Hollywood Unscripted Ep 29 - Bruce Miller (The Handmaid's Tale): A Stuck at Home Special

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Jenny Curtis: From  CurtCo  Media.

 

00:00:02
Speaker 2: There's  no  place like Hollywood.

 

00:00:02
Jenny Curtis: Welcome  to  another  special  edition  of  Hollywood  Unscripted:  Stuck  at  Home.  I'm  Jenny  Curtis  and  today  we  are  talking  to  the  showrunner  of  Hulu's  dystopian  drama,  The  Handmaid's  Tale,  Bruce  Miller.  Bruce,  thank  you  for  joining  us.

 

00:00:26
Bruce Miller: It's my pleasure to  be  here.

 

00:00:28
Jenny Curtis: Now,  things  have  started  to  open  up  a  bit  which  is  an  issue  all  on  its  own,  but  we  do  like  to  check  in  a  bit,  how  are  you  doing?  How  did  quarantine  treat  you  or  how  is  it  treating  you?

 

00:00:37
Bruce Miller: It's  treating  me  very  well.  Thank  you.  I  feel  very  lucky.  All  my  children  are  home,  some  with  girlfriends  and  so  it's  a  very,  very,  very  busy  house  and  I  just  feel  incredibly  lucky.  And  mostly,  we've  been  working  pretty  much  the  same  as  we  always  do  just  via  Zoom,  the  writers.  We've  worked  together  for  a  long  time,  so it was a  fairly  easy  transition,  but  exactly  your  question,  which  is  everybody's  also  dealing  with  real  life  and  that's  probably  a  bigger  issue.

 

00:01:02
Jenny Curtis: Before  we  get  into  what  you  guys  are  working  on,  let's  start  at  the  very  beginning.  So,  when did  you  start  writing?  When  did  you  know  you  wanted  to  be  in  the  industry?

 

00:01:11
Bruce Miller: Well,  my  dad  is  tangentially  in  the  industry.  He's  on  the  technical  side,  and  so  I  always  grew  up  knowing  a  lot  about  how  movies  were  made  physically,  but  not  really  much  about  the  kind  of  story  side  of  things  because  he  sold  lighting  equipment  to  directors  of  photography  and  so  you  don't  need  many  writers  when  you're  in  that  house,  but  I  always  wrote.  I  think  the  time  I  knew  when  I  really  was  stuck  being  a  writer  was  I  was  in  college  and  I  took  writing  classes  every  semester.  And then  there  was  a  semester,  I  didn't  take  one,  and  I  was  like, "Oh,  well."  It  felt  like  I  wasn't  in  school.  I  wasn't  doing  any  work,  so  then I was like, " Okay,  I'm  screwed."  I  basically  have  to  either  be  in  a  writing  class  or  be  a  writer  forever  and  this  seemed  cheaper.

 

00:01:53
Jenny Curtis: So,  did  you  major  in  writing  at  school?

 

00:01:55

Bruce Miller: I  wrote  a  lot  in  college.  They  had  a  program  in  fiction.  They  didn't  have  any  program  in  television  writing  or  screenwriting  at  that  point,  so  I  wrote  a  lot  of  fiction  when  I  was  in  college  and  in  high  school  and  I  didn't  really  write,  although  I  was  much  more  of  a  movie  fan  and  a  TV  fan  than  I  was  a  book  fan,  I'm  fairly  to  very  dyslexic,  so  I  read  incredibly  slowly.  So  I'm  very  thinly  read,  not  widely  read,  but  movies,  they're  telling  you  the  story,  so  that  was  always  easier  for  me  to  kind  of  dissect,  but  I  wrote  when  I  was  in  college.  I  wrote  a  screenplay.  I  wrote  my  first  screenplay  when  I  was  like  a  senior  in  college  and  that  actually  got  me  every  job  I  got  for  like  12  years.

 

00:02:35
Jenny Curtis: Oh,  wow.

 

00:02:36
Bruce Miller: Was  that  people  had  read  and  I'm  shocked  as  anybody  else,  but  that's-

 

00:02:40
Jenny Curtis: Did  that  get  made?

 

00:02:41
Bruce Miller: Oh,  no,  never.  You know the future world.

 

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Jenny Curtis: So,  then  you've  got  your  foot  in  the  door,  you've  worked  on  some  major  shows.  Many  of  them  though,  you  were  a  producer  on,  but  you  would  come  in  either  after  the  show  had  started  or  leave  before  the  show  was  finished.  So,  is  that  because  you  were  kind  of  searching  for  something  or  is that kind of  the  nature  of  the  game  to  do  a  few  seasons  of  a  show  and  then  move  on?

 

00:03:03
Bruce Miller: It  was  the  nature  of  my  game  and  I  think  everybody's  game  is  really  different.  That  was  just  because they  didn't  succeed  anywhere.  I  mean,  people  were  very  nice  and  I  got  jobs  and  I  think  I contributed,  but  I  didn't  really  kind  of  become  an  integral  part  of  a  staff  until  I  found  the  right  fit.  It's  just  a  function  of  the  image  of  kind  of  a  writer  sitting  at  home  and  they  bring  them  projects  and  they  look  at  them,  and  then  they  decide  what  they're  going  to  do.  People  have  mortgages  and  kids  in  school,  and  I  was  a  working  writer  and  I  took  jobs,  and  when  those  jobs  went  away,  I  got  other  jobs,  but  mostly  I  got  fired.  I  mean,  not  in  a  mean  way,  but  like  not  working  out  way,  and  it  took  me  a  long  time. I think  I'm  more  suited  to  the  job  I  have  now  than  that  job  that  I had before.

 

00:03:41
Jenny Curtis: So,  having  been  fired,  has  there  ever  been  a  time  where  you  were  kind  of  standing  on  the  ledge  of  quitting  or  did  you  always  press  forward  after  that?

 

00:03:49
Bruce Miller: Quitting  what  I'm  doing?

 

00:03:50
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.

 

00:03:51
Bruce Miller: Yeah.  I  mean,  I  think  that, I went  through  very  long  periods  of  time  where  after  making  money  for  years  and  years  steadily,  I  would  have  months  and  months  or  a  year  of  where  I  wasn't  working  and  that's  terrifying,  especially  when  you  do  have  a  mortgage  and  children  in  school.  I'm  incredibly  lucky,  like  most  people  who  have  skin  my  color,  that  I'd  never  had  to  worry  about  being  on  the  street  because  my  parents  had  money  and  not  a  ton,  but  they  had  enough  that  I  wouldn't  be  living  on  the  street,  so  I  never  really  felt  scared  that  way.  So  I  had  a  way  of  staying  in  for  longer,  kind  of  keeping  my  foot  in  the  pool,  but  it's  kind  of  one  of  those  things  that  you  don't  really  have  a  choice  at  a  certain  point  because  it's  what  you  are  more  than  what  you  do.
 So,  you  could  go  get  another  job  and  you're  still going to  be  a  writer.  But  yes,  I  went  through  periods  where  I  definitely  was  like, " Okay,  what  am  I  going  to  do  instead  of  this  because  this  isn't  working  out."  And  everybody  goes  through  those  things.  I've  been  doing  this  a  long  time.  I  came  out  to  L. A.  to  be  a  writer  like  two  weeks  after  college.  It  just  takes...  patience  is  the  rarest  of  all  commodities  in  Hollywood,  so  just  be  patient  and  you  will  achieve  much  more  than  if  you  are  scattered.

 

00:04:55
Jenny Curtis: Your  early  projects  from  what  I  can  tell,  you did a lot  of  TV  movies  and  films  and  a  lot  of  them  seem  to  be  very  female  focused  or  dealing  with  assault  or  women  who  were  strong.  Is  this  kind  of  what  you've  been  passionate  about  since  the  beginning?

 

00:05:09
Bruce Miller: Yes.  I  don't  know  if  it's  passionate.  It  just  is  my...  I  feel  very  comfortable  and  I'm  fascinated  by  strong  women.  I  have  three  very  strong  sisters.  I  grew  up  in a  house  without  boys.  It  was  me and  my  three  sisters  and  my  mom,  so  I  think  that  they're  really  responsible  for  the  fact  that  I'm  much  more  comfortable  kind  of  talking,  thinking,  exploring  the  issues  of  women and  their  lives  than  some  people  just because  I  happen  to  not  just  know  them  but  grow  up  with  them  and  they're  all  very,  very  different and they're  very,  very  intelligent.
 But it  is  funny  when  you  look  back  on  all this  stuff,  because  I  really  do  think  that  writing  strong,  realistic  grounded  female  characters  is  something  I've  always  loved  to  do.  And  I  don't  really  notice  until  like,  you  just  say  you  look  back  over  your  work and you're  like, " Ha."  But  I've  also  been  indulged  a  lot  by  women  in  my  life  help  very  kindly  explaining  what  I'm  doing  wrong  when  I  write  about  women  and  so  I  have learned  along  the  way  everybody  from  Yahlin  Chang  who  worked  with  me on ER  and  D.  Johnson  did  Rina  Mamoon  and  then  kind  of  now,  just  you  have  to  be  open  to  really  failing  big  and  have  people  around  you  who  will  gently  say, " You  failed  big,"  and  not  be  insulted,  but  say, " Hey,  swing  again."

