Emmy-nominated limited series showrunners go behind the scenes – The Hollywood Reporter

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This year’s limited series race is competitive: Three Hulu shows face off against titles from Netflix and HBO, and four of the nominees tell compelling, hard-to-believe true stories of greed, fraud and public humiliation. Creatives behind each nominated series — Dopeit’s Danny Strong, The stallby Elizabeth Meriwether, Invent Annait’s Shonda Rhimes, Pam and Tommyby Robert Seigel and DV DeVincentis, and The White Lotus‘ David Bernad – think about the challenges of writing for TV when the real stories haven’t quite finished, when they realized their projects were going to be powerful, and when they saw their stars come together and discover their characters.

Danny Strong, showrunner of Dope (Hulu)

“We had someone in the props department who had a lot of experience and first-hand knowledge that he was so honest about. He was able to do the [drug] the paraphernalia looks extremely real. And it was so important to me that everything looked real, whether it wasn’t glam or [what] some people call “opioid porn”, where you see pictures of people [who look] as if wallowing in darkness. I was not interested in any of this. He was an incredible asset. We shot the show in Virginia, and it was so crowded [on set] who have lost family members, friends, years of their own lives to drugs. There was a sense of a collective mission that everyone was telling the story about.

“I knew we were doing something really powerful when, during the first week of filming, we had a scene where American lawyers were just discussing OxyContin – there was nothing emotional about the scene. After doing a few takes, I saw someone in the crew crying in the corner. It was right audience discussed drugs that made that person cry. I thought, “Wow, I’m so glad we’re not just telling this story, but telling it here in Virginia, where it all happened” – so there might be something cathartic for the members of the team who lived this too, to be part of the telling of this story.

Elizabeth Meriwether, showrunner of The stall (Hulu)

“I was really scared to write the finale. I kept putting it off. I’d been putting it off for way too long and Hulu was like, ‘You have to write that finale!’ It was really hard for me, like, “How do I wrap this story up in a way, when it’s in progress?” For the ending, we originally envisioned it at Burning Man, because she’d been on this trip at Burning Man with her new fiancé, Billy, and they had posted all over Instagram about it, and it was just a really interesting place for a quote -rebirth without quotes. But then it was weirdly a blessing in disguise because with COVID, we definitely weren’t going to Burning Man. We had to rethink that whole ending, and it just became his getting into an Uber, which totally worked. With his relationship with Sunny, it had boiled slowly episode after episode , and then I was like, ‘We owe the audience a big fight between them.’ But I was definitely avoiding writing a big dramatic fight because I’m a comedy writer. I was like, ‘How can I write this very dramatic scene without it being t melodramatic?’ It was a challenge for me.

Shonda Rhimes, showrunner of Invent Anna (Netflix):

“There’s so much in the show that seems to come straight out of Anna’s mouth that we had to take a few liberties with, but we really tried to find a balance between sticking to the facts that really mattered and stories that really mattered, and then just trying to build the moments, to express a moment that maybe happened in life, but didn’t happen the way we have you know, we wanted to make sure that we created those moments and told them in a way that was vivid and visual and worked for the story. That’s why we said inspired by, so we didn’t not felt married to sticking to the facts. One of the clearest ways was our creation of the journalist who was inspired by [New York magazine’s] Jessica Pressler to create a path in this world, because we needed someone you would empathize with and truly care about.

Rob Siegel and DV DeVincentis, showrunners of Pam and Tommy (Hulu)

DeVincentis: “We did extensive research, and Lily [James] would still find things we didn’t know that turned out to be crucial to the storytelling. Lily and Sebastian [Stan] were the best character keepers I’ve ever seen. Their dedication and love of the characters is so overwhelming, and it’s all there. And by the way, Sebastian, because his transformation isn’t quite as extreme, the specificity he uses isn’t quite as noticeable, but it’s just as powerful. Particularly recently, I’ve seen footage of Tommy Lee talking, and after watching it for hours after seeing Sebastian do it, you’re like, “Oh my God, Sebastian really inhabited it.” It was amazing.”

Siegel: “For me, archival interviews, hearing them speak. You can learn so much from video footage.
DeVincentis: “If you watch enough of the interviews with Pam, especially the late night interviews, you start to see how brilliantly she handles the situation and with the kind of innate intelligence. You watch what she puts up with, and you see her put up with it. I like to think there’s some sort of bigger goal, like she knows people are going to be sexist and rude and shitty with her, but if she achieves that, she can talk about things that are really important to her , such as animal rights and PETA. And for me, the behavior of watching how she deals with really insensitive and shitty people was the most enlightening thing about this character for me in terms of research.

David Bernad, executive producer of The White Lotus (HBO)

“I think Mike [White, creator and director] is a genius. The humanist approach is consistent throughout his work. But what’s amazing is that no one writes faster than Mike. People will think that’s not true: We landed in Hawaii, I would say, like, September 13 or 14, 2020. We had a script. We started production on October 28. It’s a six-episode series, and he wrote five perfect scripts in five or six weeks – while we were casting, while we were prepping, while we were teaming up. In this six-week period, we did everything. We had about four weeks to cast the series. Mike is also, as a filmmaker, incredibly decisive. We focused on finding people who really embodied the characters. Casting Steve Zahn was Mike’s idea. Murray Bartlett was someone Mike had just seen on his first audition and thought, “That’s him.” Murray is Armond. sydney [Sweeney] was someone I had met at a general meeting. I only saw her in Euphoriaand of this meeting, [I saw] she is so different from her character in [that]. mike and connie [Britton] worked together on Beatrice at dinner. Clearly, Connie is an icon and amazing. I think Alexandra Daddario made a self-tape, and when we both saw the tape, we were like, “That’s it.” We just knew.

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