Hollywood Unscripted Ep 33 - Tony McNamara (The Great): A Stuck at Home Special

00:00:01
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.

00:00:30
Tony McNamara: Hi  Jenny.  It's  a  pleasure

 

00:00:31
Jenny Curtis: You're currently  in  Australia  and  it  is  first  thing  in  the  morning  for  you,  isn't it?

 

00:00:35
Tony McNamara: It's 7: 00  AM.  Yeah.  So  apologies  if  I'm  slow  to  start.

 

00:00:40
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?

 

00:00:49
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.

 

00:01:01
Jenny Curtis: Oh,  wow.

 

00:01:01
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 ...

 

00:01:18
Jenny Curtis: It's  pretty  much  the  perfect  place  to  quarantine.

 

00:01:20
Tony McNamara: Yeah.  So  in  a  way  we came here  for  family  reasons,  but  we got sort  of  lucky  in  coronavirus  ways.

 

00:01:25
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?

 

00:01:34
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.

 

00:02:12
Jenny Curtis: Did  you  then  just  write  or  did  you  take  playwriting  classes?

 

00:02:15
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.

 

00:02:58
Jenny Curtis: All  of  the  things.

 

00:02:58
Tony McNamara: Debt collecting and  just  lots  of  weird  jobs  while  I  was  writing  plays.  Yeah.

 

00:03:03
Jenny Curtis: Did  your  first  play  get  picked  up  by  the  Sydney  Theater  Company?

 

00:03:06
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.

 

00:03:38
Jenny Curtis: What  was  it  about?

 

00:03:40
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.

 

00:03:58
Jenny Curtis: Now  did  that  also  get  you  into  film  school?

 

00:04:01
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.

 

00:04:14
Jenny Curtis: And  what  did  you  study  at  film  school  specifically?

 

00:04:17
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.

 

00:04:48
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.

 

00:04:57
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.

 

00:05:11
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.

 

00:05:17
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.

 

00:05:24
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?

 

00:05:31
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."

 

00:06:04
Jenny Curtis: Sounds  like  a  good  choice.

 

00:06:06
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Because then  I  seemed  to  have  a  play  on  every  year  or  two  years  there  for  a  long time.

 

00:06:10
Jenny Curtis: And  one  of  those  plays  was  a  play  called  The  Great,  about  Catherine  the  Great.

 

00:06:14
Tony McNamara: Certainly  was,  yeah.

 

00:06:15
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.

 

00:06:24
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.

 

00:07:00
Jenny Curtis: Was it  hard  writing  for  someone  who  then  you  had  to  have  another  actress  play  the  role?

 

00:07:05
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."

 

00:07:24
Jenny Curtis: Yeah. And  then  how  long  after  that  did  you  turn  it  into  a  screenplay?

 

00:07:28
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.

 

00:07:45
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?

 

00:07:55
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.

 

00:08:11
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?

 

00:08:19
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.

 

00:08:28
Jenny Curtis: Screw  history.

 

00:08:29
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.

 

00:08:35
Jenny Curtis: And  while  you  were  working  on  it,  you  started  the  pilot  to  The  Great,  is  that  correct?

 

00:08:41
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.

 

00:09:07
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.

 

00:09:16
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

 

00:09:54
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?

 

00:10:01
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.

 

00:10:26
Jenny Curtis: So  Elle  Fanning  plays  Catherine.  And  she's  also  an  EP  on  the  show  as  well.

 

00:10:31
Tony McNamara: Yeah.

 

00:10:31
Jenny Curtis: What  was  her  role  in  the  development  of  the  story  and  the  character?  How  did  she  partake  in  that?

 

00:10:37
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.

 

00:11:11
Speaker 3: A  Moment  of  Your  Time,  a  new  podcast  from  CurtCo  Media.

 

00:11:28
Speaker 4: Currently  21  years  old  and  today  I'm going to read a palm for you.

 

00:11:31
Speaker 5: I felt  like  magic  extended  from  her  fingertips  down  to the base of my spine.

 

00:11:33
Speaker 6: You have to take care of yourself because  the  world  needs  you  and  your  worth.

 

00:11:37
Speaker 7: Trust  me,  every  do- gooder  that  asked  about  me  was  ready  to  spit  on  my  dream.

 

00:11:40
Speaker 8: Her  fingers  were  facing  me.

 

00:11:41
Speaker 9: To  feel  like  your  purpose  and  your  worth  is  really  being  questioned.

 

00:11:45
Speaker 10: Ain't  going  to  stop  me  from  playing  the  piano.

 

00:11:47
Speaker 11: She  buys  walkie- talkies,  wonders  to  whom  she  should  give  the  second  device.

 

00:11:50
Speaker 12: Pets  don't  love  humans.  We  never  did,  we  never  will,  we  just  find  one ...

 

00:11:54
Speaker 13: The beauty  of  rock  climbing  is  that  you  can  only  focus  on  what's  right  in  front  of  you.

