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Father and daughter face off in CBS medical drama ‘Good Sam’

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Both Jason Isaacs and his character, Dr. Rob Griffith, are watching the world change. Only the former seems both ready and eager.

“I’ve got daughters who are turning into adults, and I have to make that adjustment from being puppet master or helping to shape a life to recognizing your powerlessness and allowing them to grow and outgrow you,” the 58-year-old English actor, the father of a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old, said.

“The world is changing, appropriately, and women are taking, rightfully, their place at the top table, and I wanted to experience that, to tell the story of that and to live it.”

On “Good Sam,” CBS’ new medical drama, he got that chance. At the top of the food chain are creator Katie Wech and producer Jennie Snyder Urman, fresh off a run of women-led shows like “Reign,” “Jane the Virgin” and “Charmed.”

His character, though, is less thrilled with the new world order. When Griff wakes up from a coma to find his daughter, Sam (Sophia Bush), has taken over for him as chief of surgery, his response is not pride or joy but rather consternation and the bullheaded determination that no one deserves the gig but him.

“There are old white men like me who have been running things for a long time, and they are often being appropriately replaced or challenged for their position by people and communities that have been overlooked,” Isaacs said.

“Does that mean that those old white men should no longer be able to run things when they’re very good at running things? Should the pendulum correct or overcorrect?”

For Griff, it’s not just that Sam is a girl, and a weak one at that, with her emotions and feelings and fondness for her patients. As her father, he still sees her as a child. It’s not just that he thinks he’s the only one fit to lead the department; he especially doesn’t think she is.

“If she gets emotionally involved with every patient, not only will she not be the best doctor, she won’t be able to go on. He thinks she’s not ready to run a department. Actually dealing with patients and the technical, medical, scientific knowledge needed to do heart surgery is not the same necessarily as knowing how to be a good leader or making bold decisions,” Isaacs said.

“We see that in politics: the people who make the best speeches are not necessarily the ones who make the best decisions. The people who want to be popular are not always doing what’s best for their constituents.”

Griff fights for his old job, sometimes loudly, overruling Sam in the middle of meetings and sometimes quietly, sneaking around with board members and never giving her a chance to prove she deserves the position.

Like any good network medical drama, “Good Sam” is dramatic outside of the operating room as well, even throwing in a few “Grey’s Anatomy”-style elevator flirtations. But above all, it’s about fathers and daughters. About a father who knows best and a daughter trying to prove her value. About two people who hold life in their hands, quite literally, fighting for the right to do so.

Griff can handle the guilt and the power that comes along with being a heart surgeon. Sam, he thinks, will buckle under the weight.

“It’s not a sense of ego that’s out of place. It’s appropriate,” Isaacs said.

“You need to take it in stride. What might seem like arrogance to outsiders is actually a method of self-protection from their onerous responsibility.”

 

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