Hollywonk

Sep 30

Jill Soloway on Writing, ‘Transparent’, and What She Wishes She Knew Then

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Jill Soloway got her start at a scrappy theater company in her hometown of Chicago, where she and her older sister, Faith, put on shows like “Miss Vagina Pageant” and “The Real Life Brady Bunch.” 

Their Brady Bunch show became a cult hit in the 90s, expanding to NYC and LA, where Jill ended up breaking into TV writing with an episode of the Steve Harvey Show. A few years later, she was writing for another cult hit, Six Feet Under, which earned her three Emmy nominations.

But for many years, the story she’s wanted to tell is that of a family wrestling with the big topics of love, sex, gender and identity. It is the story that became Transparent, which has landed on the top of critics’ list for fall TV shows.

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Back in February, before the release of her pilot for Transparent, Hollywonk asked Soloway a few questions about what she envisioned for the series, how she approached writing and filmmaking, and what she wished she knew back when she first started.  Below are a few highlights of what she shared.    

Hollywonk: What excites you most about Transparent?

Jill Soloway: This cast (Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass), this family and the way they’re magnetized toward one another as they search for authenticity feels so real and alive to me. It’s definitely a salute to my childhood – that relationship with my sister where we were just so alive and in the moment creatively because all we wanted to do was satisfy one another.

HW:  What inspires you the most about filmmaking?

JS:  It’s a huge privilege for me to have an audience give me their brain space for however long I get. I get excited to provide a female voice, and I love inspiring other people to take their non-traditional ways of seeing and transform that into art.

HW:  Do you approach writing, directing and producing differently?

JS:  Those three jobs have all evolved into one big fat braid of creativity. I’ll write the script first, and then prep would be considered producing. As we prep I get new information about the script.

As a director, 95% of my work is casting. I absolutely have to cast people that I’m a little bit in love with. They have to be so funny that they make me laugh as hard as my sister does. The other 5% is showing up on the day and staying present in my body so I can get that little buzz that says, “Ooooh, this is WORKING. Go in this direction.”

HW:  When it comes to writing, how do you approach the blank page?

JS:  I never sit down and stare at a blank page. I get inspired to write or create a project because the world is revealing itself to me in my head. It happens while I’m driving or falling asleep or waking up. It’s as if the characters are ghosts out there in some vague semi-conscious land, and they’re borrowing me to have an audience with the public!  It’s a lot like playing or indulging in imaginary stories as a kid. So when I sit down at the computer, it’s usually because I’ve imagined a scene or heard some dialogue and I want to get it down.  Once the actors are cast, the voices evolve and I can get even more specific information.

HW: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

JS:  I was always waiting for people to say they didn’t like something, and I would pay more attention to that than the ten previous people who said it was good. It may be worse for women, who are so acculturated toward being told that they’re good or attractive or likable, but I think all artists deeply suspect that they suck and they really jump on the negative stuff.

A few years ago it really hit me that the only thing that makes a director is having the gumption to say it, to declare it, over and over again, and not really give a darn if people like you. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t crave and use creative feedback. I love test screenings and sharing my work with people so I can tell what’s working. Now I tell young artists, “You have to be open enough to allow other peoples’ creativity to power the machine of your content, but not so open that anyone can slow you down or stop you.”

Sep 29

'Alpha House' Returns October 24th - Watch All 10 Episodes at Once

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After Friday’s debut of Transparent, we’re excited to announce that more comedy is coming your way. The second season of Alpha House, one of Amazon’s first Original Series, returns Friday, October 24th – with all 10 episodes to be released at once.   

This season the Senators of Alpha House are bracing for the midterm elections, and much like many of their real-life counterparts, their political futures are uncertain.  Senator Biggs (John Goodman), Bettencourt (Clark Johnson) and Laffer (Matt Malloy) might have survived bruising primaries, but now they’re facing strong Democratic challengers and have to pull out all the stops to woo voters over to their side. Meanwhile, Senator Guzman (Mark Consuelos) is preparing for a 2016 bid for the presidency, a pursuit that might bring him into competition with one of his roommates.

Several familiar guest stars will also be returning this season, including Bill Murray, Amy Sedaris, Yara Martinez and Haley Joel Osment. 