 

00:11:58
Speaker 14: And  so  our  America  life  begins.

 

00:12:02
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.

 

00:12:10
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?

 

00:12:28
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.

 

00:13:01
Jenny Curtis: You  didn't  bring  them  back  like  hundreds  of  times  to  make  sure  they  could  nail  it?

 

00:13:04
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.

 

00:13:12
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?

 

00:13:23
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."

 

00:14:22
Jenny Curtis: Is  it  true  that  you had  a  white  board  of  trivia  about  that  time  period?

 

00:14:27
Tony McNamara: Yeah.

 

00:14:27
Jenny Curtis: Would  you  guys  just  kind  of  throw  a  dart  and  pick  one  or  how  would  you  go about  that?

 

00:14:31
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-

 

00:14:45
Jenny Curtis: The  lemon  thing  is  bizarre.

 

00:14:47
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?

 

00:14:59
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.  Was  the  pregnancy  test  made  up  or  was  that a  thing  they  did?

 

00:15:03
Tony McNamara: The pregnancy test  is  true,  as  well.

 

00:15:05
Jenny Curtis: What?

 

00:15:06
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.

 

00:15:17
Jenny Curtis: That's  wild.

 

00:15:17
Tony McNamara: Yeah. History is the weird gift that  keeps  giving,  I  have  to  say

 

00:15:22
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?

 

00:15:34
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.

 

00:16:29
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.

 

00:16:37
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.

 

00:16:46
Jenny Curtis: And  I  know  Elle  said  she  was  nervous  before  doing  this  because  she  doesn't  do  a  whole  lot  of  comedy.

 

00:16:51
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.

 

00:17:31
Jenny Curtis: Yeah.  That's  why  it's  special  because  she's  supposed  to  be  different  from  everybody  else.

 

00:17:35
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.

 

00:17:43
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.

 

00:18:08
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.

 

00:19:29
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.

 

00:19:57
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."

 

00:20:17
Jenny Curtis: Speaking  of  your  characters,  what  is  your  favorite  aspect  of  the  characters  that  you  write  in  this  show?

 

00:20:22
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.

 

00:21:02
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?

 

00:21:12
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.

 

00:21:22
Jenny Curtis: Oh,  God.

 

00:21:22
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.

 

00:21:28
Jenny Curtis: Like  what?

 

00:21:29
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.

 

00:21:43
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?

 

00:21:52
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.

 

00:22:59
Jenny Curtis: And  then  the  last  day,  what  was the last scene  you  shot?

 

00:23:02
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.

 

00:23:46
Jenny Curtis: When  did  you  wrap  shooting?

 

00:23:48
Tony McNamara: February  23.

 

00:23:49
Jenny Curtis: Oh  wow.

 

00:23:50
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."

 

00:24:01
Jenny Curtis: I'm  glad  you  guys  are  all  okay.

 

00:24:03
Tony McNamara: Yeah. Yeah.

 

00:24:04
Jenny Curtis: So  you had  to  turn  the  show  around  really  fast  then?

 

00:24:07
Tony McNamara: Yeah,  it  was a  really  quick  turn  around.  We  had  to  post  the  last  two  episodes  in  about  seven  weeks.

 

00:24:13
Jenny Curtis: Recently  you  were  picked  up  for  your  second  season.  Congratulations.

 

00:24:17
Tony McNamara: Thank  you.

 

00:24:18
Jenny Curtis: How  did  you  find  out?  Did  they  call  you?  Do  they  email  you?  What  was  that  moment?

 

00:24:22
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."

 

00:24:43
Jenny Curtis: Did  they  give  you  dates  that  you  have  to  do  it  by?

 

00:24:45
Tony McNamara: Yeah,  we got shooting dates.

 

00:24:46
Jenny Curtis: How do you do  that  during  coronavirus  time?

 

00:24:50
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.

 

00:24:58
Jenny Curtis: Are  you  going to be able to do  an  in  person  room  with  your  writers?

 

00:25:01
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.

 

00:25:20
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?

 

00:25:29
Tony McNamara: I  certainly  do.  Got  thousands  of  these.  There  you go. Episode  one.

 

00:25:36
Jenny Curtis: You  must  get  a  lot  of  hand  cramps.

 

00:25:39
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.

 

00:25:50
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.

 

00:26:06
Tony McNamara: Something like that.

 

00:26:06
Jenny Curtis: But there's something romantic about paper.

 

00:26:06
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"

 

00:26:21
Jenny Curtis: As  we  wrap  up  I  just  want  to  ask,  what  does  it  mean  to  you  to  have  a  life  in  storytelling?

 

00:26:28
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.

 

00:27:06
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.

 

00:27:17
Tony McNamara: Thanks  Jenny.

 

00:27:18
Jenny Curtis: But  thank  you  for  joining  us.

 

00:27:19
Tony McNamara: Thank  you  very  much.

 

00:27:24
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,
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