Episode 33 - Tony McNamara:
A Stuck at Home Special
Showrunner Tony McNamara joins Hollywood Unscripted to discuss his Emmy-nominated show, THE GREAT, and his life in storytelling.
Showrunner Tony McNamara joins host Jenny Curtis to talk about his career, his life in storytelling and his Emmy-nominated Hulu hit, THE GREAT. Throughout the conversation, they discuss:
0:36 - Tony’s experience in quarantine in Australia.
1:30 - His beginnings in finance and finding his path to writing
3:03 - His first play, which was produced by the Sydney Theatre Company.
4:00 - His experience with film school.
5:30 - Returning to work with STC.
6:11 - His play, THE GREAT, and writing for Robyn Nevin.
7:24 - Turning the play into a screenplay, which landed in the hands of Yorgos Lanthimos
7:45 - Coming on board THE FAVORITE to work on the screenplay and working off a script originally by Deborah Davis
9:09 - Knowing casting THE GREAT would be difficult, and finding his Peter in Nicholas Hoult.
10:26 - Elle Fanning’s involvement as lead actress and EP
12:20 - Finding an ensemble with the necessary comedic and dramatic skills.
13:14 - Communicating style to the writers room and staffing the room with specific skills.
14:22 - The interesting historical facts they found (including the pregnancy test used in the show)
15:28 - Finding the humor through his characters.
16:36 - The casual violence in the show.
16:47 - Elle’s nerves about her comedic experience.
17:45 - The tool of sex throughout the story.
20:18 - Tony’s favorite aspect of these characters.
21:07 - The big job of the Production designer.
21:50 - The first and last days of production on THE GREAT.
24:13 - Getting picked up for season 2
25:25 - Handwriting the first draft.
26:23 - Tony’s perspective on a life in storytelling.
*PLEASE NOTE: TRANSCRIPTS ARE GENERATED USING A COMBINATION OF SPEECH RECOGNITION SOFTWARE AND HUMAN TRANSCRIBERS, AND MAY CONTAIN ERRORS. PLEASE CHECK THE CORRESPONDING AUDIO BEFORE QUOTING IN PRINT.
Jenny Curtis: From CurtCo Media.
Welcome to another Stuck at Home Special of Hollywood Unscripted. I'm Jenny Curtis. And today our guest is an Oscar nominated, BAFTA winning, and now Emmy nominated screenwriter, playwright, and creator. Tony McNamara, it is so great to have you. Welcome.
Tony McNamara: Hi Jenny. It's a pleasure
Jenny Curtis: You're currently in Australia and it is first thing in the morning for you, isn't it?
Tony McNamara: It's 7: 00 AM. Yeah. So apologies if I'm slow to start.
Jenny Curtis: The specials are called Stuck at Home because obviously we're stuck in quarantine, we're stuck at home, and so we kind of start out with a check in of how has quarantine been for you?
Tony McNamara: I've been pretty lucky, really. I mean, we were making the show in Italy, in London, and it all happened and then we kind of came back to Australia. And we've been in Perth, Western Australia, which hasn't had a case in 120 days.
Jenny Curtis: Oh, wow.
Tony McNamara: I had to quarantine twice, because each state in Australia, you have to quarantine if you change state. I mean, it's been fun. My kids like it because I'm around all the time. But it's been ... I mean, Perth's good because there's no cases. There's very little restrictions and ...
Jenny Curtis: It's pretty much the perfect place to quarantine.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. So in a way we came here for family reasons, but we got sort of lucky in coronavirus ways.
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. So I want to jump back to the beginning of your storytelling. Am I correct in that you didn't actually start writing until you were in your twenties because you worked in finance?
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Worked is a strong term. Bumbled my way through. Yeah. I didn't really start till I was 22 or 23 or something. Yeah. I worked in finance in Australia and London for a bit, and was incredibly bad at it, which didn't seem to harm my career at all. But yeah, I did that for a few years and then traveled around. Did an Australian thing where you just go to Europe and do nothing for a year, to rite a passage. And so I did that and in that time, I was always sort of liked books was my big thing when I was a kid, and then I just saw a lot of plays in London and started to think maybe I could do that, was how I sort of foolishly got there.
