THE POD PACK
Steve Martin, Martin Short & Selena Gomez are on the case
Tiffany Haddish is the greatest sleuth since Columbo
How Reservation Dogs delivered the season’s most refreshing comedy hit
It’s time to celebrate the iconic George Carlin
+ Elle Fanning + Maya Erskine + Rose Byrne + Quinta Brunson + Brett Goldstein + David Hyde Pierce
5/31/22 11:23 AM
D E A D L I N E ,CO M
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4 CLOSE-UP: Tiffany Haddish traces her trajectory from high school class comic to comedy cop in The Afterparty 8 QUICK SHOTS: Recreating Minx’s vintage magazine; drag queen choreography 10 HIGH-PRICED HOODS: How Selling Sunset went from realtors to reality TV 12 CARLIN’S WAY: George Carlin’s American Dream directors
24 26 28 32 36 40
Elle Fanning Maya Erskine Rose Byrne Quinta Brunson Brett Goldstein David Hyde Pierce
Portrait Gallery 44 Deadline Contenders Televison: Los Angeles
dissect the trailblazing genius
Cover Story 14 THE BIG DOGS: The cast of Reservation Dogs and creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi show a fresh side of Native American life in the FX comedy hit
56 STEVE MARTIN, MARTIN SHORT & SELENA GOMEZ: How the Only Murders in the Building trio became a triple threat
Flash Mob THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL: 62 The Cannes red carpet 64 Deadline’s Ukraine fundraiser & Cocktails on the Croisette event 66 The Deadline studio ON THE COVER: Clockwise from left: Devery Jacobs, Lane Factor, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai and Paulina Alexis shot exclusively for Deadline by Josh Telles
6/1/22 6:50 PM
PIECING IT DRAG RACE
TIFFANY HADDISH goes “police mode” to crack the case in The Afterparty
TOGETHER By Ryan Fleming
6/1/22 6:51 PM
C LOS E- U P
“I love stand-up,” declares Tiffany Haddish, as she reflects on a 25-year career. “That’s where my heart is.” While Haddish’s acting star has been on the ascendant ever since she lit up the screen in her big-screen breakthrough, Girls Trip, in 2017, she knows she’d always be most comfortable in front of a live audience. “Somebody said to me, ‘What if you were told you could never act again?’ I’d say, ‘As long as I can do stand-up, I’m fine with that.’” And if she was told she couldn’t do that? “I’d be like, ‘I will fight you, and I’m going to find a way.’ If I have to go to barbershops to tell jokes, if I have to go to the grocery store, to the mall, wherever I got to go to tell jokes, I will make it work.” It’s that same determination that got Haddish to the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, where her career started to take shape and where she earned her first paycheck. But the Los Angeles native started her journey even earlier. “I used to win drama festivals for Shakespearean comedy monologues,” she says. The festivals were put on by the the LA Unified School District, and Haddish was attracted to take part by that most tempting of carrots on sticks: “I got into it because there was a boy I liked. He was the only Black guy in drama, in a predominantly white high school. I figured, if I get into drama, they’d be bound to put us together, and then we’re going to have to kiss, right?” It didn’t work out, laughs Haddish, “Because my drama teacher was open-minded and forward-thinking.” Still, she caught the bug. “I fell in love with drama, and with being able to get the direct laugh without being sent to the Dean’s office,” she says. After a challenging upbringing, it was her time at Laugh Factory, where she was mentored by comedians like Richard Pryor and the Wayans brothers, that crystalised her drive to build a career from comedy. She plied her trade wherever she could, at comedy clubs and bar mitzvahs and by doing extra and stand-in work. When she finally got an agent, they told her, “You’re not going to be able to make it as a stand-up if you’re not on TV. You got to be able to put asses in seats.” So, she scrimped and saved to take acting classes—even if it
Tiffany Haddish as Detective Danner in The Afterparty.
meant being unable to pay rent and living rough. Haddish acknowledges the popular perception that Girls Trip made her a household name, but it was her time on The Arsenio Hall Show that really turned things around for her, she says. “That’s when I feel like my career took off. Tyler Perry’s calling me, people of color that got some power, they’re calling and saying, ‘Hey, I want to see if you could do this thing for me.’ It was only white people who didn’t know who I was until Girls Trip came out and made $140 million. It’s sad, but that’s how it works. Then they’re like, ‘Breakout star Tiffany Haddish.’ I’d done 25 projects before that. I’d done a lot.” Anyone who thinks they can tell Tiffany Haddish what she can or cannot do obviously isn’t paying attention. In addition to her 2021 Grammy win for her comedy album Black Mitzvah, Haddish most recently stars in the Apple TV+ murder mystery comedy The Afterparty, created and directed by Chris Miller. “The way he directed us is he would say, ‘Ok, we’re going to stick to the script on this one, then play on the next one,’” Haddish says. “He would let us stretch and really dig into those characters, which was so refreshing and so much fun, and a testament to his comedy genius.” The Afterparty digs into the details of a high-profile murder following a high school reunion, when pop star Xavier (Dave Franco) turns up dead in his beachside villa. Haddish plays Detective Danner, who arrives on the scene and interviews everyone to get their version of the night. Everybody’s story, or “mind
Left: Haddish and John Early in The Afterparty; Clockwise from above: Haddish in Girls Trip; as Detective Danner in The Afterparty; and with Jimmy Tatro in Danner’s younger days.
movies” as Danner calls them, is told in the style of a different film genre. “My character had it way easier than everybody else, I think, because I was just in police mode the whole time,” Haddish says. She relished watching her co-stars flit between the various genres. “John Early is one of the funniest. And then Ben [Schwartz], oh my gosh. Ben is so hilarious, and Ike [Barinholtz] and Sam [Richardson]… I mean, those guys had me dying laughing. And then Ilana [Glazer]… I learned so much working with her.” While Haddish wasn’t in most of the flashbacks herself, she couldn’t help but appreciate the work that needed to be put into every aspect of the show. “They had to do so much because you have to light it differently for different genres,” Haddish says. “Everybody’s episode, except for mine, was at that high-school gym, so every single one had to be lit a little different for the style. That hallway was different each time. They had to bring in rain. They had to bring in every single detail, and that’s a lot of work.” In the penultimate episode of the season, Haddish had her own flashback episode in the style of an older cop drama. “Some of my favorite shows growing up were CHiPs and New York Undercover,” she says. “These were my shows, so when they said, ‘OK, this is what you’re going to do,’ I was like, ‘Got it. Know how I’m going to do this.’ I watch NYPD Blue, and I know a lot of police officers that try their best to do good but get side-swiped by the system, so I loved playing that. I love the working stuff out and how my colleague is getting at me. I got to be serious, which I’m good at, but I love to laugh.” Indeed, Haddish has always had a knack for playing the serious character in comedies, bringing out the humor by pointing out the absurd. It’s a skill she learned from the hardships she has faced, which she detailed in
“I’ve been through a lot of abuse. And I want to laugh; I don’t want to cry all the time. Doesn’t it make you feel good to laugh?” — Tiffany Haddish her 2017 memoir Tiffany Haddish, The Last Black Unicorn. It was a collection of personal essays recounting her beginnings in comedy, and how she found it to be her saving grace. “I was a sad, lonely child,” she says. “I’ve been through a lot of abuse. And I want to laugh; I don’t want to cry all the time. Doesn’t it make you feel good to laugh?” Haddish figured out that it made her feel even better when she could make others laugh as well. “I love to hear people’s laughter,” she says. “I love to see people smiling. It’s my drug of choice. It’s also healing. It massages all your organs every time you laugh. Your whole body moves, I mean all the way from your root chakra to your crown chakra. You can feel it through your heart. But one of those good laughs where you pass gas, that’s kind of hilarious to me. That’s my favorite.” This is elemental for Haddish. Her career has been about capturing those gas-passing moments of wonder, not making a name for herself and buying a bigger house. “I just wanted to bring joy to people,” she insists. “It’s so funny, people are like, ‘Oh, are you so happy that you’re famous? You’re so lucky to be famous.’ Famous is not what I came for. I came for the joy. I couldn’t care less if nobody knew who I was, but people were still laughing because of the thoughts that come out of my head.” Haddish has a follow-up book coming out later this year, I Curse You with Joy, and has even adapted her first book into a children’s book called Layla, The Last Black Unicorn, which she is promoting now. As busy as she is, Haddish says she is excited to start working on the second season of The Afterparty. “Most of the stuff doesn’t happen when my character’s there,” she teases, “but I show up. Detective Danner is ready to do her thing, solve the case.” &
Q U I C K
S H OTS
Charted Territory At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Emmy chances in the Best Comedy Series Actor and Actress races. Get up-to-date rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com
Comedy Series Actor 1 Jason Sudeikis Ted Lasso ODDS ................................
2 Bill Hader Barry ODDS ..................................
Ophelia Lovibond as Joyce in Minx.
Vintage Copy Minx production designer Jefferson Sage brings back a lost publishing art
There are a lot of tricks to it and it’s kind of a lost skill at this point.” Created by Ellen Rapoport, Minx takes place in 1970s Los Angeles, where Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) is planning to start her own feminist magazine. Doug (Jake Johnson) is the only publisher willing to give her a chance, but the result is not what she originally planned as to-
on layout writing with typewriters… I brought up this point with Ellen, that the show really has to embrace all of this because it sets the period, but it also resets our thinking to a time when none of this world quite existed yet.” — Ryan Fleming
3 Steve Martin Only Murders in the Building ODDS ..................................
4 Martin Short Only Murders in the Building ODDS ...................................
5 Donald Glover
As the production designer of Minx, Jefferson Sage was able to pull from the past to create a magazine the old-school way. “I’m old enough to have seen that whole transition,” Sage says. “I went back and I dug up old tech textbooks, like how to layout pay stubs, how to manipulate the X-Acto knife…
magazine for women. A key loca-
Bottom Dollar Publications, where the magazine was put together. The process of publishing has changed a lot since the ’70s, but Sage knew where to start. “To me,” he says, “it was all about old-school photography, hands-
How RuPaul’s Drag Race choreographer Miguel Zarate makes sure every Queen stands out The contestants of Rupaul’s Drag Race compete in various challenges that test their performance skills, and choreography tends to be one of the more difyou’re a drag queen, you have some sense of the body and movement,”
Comedy Series Actress 1 Jean Smart Hacks ODDS ................................
As the choreographer of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Miguel Zarate’s goal is to ensure that every Queen stands out and hits their mark. “I always tell the girls, ‘If you look like trash, I look even worse,’” Zarate says. “It’s my job to make them look amazing.”
says Zarate, “but just because you have rhythm doesn’t mean you can pick up choreography.” Zarate is given a script before each Queen has a role, so he has to create a base for the choreography before they step on stage. “I try to edit the movement, and even
good, solid movement,” he says. As they start to learn the basic choreography, Zarate can then tailor the individual performance a bit to make each Queen stand out. “Once that happens, I encourage them to bring their drag into it,” he says. “Once you start putting your personality as a drag performer into the choreography, then you truly start shining.” — Ryan Fleming
Quinta Brunson Abbott Elementary ODDS .................................
