Monday July 15, 2019

I watched the Aziz Ansari Netflix special. It was ok, at best.

If you want to laugh, check out the stand up specials from Matt Braunger and/or Bryan Callen, both available on Amazon.

The final season of HBO’s The Deuce will premiere on September 9.

VH1 debuts Girls Cruise tonight.

You’re The Worst alumna Aya Cash is in talks to join a likely second season of Amazon’s superhero drama series The Boys in the role of Stormfront, we hear. Amazon would not comment. There has been no official decision on a second season at this point and Amazon would not confirm a renewal. Season one is set to premiere July 26 on Amazon. Based on the comic book by Garth Ennis (Preacher) and Darick Robertson and created by Supernatural creator and Timeless co-creator Eric Kripke, The Boys is set in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame. It revolves around a group of vigilantes known informally as ‘the Boys’ who set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty. Preacher‘s Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen produce.”

Quibi has ordered its first superhero show, with Doug Liman attached to direct it. Liman's digital production company 30 Ninjas is also producing the show, called Crazy Talented. It's based on a short story by Jumperauthor Steven Gould — Liman directed a 2008 film based on that novel — and written by Michael Karnow (Alphas). Quibi's description of the show reads, ‘The world's most powerful superheroes are trying to stop the world's most devastating threat — alien weapons falling into the wrong hands and obliterating life as we know it. At least that's what they've been told. In Crazy Talented, patients on a psych ward are convinced by a charismatic leader that their defects are actually extraordinary “talents.” He's clearly out of his mind. But just because it's crazy doesn’t mean it isn't true.’"

Rahm Emanuel, a former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff, is joining ABC News as a contributor, the network announced Sunday. Previously, Emanuel worked as the 55th mayor of Chicago, serving from 2011 to 2019. He also served as the White House Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2010 under President Obama and as a member of the United States House of Representatives for Chicago prior to his White House position. Since his mayoral departure, Emanuel has also become a contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine where he penned his first piece It’s Time to Hold American Elites Accountable for Their Abuses.' In the article, Emanuel calls on Democrats to focus more on the middle class in light of the Varsity Blues investigation.”

Snapchat has bolstered its efforts to support the creator community with a slate of new programming from celebrity creators as part of its newly launched ‘Creator Shows’ strand. Snapchat is aiming to capitalize on its youthful demographic, which in the U.S. reaches 90% of all 13-24 year-olds – more than Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger combined – and 75% of all 13-34 year olds. All content will be shot vertically in first-person and ranges between three and five minutes, with eight to 10 episodes per episode. The repeatable formats will be lifestyle-driven, with themes reaching across fitness, dance, beauty, fashion, food, motivation, horoscopes and more. Programs will be published regularly and will feature such celebrities as Serena Williams, Kevin Hart and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as top creators Maddie Ziegler, Emma Chamberlain, Rickey Thompson, Loren Gray, FaZe Banks and Baby Ariel.”

Luann de Lesseps and Jersey Shore star DJ Pauly D are planning to release a remix of her recent hit, Feelin’ Jovani, Page Six can exclusively confirm. ‘We’re still talking about it and working it out,’ the Countess told us on Friday. ‘With DJs, I like to hear their own version of how they would remix the song. We’ll see what he comes up with.’ The pair met for the first time on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen Thursday night and discussed collaborating on a new version of the dance track with Andy Cohen during the live filming.”

Lindsay Lohan will soon be back in action on the small screen. The 33-year-old actress, who most recently appeared on the MTV reality series Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club, will join the judges’ panel on the Australian edition of The Masked Singerthe show announced Sunday on social media. Lohan will serve as a panelist along with Australian radio personality Jackie O, singer Dannii Minogue and comedian Dave Hughes. The foursome will be tasked to guess the singing celebrities dressed in unique costumes.”

The Dodo is working with Facebook-owned social media company Instagram and its IGTV video app on a new series for teens featuring Instagram influencers and their pets. You Know Me…Now Meet My Pet is a six-part series, with six young influencers introducing the world to their beloved pets. Featured influencers include Mia Sayoko and her corgi Ken (both pictured), Drew Lynch and his service dog Stella, Loren Gray and her pomeranians Angel and Smudge, Lauren Riihimaki and her miniature bull terrier Moose, Mahogany Lox and her dog Pockets, and Kristen McAtee and her dog Link.”

Suits_S9.jpg

Per Variety, “When Suits closes the file on its final stretch of episodes this fall, it leaves behind a legacy of nine seasons, 134 episodes, two remakes (in Korea and Japan), a slew of international broadcasters, and a royal wedding that transformed series star Meghan Markle into a global, household name.

“The July 17 premiere also marks the official end to USA’s once-popular ‘blue sky’ era, as the slick and aspirational characters bid farewell and the network ushers in the grittier Pearson spinoff starring Gina Torres on the same night. Both series are produced by UCP.