Jenny Curtis: Did you then just write or did you take playwriting classes?
Tony McNamara: Well, I didn't really want to be a playwright. I kind of wanted to be a novelist. And then I went and did this one year course at school in Australia, and they kind of had poetry or playwriting, and I didn't think I could do poetry. So I begged them to let me into playwriting, and as soon as I started writing scenes, I instinctively sort of went, "Oh, this feels like me." I mean, I did actually fail the course, but not because of the playwriting. I can't really spell and I can't grammar, whatever that means. I can't speak grammar, let alone write grammar. I think playwriting, as soon as I started doing that, that's what I wanted to do. From there I just started writing plays and I was drifting in and out of finance and waiting tables and becoming a chef.
Jenny Curtis: All of the things.
Tony McNamara: Debt collecting and just lots of weird jobs while I was writing plays. Yeah.
Jenny Curtis: Did your first play get picked up by the Sydney Theater Company?
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Yeah, it did. I was lucky in that they have a playwright, and I think I still have a playwright's conference, which is mostly young playwrights. Everyone goes to Canberra and you spend three weeks drinking heavily and really good people come and direct your workshop of your play. And I was lucky because I got Michael Gow who's one of our great playwrights. And he took me under his wing and was really great, because even though he directed the workshop, he's a great playwright. So he was really instrumental in then getting it to Sydney Theater Company and getting it on. So I was lucky that it's only my first play and I was like 25.
Jenny Curtis: What was it about?
Tony McNamara: It was about a kid who's had these horrible sort of hippy baby boomer parents who comes out of a mental institution expecting them to be home but they've gone on holiday and left him just notes and food around the house and inspiring aphorisms. It's like a generation gap kind of comedy, I guess.
Jenny Curtis: Now did that also get you into film school?
Tony McNamara: Yeah, basically. Yeah. Because I haven't really written any screenplay or anything to get into film school. I think my brothers and I hastily made some like terrible three minute short film and put it with the play. But the play was kind of what got me in, yeah.
Jenny Curtis: And what did you study at film school specifically?
Tony McNamara: I studied screenwriting. Yeah. Australian Film School's like very small. And at the time we studied everything, which was what was good about it. Because there's only 15 kids in your year. There's like two screenwriters, two directors, two DOPs, two editors. And so then you rotate through all the disciplines. So you spent two months screenwriting and then you go ... like I edited films and documentaries. And camera was just a bust for me because I can't think like that. But you were in all the departments and really learned all the aspects of it, which was what was good about that school.
Jenny Curtis: I love that you went to school in your mid twenties because so much, at least in America, we're told if we don't know what we're doing at 18, we're probably not going to make it.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. They probably still have it. But at the film school you had to be, I think, 22 was the young, stupid guy. And I think it's because they want people who really love it. Because they had a whole philosophy about why the film school was like that. I think it was kind of a good philosophy.
Jenny Curtis: That's kind of the same as having to learn all of the dynamics of filmmaking Because you need life experience. You need to know what everybody else's job on set is.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. I think so. It was a really lucky break to get in there because they were really good teachers and lots of people I still know who I went to film school with.
Jenny Curtis: And then out of film school though, you went back to writing plays for the Sydney Theater Company, or was that all throughout?
Tony McNamara: I threw away film school. I think during film school, maybe the first play went on when I was in second year, and then I wrote another play which they put on in the next year, which did really well. And then they kicked it up the next year to their main stage season. And then they took me on as playwriting resident. So the playwriting thing was happening in tandem with film school. I got out of film school and I was like, " Oh, do I really want to keep waiting tables?" And then they offered me residency as playwright, it's where you get paid. And my play was going on. And so I was like, " I'll just do that."
Jenny Curtis: Sounds like a good choice.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Because then I seemed to have a play on every year or two years there for a long time.
Jenny Curtis: And one of those plays was a play called The Great, about Catherine the Great.
Tony McNamara: Certainly was, yeah.
