For the producers, going into this season, you have such a large cast. What are the bigger struggles dealing with all of them?
Jason Katims: Well, we’re planning on killing them off one episode at a time. [Laughs] I wanted to start with the very first episode, but Angela Bromstad [NBC Primetime President] wisely encouraged me to wait until sweeps episodes. [Laughs] No, it’s a really good question because writing for the show is an embarrassment of riches, and you could see it right here in front of you. It’s the most incredible cast, and every single person in this cast is a wonderful actor. Many of them could be in a show that is their own show and several of them have, so it’s a big challenge in writing the show. But it’s also, I think, what makes the show so wonderful. And one of the things I really love coming from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is that sort of the big ensemble show with a lot of balls in the air and a lot of stories going on. I think that it sort of gives us an opportunity to, as much as possible, challenge ourselves as writers to write toward everyone.
Last year you got this very ambitious show up and running, but it wasn’t really a hit. It didn’t really break through. When you’re approaching a second season, is there any pressure from the network to change the writing or change the concept or design of the show to broaden the appeal?
I think the first season of any show is discovering what the show is and finding the voice of the show, and I think there’s always a certain amount of time that it takes until you sort of figure that out. I think if you look at the episodes from as far as the way I see it, there’s a certain point around the middle of the season last year where I felt everybody, everything just like kicked into another gear. I felt like all the actors were really comfortable in their own skin and knew the voices of their characters. The writers were figuring out better how to write it, and I think we just found a really nice ?? a nice tone. And so, to me, it’s not about changing anything. It’s about hopefully continuing to allow these characters to evolve, putting the ball in the hands of these amazing actors, giving them meaty stuff to play together and letting them run with it.
How far in advance do you plot out the show? Is there a five?year arc kind of sorts?
No. We usually break it down in smaller pieces. I kind of think about the show in sort of in arcs which naturally play out over four or five episodes. You present some things, present an idea, and kind of answer that and sort of move on to the next thing. So we have ideas. Like right now, I definitely have ideas about a lot of the characters, like what their season?long arc is going to be, but we don’t really have it all worked out because I like to leave room for improvisation. The beauty of doing a television show is it’s a continuing dialogue. You write something. You put the script out there. We like to keep a really free and open environment on set so the actors are really able to just kind of thrive. Then you come back, and you see what comes back in the editing room, and I want to be able to respond to that as a writer so that I don’t have sort of like tunnel vision about what the stories are going to be. So we definitely have sort of ideas, but I also kind of like to keep it open ?? keep myself open to changing those ideas as we go.
To follow on that, can you talk about some of the stories that you’ll be going into for this new season? I know you can’t give away a lot of plot, but just give us some idea of where we’re going.
One of the things we didn’t have an opportunity to do much in the first season is introduce more of Adam Braverman’s life at work. So he’ll get a new employee who is a real pain in the ass, that’s his sister, Sarah, who starts working! And we also are introducing his boss, Billy Baldwin, who is going to do an ongoing arc in the show. So we’re going to sort of talk more about that. We’re going to continue to tell stories in that family about, Haddie and Max. A few episodes down the road we’re going to introduce a new love interest for Haddie that will challenge them in a different way, much different than Steve. For Julia and Joel, it’s Julia continuing to be dealing with her control issues, and also I think the question of is it time to have another baby comes up. As for Zeek and Camille, over the course of the season, we’re going to be sort of addressing some of the stuff that we started to talk about last year in, questions about their marriage, and it starts sort of in a comedic way, with the two of them in marriage counseling. But one of the things that I was kind of excited about when I thought about doing the show at the beginning was having the role of the patriarch and matriarch of this family be real characters and see who they were. I think sort of by the end of last season, you really started to see them, not only as the parents of our adult siblings or the grandparents of the kids, but you started to see them as real people in a marriage with real sort of situations they were going through. So we want to continue that throughout the season. And with Crosby, Jasmine and Jabbar, it’s continuing to see what’s going to happen with that family.
What lessons have you learned, if any from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
One of the experiences I had when we first starting shooting, not the pilot, but the series, was I was on the set, and there was a scene between Monica and Peter and Sarah Ramos, and I was watching the scene in the monitor, and at end of the scene, Monica had this expression on her face like she wanted to say something. And I was watching, thinking to myself, “What is she going to say?” And I was just so fascinated to see what she was going to say. And I heard, “Cut.” And they moved on to the next scene. And I was, like, “What were you going to say?” And she told me. I forget what it was, but it was really ?? “Oh, I wish you would have said that.” And it started this conversation about the process of doing it because on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS there’s a lot of freedom to — on one hand really honor the text and honor the script — but on the other hand there’s a lot of freedom to be able to expand upon it and play with it and work with it. And it’s a popular thing to talk about the actors because people like to talk about actors improvising, but it’s not just actors. It has to do with editors, writers and camera operators and so many of the people sort of involved in the show. So a long answer to a simple question is what I would like to try to bring or continue to try to bring from that experience — because they’re very different shows in one way — but what I’d like to bring is the sort of spirit of the filmmaking that’s unique to that show that gives people the freedom to be creative but, more importantly, the responsibility to have ownership of their role on the show.