“Clocking in at just 10 episodes, the final season of Suits is the shortest run of the series, coming in just behind the first season’s 12-episode order (creator Aaron Korsh says they were asked to do five or six more episodes at the time, but production was gassed). Within that run each of the current series regulars — originals Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty, Rick Hoffman and newer members Katherine Heigl, Amanda Schull and Dulé Hill — will have a dedicated episode to their characters. Meanwhile, the season also welcomes back original lead Patrick J. Adams, who departed alongside Markle at the end of Season 7. His character, Mike Ross, will go head-to-head against the firm in an important case beginning in Episode 5.

“‘It was hard to imagine a last season without Mike,’ Korsh says. ‘At the beginning of the year when all the writers sat down there was no one that didn’t think getting him back was a huge goal of the season. I wouldn’t say it would be a failure if we didn’t get him back, but I always knew I wanted him back for this last season.’

“What wasn’t necessarily a goal for Korsh was a final season that explores what Harvey (Macht) and Donna (Rafferty) look like as colleagues and now also as a romantic couple. The showrunner admits at one point he was saving that pairing for a potential series finale but, like most storylines he’s written over the years, it was delivered earlier than originally expected because it fit with the overall direction. As for the finale itself, Korsh was still working on it at time of press, readying both the overall script and also preparing to direct the episode, marking the first time he’s stepping behind the camera.

“‘We weren’t trying to make an Extra Special Season of Suits. It’s the same as every year: We always try to tell the best stories that we can,’ he says. ‘For the finale there might be a little extra, but I try to do that with most finales, each year. I didn’t want to make it different, that’s not my style of show. There’s a lot of humor, and our people feel for the most part, good with each other.’

“That ‘blue sky’ approach to drama has been extinct for a couple of years now at USA, with legacy series like Burn Notice and Royal Pains ending, and bolder storytelling featuring darker, millennial-friendly twists like Mr. Robot and Queen of the South punctuating the schedule. Suits has been the flagship series that evolved throughout that ‘characters welcome’ to the ‘we the bold’ transition, putting its characters through the ringer. While it still utilized humor and bright cinematography, it also began tackling more serialized storylines and, in Season 6, even followed Adams’ character to jail, where his life was on the line.

“Viewers can expect to see more of that kind of storytelling on Pearson, as Torres’ Jessica Pearson character — now disbarred and living in Chicago — becomes a fixer of sorts for the shady mayor Bobby Golec (Morgan Spector) and assembles her own team including assistant Yoli Castillo (Isabel Arraiza) and driver Nick D’Amato (Simon Kassianides). Not only is the overall story tone darker, but the cinematography and exterior night shoots also match that grittier theme.

“‘Whereas Suits has an aspirational and a kind of shiny quality — it’s lawyers that look good and they’re often dealing in the upper echelon or the 1% — we really wanted to do a show that was a little more raw, a little more real, and there could be a more of an upstairs-downstairs quality to it,’ showrunner Daniel Arkin, who also serves as a producer on Suits, says.

“He adds that the designated tone allows for a more complex character drama in which they can also tackle overall themes of race, social issues, and politics, so long as those themes remain a backdrop to the storylines and characters that are being presented.

“‘What we’re trying to do, in a macro sense, is capture what’s going on in the country, what’s going on in urban cities. A lot of season one deals with homelessness and housing, which is an enormous issue,’ he says. ‘But to me that only works if it’s backdrop. I never want it to be the subject matter; I don’t want that to drive the story.’

“Torres, who conceptualized the spinoff after leaving the Toronto-shot Suits in the middle of Season 6 to be closer to her family in L.A., wanted to dig into the character because she felt like she “never really got to know who Jessica was” on Suits. In addition to starring in the spinoff she has had a heavy hand in the development of it as an executive producer. She realized the Yoli and Nick characters were specifically important to her: Nick — in addition to being an ambiguous figure in the Pearson world — serves as a fly-on-the-wall in terms of what Jessica does during her downtime, and Yoli is partially derived from Torres’ own experiences.

“‘Yoli is born out of my Donna envy. I always wanted a Donna, and so I got my Donna. Yoli is a millennial and she’s really green and she’s really awesome. It was also incredibly important to me that she’d be Latina,’ Torres says. ‘I knew exactly how I wanted our characters to meet, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the show because it’s ripped from the pages of my life.’

“Torres and Arkin reveal the Pearson characters are more morally ambiguous than those presented on Suits, so while there are some smaller crossovers and Easter eggs for viewers tuning into both shows, the two worlds are too tonally different to have Suits characters cross over in the first season. The creators are open to the idea in the future should it make sense, though, and would also consider pulling in some of the notorious guest-starring characters from the universe as well.