Jenny Curtis: And that's what sparked this Hulu TV show that you now have called The Great. You wrote for an actress named Robyn Nevin.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Robyn was like head of the company and she's one of our great actors and she was like, " I keep programming your plays, so you should write me one." And then I was looking around trying to think what I could write for her. Then I just stumbled upon, I think it was like three minutes of something documentary about Catherine the Great or I think I read something. I'm still not even sure. But I was just like, " Oh, I've never done that." And I'd written four contemporary plays and I was like, " I'll try and to do that."
In the end she didn't do the play, she went and did something else. But she did get it. Her, and she's left the company, and Cate Blanchett and Andrew, her husband, took over and then they produced it.
Jenny Curtis: Was it hard writing for someone who then you had to have another actress play the role?
Tony McNamara: Not really. I mean, even if I know the act that he's going to play it, for some reason I can't think about them when I write it. Like I have some other voice in my head about that he's the character and I don't really think in the actors voice in a way. So no. I was disappointed because I really wanted her to do it back, but I didn't go, " Oh no. The play's ruined."
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. And then how long after that did you turn it into a screenplay?
Tony McNamara: Gillian Armstrong, great Australian director, saw it and wanted it. I think I'd written a screenplay a few years before, but I'd sort of stopped being mostly theater and dabbling a little bit in TV. Working with her I wrote the screenplay and it was fun and I had a good time, but it was probably two years after. It was a while before they optioned it.
Jenny Curtis: Jumping into The Favourite. Deborah Davis had done a pass of a dramatic version of The Favourite. And Yorgos was looking to change the tone and that's why he found you?
Tony McNamara: Yeah, basically. I mean he liked the story, but it was a very straight rendering, I guess, which isn't really his thing. He was just reading lots of screenplays and trying to find a writer he felt like would get what he wanted to do and had a voice that he kind of got.
Jenny Curtis: Now, when you started doing passes on it, did you continue to work with Deborah, or was her pass number one and then you took it from there?
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Because I didn't ever really met Deborah until well after the film was made. Because we sort of re engineered the whole thing and got rid of the history and changed what we wanted.
Jenny Curtis: Screw history.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. We were like, "If you want a history lesson, read a book." Then he and I spent a long time working on it together.
Jenny Curtis: And while you were working on it, you started the pilot to The Great, is that correct?
Tony McNamara: I don't know. Around the time we were shooting The Favourite, I was thinking about TV and what I wanted to do. And I'd been writing some pilots and stuff. But I know Marian Macgowan, who's been exec producer with me on The Great, she was the original optioner of the film. So she'd always kept me going when I'd be like, " I think we're done." Because I felt like I couldn't tell the story properly in that time. So my wife is like, " Well, you love TV. It should be TV." As always, she was right.
Jenny Curtis: I think I heard you say in another interview that you hadn't really seen how the show would click as a whole until you saw Nicholas Hoult acting in The Favourite.
Tony McNamara: Not that I couldn't say click. I was just aware that casting ... just always think if you cast well ... and I think we'd thought about in the film version we've been casting and that was always a role, even though we'd found some great Catherine's when we were attaching people to the film version, I'd never found Peter. I never was that gung ho to make it because I was always like, " That has to work." And he's got to be comic, and not malicious but crazy. And then I saw Nick in rehearsal, we did three weeks of rehearsal for The Favorite, and I think after a couple of days with Nick I was like, " Well, he could do it." He's amazing. He really gets what the material is and he's so brutal
Jenny Curtis: After knowing that you wanted him, what was the process like? You go up and tap him on the shoulder after a rehearsal and say, " I have another project for you," or?
Tony McNamara: I knew I wanted Elle as well, so I'd send them both the screenplay. I said, " Would you guys be interested in this?" And then they really loved it. And then I sort of went, " I think I want to do it as TV though." And then they were really excited about that idea. Because Nick hadn't done TV in a long time, Al had never done TV. So it sort of worked as simply as that. I just sent it to both of them and had a chat with each and they were both really into it straight away.
Jenny Curtis: So Elle Fanning plays Catherine. And she's also an EP on the show as well.