3 Rachel Brosnahan The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ODDS .................................
4 Issa Rae Insecure ODDS ...................................
5 Kaley Cuoco The Flight Attendant ODDS .................................
6/1/22 6:51 PM
F E AT U R E
Main image, from left: Chrishell Stause, Christine Quinn, Chelsea Lazkani, Amanza Smith, Vanessa Villela, Davina Potratz, Maya Vander, Emma Hernan, Mary Fitzgerald; top: Lazkani and Quinn; below: Lazani, Brett Oppenheim, Heather Rae El Moussa, Vander, Jason Oppenheim, Villela.
HIGH-PRICED HOODS In Selling Sunset, Adam DiVello hangs his for sale sign in LA’s wealthiest well-heeled neighborhoods
Selling Sunset to Netflix, the plan wasn’t to turn an unscripted show about The Oppenheim Group—a high-end real estate firm in West Hollywood—into something akin to the Real Housewives franchise. “I don’t think we ever knew exactly what it was going to be,” admits DiVello about the show’s 2019 launch. “I know when I approached the Oppenheim brothers about being on the show, they were very hesitant. They didn’t want to be like a Bravo-type, so to speak, with no offense to Bravo. They just didn’t want to be on a show where there was constant fighting. I promised and said, ‘No, I’m going to make it about real estate and these high-end homes you guys sell in Los Angeles.’ Our first one was a $40 million house, which is crazy. But of course, I told them we are going to follow their personal lives and see what happens.” It’s the “see-what-happens” part that turned Selling Sunset into an engrossing spectacle that has only gotten better with age. (The show just dropped its fifth season in April.) Though it may have been DiVello’s goal to focus on the insanely priced homes on Hollywood’s famed Bird streets, everything changed with the Season 2 arrival of Chrishell Stause—a former soap star from Days of Our Lives whose very public split from actor Justin Hartley (This is Us) became a delicious storyline the following year. “The minute that Chrishell walked in and didn’t click with [agent] Christine Quinn, we knew it was going to take a direction in that [Real Housewives]
From left: Brett and Jason Oppenheim.
way,” admits DiVello. “Where it escalated to, I don’t think anybody could have foreseen that.” At times, it seems like Jason and Brett Oppenheim have their work cut out for them; all they can do is sit quietly by and watch Stause and the other perfectly coiffed agents—Mary Fitzgerald, Heather Rae El Moussa, Amanza Smith and Davina Potratz, among them—pick-a-little talk-a-little about all the ways Quinn can get under their skin. Sure, they talk business with the best of them; agent Emma Hernan, for example, provides helpful remodeling tips while trying to get a buyer to drop 10 million on a spiffy, hillside home. But the real stakes occur whenever Quinn strolls in wearing her bitty skirts and suicide heels. “It could have gone either way. Had they all hugged and embraced, it might have been a different show,” DiVello says. “It certainly added another layer of drama to the series, which I think viewers enjoyed.” She wasn’t the only one drawing attention in Season 4: Stause and her boss, Jason, had a brief fling that had some of her co-workers demanding little broker babies. The brothers Oppenheim also announced plans to expand their bling empire: Netflix ordered a spinoff called Selling the O.C., a yet-to-be scheduled show that focuses on their other firm in Newport Beach, CA. “It’s a fun cast. They have zero filter,” teases DiVello, who also executive produces Selling Tampa for Netflix. “And it’s not all females this time. There are quite a few who are single, while some are newly married. It’s a different world down there.” But doubtless not so different as to exclude the occasional hen fight.
6/1/22 6:52 PM
F E AT U R E
COMEDY, BY GEORGE George Carlin’s American Dream directors
By Matthew Carey
Today, beards are commonplace, unremarkable bits of facial shrubbery. Even as conservative a figure as Senator Ted Cruz wears one. But 50 years ago, a man choosing to wear a beard sent a political message. It signaled participation in the counter-culture, a spurning of orthodoxy. George Carlin captured the threatening act of going bearded in a routine included on his 1972 comedy album FM & AM. “Here’s my beard. Ain’t it weird? Don’t be skeered, it’s just a beard,” he riffed, continuing, “That’s the thing. The word ‘beard’ shook up a lot of people. BEARD! It’s not American sounding. BEARD! Lenin had a BEARD!” Carlin told his audience he had sprouted a beard and grown his hair long only about a year earlier. It was a transgressive act that marked a turning point in his life and career, moving from clean-cut comic to culture-defining, acerbic observer. Without him making that fundamental shift, we wouldn’t be talking about Carlin today, nor would Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio have directed the two-part biographical documentary about him for HBO, George Carlin’s American Dream. “He figured out how to get successful by selling himself out a little bit by trying to be on TV and be safe,” Apatow says, referring to the earlier, 1960s iteration of Carlin—cleanshaven, hair tidied, straightjacketed in a Mad Menstyle suit with narrow tie. “Then he ultimately decided, no, I have to be me. And he decided to go against the grain. And that’s when he found his greatest success was when he was true to himself.” The Emmy-contending film documents Carlin’s less than idyllic childhood in an uptown section of New York City (he and his pals referred to the neighborhood as “White Harlem” because it “sounded tougher” than its breezier nomenclature, Morningside Heights). Perhaps he was destined to be a comedian because his father bore a stunning resemblance to W.C. Fields. His Irish-born father was an alcoholic and Carlin’s mother separated from him when George was an infant, raising George and his older brother Patrick on her own. “His trajectory is a classic comedian’s story,” says Apatow, himself an acclaimed comedy writer and director. “He comes from a toxic family, from a childhood where his brother was abused by his father and his mother had to escape. I’m sure it made him question how the world functions.” The filmmakers interviewed Carlin’s older brother, Patrick, who died earlier this year at the age of 90.
“Yeah, he was high,” Bonfiglio remembers of that sitdown. “Patrick was a daily pot smoker. He’s a fascinating guy, absolutely hilarious and a real muse for George… They were very, very close their whole lives. It was a real privilege to get his take, especially on things like their shared childhood. And Patrick knew their father and George never did.” Even before he reached his teens, Carlin was making mock radio newscasts and pretending to do baseball play-by-play announcing. Carlin’s daughter Kelly gave Apatow and Bonfiglio the key to her father’s voluminous archives. “He had a tape recorder when he was a kid back in the ’40s. He would record little routines and things and he saved all that stuff,” Bonfiglio notes. “George was really an obsessive hoarder. He kept everything… As documentary filmmakers, that’s like a dream come true. We were really able to allow George to narrate his own story.” After a stint in the Air Force (Carlin was ‘invited’ to leave the U.S. military), he became a disc jockey, then formed a comedy team with a fellow DJ, Jack Burns. They performed together for a relatively brief period, but the documentary notes the important role Burns played shaping Carlin’s political outlook. “Jack Burns was a very progressive person,” Apatow says. “I would assume for the first time in Carlin’s life he thought, Oh, maybe when you’re funny, it should be about something that you care about. You should be trying to say something. And he started experimenting with Jack, with not just silly sketches, but also political satire.” Carlin became a very successful solo act but didn’t fully blossom creatively until an experience of dropping LSD. “I began to take some acid and some mescaline, and I suddenly was able to see things differently,” Carlin
Left: George Carlin as a boy in New York; below: Carlin with his daughter Kelly
says in the documentary. “What I really was, was an outlaw and a rebel who swam against the tide of what the establishment wants from us. And that person was being suppressed.” Carlin had always displayed amazing verbal dexterity (a letter from a fan describes him as a “comedian of general semantics”), but in that era of social upheaval at the end of the 1960s and into the ’70s, he transformed into something even greater—an incisive commentator on the fundamental structure of American society.
“ For the most part, he didn’t do jokes about what happened that day in politics… He tried to talk about the big picture. I think that’s why the material holds up.” — Judd Apatow An appearance of Carlin’s in San Diego in 1972 is included in the film where he talks of Muhammad Ali being allowed to resume his boxing career, after being barred from the sport for several years for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. “For three years, the cat couldn’t work—Muhammad Ali,” he said. “And, of course, he had an unusual job—beating people up. But the government wanted him to change jobs. The government wanted him to kill people… The government got spiteful. They said, ‘Look, if you won’t kill ‘em, we won’t let you beat ‘em up.’” “For the most part, he didn’t do jokes about what happened that day in politics… He tried to talk about
the big picture. I think that’s why the material holds up,” Apatow says. “He talks about the root of what’s wrong in the country and what’s wrong with how people behave. He was talking about the environment in the late ’60s, in a way that people are just beginning to know. And he was very aware of the problem of the danger to a woman’s right to choose… I think that’s why his material holds up, as opposed to a lot of comedians whose material ages out.” Apatow notes that when the U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade was leaked recently, commentators immediately revisited a Carlin bit from years earlier. In an HBO comedy special he had observed, “Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you.” “Everyone turned to George Carlin for what he said about it,” Apatow marvels. “I was fascinated by the fact that there wasn’t a routine from another comedian that went around. It wasn’t just that George Carlin had a piece that summed up a lot of what we’re all thinking. It was that no one else has a competitive piece. He was just on a completely different level.” Apatow won the Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special for his 2018 film The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. He had been very close with Shandling, working with him on The Larry Sanders Show. Apatow didn’t know Carlin on that level but interacted with him decades ago. “I interviewed him for Canadian television in the early ’90s, and I remember him being so thoughtful and kind,” Apatow recalls. “He wasn’t someone who tried to be funny in that setting. He saved that for the stage… He was just a kind, deep thinker.” A few years before that, Apatow had assisted with the production of Comic Relief, a fundraising effort by comedians to fight poverty. Carlin performed in a Comic Relief special in the mid-1980s. “I was just so blown away that at this telethon he did this remarkable, insightful, hilarious routine,” Apatow remembers, “how golf is a racist game where white people get together to carve up the country and screw people over and we should give the golf courses to the homeless. And it felt very exciting to witness that.” Bonfiglio, who shared an Emmy with Apatow for the Garry Shandling documentary, cherishes one of Carlin’s routines related to the environment. He quotes from it: “‘The planet is fine. The people are fucked.’ To me, it’s just such an extraordinary piece of writing and insight and performance. When you watch that in [George Carlin’s American Dream] and you listen to the audience, they’re not quite sure where he’s going because he takes you on such a ride… It’s so deep and insightful. It’s probably my favorite piece of his.” There are so many to choose from. There’s “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”, “My Stuff vs. Your Shit”, or his observation, in a 1992 comedy special, that America doesn’t manufacture much of anything anymore but still excels at war: “We can bomb the shit out of your country, all right. Especially if your country is full of brown people. Oh, we like that, don’t we? That’s our hobby… Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya. You got some brown people in your country, tell them to watch the fuck out.” Carlin suffered three heart attacks over the years and died of heart failure in 2008 at the age of 71. Some say he became embittered about America as he got older. That’s a matter of opinion, but he had unquestionably soured on our species. “He did have contempt for the choices that he saw his fellow humans making,” Bonfiglio says. “And you see in the film the evolution of that disappointment… He wasn’t seeing progress. He continued to see people, as he put it, choosing competition over cooperation and seeing his fellow humans treating each other poorly. The rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer… He was aware of his own mortality for quite a while after his heart attacks and realized he wasn’t going to live to see a better world. He wasn’t going to live to see humans behaving better. And I think he was angry about it.”