“‘It was important for us to move into something else. It’s a legacy piece, it’s not a sequel. It’s not Suits Jr.,’ Torres says. ‘Jessica is really quite capable of standing on her own as a persona, as a character, in a new, fascinating world. As much as we would love for our Suits audience to move in and come along with that, we’re also looking forward to new people. You don’t have to be a fan of Suits to be a fan of Pearson.’

“The final season of Suits and the premiere of Pearson air Wednesday, July 17 on USA.”

1_4JwoEofst1Lz3LCiHW_FZA.jpg

Per Indiewire, “[r]ight from the first episode something has felt slightly disjointed about the second season of Big Little Lies. When the show isn’t in the flow of its recognizable style, there is a strange editorial tension – scenes are choppy, lacking any sense of internal rhythm. As it turns out, that friction was the product of a behind-the-scenes struggle that grew out of an attempt to remove the style of its director in post-production.

“When the executive producers and HBO approached Andrea Arnold about directing the second season of Big Little Lies, the pitch was simple: They not only wanted the British filmmaker (American Honey) to direct the entire season, they wanted an Andrea Arnold version of the show and all that entailed. It wasn’t just lip service. From prep, through production, and into post-production, Arnold was to get free rein. But a significant part of HBO and showrunner David E. Kelley’s plan was not shared with Arnold.

“According to a number of sources close to the production, there was a dramatic shift in late 2018 as the show was yanked away from Arnold, and creative control was handed over to executive producer and Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée. The goal was to unify the visual style of Season 1 and 2. In other words, after all the episodes had been shot, take Arnold’s work and make it look and feel like the familiar style Vallée brought to the hit first season, which won eight of the 16 Emmys it was nominated for in 2017, including Outstanding Limited Series.

“According to sources close to the executive producers, it had always been the plan, although unbeknownst to Arnold, for Vallée to become re-involved in the show last fall. Kelley, whose TV career started in the 1980s writing network shows, is a strong believer that TV is different than movies: Shows have a unified style, rather than directorial voice. In working with Vallée during the first season, Kelley grew to trust and appreciate the distinct tone and visual style the director brought to his series, and entered the second season seeing it as the established look of the show.

“When HBO and the show’s executive producers were unwilling to wait for Vallée, who had committed to Sharp Objects, to shoot season 2, the creative team behind the show collectively decided to hire Arnold, whose work they believed that Vallée and his Season 1 team could easily shape into the show’s distinctive style in post-production. Vallée, who advocated for Arnold, told IndieWire last May that he saw their directorial styles as being cut from the same cloth.

“‘We have similar ways of shooting, when you look at it,’ said Vallée. ‘She shot handheld, available light. She aims for performances, like I [did] in Season 1. She is who she is, but the spirit of the other is there.’

“That such a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between Vallée and Arnold as visual storytellers was not understood by Vallée and the other executive producers has befuddled a number of observers, some even questioning if they had actually watched any of Arnold’s films like American Honey and Fish Tank.

“In reality, the fiercely independent and singular Arnold was an unconventional choice to take over Big Little Lies. Arnold had success collaborating with TV creator Jill Soloway, directing episodes of Transparent and I Love Dick, because the visual style of those shows was, in part, inspired by the poetic realism of Arnold’s oeuvre. With Big Little Lies, Arnold’s ability to create emotional immediacy with her raw handheld work marked a departure from Vallée’s more ponderous floating camera emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

“Yet even such a fundamental misjudgment doesn’t explain the lack of communication from the producers that followed. Not only was Arnold given free rein, it was never explained to her that the expectation was her footage would be shaped by Vallée into the show’s distinctive style. Sources close to production and Vallée tell IndieWire that there was no style bible laying out the visual rules of the show, common for TV series looking to maintain consistency between different filmmaking teams. And Arnold was allowed to hire her own creative team, including switching the show’s cinematographers by bringing over Jim Frohna who she had worked with on Soloway’s series.

“Even more remarkable, Vallée and Arnold never spoke, nor was there ever a clear showrunner or creative producer who Arnold was answerable to on set. Star-EPs Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman were said to have loved working with Arnold and trusted her intrinsically, while as showrunner Kelley made only a handful of set visits, each lasting approximately an hour.

“While Kelley’s soapy scripts, featuring many scenes of two characters sitting across a table talking (which required his approval to alter), were not Arnold’s bread-and-butter, the director was free to shoot them as she saw fit. Sources describe dailies filled with Arnold’s trademark restless camera searching for grace notes – those gestures, movements and poetic frames of natural light that add another layer to what is not being said.

“Yet if HBO, Kelley, Vallée or the other executive producers were concerned while screening dailies that the show had veered too far from the Big Little Lies style, they did little to interfere with Arnold’s shoot through the entirety of last year’s production. In fact, reports back to set were described as ‘glowing.’ When the show wrapped in August 2018, each of the stars took to social media to praise Arnold, called their ‘fearless leader by Kidman. HBO even acquiesced to Arnold’s desire to hire European editors and return home to London to cut the show there after a year in California. The director was still working under the impression she had creative control and expected to see the show through until it aired this summer.

