sam will see Jason Isaacs make his Good Sam directorial debut in Episode 11 “Family/Business”, airing tonight, April 20th. The episode will see Griff prepare to make a return to surgery, as the surgical team prepares for a high-stakes lung transplant and an announcement threatens the future of Lakeshore Sentinel.
Whilst being a medical drama, Good Sam is a show run by women with a female lead, and addresses age-old questions about misogyny and specifically moving workplaces forward into places where older white men aren’t the majority of the upper management. Isaacs and Bush’s characters disagreements on best practice aren’t just a representation of a father-daughter generational struggle, but also – through the changes we see in Griff over the course of the show, and his relationship to his work, his daughter, and the people around him – offers a lens through which to look at toxic masculinity in the workplace, as well as conversing views on professionalism.
Speaking to Isaacs, he explained the struggle Griff experiences in having his image in the hospital department he once ran being compromised by his daughter:
‘The story that plays out on screen, of my daughter being coming of age and running things in maybe a kinder way, a more efficient way, or in a more modern way, is really the story that is playing up all over the world. And anyone who’s a parent knows what it’s like to to watch, to both love your children and want them to pass you and want them to do things better, and then be horrified when they do. So it’s, you know, to its perennial story of, of generational struggle.’
Griff, through the struggles he experiences in the show, often comes across as a rather brutish “love to hate” type, and – as with many of Isaacs’ roles – a complex and talented man who, at the heart of it all, believes he’s doing the right thing:
‘I try to only play parts where the storytellers are interested in taking you behind the curtain and allowing the camera to see that there’s a human being there. I think if you spend enough time with anybody, as an audience member, you see the human underneath.
‘Today, for instance, I’m very vocal about how anti Donald Trump I was. I think he’s said and done some terrible things and encourage the worst of human behaviour. But I think if you followed him with the camera, and the camera was there when he dropped his guard, you’d see that he thinks he’s doing the best thing for everybody concerned. Whatever his twisted value system is, it’s one in which he’s the hero.
‘A well written character is one where they’re not just doing awful things so that the audience don’t write them. They’re doing things the audience think are awful, but that they think are fine, justifiable and necessary.’
Isaacs connects the struggles Griff faces to the conversations he’s had with real heart surgeons, and the immense pressure they’re under:
‘The heart surgeons that I’ve got to know and speak to, it’s a different kind of responsibility that they have. When the operations go wrong at all in the slightest way, or even, very often, when they go right, the patients die. So there’s a certain amount of godlike power that they have, and not all, but with some doctors, that gives them a certain air that makes them difficult to deal with for some people.
‘This is my own pop psychology assessment, but I think it must be because they have to build a wall around themselves so as not to be affected by it all – it’s difficult losing a patient, and I suspect they lose more than most.
‘So for all their ego struggles and their relationship difficulties, [Griff, and the characters in Good Sam] are above all else devoted to saving lives. Having stood and watched numbers of heart operations and been around anybody, frankly, who works in public health, there’s something medieval about the nobility of what they do for a living when they could go off and use those skills to make money or do many other things. It’s a miraculous thing.’
When I interviewed Isaacs, it was the last day of production on the show, and he shared that the cast and crew and production team had been giving out cards and sending sentimental messages the whole day. Production on the show was halted due to COVID initially, so Good Sam is a product of difficult times, and when I asked him what made him take the role initially, Isaacs was quick to praise creator and writer, Katie Welch, for the positivity the show inspires:
‘Katie is an incredibly positive person. She just radiates positivity and optimism. And I wonder how much of the show’s tone is as a result of the fact that the world has got maybe darker and scarier over the two years that we’ve been making the show and that the news is a scary land to live in. You get inside the doors of Lakeshore Hospital, even just as a set, and it’s a safe place to be where people who care will look after you – and that maybe we need that kind of sanctuary in our television stories.’
CBS Original series Good Sam airs Wednesdays 10pm-11pm ET/PT. Episode 11 airs tonight, April 20th, on CBS, and is available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.