STERLIN HARJO & TAIKA WAITITI ARE ON A MISSION TO SHOW A VERY DIFFERENT SIDE OF NATIVE AMERICAN LIFE IN FX COMEDY RESERVATION DOGS. THEY SHARE HOW THEY FOUND COMMON GROUND IN THEIR VERY DIFFERENT UPBRINGINGS WITH
LYNETTE RICE, WHO ALSO TALKS WITH THE ‘DOGS’ ABOUT THEIR UNIQUE ROLES.
PHOTOGRAPHED EXCLUSIVELY FOR DEADLINE BY JOSH TELLES
STERLIN HARJO Co-creator, showrunner
n one of the final moments of Reservation Dogs’ first season on FX, a spirit guide appears at the bedroom window of Bear Smallhill (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) to share a story about the young man’s ancestors. But the f-bomb-dropping, meat pie-eating guide with two feathers jutting from his head doesn’t wax on about the fierce warriors in Bear’s past; he’s there to reveal how the youth’s “great
grandma Susie liked to smash white guys like hot cakes.”
“I don’t have the answers, only questions,” admits William ‘Spirit’ Knifeman (Dallas Goldtooth), before realizing he’s overstayed his welcome at Bear’s bedside. “I think I should be going,” he utters awkwardly as he looks toward the horizon. “I’ve got another vision.” In many ways, this nonsensical moment between Bear and his spirit guide speaks to the heart of Reservation Dogs, a single-camera comedy that follows four Indigenous teenagers (played by Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis and Lane Factor) who live on a reservation in rural Oklahoma. One of the crowning achievements of the FX on Hulu series from filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and actor-writer Taika Waititi (JoJo Rabbit), aside from its all-Indigenous cast and crew, is the authentic and mostly comical way it depicts life in the native community. That means occasionally subverting
“SINCE THE BEGINNING OF FILM, THERE'S BEEN MISREPRESENTATION OF NATIVE PEOPLE. IT WAS JUST US GETTING KILLED OFF ON HORSES. WE'RE POKING FUN AT OURSELVES AND HOW REPRESENTATION IN FILM HAS BEEN LIKE.” —D'PHARAOH WOON-A-TAI
preconceived notions about Native Americans, like whether spirit guides really do come for unexpected visits to impart wisdom and sound advice. (Spoiler alert: In Bear’s world, they absolutely don’t.) The result is a series that’s not only been championed by critics who appreciate its poetic depiction of a world so often overlooked but enters Emmy season with the hope of making history in a category that traditionally honors shows with predominantly white casts. “No one knows any truth or anything about native people,” explains Harjo, a Seminole/Muscogee Creek filmmaker from Holdenville, Oklahoma. “No one really knows what our lives are like. So, anything that I do is kind of breaking stereotypes.” “That’s really an important thing for both of us, to get rid of the stereotypes that threaten to keep us stuck in time,” Waititi says. “We just want to show people that our cultures are alive and thriving. We are still here. We’re not just relegated to these images that you see in other movies and Westerns, where people assume Native Americans wear traditional clothes and ride horses and fight cowboys. That’s just one tiny part of a people’s history. It’s way richer than that.”
— The road to Reservation Dogs first began in 2004. Harjo was a twentysomething working as a roofer and studying film at the University of Oklahoma when he got a call from the Sundance Institute about joining their program. “I didn’t have money for a cell phone, and I had to borrow my dad’s phone,” Harjo recalls. “I was working with these two roofers, and I remember telling them that I had to go down and take this call. And I got a call from Michelle Satter and Lynn Auerbach and they were telling me that I got into the Sundance Labs. It blew me away. I crawled back on the roof and told these guys who didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. It
LANE FACTOR Cheese
was just a crazy, life-changing thing for sure. I wanted to be like Jim Jarmusch, making a living with independent films for the rest of my life. I never even thought of TV because that wasn’t really an option then.” It was at Sundance where Harjo met Waititi through N. Bird Runningwater, a member of the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribes who guides the institute’s investment in Indigenous filmmakers. Harjo and Waititi hit it off immediately and bonded over their similar and very humorous stories from childhood, despite
Waititi having grown up worlds away in New Zealand. Since Harjo had already penned a script about his life as a native kid while Waititi had completed Boy (a film about an 11-year-old Maori kid in New Zealand that was released in 2010), the two eventually pooled their thoughts and created Reservation Dogs, about a group of teenage petty thieves who are trying to raise enough cash to move to California. “I knew that it wouldn’t be a big stretch to try and capture the stuff that I’ve usually captured in New
Zealand in my films, for a show about Native American kids,” Waititi remembers. Since the multi-hyphenate had a first-look deal at FX (he was a writer on the network’s comedy What We Do in the Shadows from 2019-2021), Waititi had an open invitation to pitch his next big thing to the network. “He and Sterlin talked about their stories growing up. They talked about being Indigenous people from different parts of the world,” recalls Kate Lambert, the senior vice president of original programming at FX. “It came pretty naturally. It was such a specific voice. When those walk through your door, you stand up, you listen, and you just try to support.” That included respecting Harjo’s desire to employ only Indigenous people in front of and behind the camera. With the help of casting director Angelique Midthunder (Captain Fantastic), the team set out to cast their dogs in a nationwide search. That meant going to find their stars, not waiting for them to simply show up in Los Angeles. “I had a TV show that was about to happen years ago and the executive producer, who was a well-known filmmaker, backed out at the last minute because he decided there weren’t enough native actors to cast and it killed the show,” Harjo says. “Yeah, if you’re lazy and if you are waiting for them to come to Hollywood and knock on your door. There’s not a lot of native roles out there so they’re not in Hollywood knocking on doors, trying to play dead Indians in a Western. You have to go to the community to find them.” Two of Harjo’s young stars already had developed decent resumes: Jacobs, a member of the Mohawk Nation, is from Canada and has been working since 2007 in TV shows like Mohawk Girls (for Canada’s Omni TV) and Cold (for Verizon’s streaming platform). She plays Elora Danan, the unofficial leader of the group who lost her mom as a toddler and still mourns the loss of her pal Daniel (on which, more later). She’s also the bravest one of the foursome; Elora’s the one, for example, who was behind the wheel of a Flaming Flamers chip truck the kids steal in the comedy’s first episode. They go on to sell the chips to help fund their California trip. “Elora Danan is really like a big sister to everybody,” says Jacobs. “Despite coming off as a bit moody and a bit crass sometimes, she is someone who cares so deeply that she needs to cover it up. But everything she does, comes from a place of love for her dogs.” Woon-A-Tai, who is an Anishinaabe actor from Toronto, also racked up a few TV shows like Creeped Out for Netflix before hearing about the project through his agent. His character, Bear, is the son of a single mom (Sarah Podemski) whose deadbeat rapper dad left the family when he was young. “I got what he [Harjo] was talking about, like
DEVERY JACOBS Elora Danan Postoak California being this mysterious, magical land in people’s eyes. It’s the cool spot to be,” Woon-A-Tai says. “And if you talk about these little troublemakers, I get that too. I was a troublemaker, like almost everybody. We all had our little troublemaker phase.” The remaining members of the rez foursome—Willie Jack and Cheese—are played by newcomers Paulina Alexis and Lane Factor. Alexis, a Nakota Sioux youth from central Alberta, is proud to share how Harjo and Waititi originally envisioned her role as a boy. But her audition and the ease at which she utters dialogue like “love you, bitch” quickly changed their minds. (Among Willie Jack’s funnier moments in the show: how she casually praises “white Jesus” on the way out of her house. “To brown and Black folks, just to see how white they make Jesus, it’s like at a certain point, it becomes ridiculous, and you have to say something,” says Harjo. “Willie Jack felt like the perfect person to say that first.”) “I’ve always been used to being in front of a lot of people and making all of the adults laugh,” recalls Alexis, the comedy’s true breakout. “Like when I was a kid, I remember all my aunties and uncles being like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be an actress someday.’ They love Willie Jack. They tell me it’s me, like I’m not even acting sometimes. It’s just me being me.” Factor, in contrast, didn’t start out wanting to join the series. His sister was the actor in the family, not him. He wanted to be a paleontologist (and goes positively ga-ga over Godzilla). But after his mother bribed him with a trip to McDonald’s, he reluctantly joined his sister at the open casting call outside of his hometown of Yukon, Oklahoma. Though he originally read for Willie Jack, the producers gave him the part of the
“THERE IS AN APPETITE FOR OUR STORIES. THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE BECAUSE THIS ONE PROJECT CAN'T BE REFLECTIVE OR REPRESENTATIVE OF EVERYBODY'S EXPERIENCE.” —DEVERY JACOBS
THE SUPPORTING CAST Part of Reservation Dogs ’ appeal lies in its terrific supporting cast and how they are as much fun to watch as the rez dogs themselves. To help fill out this community, Co-creator/executive producer Sterlin Harjo plucked some of his players right off the streets of Oklahoma during open casting calls. —Lynette Rice
ZAHN McCLARNON Big
Don’t let the way the rez dogs talk to Big fool you; the light horseman, or tribal cop, is the moral center of the show. One of the more poignant moments of the first season is when Cheese joins him for a ride along. They don't see much action, but Cheese walks away with a newfound respect for Big. “There's always going to be a special bond between Big and Cheese,” McClarnon promises.
jovial Cheese, instead. His sister, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut, which has made for uncomfortable moments around the family home. “She’s actually sitting across the room from me right now, giving the death glare,” says Factor, who describes his puckish character as “the kind of guy who just goes along with the plan and likes to hang out with his friends. He likes playing into their mischievous side, but he’s a very optimistic character. He’s also very, what’s the word? Naive. I guess he’s kind of naive.” Filling out the cast are journeyman actors like Gary Farmer (Elora’s Uncle Brownie), a member of the Cayuga
The rez dogs encounter the shaggy junkyard owner-cum-pop culture freak after stealing the chips truck in the premiere. “We wanted to have a character that always referenced ’80s movies,” explains Harjo of the role played by the journeyman actor (Parks and Recreation ). “Like, in another situation, Kenny Boy might have been an actor or a comedian or something, but instead he runs a salvage yard and constantly references these movies from when he was a young man.”