"Alpha House has fun mixing real politics with entertainment," says Jonathan Alter, an executive producer of the series. "The magician Penn Jilette is running for the Senate from Nevada against Matt Malloy’s character, and former Governor Rendell in running for the Senate from Pennsylvania against the character played by Clark Johnson. Wanda Sykes and Bob Balaban (Monuments Men) have recurring roles as Democratic senators, and Bradley Whitford makes a guest appearance as a Republican senator battling with Maloney, his old assistant from the West Wing."

Other famous faces you’ll see playing themselves: Senators Elizabeth Warren and John McCain, Wolf Blitzer, George Stephanopoulos, Rachel Maddow, Jane Pauley, Matt Lauer and Grover Norquist. 

Missed the first season?  Catch up now on Prime Instant Video.  And don’t sit out this election season: set your Watchlists for Alpha House on October 24th

Sep 25

'Transparent' Premieres Today! “Best New Fall Show” - TIME, EW, Huffington Post, HitFix

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It’s been just eight months since viewers helped greenlight the pilot with their passionate reviews, and today, the entire first season of Transparent finally makes its much-anticipated debut on Prime Instant Video.  

The 10-episode half hour series, which stars Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Judith Light (Dallas), Gaby Hoffman (Girls), Amy Landecker (Louie) and Jay Duplass (Togetherness), explores family, identity, sex, and love through the story of the Pfeffermans, a Los Angeles family forced to deal with their long-held secrets together. 

Critical reception for the series has been overwhelmingly positive, with critics from several major outlets recommending it as the best new fall TV show, including TIME and Entertainment Weekly:

Transparent has the beginnings of a transformative, transcendent, transporting story of a person, a family–and a culture–going through a transformation.” – James Poniewozik, TIME

“Beautiful, funny and touching…One of those rare shows that alters the complexion of the landscape with its quality.”– Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“Poignant and humorous…[Transparent] stands out as the next game-changing TV show.” – Erin Whitney, Huffington Post

“This isn’t just the best fall pilot: it’s groundbreaking television.” – Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“Genius is at work on every level here, but never so powerfully as in the casting of Tambor as Maura.”– David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle (5 out of 5 rating)

Jill Soloway, the creator behind the series, commented: “I could not be more excited to share Transparent with the world today.  In many ways, the Pfefferman’s story is one I’ve wanted to tell for many years, and I’m so grateful to Amazon and my incredibly talented cast and crew for allowing me to fulfill this creative dream.”

Among the talented cast are a host of impressive recurring stars, including Melora Hardin (The Office), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia), Kathryn Hahn (Parks and Recreation), Alexandra Billings (Grey’s Anatomy), and Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital).

Start watching today to see what all the buzz is about.  And stay tuned as we go deeper into the world of Transparent in the weeks ahead.

Sep 23

Pilot Spotlight: Behind-the-Scenes of ‘Hand of God’

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Where is the line between justice and revenge?  That’s the central question at the heart of Hand of God, a psychological drama starring Golden Globe-winner Ron Perlman as a corrupt judge who suffers a breakdown after his son attempts suicide. It was a role that “completely intimidated” Perlman, who is best known for playing the ruthless patriarch of a motorcycle gang in Sons of Anarchy.

A pilot that can intimidate Ron Perlman?  If that doesn’t make you curious to see what it’s about, Hand of God co-stars Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives) as Perlman’s steely wife and Garrett Dillahunt (No Country for Old Men) as a born-again sociopath. The pilot is also directed by renowned filmmaker Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, World War Z), who joins creator Ben Watkins (Burn Notice), the producers and stars in this behind-the-scenes look.

Now that you’re fully intrigued, you have just five more days to watch the pilot and let us know if you want to see more. 

Sep 22

Pilot Spotlight: The Making of ‘Really’

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Today’s pilot spotlight zooms in on Really, a dramedy about a group of suburban couples wrestling with the shifting dynamics of friendship and marriage, created by and starring Jay Chandrasekhar (Community) and featuring Selma Blair, Rob Delaney and Sarah Chalke. NPR’s Eric Deggans liked that it was “baldly honest about life in a longtime marriage,” while The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman thought Chandrasekhar and Chalke “have more chemistry and believability than most TV couples.”

See for yourself: only six more days to watch and rate the pilot.  And hear what Chandrasekhar and the cast have to say about Really in this behind-the-scenes look.