 

00:06:18
Jenny Curtis: Do  you  have  any  examples  of  lessons  you  had  to  learn  that  way?

 

00:06:21
Bruce Miller: Well,  God,  like  every  single  day.  I  mean, one of  the  biggest  things  on  this  show  was  in  Season One, we had  a  story  about  female  genital  mutilation.  A  character  was  a  lesbian  and  she  was  having  relations  with  someone  and they  had  didn't  want  that,  so  they  did  it  to  take  away  her  sexual  desire  and  when  I  came  up  with  the  idea,  and  I  brought  it  up  to  the  room,  it  was  withering  in  terms  of  the  discussion,  not  necessarily " Don't  do  it,"  but  we  worked  on  it  for  a  long  time and  I  think  everybody  spoke  very  honestly  about  what  it  means  and  all  sorts  of  stuff,  and  also  a  lot  about  how  graphic  it  was  and  whether  we  show  it  or  not  or  what  do  we  show.  We  ended  up  showing  nothing.  We  don't  even  say it in  the  episode.

 

 But  the  result  of  that  was  really  when  we  sent  it  to  Hulu  and  MGM,  they  were  like, " Okay."  No  one  bunked  and  that  was  because  it  had  been  assaulted  by  the  women  in  my  office.  The  idea  had  been  pounded  and  I  think  that  in  the  end,  the  only  thing  that  would  have  allowed  it  to  stand  up  is  having  it  be  rewritten  and  refocused  and  challenged  by  the  smart  women  I  have  worked  with.

 

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Jenny Curtis: You  have  a  writer's  room  that's  majority  female.  I  think  you've  seven  out  of  10  writers  are  female.

 

00:07:25
Bruce Miller: That  sounds  right,  but  they  do 10 out  of  10 of  the  work,  so  it  counts  (inaudible)

 

00:07:29
Jenny Curtis: What  is  that  atmosphere  like  though,  because Gilead is  a  heavy  place,  so  I  imagine  the  writers  room  must  be  very  heavy  at  times?

 

00:07:37
Bruce Miller: Almost  never.  It  is  the  most  remarkable  thing  that  you've  ever  seen.  One  of  our  consultants,  a  UN  employee,  sometimes  when  she's  in  town  uses  an  office  in  our  offices  and  consults  with  us  about  the  UN  and  she  says  it's  just  shocking  if  anybody  knew  the  peals  of  laughter  coming  out  of  the  writers'  room.  It  seemed  so  incongruous,  but  I  actually  think  it's  a  function  of  how  heavy  the  material  is.  The  room  is  supportive  and  funny  and  knows  how  to  kind  of  defuse  tensions,  but  also, you  have  to be  very  comfortable  in  a  room,  not  just  talking  about  yourself,  but  having  those  things  challenged  and  interrogated,  not  a  bad  way,  but  it  only  does  you  a  certain  amount  of  good  for  someone  to  tell  you  a  story  for  you to understand that  you  have  to  be  able  to  ask  them  questions  about it.

 

A lot of  these  stories  are  sexual  assault  stories,  sexual  harassment  stories,  just  terrible  things  that  happen  to  people's  lives,  problems  with  their  husband  or  whatever,  and  you  have  to  know  you're  surrounded  by  people  who  are  not  asking  you  questions  for  prurient  reasons.  That  they  want  to  know  because  they  are  curious,  because  they  are  writers,  because  they  need  to  know  for  the  show,  and  you  never  feel  like  they're  poking  into  your  personal  life.  And  that's  a  level  of  comfort  that  I  think  allows  people  to  not  feel  like  when  you're  talking  about  all  this  terrible  stuff  that  you  can't  make  a  joke.  And  the  set  is  the  same  way,  by  the  way,  Lizzie  sets  an  example,  Elizabeth  moss  has  an  example  and  everybody  follows.  It's  shocking  how  much  of  a  seventh  grade  giggle  fest.  And  so,  we're  very  lucky  in  that  way  that  we  have  a  very  heavy  show  and  quite  a  wonderful,  joyous  working  environment.

 

00:09:06
Jenny Curtis: I  think  that's important.

 

00:09:06
Bruce Miller: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

 

00:09:07
Jenny Curtis: To  discuss  The  Handmaid's  Tale,  again,  starting  at  the  beginning,  how  did  it  come  into  being?

 

00:09:11
Bruce Miller: I  had  read  the  book when I  was  in  college,  actually,  strangely  enough  in  a  new  fiction  class,  which  tells  you  how  long  ago,  that  was  like  a  really long time  and  I  loved  it  as  a  book.  It  was  really  one  of  those  books  that  taught  me  a  writing  style  that  I  wanted  to  emulate.  And  so,  as  I  said  before,  I'm  very  dyslexic,  so  I  tend  to  read  the  same  books  over  and  over  again.  So,  I  read  the  book  a  bunch  of  times  over  the  years,  and  I  always  loved  it  and  every  time  I  read  it,  I  thought,  this  is  the  time  where  it's  the  most  prescient,  this  is  the  time  where  every  time  you  read it, you're  like, " Aha."  Margaret  Atwood  really  put  her  finger  on  it.  She's  so  smart  and  such  a  witch  that  she  can  put  her  finger  on  any  time  period  because  I'm  sure  she  travels  to  those  times  and  I  heard  they  were  making  a  TV  series  out  of it.

 

 This  is  very  early  on in  my  career  and  Ilene Chaiken had  the  rights  and  she  was  making  it  at  Showtime,  and  I

 was  a  fan.  I  was  just, " Oh,  Ilene  Chaiken.  I  can't  wait."  I  mean,  she's  a  spectacular  writer  and  showrunner.  I  was  on  all  ready  to  sit  down and  watch  Showtime  with  my  popcorn,  but  it  never  kind  of  came  back.  It  never  appeared,  and  so  I  would  check  every  year  with  my  agents  and  have  those  agents  look  around,  see  where  it  is.  And  kismet,  I  was  out  of  work  when  they  were  looking  for  a  showrunner.  Showtime  had  sold  it  to, Ilene  Chaiken,  who  was  doing  Empire  quite  handily  and  didn't  have  time  to  do  it,  so  there  was  an  opportunity,  but  they  were  looking  for  a  woman,  and  I  was  completely  on  their  side,  except  I  wanted  the  job,  so  I  didn't  know  what  to  do  with  that  situation.  It's  like, " I  100%  agree  with  you,  but  in  this  case  I  would  really  like  it."
 So,  I  waited  and  waited  and  waited  patiently  and  I  know  they  spoke  to  a  lot  of  people  and  then  they  very  kindly  invited  me  into  pitch  and  it  was  very  nice  and  thoughtful  of  them  to  do  it.  So  I  went  in and  I  pitched  what  I  thought  of  the  story  and  it  kind  of  went  very  easily  and  comfortably  by then,  I  think  because  I  was  a  long  time  thinker  about  this  book,  not  a  short- timer.  I  had  really  thought  about  what  kind  of  show  this  would  make  just  because  it  was  always  one  of  those  things  that  even  reading,  I  was  like, " Oh,  my  God.  It  tickles  such  a  visual  funny  bone  in  me."  So,  I  had  thought  about  it  a  lot.  The  thing  you  don't  get  when  you're  called  into  adapter  project  is  time  and  I  like  to  have  much  more  time  than  most  people.  I  mean,  the  time  that  I  had  to  think  about  Handmaid's  Tale  was  just  about  right  for  me,  so  like  30  years  is  probably  a  good  solid  number.

 

00:11:19
Jenny Curtis: So,  then  being  a  fan  of  the  book  for  that  long,  what  was  it  like  to  meet  Margaret  Atwood?