Tony McNamara: Yeah.
Jenny Curtis: What was her role in the development of the story and the character? How did she partake in that?
Tony McNamara: Basically she came and took it out with me when I pitched it. Like I'd sent the pilot out and they were networks interested. And then she talked about why she loved it and why it was a good story for young women, but she had input in costume and just every day. Like I think the good thing about Elle is she's got a great eye, and I think for both Nick and her, they really know what show we're making. That's half the battle when you're trying to make something a little bit different, because the tone of the show is so specific and what I want it to look like, I was really specific. And she knew all that and so she was always like on those things. And then she would have these great ideas. Like the pink dress in the finale was her idea.
Speaker 3: A Moment of Your Time, a new podcast from CurtCo Media.
Speaker 4: Currently 21 years old and today I'm going to read a palm for you.
Speaker 5: I felt like magic extended from her fingertips down to the base of my spine.
Speaker 6: You have to take care of yourself because the world needs you and your worth.
Speaker 7: Trust me, every do- gooder that asked about me was ready to spit on my dream.
Speaker 8: Her fingers were facing me.
Speaker 9: To feel like your purpose and your worth is really being questioned.
Speaker 10: Ain't going to stop me from playing the piano.
Speaker 11: She buys walkie- talkies, wonders to whom she should give the second device.
Speaker 12: Pets don't love humans. We never did, we never will, we just find one ...
Speaker 13: The beauty of rock climbing is that you can only focus on what's right in front of you.
Speaker 14: And so our America life begins.
Speaker 3: We may need to stay apart, but let's create together. Available on all podcast platforms. Submit your piece at curtco. com/ amomentofyourtime.
Jenny Curtis: The rest of the cast is fantastic. You probably had to search far and wide to find these people. What was the casting process like?
Tony McNamara: It was sort of easy in a way because it was a time that I knew they had to be great dramatic actors, but also their first instinct had to be comic. But they also had to have dramatic chops, I guess. So most of them are really experienced theater actors. I sort of slightly looked for people who'd done a lot of theater. They're all very good comic actors who really can turn on the drama when you need it. They just play the truth all the time, but they know where the comic truth is and they know where the dramatic truth is. And I never have to explain any of that. They just instinctively get it.
Jenny Curtis: You didn't bring them back like hundreds of times to make sure they could nail it?
Tony McNamara: No. I think maybe they did one and maybe they did a call back. I always just (inaudible) with them. Because you're with people a long time so you want to like them.
Jenny Curtis: For your writer's room you've talked about how you view this show as a contemporary story. How did you relate that to your writers and get everyone on the same page to tell this story?
Tony McNamara: It was hard, I guess. I'd already written two episodes and we had shot the pilot so they had the pilot to watch. Because we shot the pilot and then we got green room lit. In that period I had to deliver like a pilot and the second episode. So I'd basically done that. And then they all read the play and various versions of the screenplay and I stuffed the room trying to think of different aspects that each writer would bring. So some of the writers knew why they were coming, in a way. They knew they were there because they had a real angle on contemporary politics and a real deep knowledge.
And there was just younger voices than me, because it's a 21 year old woman who's driving the show. So there had to be voices that were strongly that voice. And then there were older writers who were bringing a structural thing and experience to be on a show that it was tonally trying to ride a bit of a line. So it was just that. It wasn't a big room. It's maybe four or five people. I was always like, " If we're starting a story halfway through I'll always go, now give me the contemporary version of that story we're telling."
Jenny Curtis: Is it true that you had a white board of trivia about that time period?
Tony McNamara: Yeah.
Jenny Curtis: Would you guys just kind of throw a dart and pick one or how would you go about that?
Tony McNamara: Amelia does a lot of the research, and the other writers too, that they'd sort of, not so much about Catherine, just like the era. All this dumb shit and funny stuff about the way people thought or weird details like the lemons and the contraception and all like-
Jenny Curtis: The lemon thing is bizarre.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. That was all true. So even though I'm not like a massive slavish to history clearly, we do have a list of stuff that I think suits the time of the show that we kind of, as we're storying we kind of go, " Oh, what would that be?" You know?
