Although Joo Won misses the character that he played in “Good Doctor,” it was not easy to bring Park Shi On to life.
That’s because Park Shi On was no ordinary character. As a character with autism spectrum disorder, he represented people with autism, who are not often portrayed on television and in the movies. Joo Won worried that he would not be able to accurately and respectfully play someone with the disorder.
Autism is called autism spectrum disorder because it includes a wide range of coping abilities. Some people with autism are unable to communicate at all. Yet others may be highly functional. They may even be geniuses in one particular area but still have difficulty with social interactions.
Joo Won played a medical genius who has difficulty relating to others socially. His social difficulties complicate his ability to make friends, succeed in the work place and experience love.
“For the four months that I spent on ‘Good Doctor,’ which includes preparation time and shooting it in the hottest weather, I was always on my toes,” said Joo Won. “But while many aspects of the drama were exciting, Park Shi On was not an easy character.”
To create the character, Joo Won visited the Center for Autism and met with the director. He heard stories about people with autism and met a few people affected by it. They defied his expectations.
“I was surprised at how well they spoke,” he said. “It was difficult to piece together what the general public understands, what I learned and what I needed to show in the drama.”
His interactions at the center also gave him some insight into how people affected by autism might feel. As a result, Joo Won did a great job of portraying the character’s fear and discomfort in a social environment. And yet for the first few episodes he continued to worry that viewers might take his portrayal the wrong way.
“I was afraid how my portrayal would affect those with autism and their families if I didn’t express or portray the character properly,” said Joo Won.
Fortunately, his fans let him know he was doing a great job. He received letters of praise, including one from the director of the center he visited. The director wrote to say his acting was more than he ever expected. He thanked him for getting into the role so well.
“I received letters and messages of support from people saying that they were really encouraged because of Park Shi On and that I had given them hope. Because of such support, I, as well as Park Shi On, was able to successfully finish out the drama.”
He thanked the fans and the cast and crew of “Good Doctor.” But he also thanked his character for increasing his understanding of the condition.
“Park Shi On,” said Joo Won. “Thank you. I learned so much from you.”