nation who is best known for his work in Resident Alien, Rutherford Falls and Longmire; and Zahn McClarnon, a Lakota actor who plays a tribal cop named Big. The rez dogs turn to Brownie for fighting lessons so they can defeat a rival crew but show begrudging respect to the omnipresent officer, who’s easily distracted with nutty phenomena like a “crop circle” of catfish that he found in a salvage yard. “Big to these kids is more like an uncle,” McClarnon says. “They kind of tease him. He might be a little bit grumpy and treat the kids a little aggressively sometimes, but I think he wants to steer them in the right direction.” Many other indigenous actors vied for the chance
It’s hard to miss this send-up of native stereotypes, who appears from the mist on horseback to a very confused Bear. What to make of the shirtless apparition? “Are you Crazy Horse or Sitting…?” asks Bear. “No, no I’m not one of those awesome guys,” Spirit replies. “I’m more of your unknown warrior. I was at the battle of Bighorn. I didn’t kill anybody. But I fought bravely. Well, I didn’t actually get into the fight itself, but I came over the hill real rugged like.” It devolves from there.
to join in the fun, but there were only so many parts to cast. Fortunately, Harjo refused to turn them away. “Sterling kind of explained to us that even if we weren’t selected for the core characters, he was building a whole world and there will likely be room for everybody,” Jacobs recalls. “He was like, ‘don’t get discouraged if you’re not landing one of the leading roles.’ He really stayed true to his word.” One of those young actors was Dalton Cramer, who was cast in the recurring role of Daniel, the fifth member of the rez dogs who suggested they flee to California in the first place. It’s revealed in the first episode that Daniel died a year prior, but viewers don’t learn until the end of the season about how he lost his life. His death is particularly hard on Elora. “She can’t envision living in that place without Daniel. Elora is running from her grief and not knowing how to deal with the loss of her best friend and crush,”
DOGS BUILDS A DEEP BENCH TO KEEP THE OFFBEAT STORYLINES POPPING
FUNNY BONE & LIL MIKE Mekko and Mose
If you’re a fan of America’s Got Talent, you may have recognized the Native American rapping/dancing duo from Season 8 (the brothers were eliminated in the Las Vegas round). They primarily serve as comic relief in the show by riding around on their bikes and rapping away the lazy day. “They’re just part of the native community here in Oklahoma,” says Harjo. “They were always around, selling their CDs at events or performing places. My casting director had them audition and they just killed it. It was obvious. It was like, ‘We have to put them in this.’”
The beautiful woman with the furry hoofs is what inspired Big to become a tribal officer in the first place. In a flashback episode, a young Big meets the feminist vigilante and watches her go after bad men, like a leering driver who sees her hitchhiking on the side of a road and a pair of attempted robbers in a convenience store. There’s an instant understanding between the Deer Lady and her young charge: this is what happens to troublemakers, so don’t let it happen to you.
Technically, he’s the cousin of Elora, but since he was raised by Elora’s grandmother, she calls him uncle—an eccentric character who displays animal hides in his yard and a wooden owl with blurredout eyes on the porch. He’s first introduced when Elora and the gang ask for fighting lessons to help defeat another local crew.
The Deer Lady
Jacobs says. “I don’t think that she’s had a chance to really feel and see the beauty of her community. She’s just focused on getting out. California is this distant, far away fantasy.” That’s as heavy as it gets in the first eight episodes, shot entirely in Oklahoma’s Muscogee Nation. Serious subjects still drive some of the action; Bear’s absentee dad Punkin Lusty (Sten Joddi), for example, becomes a huge disappointment for his son when he fails to show up for a scheduled visit. But the episode gets a comedic boost when Bear spends some of his California money to buy his dad a beaded microphone necklace that looks suspiciously like a penis with two balls. In another episode, comedian Bill Burr (The King of Staten Island) plays Elora’s former high school coach who ends up sharing sweet stories about her late mom. Just when the action gets a little too meditative, the coach takes Elora on a wild car ride as he chases down
his drug-addled daughter. Another good cameo (and great laugh) comes courtesy of Garrett Hedlund, who plays a sexy doctor that picks up Bear’s mom at a bar and brings her home to his bed. Rita thinks she has it made in the shade until she wakes up in his big house to find him sitting at the dining room table with his Confederate flag tattoo on full display. “Native humor is always sort of encased in tragedy a little bit,” says Harjo. “It’s about survival, so drama and humor are always together. Some of the funniest times I’ve ever had, have been at funerals.” Tribal myths have also made particularly good fodder for certain episodes. Don’t be shocked when you see a lady with deer hooves in episode five of Season 1; that’s actually based on tales that rocked Harjo’s world as a kid. “The way these mythological beings exist in the lives of native people is very matter-of-fact,” Harjo says. “Every tribe has their own version of the Deer Lady. It
As Bear’s mom, who works at the local clinic, Rita struggles to raise her son right—even if it means keeping him away from his thoughtless, deadbeat dad Punkin Lusty (Sten Joddi). She’d love to find him a new father figure, but the pickings are pretty slim; the only promising lover she took in Season 1 ended up being a racist doctor who lives on tribal land and has a fetish for Indigenous women.
goes toward scaring young men about promiscuity, not to be a bad man, because there’s this being out there that will cut you up. Every culture has its Bigfoot, and we do, too. It’s referred to as Tall Man.” Perhaps the best example of taking a stereotype and turning it on its head is Spirit, the chanting buffoon who’s better at delivering punchlines than serving up sage advice. “That’s a great instance of how they took that trope, that idea of what Western society thinks of what native people were and are, which no longer exists,” says Jacobs. “They flipped it and showed how there were idiots back then, too.”
— “My uncle used to call me shit ass.” That’s McClarnon talking about his big contribution to the first season of Reservation Dogs: an expletive
D'PHARAOH WOON-A-TAI Bear Smallhill
that’s (mostly) used as a term of endearment between Big and the rez crew. “It stuck with me when I was a kid,” McClarnon says. “‘Shit ass’ comes out of love but can definitely be used as a derogatory statement.” At first, it started out as a practical joke. “It ended up being a whole battle between Sterlin and other members of the camera crew and writers’ room,” Jacobs says. “They would take grip tape and write ‘shit ass’ on it and stick it on people’s backs without them knowing. It was like the ‘kick me’ sign. Suddenly there were shit ass signs everywhere. Sterlin managed to get it in like every episode of the show. Some people were like, ‘Oh, I thought it was a native thing.’ I was like, ‘No, that’s Sterlin and the rez dogs.’” Despite the very grueling schedule (they typically complete one episode in four to five very packed days), calling each other ‘shit ass’ and consuming extra bags of Flaming Flamers are some of the more colorful ways the cast keeps itself entertained on set. But the mood has always been buoyant, thanks to the show’s incredible reception in Season 1. Besides the universal acclaim by critics, the series won two Independent Spirit Awards, one of which was for Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series. It also earned a second season order by FX and returns August 3. The action picks up right where Season 1 left off, with Elora making the drive to California with Jackie (Elva Guerra), a member of the rival gang who was the only one willing to make the trip. Harjo is loath to provide any more details about the new season other than to say comedian/podcaster Marc Maron will make a cameo. “We just offered it to him, and he was into it. He liked the script.” Finding special guest stars should become easier and easier, since the show’s fan base includes an A-lister or two. “I was at the premiere of Under the Banner of Heaven a couple of weeks ago, and at the afterparty, Ron Howard just bolted toward me, sat me down and told me how much he loved the show,” recalls McClarnon. “I grew up in the ’70s and the ’80s. Happy Days was one of my go-to shows. Having Ronnie Howard come up to me and say how much he enjoyed my character was pretty amazing. It’s an exciting time for natives in the media right now. We’re finally getting our own voice. It’s about time. The door is opening up a little bit more, and I’m glad I’m a part of it.” An example of that widening door: Jacobs, who earned a 2021 Gotham Award Nomination for Outstanding Performance in a New Series, has been cast in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series Echo. Written and executive produced by Etan Cohen and Emily Cohen, Echo centers on Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), a deaf Native American superhero who has a talent to imitate any opponent’s fighting style. Jacobs will play
one of the leads named Julie, who’s described as a resilient and strong-willed young woman. That won’t change things for Jacobs back on the rez, though. In addition to continuing her role as Elora, she took on new responsibilities in Season 2 as a writer. “I knew I really wanted to be in the writers’ room, so I was preparing myself for a big battle with Sterlin, by getting all my writing samples together. I was preparing to plead my case and pitch myself. I went to ask Sterlin and he offered to have me in the room. I was like, ‘Wait, I don’t have to battle for this?’ Which was so awesome.” Factor, meanwhile, booked a role in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical tale based on the director’s childhood growing up in post-war Arizona. “I don’t have a main character role in that movie, I’m more of a side character,” Factor says. “But I did get to talk to Spielberg a few times. He filmed a scene personally with me in it, and that was unforgettable.” Back in Oklahoma, though, he still puts his pants on one leg at a time so he’s not quite comfortable with all the attention that he and his co-stars have received. “Definitely whenever I get to talk to people, they’re all like, ‘Can we get a picture with you?’ They all seem nervous,” says Factor, who bought a gaming computer with his first season salary. “I’m like, ‘You know, you don’t have to be all formal with me. I’m just a regular kid.’” Spoken like a true shit ass. $
“THERE ARE DEFINITELY DAYS WHEN IT COMES TIME TO FILMING SENSITIVE STUFF AND IT'S HARD, BUT WE KEEP THE SPIRIT UP. THAT'S NATIVE PEOPLE. IT'S HOW WE COPE WITH THIS STUFF, THROUGH LAUGHTER.” —PAULINA ALEXIS
PAULINA ALEXIS Willie Jack
FAN N I NG
How both starring in and producing The Great helped the young veteran to find her voice BY NADIA NEOPHY TOU
Having acted since the age of two, and now aged 24, Elle Fanning is an unusual sort of veteran. Lately, she's branched out into producing the shows she stars in, like the Hulu series The Great, in which she plays 18thcentury Russian royal Catherine, opposite Nicholas Hoult as her dastardly husband, Emperor Peter III. Then there’s her dramatic role in The Girl from Plainville—also from Hulu—which is based on the true story of Michelle Carter who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after her boyfriend's suicide. You were a producer on The Great. How has that informed your work? I think I’m still learning in that aspect of being behind the scenes, but it’s always something that I’ve been really drawn toward. I think being a watching everyone else around you, watching other people make the decisions and put things together, and so I’ve always been fascinated by that. So now that I get to pull back the curtain and be in those rooms and be a part of conversations that I normally wouldn’t have been, I’m really happy in that place. I do thrive when I can get creative and strategize and think of the best way that we can put this show together. Weirdly, The Great and playing Catherine has helped me with that because she’s a young woman, and a lot of the time, is not looked on with the greatest respect. Learning from how Tony [McNamara, screenwriter] writes her and being able to speak my mind. Especially because I have to remind myself, I am obviously very young and still learning, but at the same time, I’ve been acting since I was two. So, in a lot of ways, I think people like to think, “Well, you’re young, you don’t know.” It’s like, “Well, you know what, maybe I do this time?” Just learning to speak enjoying that.