“It was as Arnold started to assemble scenes that Kelley and HBO started to see there was a problem. Before Arnold and her London editing team were able to even complete an official cut of an episode, Vallée, now finished with work on “Sharp Objects,” started to take over. Post-production shifted from London to Vallée’s home city of Montreal, where his own editorial team started cutting what is now airing on HBO. Soon after, 17 days of additional photography were scheduled.

“When asked to explain the sudden move, HBO issued the following statement:

“‘There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.’

“Before the February order of additional photography started, the Vallée-led direction the show was taking was obvious, but sources close to Arnold say she felt obligated to see it through to the end. While DGA rules required Arnold be the director on set, Vallée was now an extremely hands-on EP dictating not only what would be shot, but how it would be shot, oversight that Arnold never had during the initial shoot. The optics were not lost on many associated with Big Little Lies: A show dominated by some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood hired a fiercely independent woman director – who was now being forced to watch from the director’s chair as scenes were shot in the style of her male predecessor.

“While there was a significant reworking of the show’s story through additional photography and an increased reliance on Season 1 flashbacks, a large part of what guided Vallée’s reconfiguration of the second season was removing Arnold’s signature contributions. Sixty-page scripts were slashed down to 40-plus minute episodes, sources say, largely by chopping up a scene to remove what one source described as Arnold’s character exploration and ‘ephemeral stuff.’

“When elements of Arnold’s work do remain on-screen – especially in the first episode  – the scenes seem truncated, the editing especially choppy. As the season has progressed (episode 5 premiered last Sunday), the show has increasingly settled into the familiar S1 style and rhythm. Eleven editors are currently credited on the show.

“According to sources close to Arnold – the director declined to speak to IndieWire – the filmmaker is heartbroken about the experience. While she wasn’t pursuing the personal storytelling of her films, Arnold worked tirelessly preparing to shoot Season 2, knowing that she was entering a corporate and collaborative environment where friction, or pulling on the reins during production, was a reasonable fear. But to have been allowed to shoot and start to edit her version of the show and then have it taken from her, without explanation or warning, was devastating.”

nicole.jpg

A little more Big Little Lies: “Heading into the finale for Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman has set the stage for a courtroom showdown between her and Meryl Streep's characters to bring the HBO drama to the finish line.

Amid a complicated process of grieving her late husband, Celeste Wright's (Kidman) fitness as the mother of twin second-grade boys is being put in question by her mother-in-law, Mary Louise Wright (Streep). After keeping tabs on Celeste's stumbles for the entire second season, Mary Louise hires the best family attorney in Monterey to legally fight her for guardianship.

The penultimate episode saw Celeste taking the stand in court during an open evidentiary hearing that was attended by the rest of the Monterey Five (Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz). Going into the hearing, the five women were most concerned with Celeste facing questions under oath about late husband Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard), whose death is still being investigated by the police. But when attorney Ira Farber (guest star Denis O'Hare), began his line of questioning, he exposed Celeste in ways that surprised and shocked anyone watching.

Celeste, who is a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of Perry, was forced to answer questions about the abuse and whether their violent sexual relationship has manifested into a "sickness," as evidenced by the casual sex she's been having of late. Farber questions her about Ambien misuse and altercations with family members, while also using private family conversations as a courtroom weapon. When the judge inserts herself into the saga, it becomes clear that Celeste, a practicing attorney, is going to have to wage her own fight by putting Mary Louise on the stand if she wants to retain full custody.

"It became this scene between two women who were talking about spousal abuse, the struggle they have with raising kids and female sexuality and what’s allowable," O'Hare tells The Hollywood Reporter of the female judge (Becky Ann Baker) questioning Celeste herself after Farber went on the attack. The 13-page scene between Farber and Celeste is what drew O'Hare to the key role and a storyline he praises for igniting a "mature" conversation in the #MeToo era: "Nicole Kidman’s character is a human being with human needs who is, nonetheless, still a victim and has the right to claim that mantle no matter what behavior she’s engaging in."

Below, O'Hare goes inside the courtroom battle as it rages on through the finale, when Celeste and Mary Louise will swap roles so Streep's character can take the stand. With no news about a third season in sight, the July 21 finale — which O'Hare predicts will be well-received by viewers — is poised to give the audience exactly what they want. "It’s fireworks," he says. "It’s what everyone wants to see: Meryl Streep on the stand being cross-examined by Nicole Kidman."

What attracted you to this key season two role of pit bull lawyer Ira Farber? 