 

00:11:24
Bruce Miller: Terrifying.  Not  only  that,  I  have  to  meet  her,  but  before  I  met  her,  you  can  imagine  this.  They  sent  the  first  two  episodes  that  I  had  written  to  her  to  see  what  she  thought.  That was  a  nice  weekend.  I  didn't  go  to  the  bathroom  that  weekend. Well,  can  you  imagine?  I  mean,  it's  like, " Margaret  Atwood,  here  read  this."  And  so  it  was  awful,  I  mean,  it  was  terrifying  for  me.  She  really  liked  them.  She  had  a  question  about  what  carpet  muncher  meant  because that was  in  the  second  episode.  So  luckily,  she  Googled  that  I  didn't  have  to  explain,  although  I  did  save  that  email.

 

00:11:54
Jenny Curtis: Frame  it.

 

00:11:55
Bruce Miller: Forever  for  Margaret  Atwood,  yeah.  And  then  I  went  up  to  Toronto  and  I  met  her and  she  has  gone out of her  way  to  treat  me  like  a  writer,  like  a  colleague,  and  that  has  been  the  secret  to  the  success  of  the  show,  and  I  really  count  her  as  my  friend.  She's  lovely  and  funny  and  smart  and  a  pleasure  and  we  get  to  see  each  other  a  lot.  So,  she's  very  involved  in  the  show.  I  mean,  I'd  love  her  to  be  more  involved,  but  the  three  of  us  are  not  nearly  as  busy  as  she  is,  like  all  of  us  put  together.  So,  I'm  always  trying  to  squeeze  more  time  out  of  her,  but  we  get  a  good  chance  to  talk  a  couple  of  times  a  season,  a  really  long  chat.  And  so,  I  feel  like  she  is  not  only  kind  of  the  mother  of  the  project,  but  kind  of  the  ongoing  caregiver  of  the  project.

 

00:12:36
Jenny Curtis: Last year,  she  released  The  Testaments

 

00:12:40
Bruce Miller: Yes.

 

00:12:40
Jenny Curtis: And that's  the  sequel  to  Handmaid's  Tale.  And  so,  you  both  had  to  kind  of  work  together  as  to  not  contradict  each  other.  Is  that  correct?

 

00:12:48
Bruce Miller: Yes,  which,  even  hearing  that  out  loud  is  so  shocking  to me  that  there  was  any  time  I  was  in  any  way  could  be  defined  as  collaborating  with  Margaret  Atwood.  So,  she I  was  writing  and  we  would  talk  and  it  was  very  funny to because it was  very  general  things,  like  she'd  call  and  go, " Okay,  don't  kill  this  person." And I'd be like, " Okay," and then,  because  in  TV,  we  do  a  lot  more  of  that  stuff  casually,  like  I'll  make  a  change  in  a  script  and  then  just  in  the  office,  I'll  say that  the  next  three  people,  right, " Oh,  by  the  way,  I  killed  this  person,  so  you  can't  use  them,"  or  something.  It's  all  done  very  casually  and  you  work  together  to  kind  of  make  sure  everything  flows.

 

 Margaret  had  never  worked  with  anybody  before,  but  she  had  worked  with  our  writing  staff  a  lot,  so  she  knew  kind  of  how  things  changed  and  worked  and  how  they  bounced  around,  so  I  think  that  that  was  fun  for  her.  She  could  bounce  it  off  me, like it  was  the  writing  staff.  She  had  written  Episode  One,  I  had  written  Episode  Two  in  the  middle,  and  she  was  writing  Episode  Three.  So  in  that  way, it  was  a  very  comfortable  relationship  for  me,  shockingly  comfortable.  I  mean,  I  just  never  expected  it  to be  that  comfortable  and  she  had  very  few  requests.  She  was  a  big  fan  of  the  show.  She  liked  where  we  were  going with the  show.  She  was  happy  to  kind  of  fit  her  puzzle  piece  into  mine,  but  honestly,  when  you're  adapting  a  classic  like  Handmaid's  Tale,  most  of the  time  the  author  is  long  gone  and  certainly  they're  not  writing  books  that  cover  the  same  ground  again.
 Basically,  she's  saying  you  started  here  and  now, I want  you  to  end  here  because  I'm  going  to  pick  up  the  ball,  and  so  it's  hilarious.  It  just  makes  it  so  much  harder,  and  it  was  so  hard  to  begin  with  and  I  was  so  terrified  of  screwing  it  up,  and  then  she's  like, " Oh,  here's  something where  you  could  screw  up."  But  we've  been  very  lucky  on  the  show.  I  think  the  people  who  liked  the  book  like  the  show,  which  was  really  what  I  was  trying  to  do,  because  that  was  me.  They're  not  uncomfortable  with  the  fact  that there  are  differences  in  those  two  universes.  It's  not  canon  once  a  novel  and  it's  certainly  a  novelist  that  deserves  to  build  her  own  world  and  I'm  building  what  I  hope  is  a  nice  little  set  of  DVDs  to  sit  on  the  shelf  between  the  two  books,  so  they  add  something.  But  you  are  kind  of  doing  Oliver  Twist,  The  Series  and  Oliver  Twist  is  going  to  be  around  long  after  your  series  is  gone.

 

00:14:52
Jenny Curtis: At the end  of  Season  One  that's  the  complete  book  of  the  Handmaid's  Tale  and  then  you  kind  of  depart  into  your  story  and  Margaret  has  said  that  the  characters  really  should  have  been  killed  by  now,  in  that  world.  They're  getting  more  outspoken,  they're  growing  a  lot,  but  also  that  that's  not  really  possible  in  TV  because  you  need  your  characters  to  stay  alive,  so  that  you  can  tell  a  story.  So,  how  do  you  navigate  that  in  keeping  true  to  the  world  you're  building,  but  also  making  sure  your  characters  are  growing?

 

00:15:17
Bruce Miller: It's  very difficult  that  Margaret's  write  in  one  way,  but  in  the  other  way.  I  think  a  lot  of  times  especially  this  book  has  a  particular  construct  that  allows  you  to  believe  exactly  what  I'm  selling,  which  is  this  is  a  story  told  in  retrospect,  so  you  know  she  survived,  by  definition  because  The  Handmaid's  Tale  exists.  The  Handmaid  lasted  long enough  to  tell  that  tale.  So  yes,  but  with  the  construct  of  the  show  the  fact  that  it  is  a  story  told  in  retrospect,  a  collection  of  tapes  that  someone  found,  the  fact  is,  we  know  she  lives  until  that  point.  So,  in  terms  of  off- read  the  conceit  of  the  show,  and  I'm  not  going  to  break  that is,  this  is  her  story.  She  lived  to  tell  it  and  she's  not  going  to  die  before  she  gets  to  tell  it.
 It  may  be  unlikely  that  you  live,  but  almost  all  stories  that  come  out  of  a  situation  like  that,  that  are  as  singular  and  notable  as  this  would  be  the  story  of  someone  who  did  something  unusual  and  survived.  That  wouldn't  be  the  normal  story,  so  she's  right,  they  would  be  killed.  We're  trying  to  stay  true  to  the  world.  What  I  tried  to  do  is  make  sure  that  more  often  than  not,  I  just  do  it.  If  someone  should  get  punished,  they're  punished.  I  mean,  everybody  is  protected  by  their  fertility  more  at  times  than  others  because  fertility  rates  are  going  up  and  down.  But  I  have  to  get  some  buy  in  from  the  audience  in  order  to  continue  and  not  pass  the  baton  to  another  group  of  actors,  and  I  would  rather  not  do  that.  I  feel  like  the  big  thing  in  TV  is  you're  very  connected  to  these  people.

 

 You  know  there's  a  difference  between  TV  and  movies.  TVs  in  your  house.  You're  bringing  those  people  in  your  house,  it's  very  different.  I  think  it's  harder  to  change  your  point  of  view  and  your  guide  in  the  TV  show.  You  can  have  a  movie  with a  horrible  antihero,  who  you  don't  want  to  spend  more  than  two  hours  with.  But  June  Osborne's  been  holding  your  hand  for  years,  you  have  to kind of  make  some  concessions,  so  that  she  retains  her  position  as  your  guide.

 

00:17:05
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. I think we all like inviting  Elisabeth  Moss  into  our  house.

 

00:17:06
Bruce Miller: I  certainly  like it.  She's  delightful.

 

00:17:09
Jenny Curtis: How  did  you  find  her?  How  did  she  come  on  board  and  Has  she  affected  the  development  of  June?