I could use it for so many different things, and to have physical comedy. I’m not going to have it this year, but I did enjoy it. But I came up with the idea of, “What if I do a bridge because I can do a back-bend and serve macaroons on my stomach as a table?” And Tony’s like, “Perfect. That’s great.” Then you’re in that moment, you’re like, “What am I doing, this is my job?” But it served the show right.
cliché, but the set is the place that I feel the most comfortable, and feel the most myself and also not myself, which makes me maybe most myself. I want to produce more, I do feel now I like, or articles. My ears and eyes are always open for material, which when you’re younger they’re not as much. Does producing make you want to I would love to direct. It is a big dream of mine, for sure. Yeah. I will one day. I don’t know. Not soon, but I
There is so much that I have done obviously, but to me there’s still so much that I haven’t. I love challenging myself, like from The Great to Plainville, I only had two weeks in between shooting, and these roles probably could not be more different. So, the challenge of that and being able to shock people. I’ve always loved to prove people wrong [about] the box that they want to put me into. And a lot of the times too, I pick projects because it’s a director or actors that I want to work with that I never have, and I feel like that list is still endless for me. And you can feel the acting muscle growing, I do believe that it is a muscle, and you can feel it cracking open. And I think with these two roles spemore; of just being willing to be daring and put yourself out there. It sounds
feel that itch. In the pilot episode of The Girl from Plainville sets the story in motion. How did you get under Michelle's skin? standout when you read the scripts, and it’s the moment where you start to question Michelle’s intentions. For me, taking on a part like this, obviously she is a real person, but you have to distance yourself and not get bogged down by the fact that you are playing a real person— who I didn’t have access to; I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk to her and there’s not much recording of her, there’s the courtroom sequence, but that’s just one phase in her life. So, we have these seven years where we follow her, and she
You say that playing Catherine bit more—how so? Are there any moments you can point to? She’s helped me so much. It’s a it’s just very special… One of the scenes in the second season I had the idea to do this, and Tony allowed me to, but we needed something to show that Catherine was trying to have a good time, and what was her drunken party trick [while still being pregnant]. And, obviously, I loved having the pregnancy belly because
From left, Phoebe Fox and Elle Fanning in The Great.
just has so many different faces, and I think is so many different people. Really what clicked for me to get into the role was her obsession with Glee and Fault in our Stars, and that YA world. She was someone who I believe was extremely isolated and felt very alone in the world, and really was constantly seeking attention. I think her watching Glee and reading those YA novels and watching those movies was the way for her to be able to be the star of her own show really desperately wanted. I think in that moment, it’s such an inception of a scene because Lea Michele is grieving her real-life boyfriend, but also acting as Rachel on the show, grieving a character who passed away in real life. Then Michelle, in a way, is emulating grief, which is what is so eerie about it. So, I was verbatim matching Rachel’s emotions in that scene and trying to emulate it exactly, because I think the more that it looked like I was copying, the more eerie that it would feel and what was needed for the end. And the smile at the end, I remember in the script it said, Michelle feels like she’s nailed the performance, but I also felt, as Elle, I felt like I had gotten it right. So, part of it was honestly Elle, feeling like I had nailed it, and that’s what came out of it. But I think the smile, it’s like, “Whoa, wait, is she really upset that he has passed away, or is this a completely orchestrated manipulation?” Which is obviously a big question throughout the whole series.
the facts you knew about her? As an actor I’m someone that lives in a fantasy world a lot of the time, and I have to remind myself to stay grounded. With Michelle, she thrives in her fantasy, and with technology you can create a whole fantasy world for yourself. I really loved doing those texting moments with Colton [Ryan], who plays Conrad. Because texting can be a really boring thing to watch onscreen, but I think for us, it was important to have them together, to show that was the real relationship. They only met a handful of times, and to them both, it felt very real.
older. There were many factors that played into that decision, but I feel happy with how it ended.
The PEN15 co-creator finally graduates from middle school after reliving her most embarrassing moments B Y C A R I TA R I Z Z O
Take us back to the beginning when you, Anna and Sam were conceiving the idea. What was it about seventh grade that stood out and what did you want to say with the show? In the beginning, especially with Anna and Sam, a lot of the stories that made us die laughing were always from that age. We would comment on not having really seen anything portrayed that authentically on TV. Welcome to the Dollhouse is something we always reference as being our beacon of middle school truth. That movie’s amazing. But other than that, we hadn’t really seen an R-rated, honest portrayal of that time. That’s what we kept coming back to. Then, when we were in our 20s, that felt like a second adolescence. At the time we were conceiving it, we were so insecure. We would go to these parties and feel like we were back in middle school. It was this really odd time. I still feel that way sometimes. We were having an epiphany that, “Oh, this never leaves you.” That 13-yearold self inside of you is always there.
that’s in you. It felt like the only thing we wanted to write about.
When you announced the end of the series after its second season, it was met with such profound sadness. Did you expect that reaction? No, I didn’t. I think I felt profound sadness, too, even though it was our decision. Then, to hear other people we felt about it. It felt like the mourning and grieving commenced at that point. But I think with audience reac-
tions, we never expect any of them. out, I think we were very scared of how people were going to react—if people were going to even watch it. You just can’t anticipate what the reactions are going to be. So, it was very heartwarming that people were sad about it. Did it make you for a second reconsider doing more?
No. We had always seen it as three seasons. Yes, it’s technically two seasons, but we look at it as three because there are three different story arcs and three different chapters. Also, because it’s seventh grade forever, there were a couple things [to consider]: How long that can go story wise, and just having the restraint to say, “This is where the story ends.” But also, practically speaking, the kids are all getting
in the second season. Was that I don’t know if that was the intention from the beginning. I think we had always thought it would only be one season, so let’s put it all into it. And then when it did well, and we got a second season, time had passed. We had grown up a bit. I think we had evolved a bit in our tastes and it just naturally went to that tone. But there was a lot of talk about not wanting to escape too far from how this show was in the beginning. How do we keep the essence of it, but go deeper and play with the tone? How does one go about getting back into the emotions of a
CO U RT ESY O F H U LU
In recalling stories from seventh grade, Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle and Sam Zvibleman were so entertained by their own memories that, in 2019, the close friends created PEN15, a comedy series where Erskine and Konkle, then 32, portrayed their semi-autobiographical journeys through middle school. Little did the audience know that through the eyes of two adolescents they would get a lesson in the relevance of teenage issues and emotions. “At the time we were conceiving it, we would go to these parties and feel like we were back in middle school,” Erskine says. “We were having an epiphany that the 13-year-old inside of you is always there.” Here Erskine talks about the catharsis of going back in time, and why it was time to bid farewell to her tween self.
13-year-old? All those feelings are so intense in PEN15. Because they are. It’s operatic. That age is life or death. If you wear the wrong tank top, that could mean the end of your year. I recall having such a deep, emotional reaction to something that now I can look back and laugh at, but at the time it was so major. You’re also going through such massive transformations, physically and mentally at that age that everything’s out of whack and extreme. I would say, acting-wise, age, it was hard to click in, and then we didn’t want to leave that age. It’s funny because it’s a paradox; you’re so insecure and self-conscious at that age, but you’re also totally able to be free and unabashed with your emotions, with your best friend, your mom, you can scream, you can do whatever. So, getting to act all of that out, it was very freeing and comfortable. What was the challenge in the beginning? What is it like to literally step back into your 13-yearold body? Physically it was very uncomfortable because we had to strap our boobs down and we had to wear these low rider jeans that make your belly stick out and all these things that just naturally make you feel so uncomfortable. Our goal was, we didn’t want it to come off like a sketch. We wanted to try to make it as real as possible. So, there was a lot of fear going in how to authentically portray that age, let alone your version of yourself at that age. It was a big challenge. And then we just fell into it naturally. It helps that we write, too, because then we could change things if it didn’t feel right. Does it help being surrounded by real 13-year-olds? Very much so. Oh my god, we learned so much from them. All the small behaviors. We would just watch the way they would touch their hair or hide a little bit behind their hands and their bellies. All these things were so informative and the way the cliques would form, and the friendships would form. It was very helpful.
From left, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in PEN15.
It is interesting how you guys shot the kissing scenes, using body doubles. That’s something that a lot of thought has to go into, I assume. Tons. We talked for hours about it. When we were writing those things, we always made sure that we knew how we were going to shoot it before. It was never a ‘day of’ thing. We would shot list it out so that close up of Anna and then Brendan. And then the two-shot they’ll start to come close, but then we cut before you even get that close.” It was always about protecting the kid and also protecting the audience, not wanting for the audience to be taken out in any way of the story, being able to watch comfortably, not be worried, but also for it to feel realistic. It was challenging. How much of it is autobiographical in terms of storylines? I would say 70 percent to 80 percent. It all stems from something that has happened. The last season, it’s less autobiographical. The other thing is, me and Anna weren’t friends in middle school. We didn’t know each other. So, we’re taking from our lives, but we were creating a new story out of that to join both mine and Anna’s stories. What were some of the stories from your own life that you were eager to include?
happened, but not at a sleepover. That happened on stage, actually, but I always wanted to include that because it was such an embarrassing moment in my life. The masturbation story, I wasn’t eager to include that, but I’m so thankful that we did. It was so major for us to put that out there. Doing “Yuki”, that was not from real life, but there were things about that episode that were from my real life or my mom’s real life. How did the decision to cast your own mother, Mutsuko Erskine, come about? We were holding auditions, and no one wanted to audition for [the show]. People would cancel when they read the sides. They were like, “No, we’re not sending our kids to this. What is this?” Also, I women. That was something that was really important to me. Then it just came up. I’d put my mom in my but what if I could get her to just say a couple lines? She might be able to do it. It was sort of a joke at my phone and they’re insane, but it’s just two lines and she ends up nailing it. And then we were like, all right, let’s do it. And she just blossomed in front of our very eyes. What is it like to re-examine the relationship between your mother and your teenage self, as an adult?
set in the beginning, getting annoyed with my mom, as me, Maya, trying to be like, “Mom, no, you have to hit this mark and say the line when I say that.” I start talking to her like I was a 13-year-old child, but I’m being Maya. My brother was the editor on the show and he hated his life when he was editing our scenes, because he’s like, “That whine of yours is traumatizing to me, and I never want to hear it again.” But I think when I directed her, that was the most transformative experience we had as mother and daughter. I really got to see my mom as this woman and not just as my mom, and that was a wild experience for me. I directed half of it before the pandemic, half of it after, and I had become a mother after that. It just added so much depth to the way I see everything in that episode. That was special. Is there catharsis in reliving your most embarrassing moments? Yeah. I mean there’s catharsis in all of it, really. The embarrassing moments you’re able to laugh at and you have distance from it. It’s not embarrassing anymore. But the sad moments, the moments where my heart was broken, it was wild that I would still feel just as devastated to me. I didn’t think that those emotions were so close to the surface. And what are you working on or writing currently? Mr. And Mrs. Smith. I’m here in New York doing that for the next seven months. What’s exciting to you about the new project? What’s exciting is that it’s very different from PEN15. It’s a very different character. I’m just acting in this, so I can take a break from the three roles, because that really was the biggest grind of my life. I think this will still be challenging, it’s just going to be different. I have to really step into the woman part of myself. I’ve been stuck in this kid part of myself and enjoying that so thoroughly. This is out of my comfort zone, to play a woman, like a woman. I hope I can do that.
faint of heart.
candid with me and very open in general about her struggles with much an emotional touchstone for all the beats of the story and particu-
always in the scripts, but it changes as the episodes evolve and the edit
BY R N E
thing we do, and we change it a lot in
In Physical, the actress explores both the darkness and humor of a repressed ’80s housewife B Y A N T O N I A B LY T H
ing it consciously or not, on your own narrative that we all have going.