It really was a no-brainer because I loved the show. I wanted to see how I would be a part of the Monterey Five and the fact that I would be Meryl Streep’s lawyer was a slam dunk — of course I’m going to say yes. I love the fact that I got to spend so much quality time working with her. And in the penultimate episode, I love the big engagement in court with Nicole [Kidman]. That was such an intense scene to shoot and that was why I took the job, for that scene, basically.

What was it like to join this Big Little Lies world as a latecomer?

I was there all told for two weeks. The courtroom scenes were maybe five days. But it was great. I loved being around everybody. After the premiere [event in New York] I actually stumbled into a very sort of exclusive private party. I was going into the hotel the same time that Meryl was and I made a joke about how we both had escaped the crowd out front. She turned around and laughed, grabbed my arm and we went in the elevator and she pushed down. I said, “No, no, no, I’m going up!” And she said, “No, no, no. You’re going down.” The doors opened and it was some party. I went in with her and we had an amazing time. I had lovely conversations with a lot of the cast and I was so grateful for that.

Last week served as an introduction to your character, who plays a big part in the courtroom showdown for the final two episodes of the season. What was it like to walk into set and play the enemy?

I’m walking into the second season of a huge hit show, where the cast has a tight relationship, and into a situation where Meryl Streep has already been on four episodes. I’m the new boy on the block. There’s a lot of fancy footwork you have to do to give yourself the permission to be as big as you need to be. My character is supposed to be very powerful and an expert. I can’t come in with my head down and be modest or shy. You have to come in swinging. We actually ended up shooting that big [Celeste courtroom] scene the first days I was on that set. Andrea [Arnold], the director, turned to Nicole and I and said, "Do you want to just go for it?" And we did. It’s a 13-page scene and we both did the entire scene without stopping. It was incredibly electric — doing one take for one scene that is that long with that sort of build. When we finished, the assembled audience of background [actors] and a lot of the cast started applauding. You’re doing a performance in a courtroom, which already feels like you have an audience, so it feels like you are on stage and to have that response was really thrilling. 

There were attorneys on set. What research did you also do into family law?

I spent a lot of time online looking at YouTube videos. Family law attorneys for the most part don’t want to be in court, because they understand that’s a failure of the process. The minute you’re in court, you’re now doing something which is violent and that is destroying bonds and relationships. It’s much better to have figured out a way to amicably share or amicably agree. I love how that was in these episodes and that we actually see that conversation taking place. We see unreasonable interactions on both sides.

How many takes did you end up doing of the courtroom scene with Ira and Celeste?

We did about six or seven complete takes and then a lot of bits and pieces here and there. It was a pretty intense scene but with a scene that big, once you get it, that can make the days fly by. We ended up being ahead of schedule because that scene was kind of a runner. You wanted to shoot it without taking a break to keep the tension flowing. Nicole is obviously such a highly skilled actor that she knows how to ride the rhythm of a long scene in a way that makes it delicious to do.

Your character's face-off with Nicole Kidman's character is hard to watch. What conversations did you have with her, Andrea Arnold or David E. Kelley about how far to push the scene? 

Nicole and I didn’t talk, because I think she’s the kind of actor who wants to discover it in the moment and I love that. Andrea and I talked about what the game plan was and what they wanted to see, and I had a couple questions for David. But I thought it was all on the page. What is great about that scene is that not only is Farber within his rights to ask the things he’s asking, he asks them in a very non-disrespectful way. He was simply stating the facts: “You slept with that guy and you slept with that guy. And you didn’t know his name? Well, how about this guy? So, wait a minute, did any of these guys meet your kids?” It’s not like he’s asking her unfair questions. He’s asking her things that are absolutely germane to the topic of, “Are you a fit mother to these two kids?” His point of view as Mary Louise's lawyer is that Celeste is not a fit mother, and my job is to point that out for the sake of the court and to let the court know what’s going on. If I don’t let the court know what’s going on, then I’m not doing my job. 

But the iffy part is the part about, “Did you push your husband down the stairs?” That’s straying into other territory and we definitely talked about that. I said to David Kelley, “Is that me being an arm of the state at this point?” Did they come to me and say they would like to know that? That was a subtle thing. “Are you a murderer?” goes to character. If you pushed your husband down the stairs and murdered him and are lying about it, that goes to your fitness as a mother. That was how Farber justified that. Whether or not he was approached by the police is not in the script, so it’s only conjecture to say that he was. But I do believe that he was talking to them.

The penultimate episode ends with the judge about to announce her ruling, but Celeste cuts her off to propose her cross-examination of Mary Louise. At this point, how confident is Ira in the case he's presented? The episode is titled, “The Bad Mother.” Is Celeste the bad mother?