 

00:17:15
Bruce Miller: To answer  the  end  first,  absolutely  100%  in  a  zillion  ways  and  I'll  talk  about  them,  but  of  course,  it's  the  great  benefit  of  television,  which  is  in  a  movie,  you  write  a  script  you  give  it  to  someone  else  and  then  you  see  it,  you  go, " Wow.  Okay,  they  didn't  really  have  chemistry,"  but  in  TV,  you  watch  the  day's  work  and  you  go, " Whoa,  those  two  people  have  chemistry,  let's  get  together.  And  for  Lizzie,  Lizzie  is  a  spectacular  professional.  She's  been  doing  it  a  very  long  time.  She  could  not  be  a  better  number  one  on  the  call,  in  terms  of  professionalism  and  welcoming  other  actors.  She's  also an EP  on  the  show  and  does  that  job  in  total,  in  full.  She's  done  it  from  the  beginning  and  she  didn't  want  it  to  be  a  title  and  I  wanted  to  help  and  we  work  very  well  together.

 

 So,  I  think  that  Lizzie  would  say  that  June  inspires  her  in  her  real  life.  I've  heard  her  say  that, to  be  more  brave,  but  I  think  it's  the  other  way  around.  I  think  what  is  Lizzie  comes  out  in  June  because  I  get  to  know  Lizzie  and  just  the  way  someone  goes to  the  world  and  thinks  and  talks  and  how  their  jokes  are.  I  mean  Lizzie  is a  very  strong  positive  force  in  the  universe,  very,  very  intelligent,  very  committed  and  all  those  things  have  become  more  like  June.  June  has  grown  I  taking  on  pieces  of  Lizzie,  I  feel  like  more  than  the  other  way  around.  By  the  way,  she's  one  of  my  favorite  people  and  everything  you  hear  about  her  is  true  times  a  thousand.  She  really  is  a  great  collaborator.  I  feel  very  lucky.

 

00:18:41
Jenny Curtis: So  much  of  the  show  is  told  in  imagery  and  reaction.  You  see  June  or Offred or  whatever  her  name  is  at that  time.

 

00:18:50
Bruce Miller: Ofjoseph.

 

00:18:51
Jenny Curtis: Ofjoseph.  She  will  walk  into  a  space  and  you'll  just  let  her  look  at  the  space  for  minutes  on  end  and  it's  so  effective.

 

00:19:00
Bruce Miller: Yeah.

 

00:19:00
Jenny Curtis: And  it's  rare  that  that  something that happens  in  TV  because  you  really have to  go,  go,  go  most  of  the  time.

 

00:19:05
Bruce Miller: Yeah.  I  like  slower  stories.  Our  show  is  scarier  when  it's  slow  anyway,  because  there's  a  looming  countdown  of  something  terrible  going  to  happen,  so  every  time  anybody  pauses,  you're  like, "No, no,  no,  keep  moving.  It's  coming  back  at  you.  Something's going to happen."

 

00:19:17
Jenny Curtis: "You  have  to  go."

 

00:19:18
Bruce Miller: Yeah.  There's  always  that  feeling,  but  it  was  something  I  put  in  the  pilot  script.  One  of  the  things  I  really  wanted  was  kind  of to  have  that  pace  and  part  of  it  is  because  the  character  isn't  free  to  speak.  So,  a  lot  of  her  conflict  is  June  verses  Offred. Like  Offred  has  to  be  quiet  and  Offred  has  to  keep  your  eyes  down  or  Offred  can't  be  snarky  and  Offred  can't  roll  their  eyes,  but  June  wants  to  do  all  those  things.  So,  you've  got  June  saying  to  Offred, " Why are  you  such  a  fucking  wimp?  Why  don't  you  stand  up  for  yourself?"  And  then

 Offred  saying  to  June, " You're  going  to  get  us  killed.  Shut  up."

 

 So  it's  really  that  conflict,  and  that's  why  you  can  have  all  that  silence  because  you're  seeing  those  two  things  fight  each  other.  You're  seeing  here,  she  wants  to  June. She  wants  to  go, " What  are  you  crazy  doing  this?"  But  she  has  to  be  Offred  and  she  doesn't  want  to be Offred, so I think  that  that's  why  those  silences  work.  And also I  like  movies  with  those  kinds  of  things.  Dialogue  is  just  another  action,  like  running  or  punching  or  making  love  or  kissing  or  anything.  It  isn't  what  they  say  that  matters  as  much  as  the  fact  that  they're  doing  it. It's  like  if  you  punch  someone  in  the  face,  that's  an  action.  If  you  say, " Hi,  I'm  here,"  that's  an  action.  It's  not  necessarily  means " Hi,  I'm  here."

 

 And  on  our  show,  I  would  say  comically  90%  of  the  things  that  people  say  are  absolutely  the  opposite  of  what  they  mean. " Blessed  be  the  fruit."  They  don't  mean  like, " Good  morning."  They  actually  mean, " I  would  like  you  to  drop  dead  right  now,"  but  they're  saying, " Good  morning."  So,  it's  one  of  those  shows  and  I  think  that  that's one of  the  things  that  Lizzie and  I  work  very  well  together  is  I  write  incredibly  spare  scripts  and  she  likes  that.

 

00:21:07
Female: A  Moment  Of  Your  Time.  A  new  podcast  from  CurtCo  Media.  Currently  21  years  old  and  today,  I'm going to read a poem for you.

 

00:21:14
Female: I felt like magic extended  from  her  fingertips  down  to  the  base  of  my  spine.

 

00:21:17
Male: You'll  have  to  take care  of  yourself  because  the  world  needs  you  and your worth.

 

00:21:19
Female: Trust me  every  do- good  that  had  asked  about  me  was  ready  to  spit  on  my  dream.

 

00:21:23
Male: Like  her  fingers  were  facing  me.

 

00:21:24
Female: I  feel  like  your  purpose  and  your  worth  is  really  being questioned.

 

00:21:27
Male: I'm going  to  stop  me  from  playing  the  piano.

 

00:21:30
Female: She  buys  walkie- talkies,  wonders  to  whom  she  should  give  the  second  dollies.

 

00:21:33
Male: Cats  don't  love  humans.  We  never  did.  We  never  will.  We  just find  (crosstalk) .

 

00:21:37
Male: The  beauty  of  rock  climbing  is  that  you  can  only  focus  on  what's  right in front of you.

 

00:21:40
Female: And so  our  American  life  begins.

 

00:21:45
Female: We  may  need  to  stay  apart,  but  let's  create  together.  Available  on  all  podcast  platforms.  Submit  your  piece  by  curtco. com/ amomentofyourtime.

 

00:22:09
Jenny Curtis: So,  Season  Three,  it  appears  for  the  first  half  that  June  has  snapped.

 

00:22:14
Bruce Miller: And  she  has.

 

00:22:15
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.

 

00:22:16
Bruce Miller: Yeah.  No,  but  at  the  beginning,  you  kind  of  think, " Oh,  my  God.  She  really  is  kind  of  a  beaten  thing,  at  the  beginning."

 

00:22:20
Jenny Curtis: But  it  clicked  so  much  for  me  when  they  were  in  the  hospital  and  the  doctor  said  to  her, " You're  not  homicidal,  you're  suicidal."  She  didn't  even  know  that's  what  she  was  doing,  that  gave  me  chills.  One  line  ties  your  whole  series  together.

 

00:22:33
Bruce Miller: Yeah. One of the things about  not  having  much  dialogue  is that  a  piece  of  dialogue  can  be  very  thoughtful  and  that  they  cause  June  to  ponder  them  for  a  while  because  you  kind  of  dangle  them  out  there,  the doctors doesn't say very many  things  to  her,  but  that's  the  one  thing  that  lands.  I'd  like to see when  she  puts  her  hand  in  the  sharp  box  to  try  to get something  out  and  she  comes  out  with  the  needle  and  then  she  puts  her  hand  back  in?  That's  like, " Okay,  that's  a  crazy  person."  After  you  put  your hand and finger in  and  get  the  needles  and she goes-

 

00:22:57
Jenny Curtis: She literally has it  like  sticking.

 

00:22:59
Bruce Miller: Yeah,  So,  that  to  me  is  like, " Oh,  okay."  And  then  I  was  worried  after  about  when  someone  says, " No,  no,  you're  suicidal.  I'm  telling  you."  That  makes much,  much  sense.

 

00:23:07
Jenny Curtis: And  then  on  the  other  side of  character  who  is  more  reserved,  but  trying  to  come  to  terms  with  it  is  Emily  who's  landed  in  Canada,  and  oh,  my  God,  I  cry  every  time  there's  a  scene  with  her.

 

00:23:16
Bruce Miller: I  do,  too.

 

00:23:16
Jenny Curtis: Alexis  Bledel  was  fantastic.