Physical, Rose Byrne embodies the despair of an unseen and unheard woman. 1980s housewife Sheila is both wracked by bulimia and her carefully controlled rage, as her husband (Rory Scovel). But then she lights upon the idea of starting an aerobics business and her power through business acumen and sheer sweat, her mission continues somewhat from the part Byrne played right before this: feminist icon Gloria Steinem in Mrs. America. Physical
from the era of the feminist move-
Mrs. America that Mrs. America encompassed. It was this parallel piece, if you will, with Mrs. America, of the disillusionment
Well, I just loved the world of the script and the character too, but
ably because I was shooting Mrs. America at the time, it was a direct jump in a way, a direct line straight
a lot of women moving away from the movement, feeling disenfranchised -
me. It was beautifully written and since I met her and realized what a deeply personal story it was with her and what she saw for the whole show as a whole, I got really excited. lot of work. Having done Damages
torically has often come in the health
from this perspective now, whereas there is a lot of dialogue around now.
recovery, but there is recovery and really has to go to the root of the issue. What that looked like at that was this thrown together, patched
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together rehab place. It’s a very interesting period of time when it was so new. Whereas now, obviously, there’s a lot more language around it and understanding of it. Whereas back then there was just nothing. Deidre Friel’s character at one point doesn’t even understand what she’s saying when she’s trying to describe it to her. So, it’s fascinating, I think, to look back at it from 2022. Did you have to learn all that step aerobics or were you familiar with all that already? There was this thing in Australia called Oz aerobic style, and it would come on with breakfast, like a morning show. And it was very popular, but it was the late ’80s, maybe even ’90 or ’91. But I do remember doing that, but by that time it was a joke though. It was starting to be just more of a boobs and bums, a bit of a peep show rather than serious exercise. And I think the next trend was coming in, which was yoga and that kind of movement. Season 2 has some really great zingers and moments where Sheila on her husband. Did you have a favorite scene or moment? I mean, Annie’s such a wickedly funny writer and she’s subtle too. Her writing is very sharp and there are so many ways to mine the humor of the character and the situation, I very multi-layered and coming from a very real place and the stakes are always high. And yeah, it’s very funny in this opening scene when the man asks what color her dress is called. There are a plethora of one-liners in Season 2. There’s an episode later on in Season 2 where Sheila says, “I’m tired of playing defense.” I just thought that was the perfect statement for all women for all time. I’m going to tell Annie you said that. She’ll really appreciate that. It is a great line, isn’t it?
It’s like, I’m trying to think of something you wouldn’t even think about, the habitual nature of it, and that is so extraordinary to me. Something
Rose Byrne as Sheila in Physical.
Sheila’s look is so key to the show’s aesthetic. Tell me about developing that? Annie, she really wanted to have hair, and that was always her vision. And particularly at that time with the idea. And so, I love collaborating with our costume designer. It’s been such a highlight of this job. It’s really our special effects: the look, Sheila’s armor, her way she presents herself. She’s not quite San Diego, she’s from somewhere else, she’s from LA. She’s got a little bit of sophistication about her so that it’s just so fun. And as we’re going through the era and as she’s really coming out of that hippie phase into more of this business woman toward the end, and how that just suddenly starts to seep into her costumes with Paul Sparks’ character, she has this incredible purple leather dress. It’s really short with huge sleeves and it’s just extraordinary. And we had this piece for a long time and Annie was like, “Now we can use that dress.” It was her moment. But I love that side of things. It’s valiant to get up every morning and decide what to wear in your day-to-day life. But for the show, it’s really fun. Someone who is secretive and battling an eating disorder tends
to be somewhat duplicitous because they need to be, and that extends to the rest of life. How did you dig into playing someone who has a concealed self? Well, the writing is everything, that informs everything that you do as an actress. And it is always really complex. And it’s really terrifying. Half
what also is so fun about the scenes is that every scene Sheila is doing something, she has agency. There is something. It’s a complex puzzle, I think that is really fun as a performer. It’s such a gift to have that complexity in the scenes, to have that puzzle going on the whole time. But I think when people suffer from these sorts of illnesses, it’s not even necessarily a conscious thing. It’s an addiction. It’s almost subliminal changes and stuff that people go through. And the people who I have talked to who have recovered from eating disorders, who still have eating disorders, and people who work at those clinics and what they see and how the behavior manifests is very interesting. You met with people that had that particular eating disorder? What did they help you understand? Yeah. I’d done a lot of that research and it’s fascinating. I mean, the addictive quality about it is what really struck me doing the research about how it’s almost, it’s so second nature.
And it’s not even thought about, like a blackout when you’re doing it. I mean, there’s more of a language around it now, which is really good and really important, obviously. And as an actress, just behaviorally, how does it manifest? What does it look like? How does it present? And that’s what’s terrifying too, is often you wouldn’t even know. It’s that good of a performance by the person suffering that people are often just have absolutely no idea.
Did Sheila get in your head? I mean, yes and no. I’m pretty church and state with work. I tend to just leave it there. But these things you carry around even if you’re aware of it or not to a certain extent. But I also have two very small children who couldn’t care less. You know what I mean? There’s not much time for naval gazing. But it’s fun that stuff too. It’s reaching to the outer corners of your own subliminal thoughts and feelings. It’s all that stuff, that texture that I enjoy. If you had your ideal, what would happen to Sheila in a third season? I don’t know. She’s so much of a creation now. I mean, the setup of that pilot that we shot two years ago now with Craig Gillespie was this aerobics that pilot. And it would be exciting to be able to really reach that, to tie
Because it’s really a slog for her in Season 2. She’s going to these rinkydink fairs to perform and quickly realizing she’s just told to stay in her lane by this company that she has a contract with. And meanwhile, obviously, living an incredibly complicated life at home. So, it would be really, really fun to get a chance to stitch that together.
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are the sort of child who is a natural writer, you are always observing and listening and taking stuff in, and people assume that you’re not because you’re a child. Right. Yeah. Absolutely. My mom is even surprised about how much I had taken in because when she sees the shows, she can’t believe certain things that are in it because she hadn’t realized I was paying that much attention. You really wanted it to be on a network, right? I was very interested in it being
Abbott Elementary's creator and star explores the rejuvenation of network comedy B Y A N T O N I A B LY T H
When Quinta Brunson was a child, she would observe her mother working as a teacher, and those early years stuck in her writer’s brain so vividly, and so accurately, that her show about a Philadelphia public school, Abbott Elementary, has not only garnered accolades from teachers nationwide, but has become a stake in the ground for the resurgence of network comedy. With only its second episode, Brunson’s mockumentary-style series achieved ABC’s highest ratings since the Modern Family ously appeared in A Black Lady Sketch Show and Big Mouth, is currently working on the script for Season 2. You began by making comedy videos on YouTube and Instagram. What motivated you to be such a self-starter? I think it’s the need to try to make something, and no matter how much you try to pull away from that, you get pulled back into wanting to just make something. And for me my stages changed a lot. Sometimes it was stand-up, sometimes it was the internet, and sometimes it was BuzzFeed when I worked there for BuzzFeed video, and I just was
always interested in creating for the stage that was in front of me. And when network television became an option, creating in that space or creating for TV, I was really excited to pursue making a show and using all of the skills I had developed from doing all the other things. I’ve always loved TV, especially network television, so it was an opportunity, and I took it because I wanted to. I really wanted to master that realm, I tried to anyway, I tried to create something there.
Abbott Elementary is inspired by watching your mom teach, were you a pupil at the same school? Yeah. I was in her kindergarten class and I went to the same school grade, and so I would ride with her to school in the mornings and go be with her after school and just view a lot of her experience. You were really young at that time, and yet you still absorbed all these subtexts in her world. When you
because I just think that ABC represents family viewing. I think that
geared toward the family viewer. I think they have been trying to crack that for a while. What do shows look like for people who are both 55 and 25 to watch together at the same time? And I just don’t think that streaming has really captured that yet. And I think people still look to network for those kinds of shows. And I knew that Abbott was a show like that. I knew that it was meant to be seen by many different people and I wanted that for it. is when people say, “My gosh, this is what I watch with my family, it’s the only thing I can watch with my children.” And younger people being like, “I’ve been watching it with my grandma, we both love it.” That’s what I still feel you can get from network, you know? I think that’s still unique to that space. ABC was in a great position when I pitched to them where they were looking for a new comedic angle. They had these legacy shows that were on the brink of going off the air and they wanted to refresh what comedy looked like. And that was the place that I wanted to be, that was appealing to me. I wanted to go somewhere where I could help develop what the new tone of comedy
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would be instead of maybe going to what they had already built. And I think that’s a special time in a television station when they’re like, “We need to create anew, we need to be born again.” And to be able to be a part of that time was so appealing to me and it really worked out with ABC for that reason. You got incredible ratings and then you were renewed almost right away for Season 2. What do you think your secret sauce is? Well, I think it’s a couple things. I think one, I really just feel like everyone who works on the show—including me, of course, but the writers, the hair and makeup team, the set design, the prop team, our Covid department—I think everyone really cares. Our development execs at ABC, our development execs at WB, I think everyone really cares about making a good show and that’s an important part of it. I think sometimes people make shows and hey, they want to make money and that’s something you can do in TV. I think we are in a special place where we all care about it very much and trust each other very much, and that’s huge too. I think the network and studio really trusting us to do something new and risk-taking for ABC was really important. I think that the show is coming at a time where people are appreciating… It’s weird because I don’t necessarily think of it as like optimism, I don’t know what the word I have is for the show yet. To me, it feels like warmth. Warmth. I think there’s a warmth to the show for sure. And that goes into what I’m talking about. Our director, Randall Einhorn, who also became an EP on the show, one of our main directors, he worked with me to develop the tone, even the way the show looks, the feel of it, the warmth of a public school and what that feels like for an audience member. I also think after Covid, and these years of watching teachers
Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary.