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. Was the pregnancy test made up or was that a thing they did?
Tony McNamara: The pregnancy test is true, as well.
Jenny Curtis: What?
Tony McNamara: In fact, in the nineties, I don't know whether it was like Columbia or something did the actual test, and it's 92% effective for predicting pregnancies.
Jenny Curtis: That's wild.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. History is the weird gift that keeps giving, I have to say
Jenny Curtis: There's so much absurd, delightful detail in this show. When you're thinking, because you write a lot of comedy, do you think in terms of what will be funny? Or how do you find the humor in what you're doing?
Tony McNamara: I think the characters are well built so I'm just like, write character, don't write jokes. We never consciously write jokes. But there's always like if we've got a story, I'll be like, " Where's the comic edge in that story? How are we telling that story so that it's our show?" In a way that's probably the most I do in terms of comic drive, is the way we're telling the story. I don't really individually go, "Are the jokes funny?" Because script wise, I write 90% of it. So I just assume if I'm true to my characters and my actors, because if they've got a performance it and I never want them reaching for comedy and they know that. I can't reach for comedy in the scripts and then go, " But don't reach for comedy."
I can't remember, but I used to have this thing, and maybe it was Matt Williams who wrote Roseanne, I think he had make it real, make it funny. But make it real first. So we sort of try and do that, even though it's real to our world, we sometimes do die. Let's tell the story differently because it's not funny enough, for sure.
Jenny Curtis: On the flip side, it's such a violent story, but it's also so casual in the violence that it doesn't feel overwhelming.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. I mean, I suppose in showing the writers what sort of show I did have a bunch of things that the world was, and one of the first ones was casually violent.
Jenny Curtis: And I know Elle said she was nervous before doing this because she doesn't do a whole lot of comedy.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Yeah. She was quite nervous. She didn't let it on too much. This story is narratively a drama, and execution wise a comedy. And it had to work as a drama and I knew she could make it work as a drama in an amazing way. I'd seen her in Ginger and Rose and she had this charm and funniness that I thought would come out if she was given the right material. It does take a sort of fearlessness that she hadn't expected, like watching Nick or Doug or Belinda just go for it. But she really began to revel in that. And she really found her place with the comedy more and more as the show goes on. And her comedy is a different comedy from everyone else, but she's really great at it.
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. That's why it's special because she's supposed to be different from everybody else.
Tony McNamara: Exactly. She did amazingly well because she's a really brave actor and she just wants to be better and she's just a ultimate professional.
Jenny Curtis: Talking about bravery, as an actor at least, the sex in the show is rampant, which it could be a really intimidating thing to look at as an actor. But it's interesting because you never put sex for sex sake in the show. Everything has a purpose and it's telling a story and I guess I just want to hear more about your process with that. If that's not a weird question.
Tony McNamara: It's kind of a weird question. I mean, I had a view obviously. Originally I was like, " Well, there'll be a fair bit of sex because everyone's locked in a giant apartment building drinking vodka all day." I was just conscious of like all the sex being storytelling and being character driven and dynamic driven. Like the dynamic between Peter and Catherine and the purpose of their sex becomes getting a baby. And in fact they have very little physical connection, and then Georgina and Peter is a different thing. And then Catherine and Leo had to be a very different thing.
So it was all like the sex should be storytelling, it's not just generic TV sex. It was really kind of out of that. And then the actors was totally up for that idea. They sort of liked the idea that they weren't just being told, " Go and have sex." It was very specific what they had to do. It's even specific things like Charity, who plays Georgina, would bring me in, we'd talk about this particular sex scene because of what's happening in the story with Peter, should it be different? And should she take a different position? So it was all very like how the characters were and in their dynamic at that particular point.
And also on a show like this I was just probably obsessive about tone. I was very much like everything's got a tone, the way everything happens. So I can't then drop the tone on the sex. I can't just then go to generic tone. I didn't think it was a big deal, but everyone asks me about it.