 

00:23:18
Bruce Miller: Alexis  Bledel  is  an  astonishing  actress  at  the  peak  of  her  skill.  It's  such  a  thing  to  watch,  because  like  you  said,  she  is  very  subtle,  and  it  is  very,  very  quiet,  but  wow,  I  mean,  I'm  blown  away  every  single  time  and  honestly,  the  first  day  she  was  working,  the  very  first  day,  I  kept  thinking,  she's  not  doing  anything.  This  isn't  going  to  cut  together  and  then  you  watch  it,  you're  like, " Oh,  I'm  completely  wrong.  She's  completely  right.  Look  at  that.  That's  fantastic."  Like,  it's  so  subtle.  It's  so  much  about  her  posture  and the  kind  of  the  sound  of  her  voice  and  everything.  She's  remarkable  and  her  character has  kind  of  drawn  from  the  fact  that  she's  a  scientist.  She's  a  molecular  biologist,  so  she  sees  the  world  in  a  very,  very  different  way.
 And  it's  funny  compared  to  her  character  on  Gilmore  Girls  who is  very  talky,  this  character  very  much  reminds  me  of  what  an  academic  is  like.  She's  super- duper  smart.  She's  a  little  slow  to  get  a  joke.  She's  not  humorless,  but  she's  a  little  slow,  and  kind  of  her  emotional  life,  she  holds  it  very  close  and  when  she  lets  it  out,  sometimes  she  like  shatters.  It's  a  magical  performance.  It  really  is  and  Clea  DuVall,  who  comes  in  once  in  a  while  to  play  her  wife,  the  two  of  them  together,  I  find  it  so  convincing.  And  in  Season  Three,  that  story  is  pretty  remarkable.

 

00:24:31
Jenny Curtis: When  you  had  originally  started  writing  this,  it  didn't  reflect  society  as  much  as  it  suddenly  did  moments  later?

 

00:24:37
Bruce Miller: I  started  to  write before the election in  2016,  before  the  primaries,  so  before  anybody  was  in  the  race.  I  didn't  know  who  was  going  to  run.

 

00:24:44
Jenny Curtis: And  then  suddenly  it  felt  incredibly  relevant.

 

00:24:46
Bruce Miller: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

00:24:47
Jenny Curtis: Are  you  following  that  path?  Because  talking  about  Emily  being  a  refugee  and  there  was  the  scene  with  all  of  the  women  in  cages,  is  that  a  reflection  of  our  society  or  is  that  following  the  story?

 

00:24:58
Bruce Miller: It's  always  following  the  story,  but  I  think  you're  influenced  by  society  just  because  we  have  a  very  news  junkie  group,  cast,  crew,  writers,  everybody.  So,  I  think  you  can't  help  but be  kind  of  influenced  by  that. But  two  things.  First  of  all,  I think a lot of  it  goes  back  to  the  construct  that  Margaret  built.  That one of  the  things  that  makes  the  show  so  prescient  is  that  she's  fictionalized  it  in  a  way  that  she  taps  on  a  bunch  of  things  that  are  going  on  and  continue  to  go  on.  And  so  I  think  that  unfortunately,  misogyny  or  racism,  rape,  obsessive,  gross  masculinity,  all  of  those  things  are  perennial  problems,  so  I  think  that  that's  why  it  kind  of  seems  consistently  relevant.

 

 We  don't  do  anything  in  terms  of  trying  to  predict  or  come  up  with,  we  don't  even  think  about  the  stuff  that's  happening.  Sometimes  when  they  shoot.  If  they're  shooting  and  something  actually  has  occurred,  we  sometimes  look  at  those  visuals  that  kind  of  influence  you,  but  the  rule  of  thumb  for  the  book  was  that  Margaret  didn't  put  anything  into  it,  that  wasn't  happening  to  women  or  didn't  happen  to  women  at  some  point  in  history.  We  have  the  same  thing and  it  mostly  is  almost  all  what's  happening  to  women  now.
 We're  not  in  the  business  of  inventing  cruelties.  I  mean,  anybody  could  sit  around  and  come  up  with  horrible  things  to  do  to  people,  so  we  try  to  keep  it  grounded  in  that  way.  And  I  think that  it  allows  you  to  be a  little  more  scary  and  broad  because  it  is  tied  to  the  real  world.  I'm  not  coming  up  with  female  genital  mutilation,  but  we  can  tell  a  story  about  it  and  it  is  a  story  that  feels  different  because  it's  not  about  a  brown  person.

 

00:26:21
Jenny Curtis: In  the  book,  there  were  no  people  of  color,  and  you  chose  to  go  against  that.  Can  you  talk about that for a little bit?

 

00:26:27
Bruce Miller: Yeah.  It  was  a  very  interesting  part  of  the  book  where  they  said  they  had  relocated  what  they  called  the  Children  of  Hand,  which  I  think  where,  it's  hard  to  tell  because  people  of  color  had  such  a  wide  definition  but  the  idea  I  think  was  that  it  was  mostly  African  Americans  who  had  been  sent  off  to  somewhere  in  Nebraska  to  farm  and it was just  the  most  horrible  story  and  the  way  she  tells  it  is  like,  she  assumes  all  those  people  were  just  sent  off  and  didn't  make  it.

 

 I  made  it  for  two  reasons,  and  that  was  a  long  time  ago,  and it was at  the  beginning  of  the  show.  The  first  was  it's  a  lot  easier  to  have  an  all- white  world  in  a  novel  because  you  don't  see  it  all  the  time,  it's  not in  your  face.  And  although  it  makes  a  great  statement,  you're  still  making  a  TV  show  without  the  black  actors.  You're  still  making  a  TV  show  that  doesn't  tell  anything  about  the  black  story.  You're  just  saying, " That  story  is  off- screen  and  we're  going  to  watch  the  white  girl."  I  understood  the  idea  behind  it,  but  it's  hard  to  make  a TV  show  about  racism  without  being  a  racist  when  you  make  it,  by  not  casting  people,  by  not  telling  people certain,  so  I  just,  I  thought  it  seemed  to  adapt  better  to  our  time.

 

 And  then  once  we  started  casting,  it  became  kind  of  a  nonissue  because  as  soon  as  we  found  O- T  Fagbenle  who  plays  Luke,  he  was  so  delightful.  And  then  Moira  who,  we  weren't  looking  for  anybody  of  any  particular  color,  and  then  Samira  is  so  and  she  was  Moira,  she  was  so  spectacular.  So,  once  that  started,  you're  kind  of  like, " Okay.  Well,  we  have  to  change  that  conceit  in  the  book,  and  let's  just  not  do  it."
And  also  our  conceit  was, " Fertility  trumps  everything."  People  might  be  racist  and  certainly  are  racist,  but  probably  in  a  society  where  over  let's  say  10  years,  the  birth  rate  drops  90%,  95%,  I  think  that  there  might  be  a  movement  of  people  not  being  as  tweaked  by  color  as  they  would  have  been  because  they're  more  interested  in  having  children  and  that's  the  more  important  thing.  I'd  much  prefer  this  way  even  though  in  that  way,  it'd  be  easier  to  address  issues  of  race  because  it  would  be  much  more  apparent  and  cruel.

 

00:28:16
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.  So,  I want  to  jump  over  to  the  cinematography  for  a  minute  because  it  is  always  stunning,  along  with  the  art  direction  and  the  costume  design,  the  art  for  this  show-

 

00:28:25
Bruce Miller: It's breathtaking.

 

00:28:26
Jenny Curtis: What  is  the  process  of  developing  that?  How  did  you  come  up  with  the  look?  Colin  Watkinson  was  your  original  cinematographer  and  he's  done  most  of  it.  You've  also  brought  on  Zoë  White  and  Stuart  Biddlecombe.

 

00:28:37
Bruce Miller: Isn't  that  a  great  name?

 

00:28:38
Jenny Curtis: That  is  a  great  name.

 

00:28:40
Bruce Miller: And  he's  British,  so  yeah, it's even  better.

 

00:28:42
Jenny Curtis: Did  the  look  start  with  the  cinematography?  Did  it  start  with  art?  How  does  everybody  work  together  to  create  the  look  of  this world?

 

00:28:49
Bruce Miller: There  was  certainly  a  look  that  I  had  in  my  head  and  that's  how  I  was  so  attracted  to  Reed  Morano  as  the  director,  redirected  our  first  three  episodes.  She  was  also  a  DP.  She  had  been  a  Director  of  Photography.  I  think  she  was  one  of  the  first  women  to  be  allowed  into  the  American  Society  of  Cinematographers,  which is  a  crime  that  it  took  that long.  Anyway,  when  she  brought in Colin,  they  spoke  a  certain  language  about  cinematography  that  I was  very,  very  new  to.