go through hell, I think this came at a time where people were appreciating teachers way more and that wasn’t on purpose, Abbott was in development before Covid even happened. And then it just happened to hit the air after a year where everyone was talking about teachers. I think another thing too, is it goes to what I was talking about, about family viewing. I know that I really wanted to blend the humor of younger people and the humor of older people. I’m such a fan of old television shows, but I’m also a fan of new television shows, and more modern-day comedy. And they’re so different, but I wanted Abbott to blend those worlds, and I think that’s another really important factor about the show. I think the humor has mass appeal.
hire lesser-known actors? Yeah. For instance, when it came to the role of Ava, there was a little bit of push to get a big name. But I really felt that the role needed, no matter what, it needed the right person for the job, it needed someone who grasped who Ava was, which I think was really unique. It was hard to explain Ava to people. But I had this feeling when we see the right actor, we’ll know it and I don’t think we have to go with the biggest name. If the person with the biggest name is the right person, then that would
with the right person. So that wound up being Janelle [James], which I think to ABC, they were like, “Oh, we don’t know them.” And I’m like, “I don’t care. I just don’t care. She is it and I know she’s it.” And that was backed off, because I think that they knew it too that she was good. I think for the character of Jacob played by Chris Perfetti, there was a little push there too to get someone a little bit more well known. But I saw Chris Perfetti perform and I just was like, he’s it, he gets something very special about this character that at the time was very surface level. And I think that we needed someone like him to help bring Jacob to full life, to get the idiosyncrasies of Jacob and the nuances. And I just was like, “No, I know this is the right guy.” So that was another example of just wanting to go with someone who was lesser known, but absolutely was the person for the job. Did you always know mockumentary was the way to go? Yeah. Absolutely. Mockumentary was always a part of the show. I knew that mockumentary would lend itself to this story, because I don’t think mockumentaries should be used for no reason, I think there should be a reason, and I felt that what better way to cover this school then via a documentary? I think
documentaries are fascinating. What different people give to the camera, who tries to be in front of the camera and what’s actually going on? And I thought that was a great vehicle for these characters. It was also the moment I saw my mother, the moment I really got the inspiration for this idea. I was looking at my mom sitting at her desk and she was having a parent-teacher conference. And it was the year before she was about to retire. And I felt it. I felt like, wow, I feel like a mockumentarystyle camera right now because I’m in this room, but I’m not a part of what’s happening, I’m just watching it. But I’m in this room physically and I wanted the audience to feel that way too. And I think that has a lot to do with how we feel about the humor of Abbott. It’s one thing to laugh at teachers, it’s another thing to laugh with them. And I feel like having that mockumentary style gives our audience the ability to laugh with them, they are a part of the school. What can you tell us about Season 2? I think one thing that’s exciting to me the characters to stay in the school for the most part. I think we leave maybe three times, to go to a nail salon, to go to the zoo. And that was on purpose, I just wanted the audience to fall in love with our school and they did and it worked and I’m so happy. So, this season, now we get to go maybe to some of the character’s houses, go out with them at night and stuff like that. And I’m just pumped about that because that’s really exciting for us as writers to venture out with our characters. And season were like, “Oh, we want to leave sometimes.” But I was like, “We just got to stay here though. Just
should take place in the workplace. And if they don’t, then they’re not a workplace comedy. So, I was sticking to that.
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G O L D ST E I N
The Ted Lasso role that resonated around the world and changed the multi-hyphenate's life BY NADIA NEOPHY TOU
Playing Roy Kent on Ted Lasso hasn’t just given Brett Goldstein the biggest success of his career, with
When you started writing for Ted Lasso, you hadn’t yet been cast as Roy Kent, so how has playing him impacted writing for him? I always try not to get in the way of Roy pitches, because I know I can be very, very defensive of Roy. So, I don’t want to be like, “No, Roy wouldn’t do that, shut up.” But I
other actors, because I can say, for
was so funny, and brilliant, and kind of unique. We were like, “Oh, we
to you and see what your eyebrows are doing, to see if you like the idea or not.” But I’ll usually stay quiet, because I don’t want to be like, “I hate that,” or, “I like that.” But they
you know that the show would connect with people? Well, I didn’t know it would be a know people would connect with it. But I did know that the intention was
was baked into the concept. It was about trying to put these things into the world. We never were approach ing it as just funny lines. It always had built into it this other stuff.
on, which is funny, which is, when half you, half the character, always. I think that’s true of everyone. It’s the other day, he said, “We all look
The show addresses masculinity in ways that we don’t usually get to see, especially in how it involves Roy and Ted. When did
It started off as an NBC promo clip and became an Emmy-winning comedy series—does the success of the show still blow you away?
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I’ve said it before, I promise I’m not being humble, or fake humble, or whatever. I honestly didn’t think anyone would watch this show. It was Apple TV, it was new. I thought most people didn’t even know how to access the thing, let alone watch anything on it. I thought, No one is going to watch this. We’ve made this really special thing for us, and no one will ever see it. And I also didn’t know if it would connect. It was halfEnglish, Half-American, and those things often don’t work, and football rarely works on screen. There were so many things that were like, this might not work. I genuinely didn’t think anyone would watch it, so this whole thing is... It’s extraordinary, it’s fucking mad. It’s insane. It’s been said the show was only meant to be three seasons—could the success of it lead to more? That’s entirely up to Jason. In terms of what we write, we’ve written this like it’s the end. If there were to be more, obviously we could write more, but the story that we’re telling is the three-act story that we were always going to tell, and it ends. I don’t want to spoil it, but most of the characters die by the end [deadpans]. It’s a real ending. It’s a dramatic ending. Well, the ending of Season 2 was very dramatic… Yeah, and we’ve got to up the stakes! Seeing a character like Nate develop—do you think that’s one of the reasons the show works? When we plot the story, we have everything on the board in front of us, and we plot it by character. As in, by the character’s history, where is the character going? What pays off? You look at Jamie Tartt, and you set him up as someone we are not going to like, and then you start planting why he’s like this, and then you have a payoff in the end. I haven’t quite got the words for it, but plot is character in this. The characters are the plot; what their history is and what their psychological journey is.
Brett Goldstein with Juno Temple in Ted Lasso.
I honestly didn’t think anyone would watch this show. It was Apple TV, it was new. I thought most people didn’t even know how to access the thing.
Personally, what are you most proud of in playing Roy Kent? Look, I never, ever take this for granted. I feel like I’ve died, you know what I mean? The fact that it’s the greatest part in the greatest job with the greatest people, I feel so, so lucky. And also, the time in my career that it came, I was accepting, “I think I’ve missed my slot.” I was doing stuff for 20 years, and it was all good stuff, but I don’t think anyone really saw it, or noticed, and I had accepted, “Well, this is it. I think I just make stuff that no one
there that are just content. I hate that word, but there are all these outlets, there’s a lot of stuff that’s
you’re doing, even if it’s a small show, whatever, make sure you’re putting some fucking love into it, and for now. That’s funny enough.” I think you should have a meaning behind it, whatever it is. Otherwise, you’re wasting people’s time. -
I can pay my bills.” It was a gamble putting myself on tape for it. But I had a real sense, like a calling, for this part in this thing. So, I feel like it’s magic, and I’m incredibly lucky, wake up, and it was a dream. How did Shrinking come about? that’s already on the go. I’m working on that remotely from England, while much from Jason Sudeikis, and Ted Lasso. It’s a hell of an experience to have had. I think the main thing is about intention and making sure that nothing you’re doing is without purpose. What I don’t like doing is
ing TV role. How has that been? He’s so far been amazing. I was thinking about it, and he’s always been funny. He’s funny in Indiana Jones, he’s funny in all of his work, he’s naturally funny. He’s not done a straight comedy before, and you’ll have to ask him, but I think he’s loving it, and he’s so funny. When we just killing the room. It was amazing. I think he’s just so excited that he gets to do a proper comedy, because from what it seems to me, I think he’s always wanted to do one, and never quite had the chance. So, it’s amazing to have this man at his age and with his talent, to be able to do something new. It’s very cool.
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H Y D E P I E RC E
Playing the supportive and dynamic husband behind a spirited culinary legend in HBO Max series Julia BY J E S S I C A D E R S C H OW I T Z
There’s something in the recipe for Julia, HBO Max’s series about Julia Child and her transformative cooking show, that viewers are savoring like a warm meal straight from the kitchen. “People are having
all into giving Julia the chance to shine. Here, Pierce discusses portraying the man behind the star chef, played by Sarah Lancashire, the show’s window into his and Julia’s relationship, and where things stand right now with the Frasier reboot. How familiar were you with Paul and Julia Child before this project? I was probably familiar with Julia the way most people who had heard of her work knew about her. I’d seen the movie [Julie & Julia] with Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci, and as a little boy certainly saw her on TV and was aware of her over
the years. It wasn’t until they approached me about doing the show that I found out about Paul and was so intrigued and enthralled by him and their relationship. What was it about him that interested you? He was so many things. He grew up
playing the violin and loved music all his life. He was a fantastic craftsman, he redesigned the kitchen in their home so the counters could be high enough that Julia wouldn’t hurt her back. He was an incredible painter, visual artist and photographer. He just seems to be someone who didn’t understand or care
about limitations. And then he put all of that into the service of this woman he loved, into their relationship and ultimately her career. I just
Did you audition with Sarah? Or at what point did you have the opportunity to meet her? There was a long lead-up where I was going to do the show, and then it turned out I wasn’t, and then I got a musical, so I was doing that instead. went on hiatus. By that point, Sarah had come on board after I had left
SO S ’ E R “THE O LOVE T H R’: C U M UT ‘CHEreE ssive p O m i B A ple, the come
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LE B A P L PA AS A H C U AS M TENSIONILLER.” R H T N KIA C O C HITCH MIX G N I NAT IVALRY, I C S A “A F SKILL, R FAME.” OF AND N RATIO
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the project. I didn’t know her or who she was. And because my musical was on hold and I was free, they asked if I would do the pilot. That’s when I looked her up, and it reminds me of Paul in the sense that it seems like she can do anything. I watched Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, and then some of her other stuff from her early days in television, obviously she had quite a range. She’s such a skilled actress. I had no idea how she’d be as Julia Child, but that wasn’t so important to me because a reason. And when we sat down at the table read, she just became her. It was very clear. The partnership that you two portrayed is just so beautiful. These are people of a certain age in a very different era, when a woman being a breadwinner was not as common, and Paul is in this transitional phase in his career. It’s interesting seeing how he processes this fame that comes to her. What people talk about all the time is how incredible it is that he just submerged himself in her success, especially at this time when that wasn’t happening as often. He was a really strong man with a very healthy believe that it was easy for him. I believe that he wouldn’t have had it any other way in terms of his love for her and his understanding of how great she is. But at the same time, he had to come to terms with the spotlight being only on one person. You really see that play out across the season. In the beginning, she has to manipulate him a bit into endorsing her shooting the pilot for The French Chef. But by the end, he really encourages her to keep going. That’s a credit to the writers, because they’ve given us a window into what it must have been like for these new world together. I love the scene
David Hyde Pierce and Sarah Lancashire as Paul and Julia Child in Julia.
art and nobody bought anything except one guy who wanted a photo of Julia Child, and Paul and Julia are just sitting there together in the art gallery looking at his painting, talking about what the hell is happening to them. I just think it’s so beautiful. It’s such a rich, complicated human moment.