What I thought was really interesting is that during Celeste's lawyer’s redirect, the judge jumped in and took such a heavy hand in asking direct questions. It became this scene between two women who were talking about spousal abuse, the struggle they have with raising kids and female sexuality and what’s allowable. Here we have the judge really asking her questions like, “Are you seeking help for this?” And Celeste says no, not for the sexual addiction. Celeste says she doesn’t think she’s addicted. And the judge asks again if she’s seeking help for this and Celeste says, “I will.” If you were the judge, how would you feel about a client who persisted in the behavior and only now, under the threat of losing her kids, decides to get help? Although she loves her kids, is that the measure by which we judge the best place kids should be? My personal feeling as a human being is that kids should probably be with their parents as a default, unless they can show an extraordinary danger. Because no one is perfect. Parents make mistakes and if you take kids away from parents making mistakes you’re going to have chaos. But I do think it’s a great rationing up of that question. And Celeste will get her revenge in the last episode when she gets to turn the table and say, “Well, if I lose my kids and you get them, why should you get them?” And she’ll make the case that Mary Louise shouldn’t get them.

There is another layer with Celeste being a domestic abuse survivor and having to face questions that can deter survivors from coming forward. She is asked, “Why didn’t you report him?” and “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Big Little Lies is showing a very specific story of one survivor, but it’s also relatable on a larger scale.

From my character’s point of view, his job is to win the case for his client. So the idea that Celeste is going to cross-examine his client is a terrible one. He doesn’t want this to happen, but he also has no power to stop it. It’s a disaster in many ways. However sure he was of victory before, he’s may be shaken because of this new tactic. I do think in the #MeToo era, it’s extraordinary to be on a set of this show where Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are executive producers and the ones who have made this happen. Andrea Arnold, who is an amazing force in directing and who comes from the world of Transparent and other shows, is directing the show. We had a huge female crew and it was just great to have a mature conversation about these topics in a way that I think hasn’t occurred in TV in a long time. That Nicole Kidman’s character is a human being with human needs who is, nonetheless, still a victim and has the right to claim that mantle no matter what behavior she’s engaging in.

You get to go head-to-head with Kidman in the main scene but the next time you question her, the cross-examination plays out in the more vague and trademark style of Big Little Lies. What were Andrea Arnold's director notes and, now that you've seen the final product, did it turn out how you imagined? 

A lot of actors are like this, in that whenever I do takes I tend to not do the same thing twice. For me, each take is going to be new and different and wherever the take takes you. So there were some that were a lot harder and there were some that were a lot softer, there were some that were a mix. But at the end of the day, I feel like what I saw was a great assembly of all the different versions we could do, because Ira’s not a villain. He is doing his job and his job is to rattle the witness to force them to be spontaneous. And spontaneity often produces the truth. Objectively speaking, Celeste’s character is remarkably truthful so there wasn’t a whole lot that could be shaken from her. She was remarkably truthful in her vulnerability. The one thing she’s lying about is what happened to her late husband. But that’s a late focus in the scene.

There was a story from IndieWire claiming the executive producers, including [Jean-Marc] Vallée, edited out a lot of Arnold's stylistic choices. In your experience as an actor, have you ever seen a director’s cut air? And now that you’ve seen the final cut, did the process seem normal to you?

I’ll be honest — that would be above my pay grade. I’m not included in these conversations! I will tell you, in my experience working in TV for a long, long time, that every director in the world wants to be able to get every one of their ideas in there and all the producers also have opinions, and it’s always going to be a shared end product.

So, what can you say about the finale?

Well, the finale is already set up in this episode, when Celeste says she wants a cross-examination. Nicole is in the hot seat this entire episode, so it’s time for Mary Louise to be in the hot seat. The showdown is between Meryl and Nicole; Nicole as Celeste cross-examining Mary Louise and questioning her fitness as a mother. And it’s fireworks. It’s an amazing scene and of course it’s what everyone wants to see: Meryl Streep on the stand being cross-examined by Nicole Kidman. It was a joy to be in that room watching those two go at it.

Nicole Kidman said ahead of the season that Celeste’s storyline would be controversial. David E. Kelley, meanwhile, said the end of the season would be satisfying. How do you think the audience will feel after the finale?

I think they’ll be relieved, in a way. I have to admit that I don’t remember all the wrap-ups on all the aspects. I was involved in the courtroom scenes, so I was focused on my story. But I think the worst thing that can happen to a show is for the audience to go, “No! What? No!” And I think the audience will nod their heads and go, "Yeah. Of course, of course." I think that’s a sign of good storytelling and good human storytelling.

As a fan, who are you rooting for: Mary Louise or Celeste?

That’s hard. Mary Louise is a delicious, amazing character. It is such a creation between David, Andrea and Meryl. It’s so hard to get your finger on her. In many ways, she makes you so frustrated and so angry and yet other times, you completely see her point of view and completely understand her. She’s a truth-speaker in many ways and among the Monterey Five, there’s not a whole lot of real honesty going on sometimes, so to have this honest character come in and pull things apart is really refreshing and challenging. That being said, I think your sympathies probably go with Celeste because she’s a character we’ve come to know for a long time and she’s being challenged on a fundamental level, to lose her children. That’s such a huge threat. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for that.

