NB’s double lung transplant recipient relives his experience as an actor in a hit medical drama

Elspeth Arbow, right, and actor Jean Louisa Kelly on the set of The Good Doctor.  (Submitted by Cayman Grant - photo credit)

Elspeth Arbow, right, and actor Jean Louisa Kelly on the set of The Good Doctor. (Submitted by Cayman Grant – photo credit)

Cayman Grant was on a flight to Vancouver debating who should guest star in an episode of a medical drama she is directing.

The consequence of The good doctor was about a young woman with cystic fibrosis.

“It just hit me – Elspeth. Why not Elspeth?” she said. “I love Elspeth!”

Grant thought of Elspeth Arbow, who underwent two double lung transplants before the age of 25 for cystic fibrosis.

Arbow and Grant, both from the Saint John area, met at an acting class at the Interaction Theater when Arbow was 13, around the time she had her first transplant.

“I couldn’t get her out of my head,” Grant said Information Tomorrow Saint John.

Submitted by Cayman Grant

Submitted by Cayman Grant

As their flight landed, Grant called the casting director and suggested that they audition someone who wasn’t already on their list.

In her Toronto apartment, three years into her film studies at the University of Toronto, Arbow was getting ready for bed when her phone rang.

Grant’s call surprised her and then evoked some emotions and questions.

“I initially thought, ‘Oh wow, how cool is that?’ And then every other part of my brain kicked in and was like, ‘Do you want to relive a horrible, horrible thing that happened to you? On screen to live online forever?'”

Grant said she knew those concerns were legitimate.

“As an actor, you revisit yourself, you go to your well,” Grant said. “That stuff can be really, really damaging to some people on an emotional level.”

But Grant said they had a connection, and she believed Arbow was a good actor who could handle the work.

“I just had to tell her that she could trust me as a director.”

Network TV casting requires quick turnaround. After a few hours of deliberation, Arbow decided that she wanted to audition for the role, even at the risk of not getting it.

“I recorded and submitted myself and within days I had a casting agreement,” Arbow said Information Tomorrow Saint John.

Arbow said she wanted to do it, but knew it wouldn’t be easy. The episode of the show, about a talented young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, had many parallels to Arbow’s story, including the fact that the show’s mother chronicled her daughter’s journey online. Arbow’s own mother blogged about her trip.

“I cried when I first read the script,” Arbow said.

Submitted by Cayman Grant

Submitted by Cayman Grant

On the first day on set, she was in every scene that was filmed. Towards the end of the day, she shot an emotional scene, “and I kind of lost it,” she said, laughing. She said she had a “catharsis moment” where she wasn’t fully in control of her tears. But after a while, she regained control, she said.

“You take so many shots of the whole scene and parts of the scene that at a certain point it just becomes words,” she said. “I can access those emotions now, but with control,” she said.

She said it helped that she’s been working to process the trauma of her illness and surgeries, and she’s not afraid to speak out.

Grant said the actress, who played her mother, also had a pretty emotional day.

“I don’t think she knew what she was walking into,” Arbow said.

Arbow said she was a little nervous about Monday night’s episode airing, but she’s excited for her close friends and family to see a part of her life that they haven’t seen before.

“It’s obviously a dramatized version and quite melodramatic at times, but they weren’t there in those moments, so that’ll give you a little idea of ​​what those really dark times were like for me,” she said.

Arbow said this piqued her interest in acting and she is now looking for agents.

“It was honestly such a fun experience,” she said. “I could get used to that.”


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