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S. Epatha Merkerson Reveals the Chicago Med Scene That Gets Her “Choked Up Just Thinking of"

Of all the heartbreaking scenes that S. Epatha Merkerson filmed for Season 9, there's one that stands out in her mind as "especially poignant."

By Stephanie Gomulka

Season 9 of Chicago Med brought some of the best and worst life experiences for Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson), the head of patient and medical services at Gaffney Chicago Medical Center, and the heartbeat of the hospital.

How to Watch

Watch Chicago Med on NBC and Peacock.

Just as she was enjoying the early stages of her new romantic relationship with Gaffney's chief oncologist, Dr. Dennis Washington (John Earl Jelks), Sharon's ex-husband’s Bert's waning memory and health issues shook things up.

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After Bert underwent a spate of tests, he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Not wanting the burden placed on the three adult children the former couple share, Sharon stepped up to help with Bert's care and their lives remained intertwined. 

The disease and all that came with it made for several heart-wrenching scenes this season, but there's one that stands out in Merkerson's mind as being especially traumatizing. And it unfolded near the end of the Season 9 finale.

Sharon Goodwin stands with her arms crossed on Chicago Med Episode 905

What was the most difficult Chicago Med Season 9 scene for S. Epatha Merkerson to film?

Merkerson told NBC Insider in an interview before the Season 9 finale that the toughest scene for her to film this season, was when Sharon finally came to terms with what needed to happen to Bert. "I think the most difficult [scene] is when she made the decision to take him to a nursing home," Merkerson shared. "And our daughter [Tara] came with us. And there was a moment where — I get even choked up just thinking of it now — where he starts walking off, and he stops. And he looks back and he says, 'Are you coming?'

"And it was probably the most heartbreaking scene I've ever done with him," Merkerson said of Gregory Alan Williams, the actor who plays Bert. "Greg Alan Williams has been my husband since the very first season, in and out... And there have been scenes over that time. But this one I think was especially poignant."

Sharon and Bert Goodwin have a conversation on Chicago Med Episode 906

Sharon came to the decision that Bert was best left in the care of those at an assisted living facility after a series of alarming events earlier in the season, including when he accidentally started a kitchen fire, and forgot that he and his ex-wife were no longer married

Still, it was tough for her. But Merkerson told NBC Insider that she thinks it was the right decision for Sharon and Bert's situation.

RELATED: Dr. Mitch Ripley’s Difficult Past Comes Back To Haunt Him on Chicago Med

S. Epatha Merkerson shares how Alzheimer’s affected her friend

She recalled a friend of hers, the late restaurateur and model who went by B. Smith, who died in 2020 at age 70. Smith's family gave the cause of death as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to the New York Times.

"Her name was Barbara Smith, she was a restaurateur here in in New York," Merkerson told NBC Insider. "And she asked her husband to keep her at home. And he did that. And I think that's a lovely thing to do.

"But some people are not equipped to handle that," Merkerson acknowledged of other people's situations. "And depending on the temperament of the person going through dementia, it can get violent as well. So I think it was a hard decision for [my character Sharon] to make. But I think it was the right decision."

Michael, Sharon and Tara Goodwin help Bert Goodwin sit

S. Epatha Merkerson on her friendship with Oliver Platt

Leading up to Bert's diagnosis, and after it, Dr. Daniel Charles, the head of psychiatry at Gaffney, was there for him and Sharon, as he's friends with both of them. 

RELATED: Sharon Goodwin Had a Heartbreaking Interaction With Her Ex on the Latest Chicago Med Episode

In real life, Merkerson counts Oliver Platt, who plays Charles, as one of her closest work pals, calling him "a steady friend on and off screen."

"I can never say anything other than great things about him," Merkerson said of Platt. "He's not only a great actor and a great scene partner, but he is so sweet. And he has a wicked sense of humor that I always get caught in. He always will say something to me — I will be the one laughing — and it would look like I was the one who was messing up."

Like Sharon Goodwin, S. Epatha Merkerson has diabetes 

Merkerson has incorporated her own Type 2 diabetes diagnosis into her role as Sharon Goodwin to help spread awareness.

“I think it’s important because for some reason, it’s not a diagnosis that people talk about,” Merkerson told NBC Insider. “People think that you can avoid getting Type 2 diabetes — and there are certainly things you can do in terms of taking care of yourself — but if you have a family history of it, sometimes there’s not a way out of that.”

Merkerson says that she found out, by touring the country talking about Type 2 diabetes, that people are interested in the journeys of others going through this.

“They want to know they’re not alone,” she said. “And there was [a Chicago Med] episode, and this was a couple years back I think, where I took off my jacket and you could see the disk that I wore to test my blood sugar, and the response that we got from that was extraordinary. And what it does, it just opens up a dialogue.” 

Dr. Daniel Charles and Sharon Goodwin in Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 12.

The actress even found that as a result of being open about her diabetes, her and her brother now ask about each other’s blood sugar levels, whereas they never talked about it before.

“It’s important that you have that dialogue,” Merkerson said. “There is no better place than to advertise that than television and I think that the lovely thing that I like about TV, and specifically Dick Wolf shows, is that not only do they entertain, but they educate.”

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Chicago Med often reflected Merkerson’s own reality when it came to diabetes. For example, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharon had to run the hospital while working from home due to her age and being diabetic. Merkerson faced the same health concerns when filming had picked up after being halted by the pandemic. 

“Because of my diabetes, production allowed me to stay home and shoot from my apartment until I felt more comfortable coming in and the protocol had been set up,” Merkerson said. “I know that’s a couple of years back, but I was so impressed by the group, and how we stuck together to keep each other safe, and that tells you about the people that you’re working with, who they are, and the importance of having folk working with you who want to keep you safe.”

Season 10 of Chicago Med premieres on NBC in the fall of 2024, when you can catch the series in its regular time slot, Wednesdays at 8/7c p.m. To catch up on past episodes, watch repeats in that same time slot from May 29 through July 24 on NBC, or stream them on Peacock.