As an actor, what was it like to watch that finale showdown and see Meryl Streep in all her glory against Nicole Kidman?

They’re both extraordinary actors and part of what is so extraordinary about them is a technical thing in how they make the lines feel incredibly spontaneous. You can see their imaginations and their craft in working the line to make it have one or two meanings. Meryl is sort of a genius at giving in line readings that accentuate that second meaning. And both are very alive in the moment. I’ve been lucky enough to work with great, great actors like Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates [in American Horror Story], Nicole and Meryl. They all share the same trait. Which is, they take their time. They let the moment happen. They don’t rush. They completely let the moment land. They feel it and react to it. And that’s hard sometimes for us to do because we feel — well, I do at least — this panic to keep the audience entertained. And they have the great gift of following the experience of the character over everything. It’s just remarkable.”

VRG_ILLO_3138_001.0.0.jpg

From The Ringer: “The golden age of cord-cutting was over almost as soon as it started. On Tuesday, WarnerMedia rolled out the name and programming details of its upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, set to launch in spring of next year. The announcement was paired with the news that Friends—along with The Office, reportedly one of the two most popular shows on Netflix—would be leaving its temporary home, where a new generation of young viewers had formed an attachment to it. The Office, too, has been reclaimed by the company whose studio arm produced it, as Comcast’s NBCUniversal aims to build a service of its own. It no longer makes sense to lend one’s content out to someone else, no matter how high the premium, when corporations can reap the profits themselves.

“The splintering of Netflix and the rise of deep-pocketed competitors signals the end of an era and the rise of a raucous and unpredictable new one. Netflix’s head start can never entirely be erased, but a great deal of the service’s early success can retroactively be credited to a lack of credible rivals, plus marriages of convenience (with The Office, with Friends) that are finally reaching their limit. Now that other entertainment giants and even technology hubs are catching on to the benefits of building a service of their own, it no longer makes sense to farm out certain cash cows—even if part of what made them cash cows in the first place was their availability on a cheap, accessible, almost one-stop shop of a portal.

“The sheer comprehensiveness of a mid-2010s Netflix subscription may never be replicated. In its place, a slew of new services are contending for a slice of the pie, each with their own attendant costs and flashy benefits to help them earn a portion of viewers’ finite entertainment budgets. As the number of services required to keep up with pop culture skyrockets, the dream of a streamlined alternative to a hefty cable fee is rapidly fizzling out. With no fewer than four major services set to roll out in the next year, the question is less about whether any of them can replace Netflix than which stands the best chance of chipping away at its market share—and how much a slightly weakened Netflix can retain. We took a look at Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and NBCUniversal’s still-unnamed service to evaluate their selling points, their secret weapons, and most importantly, whether they stand a chance of earning a spot in consumers’ growing portfolio of streaming options:

Disney+

Projected launch date: November 12
Price point: $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year
Trump card: All of your children’s favorite movies, up to and including the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Will people pay?: Disney already exercises near-total dominion over the box office, but the company won’t rest until it has a similar monopoly on home viewing as well. Under the notorious vault system, Disney has historically exerted a vise-like hold over fans’ ability to access beloved classics from across its multidecade history. With the inventively named Disney+, the Mouse is about to open the floodgates, reverting from artificial scarcity to a seemingly unbeatable selection of touchstones from Aladdin to Beauty and the Beast (but notably not Song of the South), all for less than the price of an average movie ticket.

Disney+ will pair its archive, including all 23-and-counting installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with original series that expand its IP into the owned-and-operated streaming era. Along with the Marvel movies themselves, Disney+ has also flexed its ownership of Marvel, eclipsing awkward stepchildren like Iron Fist with spinoffs for MCU characters like Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Loki. Star Wars will get the same treatment, starting with Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian and snowballing with Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor.

Now that Disney also owns and operates Hulu, the idea is that Disney+ will serve as a one-stop shop for families, while Hulu will service the adults. (Children presumably aren’t tuning into The Handmaid’s Tale.) But families are the pillar of Disney, which is in turn the pillar of a culture increasingly driven by the tastes, loyalties, and toy-purchasing habits of a younger demographic. To some parents, the fee to access so much kids’ entertainment is tantamount to a ransom, albeit a relatively small one—for now. Don’t be surprised if Disney+ lures in an overwhelming crush of subscribers with its opening price, only to slowly inch up its toll over time.

Apple TV+

Projected launch date: Fall 2019
Price point: TBD
Trump card: … unclear, which may be a problem

Will people pay?: Apple has approached its foray into entertainment with the same tight-lipped secrecy that’s always surrounded its technology, a strategy that’s made for an awkward fit with the leaky, gossipy culture of Hollywood. For example: We’re theoretically mere months from a trillion-dollar corporation debuting its opening salvo in the streaming wars, and we still don’t know when it’s arriving or how much it will cost.