 

 But  one  of  the  things  that  we  did  at  the  beginning  is  we  chose  our  color  palette  and  did  camera  tests  and  fussed  with  that  forever,  and  every  department  was  in  on.  So,  it  wasn't  a  decision  by  the  Wardrobe  Department  to  choose  the  color  of  the  dresses  and  that's  continued  on.  And  I  think  the  biggest  thing  that  we  do  is  we  have  a  cohesive  look,  so  the  color  palette  is  thought  through.  There's  lots  and  lots  of  mood  boards  and  all  these  kind  of  things.  I  think  the  first  thing  is, is there's  a  ton  of  communication  between  the  departments  and  most  of  those  departments  we  try  to  be  as  a  female- driven  show  as  possible,  behind  the  scenes  as  well.  So,  Elisabeth  Williams  is  our  production  designer.  Julie  Berghoff  started  the  show.  The  amazing  Ane  Crabtree  did

 the  wardrobe,  so  a  lot  of  this  is  women  driven  as  well.

 

 But  the  thing  that  I  really  like  to know and  I  think  that this  helps  is  I try  to  let  the  DP, be the  DP,  make  it  look  cool,  not  tell  them  how  to  because  I  don't  know  how  to,  I  don't  know  what  lens  to  choose.  I  don't  know  those  things  and  so  I  think  that  I  try  to  give  them  the  creative  freedom  to  tell  the  story  with  pictures.  And  when  you're  telling  a  story  this  complicated  in  this  weird  with  pictures,  the  pictures  are  kind  of  interesting  and  it's  all  on  purpose.  That's  the  other  thing.  Nothing  in  any  scene,  I  mean,  the  Handmaids  wore  different  OBs,  different  belts,  because  they're  a  little  bit  different  in  terms  of  their  style.  It's  just  something  to  show  their  style.  Nobody  ever  sees  that.  The  level  of  detail,  for  example,  in  the  Waterford  house.  Do  you  remember there  was  paintings  on  the  wall  in  the  Waterford  house?

 

00:30:39
Jenny Curtis: Yes,  but I don't remember what  they  were.

 

00:30:41
Bruce Miller: All of  those  paintings  are  our  paintings  that  hang  in  the  Museum  of  Fine  Arts  in  Boston  and  they  were  all  looted,  just  like  the  Gestapo  looted  the  museum.  So,  all of  those  pictures  are  not  only  copies  of  the  pictures,  but  they  are  the  right  size.  They  are  the  pictures  that  they  took.  Also,  the  living  room  has  very  different  pictures  than  the  Commander's  office,  which  has  kind  of  more  edgy,  there's  like  a  (inaudible)   in  there  and  stuff  like  that.  It's  a  little  more  edgy  and  wild  and  degenerate.  And  so  that  level  of  detail,  and  you  can  do it  in  the  show  because  it's  a  very  curated  world.


 Gilead  wants  to  curate  it.  They  want  it  to  look  a  certain  way,  so  it  doesn't  look  the  way  it  looks  by  accident.  Gilead  wants it  to  look  that  way,  so  the  way  the  lawns  are,  the  way  that  houses  are,  so  it's  very,  very  beautiful,  because  they  want  to  make  it  beautiful,  not because it  happens  to  be  beautiful,  so  because  they're  doing  it  on  purpose,  we  can  do  it  on  purpose.  But  if  you  see  something in  the  show  that  you  really  don't  like or  you  think  is  stupid,  you could  be  pretty  sure  that  I did  it  on  purpose,  that  you  don't  like  something  I  chose  to  do.  So  if  you  think  it's  a  mistake,  it's  probably  not.  You  probably  just  don't  like  it  and  I  chose  different.

 

00:31:39
Jenny Curtis: Do  you  have  people  who  tell  you  things like that? And you have to say, "This is why."?

 

00:31:42
Bruce Miller: I  try  not  to  say  this  is  why,  because  in  some  ways,  I  got  my  shot.  I  had  my  43  minutes  or  63  minutes  of  show  and  if  they  got  it  or  didn't,  then  it's  not  mine  anymore.  I  don't  want  them  to  think  what  I  think.  I  want  them  to  think  what  they  think,  so  I  try  not  to  guide  them  at  all  in  that.  The  nice  thing  is  though  that  for  me,  people  can  extrapolate  from  the  details.  If  you  see  this,  that's  there  on  purpose.  There's  a  reason  why  it  happens  exactly  that  way.  We  took  off  someone's  hand  in  the  first  season.  Took  off  the  hand of  a  man  that  would  touch  the Handmaid  and  people  asked  why  the  surgery  was  done  that  way.  They  did  this  weird  cut  on  his  arm  and  everything,  and  it  was  because  instead  of  hiring  an  extra,  we  hired  a  hand  surgeon  and  the  way  he  drew  the  line  of  what  you  cut  is  so  that  if  you  have  the  choice  of  how  to  cut,  you  leave  something  that  you

 can  comfortably  make  into  a  flap  over  the  person's  leftover  stuff.

 

 And  so  that's  why  that was that way, but that means that  it's  not  like  they  take  an  ax  and  chop  it  off.  They  do  it  in  a  way,  so  then  it's  kind  of  both  uncivilized  and  super  high- tech,  so  that  was  a  weird  combination.  So  that  was a question that  people  ask  us, " Why  did  you  do  that?"  It's  because  there's  a  medical  reason.  It's  a  big  difference  in  Gilead  between  bringing  out  a  circular  saw  and  cutting  off  someone's  hand  and  sending  them  into  surgery.

 

00:32:59
Jenny Curtis: In  Season  Two,  you  introduced  Bradley  Whitford's  character,  Commander  Lawrence,  and  then  he  became  a  major  player  in  this  season.  The  bad  guy  who's  also  the  good  guy?

 

00:33:07

Bruce Miller: That's  my  stocking  trade.

 

00:33:08
Jenny Curtis: What was the process  in  bringing  him  on?

 

00:33:10
Bruce Miller: I  knew  that  Bradley  wanted to do  the  show.  He  had  been,  not just a fan of  the  show,  but  someone  who  had  inquired  about  being on the  show,  but  I  didn't  really  think  about  kind  of  who  I  want  Brad  would  fit  into  this  role.  We  had  been  thinking  about  the  role  for  a  while.  And  I  think  what  we  wanted  to  do  was  create  a  character  who  was  looking  at  his  own  ideas  in  practice  and  what  does  that  feel  like?  What does  it  feel  like  to  be  the  intellectual  Father  of  Gilead?  Not  the  practical,  not  on  the  ground?  Because  I  think  everybody's  asking "What the hell are  they  trying  to  do?"  And  this  is  the  guy  who  can  tell  you  that.  Also,  he's  the  guy  who  says, " We  can  still  do  it  and  we  are  kind  of  doing  it,"  and he was  always  defending  what  he  did.
 But  with  him,  I  just  loved  how  everybody  is  an  experimental  subject  to  him,  so  the  way  he  treats  June  is  as  a  curiosity  and  that  was  fascinating.  I  also  loved  the  fact  that  he  could  see  through  her.  Fred  was  so  easy  to  manipulate.  She  smiled  and  undid  her  button  and  he  fell  to  pieces.  She  tries  that  with  Lawrence  early  on,  kind  of  tries  to  flirt  with  him.  He's  like, " Wow.  Did  that  work  with  Fred?  He's  such  a  simpleton.  You're  so  transactional."  So,  that  presented  her  with  a  big  problem  of  how  do  you  change,  she  wants  to  manipulate  someone,  so  she  tried  it  this  way.

 

 She  tries  all  these  different  ways,  and  in  the  end,  she  doesn't  manipulate him.  She just  kind  of  goes  front  and  center  and  kind  of  makes  the  intellectual  argument  to  him  that, " This  is  what  we  have  to  do."  But  she's  pretty  straightforward  and  that's  how  she  changes.  She  stops  being  cagey  and  she  starts  saying  to  him, " Do  you  really  still believe this  is  your  house,  really?"  So,  she  starts  being  a  lot  more  direct  and  for  him,  that's  a  much  better  strategy.

 

00:34:37
Jenny Curtis: It  was  fun  to  watch  him.  He's  a  very  complicated  character.  Also,  everybody  in  Gilead has  a  complicated  character.  Nick,  who  we  find  out, " Oh,  no,  Nick  is  not  the  boy  we  thought  he  was."

 

00:34:48
Bruce Miller: Did  you  think  he  was  a  nice  guy?

 

00:34:49
Jenny Curtis: I  mean, I didn't think he was  a  nice  guy,  but  I  thought  that he would  be  on  June's  side  first  and  foremost,  no  matter  what.

 

00:34:55
Bruce Miller: Well, I think  he  is  on  June's  side,  no  matter.  He  went  to  talk  to  them.  She  asked  him  to  go  talk  to  these  people  and  he  did.  They  realized  who  he wasn't didn't want  to  work  with  him.