Jenny Curtis: I think everybody asks about it because it's done so well. Sorry Hollywood, but I'm exhausted by sex scenes. I think they can be incredibly obnoxious. And in this, you'd stripped away the shame of it. It was all just fun and character building. I watched this show with my parents. I'm sitting between my mom and my dad watching sex all over a castle or whatever that is. And it's just fun. So I think that's why people bring it up so much.
Tony McNamara: I'm glad it worked. We thought all the sex scenes were really fun. It was the easiest sex scenes I've ever seen have, because the actors were very much coming from character. They weren't just being told, " Now look hot, look like you're into it." Like porn directing or something. It was very much like, " This is just another element in a story that you guys are telling."
Jenny Curtis: Speaking of your characters, what is your favorite aspect of the characters that you write in this show?
Tony McNamara: I don't know. I think that they all are very human, I guess is my favorite aspect. They're all more than one thing. And there's no one in the show I think he's a bad person, which is probably just how I come at things as a writer. I think people behave badly. And I think characters in the show are driven by things that are fucked up, but I never write as if someone's a terrible person. And so I think that helps the actors because it's easy for them to find the humanity in their characters. And it gives me more latitude as a writer because there's more range for someone like the Archbishop, is it's easy to make him the bad guy and he sort of is. But he's sort of not. There's a lot of elements to him that aren't bad. So I kind of like that about the characters.
Jenny Curtis: It just looks like a really fun set to be on. But I did have a question. The constant smashing of the glasses. Was that hell for your production designer?
Tony McNamara: No, I don't think so. I think there were much worse things for Francesca than the glasses. I mean, I remember in the pilot, we ran out, (inaudible) and someone was off trying to buy real ones.
Jenny Curtis: Oh, God.
Tony McNamara: So we were like, "You can't have real ones." No, I think Francesca had a lot more bigger problems than the glasses.
Jenny Curtis: Like what?
Tony McNamara: Oh no, just the build. I mean, she built that entire palace in a studio in London. I'm like, " Now we're torturing people and we'd need to build that. Now we're doing this." She's an amazing production designer. She just loves it. But it's a big job of that kind of thing.
Jenny Curtis: On The Great, what was the feeling of the first day on set compared to the feeling of the last day on set?
Tony McNamara: Well, the sets were finished on the last day, so that was good. So that would be the main feeling. The first day the series was quite chaotic because we were rushing to get in and the sets were being built around as we started shooting. So it was very like crazy chaos. But I remember the first time I was watching Nick and Elle together, I knew they knew each other and they worked together, but I wasn't sure how they'd go with the material together and how the chemistry would be. And they just clicked and I was like, " Oh."
After the first day, have seen the actor's work, I was like, " Well, they're all amazing." So that takes some pressure off. Yeah. I was kind of like, by the end of the first few days, I was like, " They all work. Great." And they just felt like an ensemble really, really quickly. Like they just felt like the world of the show didn't take long to bed in. On some shows it does take a while for everyone to find their way into the show. But I think with these guys, they really didn't take long. And that saved us in a lot of ways because we were struggling with set building and a bunch of different things and they just came in and they're always on their game, as they do all the time. They just make life really easy because they're so good.
Jenny Curtis: And then the last day, what was the last scene you shot?
Tony McNamara: The last thing we shot was, I'm pretty sure it was like some kind of scene with all ... it didn't end up in the show. I think because it was the scene we bumped and bumped down the road. And we were like trying to do it in half light in Italy. Everyone really just wanted to finish and go to the disco.
Oh, no, the last thing was in the theater actually. I totally remember, because all the actors were in Italy for our final. And then they all came and we're in this amazing 16th century theater, which is in the palace, which we shoot where the coup plotters go all the time. And all the actors and everyone got up in the boxes and watched the final scene. It was great. And then we went to an Italian disco with 400 people crammed into a room for 200, forgetting the fact that there was COVID- 19 northern Italy.
Jenny Curtis: When did you wrap shooting?
Tony McNamara: February 23.
Jenny Curtis: Oh wow.
Tony McNamara: So we left and they shut down northern Italy the day after we left. No one at the time has particularly ... None of the Italian crew were phased. We were like, " I think there's ... I'm sure it'll be fine."