What people talk about all the time is how incredible it is that he just submerged himself in her success, especially at this time when that wasn’t happening as often.
You got to reunite with Bebe Neuwirth, who played Lilith on Frasier and the Childs’ friend Avis DeVoto on Julia. What was it like working together again? We’ve always had fun, right from the Frasier, and that was 11 years because she was on the show every year for 11 years. And of course, we know each other anyway from just being in the business together, in the theater. We just share a lot of experience, a lot of life, a lot of common vocabulary and understanding. So, it’s very comfortable working with her, and I just adore her. To be reminded of just how exquisite she is as an actor, when I just think of her as an old friend, that’s awfully nice. Speaking of Frasier, do you know anything about where things stand with the reboot?
I don’t know where they stand. I haven’t talked to Kelsey in a while. The last time I talked to him, I knew that it was a work in progress, and I think it still is in the works. With all the talk about it over the years, have you thought at all about where you’d want to see those characters? My feeling was always that they had gone on their way, and I wasn’t really thinking about where they had gone. I went on to other shows. But I think if I saw a script where I went, “Oh my gosh, how interesting. Who would have thought that this is what they’re doing?” That’s why I never say I wouldn’t do it. It’s about how their story is told, because I care a lot about those people, those actors. This is how I always pick my projects, now that I have the luxury of picking them: I take them because I have to. That’s what happened with Julia. I read this script and I thought, I have to do this part. I want to explore this person and explore this relationship. And so, if I were to see a script of a Frasier reboot that I had to do, I would do it.
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Meagan Good • Shoniqua Shandai • Tracy Oliver • Jerrie Johnson • Grace Byers HARLEM
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5/31/22 3:57 PM
S M AWARDSLINE
SM MS The
Steve Martin, Martin Short & Selena Gomez No.
Death Becomes Hulu
thanks to Only Murders in the Building, a 10-episode comic mystery starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as three inhabitants of a New York City apartment complex who team up to investigate the death of a neighbor. Co-created by Martin and Jonathan Hoffman, the star-filled drama returns June 28 on the streamer, and now Gomez’s acerbic Mabel has become a murder suspect. Here, Gomez joins Martin (who plays Charles, an outmoded TV actor) and Short (his Oliver is a bankrupt Broadway producer) for a Zoom chat with Lynette Rice to riff about the dramedy’s successful first season, those intimate moments on screen, and what it’s like to work with each other. (Hint: it’s a constant knee slapper.) Your show is so important to Hulu, that you made an appearance at the Disney Upfront presentation in New York last month. How did that go? STEVE MARTIN: It’s a very non-showbusiness environment with noise and air fans and people who are on couches rather than chairs. It’s not quite an audience. Because you can’t hear the audience respond, you just persevere. It felt funny to us. SELENA GOMEZ: You just try a bunch of things until it doesn’t work. I used to do the upfronts all the time for my Disney show The Wizards of Waverly Place.
SHORT: Yes. Steve is the one. That’s the answer.
The second season was ordered only two when you originally pitched the idea were you imagining a limited run? Or were you seeing a series that would go on for many years? MARTIN: Well, you know, I’m very new to the television business, so I hadn’t even really thought about that. I didn’t even pitch myself in it. I just had an idea that I thought would be for different, older actors. Get three older actors and
now there’s Selena who… GOMEZ: …Came to ruin it all. MARTIN: I told Marty the idea and he said, “You know what? We are old, we could do it.” When I first thought of it, we weren’t that old. But now we are officially old. SHORT: I’m perceived as timeless.
Whose idea was it to hire Selena? MARTIN: I think it came from [executive producer] Dan Fogelman because, you know, it was three old guys and it’s such a clear thought to throw a young woman into the mix. I mean, it’s so obvious. And I said, Marty doesn’t qualify as a young woman… SHORT: …Anymore. Selena, what do you remember about the GOMEZ: They pitched me the idea and it led into a whole conversation about my actual obsession with true crime. I had just come back from CrimeCon when I had the call and it just felt like it was something I really wanted to do. They were all so lovely. And working with Steve and Marty would be a dream.
every reporter and viewer must have asked you what it was to work with these comedy legends. Now that everything is old hat, what did you really want to say about them? GOMEZ: Oh man. I wish I had something witty. I’m still learning from them. Actually, what I’ve learned from them is to be a little more snarky. I can tell that I have a little more bite. Marty will look at me and say, “I did that.” MARTIN: What’s interesting is how Selena’s character developed. It takes time to develop a character into a thing. Marty was always in place, and I was in place, but Selena’s character really evolved into this very special flavoring in the show.
The Only Murders in the Building cast, from left: Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez.
The reception for the show has been so great. Who have been some of your more unexpected fans? GOMEZ: Meryl Streep came up to me and complimented the show. It was very sweet. Otherwise, I just have older guys with suede elbow patches who come up and go, “You did well on that show.” MARTIN: I got one the other day that really surprised me because I was in a mask, and I had on dark glasses. A guy said, “Hey, Steve Martin.” He said, “you look just like your character.” I had a hat from the show, and I looked exactly like myself from the show. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that an amazing story? MARTIN SHORT: I can’t think of anyone right now, but I can make one up in a few minutes. MARTIN: Actually, I think I said to you, “I’m surprised you are so good.”
5/31/22 11:23 AM
PARTNERSHIP SHORT: She had the most room to evolve because she was such a mystery when we first met her.
Selena did you know at the beginning of the season that you were going to be a suspect? GOMEZ: They kept the last few episodes pretty quiet until the end. I was surprised, but in the best way. Not a lot of millennials are named Mabel. Did you at any point ask, why am I named Mabel? GOMEZ: Oh, I feel like a Mabel. SHORT: That’s such a good question. Where did that name come from? Did they offer you a bunch of names? MARTIN: It is an unusual name. It implies an unusual parentage, an unusual upbringing. It’s not Charlene. Charlene? MARTIN: Well, Charlene actually was the name of Queen Latifah’s character In Bringing Down the House [a 2003 film that co-starred Martin]. So obviously this is a murder mystery, but I have to think we were not the only ones who really fell in love with those intimate moments. For instance, that moment where Steve and Amy Ryan [who played Jan] played the instruments in the courtyard. How did that scene come about? MARTIN: It was in the script. The original impulse was for me to play the banjo. I said it’s too much like me, it’s not a character. So, I suggested a little concertina organ, which is involved in Irish music, which I have an affection for. Why are you laughing Selena? GOMEZ: I just, you know, think you’re funny. MARTIN: I adore Irish music and I thought, well, that’s kind of perfect. It’s easy to fake, too. Well, it was all very swoony. But that was the point. Right? MARTIN: There was a lot of effort in the first season to be poetic. Martin, I mean this in the best way possible. Your character Oliver was such a sad sack, and I couldn’t hear enough about his background and his debt. Did you have a favorite moment of his? MARTIN: That comes from his whole life. SHORT: I liked working with Ryan Broussard who plays my son. I thought he did it perfectly. I don’t know, I tend to let people tell me what they like. I don’t tell them. MARTIN: Marty has slowly developed over the last 20 years a dramatic persona in different shows, that shows his ability to do drama. In this show, he’s to me blending it perfectly, which is what I already knew. How to go from comedy to drama kind of seamlessly.
From left: Martin, Short and Gomez.
SHORT: Thank you, Steven.
Selena, do you have a favorite Martin moment? Did you kind of feel sorry for him at one point? GOMEZ: I mean, I feel sorry for Marty all the time. SHORT: That’s the girl I tutor! GOMEZ: I just have so many fun stories, but I think what’s really moving is his storyline with his family. I just find it heartbreaking, but also really wonderful, because it’s effort that he’s putting into it and how much he loves his family. Other than that, Marty was so annoying on set. MARTIN: Hear, hear! How is he annoying? MARTIN: The actors, when they’re not working, sit in director chairs in a special room because of Covid, so it’s very isolated. There’ll be three of us. Selena and I might be six feet apart. And by coincidence, Marty’s chair is maybe 12 feet away. While you’re just sitting there going over your lines, we’ll start to hear thump thump thump. And you realize he’s bouncing his chair, trying to become a member of the group. I’ll tell you another thing about Marty. SHORT: Someone’s on a roll. MARTIN: Well, it’s Emmy award season. Marty has awards, but he does not display them on a shelf. Like, mostly he has a scale. And on one side of the scale, he’s somehow gotten the actual weight of Billy Crystal’s awards. He puts his awards on the other side of the scale. It’s always a little lopsided. So, he’s looking for some awards to get that scale even. I shouldn’t even have told that story. GOMEZ: Do you see what I get to live with? SHORT: Somebody did The Comedy Store last night. Steve, you and the casting director were friendly with Sting so that’s how he joined the
show. How was he to work with? MARTIN: He’d sit on the set and do the cryptic crossword from the Financial Times, which is impossible. So he has got this whole other life going on. tin, which of the actors from Season 1 really SHORT: I would say Nathan Lane [as Teddy Dimas]. MARTIN: Yeah. Applause. SHORT: Of course Amy Ryan. Jane Lynch [as Sazz Pataki]. Spectacular. I’m always amazed when I work in New York. Everyone you work with, even if they’re just a day player, they’re spectacular. It’s such a hub for great actors.
Did you get a lot of requests from actors to join the fun in Season 2? SHORT: It was exciting to have worked with Shirley MacLaine. MARTIN: Yeah, that’s true. And I get a lot of calls from Marty to be on the second season. Steve, now I just have a burning question cally, the piece of art in the kitchen that says ‘Nice, Hot Vegetables’. Is there a story behind that vegetable art? MARTIN: It was put there by the set decorators and that is a work by Ed Ruscha, a California artist. He’s a great artist and his work sells for millions and millions of dollars. They had to get his permission to show that reproduction. He’s a good guy. Marty, I’ll give you the last word. MARTIN: Yes do it, Marty, have the final word. SHORT: Oh, I just love the show and I love the people and I love what they pay me. MARTIN: You’re the first person that I’ve ever heard say they love getting paid scale.
OVER 21 MILLION WATCHED HER TAKE CONTROL *
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