 

00:35:04
Jenny Curtis: Oh.

 

00:35:04
Bruce Miller: He did what he  did  for  June.

 

00:35:05
Jenny Curtis: Well,  I  missed  that.

 

00:35:06
Bruce Miller: They  said, " This  is  not  a  guy  who  we  are  willing  to  deal  with.  We  know  who  this  is."  So  yeah,  certainly  the  people  outside  Gilead  think  of  him  as  a  villain  and  people  inside  Gilead  think  of  him  as  a  hero,  and  the  people  who  fall  into  that  category  are  not  really  our  friends  generally.  But  we've  seen  flashbacks  of  him.  We  know  he  was  in  a  very  different  mindset  at  the  beginning and he  had  very  big  hopes  for  Gilead.  He  is  a  person  who  when  he's  committed  to  something,  he  follows  it  through  and  he  has  not  wavered  at  all  and  his  affection  for  June.  He's a  pretty  stalwart  fellow  and  that  is  both  good  and  bad.  And  that's  I  think  what  I  was  trying  to  say  is  the  same  really  loyal  guy  who's  really  loyal  to  June,  is  also  a  really  loyal  guy  who's  really  loyal  to  Gilead  and  you're  going  to  get  one  with  the  other.

 

 And  also,  I  like  the  fact  for  us  for  in  the  audience,  you sort of want  to  believe  that  he's  like  everybody  else  and  learning  someone  is  like  everybody  else,  I  think is  that  big  step  you  take  at  some  point  in  the  relationship  learning  that  the  person  you  love  has  regular  feet.  So,  anyway,  those  two  actors  together  are  so  remarkable.  And  Max  Minghella  is  a  brilliant  director  and  a  great  writer  and  he  comes  and  acts  on  my  show  once in  a  while,  which  was  just  spectacular.  So,  part  of  the  reason  the  character  is  the  way  it  is,  is  because  of  the  way  that  Max,  you  really  do  feel  like  he's  always  struggling,  that  he's  always  struggling.  He  wants  to  do  the  right  thing,  but  he doesn't want  to  make  waves.  It  really  is  the  personality  of  someone  who's  a  fighter  and  then  turns  into  a  driver.

 

00:36:27
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.  Talking  about  he  wants  to do the right thing, the  scene  where  he  goes  and  talks  to  Luke.  Oh,  it was heartbreaking.

 

00:36:32
Bruce Miller: Oh, that  was  so  good,  that  was  so  good, and it  was  so  good  by  both  of  them  because  those  scenes  are  kind  of  avoided  generally. It's like  it's  hard  to  write,  like  when  finally,  those  two  people  meet,  what's  going  to  happen?  And  I  like  to  write  those  scenes  because  I  like  to  take  the  mystery  off  of  it.  It's  like, " Okay,  it's  just  a  conversation."  It  is.  They're  just  talking  to  each  other.  And  it's  a  conversation  like  you  have  with  people.  So,  it  takes  the  mystery  out  of  these  big  scenes.  You  keep  thinking, " Oh,  when  they  connect,  it's  going  to  be  this  huge  moving,  profound  thing."  And it  just  two  guys  fighting.  And  that's  what  most  things  are.
 I  think  I'm  trying  to  lower  the  expectations  of  people  in  their  life.  I  think  the  TV  sells  such  false  expectations.  June  if  she  just  puts  her  mind  to  it  can  change  the  world  and  it  takes  putting  your  mind  to  it,  and  getting  back  up  when  you're  knocked  down  25  million  times,  and  that's  the  part  they  leave  out.

 

00:37:27
Jenny Curtis: So,  you've  said  they're  quarantined.  You  guys  are  still  working.  How  far  along  are  you  in  the development  of  Season  Four?

 

00:37:32
Bruce Miller: We  were  about  two  weeks  into  shooting,  so  we  had  written  almost  all  of  it.  And  now,  I'm  writing  the  finale  now  during  quarantine,  which  I  would  have  been  doing  during  the  first  few  episodes  of  filming,  so  we  have  our  complete  fourth  season  all  figured  out.  We  had  it  figured  out  at  the  beginning  and  we've  taken  this  opportunity  to  get  a  little  bit  further  ahead  on  scripts  and  it's  a  great  advantage  to be able to have  the  whole  season  to  look  at  and  go  through  and  make  sure  everything  tracks  because  there's  always  some  things  that  bump  and  some  things  you  miss  that  don't  track  with  the  characters  and  you  end  up  having  to  change  them  or  take  them  out  and  post.

 

 We  don't  make  any  mistakes  like  that,  just  because  we  have  people  who  their  job  is  to  track  the  characters  and  people  have  different  characters  assigned  to  them,  so  they're  very  mindful  of  that.  But  this  affords  a  great  opportunity  to  kind  of  polish  it  and  sculpt  it a little, so that it  runs  one  episode  into  another.

 

00:38:20
Jenny Curtis: Do  you  guys do  table  reads  before  they  get  to  the  actors?

 

00:38:23
Bruce Miller: We  don't  do  table  reads  before.  I  read  my  scripts,  I  read  them  out  loud  to  me,  then  that  helps  me  find...  if  you  use  a  safety  word  like " Well"  before  every  sentence,  you  start  to  notice  that  in  the  dialogue.  Every  script  I  have  some  weird  tick.  I'm  constantly  using  one  word  or  another,  so  reading  it  out  loud  helps  that.  It's  also  I  think,  for  me,  because  I'm  dyslexic,  it  isn't  the  reading,  it's  the  hearing, and  so,  I'm  kind  of  reading  it  out  loud  to  myself.

 

 We  did  table  reads  at  the  beginning.  It's  complicated  logistically.  We  have  a  very  big  cast  and  I  don't  want  to  do  a  table  read  without  everybody and  they're  almost  never  all  there  at  the  same  time.  So,  in  order  to  do  a  table  read,  you  have  to  bring  in  people  specifically  and then  also  you  have  to  get  Elisabeth  Moss  who  works,  I  mean,  it's  hard  to  imagine  anybody  working  harder  than  her  on  this  show.  There's  episodes  where  she's  in  every  shot,  much  less  every  scene.  And  so,  it  just  didn't  seem  practical  to  do.

 

 I  love  read- throughs.  I  learned  a  ton  mostly  about  polishing  dialogue.  The  way  things  sound  in  people's  mouths.  Sometimes  it's  harder  than  others.  Joe  finds  his  character  doesn't  have  a  British  accent  and  he  does.  Yvonne  Strahovski,  she's  Australian,  and  she  has  a  really  thick  Australian  accent,  and  so  I  can't  really  hear  her  voice  as  Serena.  I  mean,  Serena's  voice  is  so  very,  very  different.  But  read-throughs  are  incredibly  valuable  and  I  think  maybe  if  we  could  do  it  on  Zoom,  now  that everyone is a  little  more  comfortable  with  that,  that'd  be  great,  but  scripts  are  written  for  such  a  limited  audience.

 

 I  write  a  script.  The  only  people  who  reads  it  are  executives  and not  even  many.  A  few  executives  and  actors  and  crew.  Nobody  else  gives  a  crap  about  my  script.  So  the  only  people  that  matters  that  they  understand  it  are  the actors and the  crew.  It  doesn't  matter  if  you  get  it, you don't  have  to  do  anything  with  it.  So  it's  a  communication  device  between  me  and  them,  but  it's  not  a  communication  device  between  me and  the  audience.  They're  communicating  to  the  audience,  so  the  most  important  thing  is  that  I  see  in  a  read  through  or  any  of  these  meetings  that  we  have  a  zillion  of  them,  is  that  they're  seeing  the  script  the  way  that  I  want  them  to  see  it,  because  if  they don't,  it  doesn't  matter  how  clever  I  think  I  am.  So,  that's kind of it's a good reason to do  read-throughs.

 

00:40:23
Jenny Curtis: Is  there anything  you  could  share  with  us  about  Season  Four?

 

00:40:27
Bruce Miller: It's  10  episodes.

 

00:40:29
Jenny Curtis: Thank  you.

 

00:40:33
Bruce Miller: June's  in  it.

 

00:40:34
Jenny Curtis: Oh,  good.

 

00:40:35
Bruce Miller: I  would  say  the  biggest  piece  of  advice  I  could  give  you  is  don't  try  to  predict.  I'm  very  proud  of this  season.  I'm  proud  of  all  the  seasons.  This  one  I'm  proud  of just because  I  never  get  a  chance  to  be  proud  of  it  before,  so  I'm  proud  of  the  story  itself.  But  what  I  would  like  to  say  about  Season  Four  is  really  just  hold  on  tight.  It's  quite  an  emotional  and  physical  ride.