Jenny Curtis: I'm glad you guys are all okay.
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Yeah.
Jenny Curtis: So you had to turn the show around really fast then?
Tony McNamara: Yeah, it was a really quick turn around. We had to post the last two episodes in about seven weeks.
Jenny Curtis: Recently you were picked up for your second season. Congratulations.
Tony McNamara: Thank you.
Jenny Curtis: How did you find out? Did they call you? Do they email you? What was that moment?
Tony McNamara: Yeah, they call you. And my time difference is weird so I usually wake up and there's an email going, " Call us." So I called and they were like, " Yeah. All right. Let's do it again." It's that thing of you're really waiting for the call and then you start getting dates of when you have to do it by, and then you're like, "That's great. We're shooting when? 10 scripts. Write a script? What? Okay then."
Jenny Curtis: Did they give you dates that you have to do it by?
Tony McNamara: Yeah, we got shooting dates.
Jenny Curtis: How do you do that during coronavirus time?
Tony McNamara: I don't know. Optimistically. I suppose we just prepare as if I just get the room together and start writing scripts as fast as possible.
Jenny Curtis: Are you going to be able to do an in person room with your writers?
Tony McNamara: Not at the moment. We've done three weeks not in person. I'm not a fan of the Zoom room at all. So I'm toying with a couple of writers who are Sydney based so I might do a couple of weeks with them and Zoom in our American writers. But yeah, it's hard. The Zoom room's really difficult.
Jenny Curtis: It is. Not to draw a weird parallel, but I feel like screens take our creativity away. But you always write your first drafts of your script by hand. Is that true?
Tony McNamara: I certainly do. Got thousands of these. There you go. Episode one.
Jenny Curtis: You must get a lot of hand cramps.
Tony McNamara: Not really. I don't know. I'm just used to it. It's too traumatic staring at a blank screen. Like, " Now it has to be good." Whereas I never even think about it being good if I'm just writing it on scraps of paper.
Jenny Curtis: Is it the overwhelmingness of the screen or is it, like for me I feel like staring at a screen zaps my energy and I don't want to make things anymore. If that makes sense.
Tony McNamara: Something like that.
Jenny Curtis: But there's something romantic about paper.
Tony McNamara: I think it's just easier. It feels like you're really making a decision once you type it up. It's just writer superstition. Like it has to be yellow pads. It's ridiculous. But even before I came to Perth, it was in Sydney in a panic going, " What if they don't have my yellow pads there"
Jenny Curtis: As we wrap up I just want to ask, what does it mean to you to have a life in storytelling?
Tony McNamara: To me it's like everything. I can't imagine a life without it. I think it's more important than ever in a strange way, storytelling, I think. I think the world's a pretty weird place so I feel like stories help us make sense of it. And there's a lot make sense at the moment. For me personally I don't know how to believe if I cannot write stories. It's like little kids, they're so hungry for stories. They just want you to tell stories to them all the time. So there's something innate in our psychology need to hear stories to help us make sense of things. So I feel like at the moment that's going to become more important, the stories we tell.
Jenny Curtis: Tony McNamara, thank you so much for joining me today. I love The Great. I am so excited that you're doing season two and good luck on the Emmy season. I'm pulling for you.
Tony McNamara: Thanks Jenny.
Jenny Curtis: But thank you for joining us.
Tony McNamara: Thank you very much.
Jenny Curtis: Hollywood Unscripted was created by CurtCo Media. This special episode of the Stuck at Home series was hosted and produced by me, Jenny Curtis, with guest Tony McNamara. Co produced and edited by Jay Whiting. The executive producer of Hollywood Unscripted is Stuart Helprin. The Hollywood Unscripted theme song is by Celeste and Derek Dick. Please make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any special episodes of Hollywood Unscripted Stuck at Home. Stay safe and healthy and thanks for listening,
CurtCo Media. Media for your mind.
Hosted and Produced by: Jenny Curtis
Executive Producer: Stuart Halperin
Edited and Co-Produced by: J Whiting
Theme Music by: Celleste & Eric Dick