Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Tuesday’s New Amsterdam. Proceed at your own risk!
There was one doc who was notably missing from New Amsterdam‘s series finale on Tuesday: Dr. Helen Sharpe, played by Freema Agyeman, who departed the NBC drama at the end of Season 4.
In the series ender, Max announced that he was moving to Geneva, Switzerland, to work for the World Health Organization. As he committed to making his daughter Luna — who became medical director of New Amsterdam as an adult! — the center of his life with his new job, Max’s romance with Dr. Elizabeth Wilder came to an abrupt end, although the two clearly still had strong feelings for each other. But what of his ex-fiancée, who was mentioned in the penultimate episode?
“[Freema] was totally up for returning for the season finale,” showrunner/executive producer David Schulner tells TVLine. “It’s our one regret that her and Anupam Kher — his character [Dr. Kapoor] died, obviously, on the show — but we would have loved to honor those characters and actors as well in the finale, but we just couldn’t make it work.”
Executive producer/director Peter Horton explains that it was scheduling issues rather than the storyline that prevented Helen from being part of the show’s swan song. “We really did try with Freema, too, just to see if we could get her, and it just didn’t time out right,” Horton says.
Despite that unfortunate circumstance, Schulner believes that “it all worked out the way it was supposed to work out, because the story we had for Freema in the finale wasn’t as good as what we ended up with,” he shares. “So on the plus side, we would’ve had Freema in the finale, but the downside is it wasn’t as satisfying.”
Asked if they had to adjust their vision of the series finale following Agyeman’s exit at the conclusion of Season 4, Horton says, “I think to a degree, we had to do some paddling once we realized that she wasn’t coming back. But like David said, we’re really happy with where it ended up. It’s just different than it would have been if she had not left.”
“We never wanted her to leave. We love her, and she was a big, big part of our show,” Horton adds. “She just made a choice that we honored. But given our druthers, especially at that time, we would’ve said, ‘No, stay, please.’ She’s a great actress and lovely person.”
Although Helen has not been part of New Amsterdam’s hospital as of late, her presence has been felt throughout the season, especially for Max.
“When [Max’s wife] Georgia died in Season 1, she was a presence for all of Season 2,” Schulner says. “So we knew Helen leaving Max at the altar at the end of Season 4, Helen had to be a presence in Season 5 even as Max was trying to move on. There’s no moving on from that. Helen has to be a part of the show. So we did what we could given the limited footage we had.”
For more scoop on the series finale’s big developments, check out our Q&A with the EPs here.