 

00:40:56
Jenny Curtis: Awesome.

 

00:41:10
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00:42:01
Jenny Curtis: Is  there  a  moment  in  your  career  you  would  go  back  to  either  to  change  because  you  want  to  fix  it  or  to  pick  up  from  where  you  left  off  and  continue  something that  you  feel  is  unfinished?

 

00:42:13
Bruce Miller: I  have  two  answers.  One  of  my  first  jobs  was on ER,  one  of  my  first  TV jobs and  I  was  so  unqualified  to  be  a  producer  and  a  television  writer  that  I  feel  like  I  owe  them.  I  was  there  for  two  years.  They  taught  me  everything.  I  don't  know  that  I  contributed  anything.  So,  John  Wells  and  all  those  other  writers,  I  owe  them  a  couple  of  years  of  work,  so  I  feel  like  that's  kind  of  unfinished.  It  was  a  great  learning  experience  and  I  love  all  those  people,  and  I  still  work  with them.  The  moment  I  thought  I  wish  things  had  gone  differently  was  it's  very  simple.  I  was  in  a  writing  room  and  someone  and  I  had  a  jerky  boss  and  he  was  screaming  at  someone  and  I  did  kind  of  pull  his  attention  to  me,  but  what  I  should  have  done  is  say, " Don't  treat  her  that  way.  You  know  you  can't  treat  people  that  way,"  and  left.

 

 And  our  businesses  getting  away  from  having  kind  of  the  totalitarian  government  that  exists  in  television  be  completely  autonomous  with  a  showrunner  that  can  be  a  tyrant  and  abusive  and  horrible,  and  no  one  can  stop  them.  But  that  would  have  been  a  time  to  speak  up,  that  would  have  been  a  time  to  say, " Don't  do  this."  I  mean,  it's  like want  to  call  the  person's  mother  and  say, " Listen  to  how  they're  behaving.  This  is  horrible."  So  I  really  wish  I  had  done  more  there.  And  it  was  bad  for  me  and  everybody  else but  I  mean,  certainly  by  the  time  I  left.  That  show,  when  he  fired  me  a  few  months  later,  it  took  me  forever  to  physically  recover  from  that.  I  mean,  I  don't  think  I  am  physically recovered  from  that.  Those  kind  of  people  screaming  at  you and  your  face,  so that  you  get  spit  on  your  nose.  That's  just  something  you  don't  recover  from  and  it's  not  that  person's  place  to  ruin  your  life  like  that.  They  actually  don't  matter  that  much  and  you  shouldn't  be  able  to  do  that  to  someone.

 

 So,  we  live  in  a  business  where  people  because  they  are  artists  are  giving  indulgences  and I think  there  are  certainly  some  indulgences  that  everybody  deserves  in  their  job,  artists  or  not  and  lots  of  slack,  but  I  think  that  we  give  indulgences  to  bad  behavior,  excusing  it  by  saying  that  person  is  a  good  artist  when  the  two  things  are  completely  unrelated.  There's  a  point  in  this  business  where  someone  does  something  horrible  to  you  when  you're  young  and  they  say, " Oh,  that's  just  the  way  the  business  works."  I  know  that  like  they  do  something  immoral  or  they  are  amoral,  or  they're  just  horrible  to  someone.

 

 I'm  55.  I've  been  doing  this a long time.  It's  not  the  way  the  business  works.  Those  are  assholes  and  the  business  works  poorly,  because  they're  in  it,  but  I've  met  plenty  of  people  who  are  normal  and  lovely  and  loyal  and  responsible  and  smart,  and they're  a  lot  more  talented  and  successful  than  those  people.  But  when  someone  tells  you, " Oh,  this  is  standard  operating  procedure,"  don't  be  so  quick  to believe that.  Be  pretty  skeptical.

 

00:44:45
Jenny Curtis: So,  if  you  were  talking  to  someone  who  was  looking  to  be  a  showrunner,  what  would  you tell them is  the  job,  based  on  what  you  just  said  of  how  people  say  some  things  are  the  job  and  they're  not?

 

00:44:55
Bruce Miller: I think  the  job  is  to  encourage  and  manage  your  team  to  create  a  great  show.  Most  of  it  is  encouragement  and  management.  Some of  it  is  writing  yourself  and  creating,  but  most  of  the  job  of a  showrunner  is  artistic  management,  not  art.  And  so  I  think  that  if  you  want  to  be  a  showrunner,  don't  jump  ahead  of  the  line,  go  through  the  steps  as  a  staff  writer,  because  absolutely  when  you  get  to  the  job of showrunner, the  more  of  that  stuff  you've  seen  and the more  stuff  you  know,  the  better.  I  was  lucky,  I  know  I  said  it,  but  I  saw  25  show  runners  because  I  was  fired  from  25  jobs,  so that's how  25  different  people  do  it  well  and  poorly  and  in  very,  very  different  ways.

 

 But  I  think  there's  two  things  that  I  try  to  do  in  my  job.  One  is  I'm  a  shock  absorber.  The  stress  of  the  staff  and  the  cast,  I  absorb  it,  so  it  doesn't  get  to  the  studio and  network  and  the  stress  of  the  studio and  network,  I  absorbed  their  stress,  so  it  doesn't  get  to  the  cast  and  the  writers  and  the  crew.  So,  I  am  constantly  trying  to  give  people  the  space  to  be  as  creative  as  they  can  be,  but  my  rule  of  thumb  really  is  I  cultivated  Greek  laziness.  I  would  very  much  like  to  sit  on  the  couch  all  day.  So,  if  you  bring  that  into  your  work  ethic,  it  works  quite  well,  because  my  theory  is  being  a  showrunner  is a  very  difficult  time- consuming  job  that  requires  a  lot  of  multitasking.

 

 All  of  those  things  I'm  bad  at.  I'm  bad  at  difficult  things.  I'm  better  multitasking.  I  have  learned  to  do  that,  but  at  one  point,  you're  breaking  the  season  and  writing  and  you're  also  doing  post  production  and  you're  also  on  set  and  you're  also  casting.  So,  those  four  jobs  are  yours  and  they're  full  time.  So,  what  I  tried  to  do  is,  I  think  about  at  the  beginning  of  every  season,  I'm  going  to  get  bronchitis  at  some  point.  It's  not  going  to  be  like, " Oh,  I'm  a  little  sick.  I  can  take  calls."  No.  On  Thursday,  I'm  fine.  On  Friday,  I'm  in  bed  and  I  can't  talk  to  anybody  for  a  week.  Everything  I  do  is  to  make  it,  so  that  nobody  knows.  That  the  studio,  network,  the  cast,  the  crew,  nobody  knows  that  I'm  gone.  Everybody  is  so  comfortable  taking  over  and  doing  their  jobs.
 So,  I  think  as  a  showrunner,  your  big  job  is  to  make  yourself  absolutely  dispensable.  That's  what  you're  shooting  for.  You're  pushing  for  the  machine  to  run  beautifully  without  you  and  make  art  without  you  and  do  incredible  things  without  you  and  then  you  can  add  and  make  it  better.  Basically,  I  want  a  group  of  people  that  they  can  make  a  fucking  much  better  show than  I  can.  You  want  to  hire  a  whole  bunch  of people who  are  much  better  at  their  job  than  you  are.  And  then  just  assume  that you have  to  put  the  pieces  in  place  that  when  you  parachute  out  for  a  week,  it  all  works  perfectly,  so that's kind of  how  I  look  at  it.

 

00:47:23
Jenny Curtis: Bruce  Miller,  thank  you  so  much  for  joining  us.

 

00:47:25
Bruce Miller: It  was  a  pleasure  to be here.

 

00:47:26
Jenny Curtis: And  I  am  so  looking  forward  to  The  Handmaid's  Tale  Season  Four  whenever  it's  able  to  be  finished.

 

00:47:31
Bruce Miller: It  will  be  a  laugh  riot.  Well, I'll get it finished as soon  as  possible.  Thank you for having me.

 

00:47:34
Jenny Curtis: Thank  you,  Bruce.
 Hollywood  Unscripted  is  created  by  CurtCo  Media.  This  special  episode  of  The  Stuck  At  Home  series  was  hosted,  produced  and  edited  by  me  Jenny  Curtis,  with  guest  Bruce  Miller.
 The  executive  producer  of  Hollywood  Unscripted  is  Stuart  Halperin.  The  Hollywood  Unscripted  theme  song  is  by  Celeste  and  Derek  Dick.

 

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