Still, Apple commands a great deal of attention just by being Apple. The manufacturer is admittedly more experienced at building screens than supplying consumers with content to watch on them; compare its silence, for example, with Disney’s confident opening bid of giving you the most popular franchises in the world for the cost of a Ben & Jerry’s pint. Apple’s counteroffer is variety and star power. Back in March, Tim Cook and his deputies effectively distracted viewers from the relative lack of details with a procession of shiny objects, among them Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston (of debut drama The Morning Show), Oprah (of Oprah, Inc.), and Steven Spielberg (of Amazing Stories). Sofia Coppola, Ronald D. Moore, Kumail Nanjiani, and Damien Chazelle are also on the roster—and a platform where Oscar winners count as second-string players is a formidable one indeed.

But we’re living in a time when auteurs and celebrities pale in comparison with intellectual property, and Apple TV+ doesn’t boast much in the way of IP (unless you count the life story of Emily Dickinson, a teenage version of whom Hailee Steinfeld will play in a comedy). Is a story- and star-driven service aimed largely at adults enough to lure customers into taking a bet on a brand-new streaming player? We’ll find out, because Apple has the funds to throw an awful lot at the wall and see what sticks.

HBO Max

Projected launch date: Spring 2020
Price point: More than $15 a month, the current going rate for HBO’s stand-alone service HBO Now
Trump card: Friends

Will people pay?: WarnerMedia’s newly christened service is a strange hybrid, combining the prestige of HBO with the comfort of backlogged sitcoms from the TV studio arm of Warners with a slew of original series, from an adaptation of Station Eleven to an animated Gremlins show to a Dune spinoff. Even leading with HBO’s branding is a strange choice, confusing the product with more slimmed-down options like HBO Now and doing little to impress upon customers the breadth of a company that controls Warner Bros. and classics like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as well as HBO’s highbrow cred.

Some salesmanship will doubtlessly be necessary to audiences who don’t have the same kind of associations with WarnerMedia—a relatively new composite of various brands under the ownership of AT&T—that they do with, say, Disney. But HBO Max does have Friends in its corner, a series so essential to Netflix’s base the service tweeted out an official mourning, complete with its collective “we.” Will the people who bought Netflix almost exclusively for Friends do the same for almost twice the price? Are Greg Berlanti teen movies, of which HBO Max has ordered at least four, enough of a value add?

Untitled NBCUniversal Streaming Service

Projected launch date: Mid-2020
Price point: Free, with ads
Trump card: The Office

Will people pay?: Technically, NBC has a spotty track record with in-house services; the specialized comedy platform Seeso struggled to break through before its parent company pulled the plug after less than two years. Equally troubling is the precedent set by CBS All Access, another network-owned outlet better known for stifling shows by sequestering them behind a paywall than enabling their success. CBS itself appears to be waving the white flag by giving shows like The Good Fight secondary run on the network proper in hopes of boosting their audience.

But the as-yet-unnamed streaming service from NBCUniversal—the Comcast-owned entertainment hub that encompasses NBC, USA, Bravo, and the Universal film studio, among other sub-entities—seems to be correcting for its predecessors’ mistakes. Rather than specialize in a particular genre, the service will be more of an omnibus, drawing from its collective mass and formidable archives. And most intriguingly, in an increasingly subscription-driven culture, a version of the service will be available to cordcutters for free.99—with advertisements, of course. (CBS All Access has ads as a trade-off for a discounted rate, but everyone has to pay.)

That means NBCU isn’t looking for viewers’ money, just their eyeballs—a much lower ask than its competitors, even if advertiser revenue is no longer as dependable as it once was. Arguably, NBCU’s gamble is that advertising isn’t dead; it can be revived by transplanting the model to the internet. It’s a matter of venue, not business. And NBCU is sweetening an already good deal by using The Office as a lure—an already beloved show massively boosted in popularity among younger audiences by Netflix. NBCU is piggybacking on that success by snatching back its resurrected hit (expect other classic sitcoms like 30 Rock to get the same treatment once their current deals run out). Giving more for less sure seems like it can’t hurt.

All four of these streaming services are vying to become the new Netflix—but the circumstances that created Netflix in the first place are negated by the existence of so many viable contenders. Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia, and Comcast are instead escalating Peak TV to ever-more-staggering heights, with the choice paralysis plaguing modern viewers extending from what to watch to how much to pay to where to watch it. Each impending service has its own arsenal of not-so-secret weapons in the war for attention; the truth may be, however, that there’s no real silver bullet. Nothing can fully replicate the 360-degree experience of a cable package, except the no-longer-inconceivable resurgence of cable as a solution to cord-cutters’ problems. And the illusion of a comprehensive entertainment package for a fraction of the price has been revealed to be just that.”