Hollywood Unscripted Ep 35 - Jason Katims (Away): A Stuck at Home Special

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Speaker 1: From  CurtCo  Media.

 

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Speaker 2: There's  no  place like Hollywood.

 

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Jenny Curtis: Welcome  to  another  stuck  at  home  special  episode  of  Hollywood  Unscripted.  I'm  Jenny  Curtis.  And  today,  I'm  virtually  sitting  down  with  showrunner,  producer,  and  writer  of  some  wildly  beloved  shows  such  as  Friday  Night  Lights,  Roswell,  and  Parenthood.  It  is  an  absolute  pleasure  to  welcome  Jason  Katims.

 

00:00:28
Jason Katims: Thank  you  so  much.  It's  great  to  be  here.  Thanks,  Jenny.

 

00:00:31
Jenny Curtis: I  actually  want  to  start  with  Away,  which  is  a  show  that  you're  executive  producing  and  a  writer  on,  and  it  is  coming  out  on  Netflix  on  September  4th.  I'd  love  to  hear  more  about  the  project,  how  it  started.

 

00:00:43
Jason Katims: Sure.  Well,  I'm  super  excited about  the  show.  It  started  when  I  read  an  article  by  Chris  Jones  for  Esquire,  an  article that  was  called  Away.  And  Chris  Jones  is  a  writer  who's  been  writing  about  space  for  the  last  20  years.  And  this  article  was  really  incredibly  intriguing  to  me  because  of  the  point  of  view.  It  was  about  what  the  experience  was  like  being  away  from  home,  what  that  did  to  people.  It  was  like  I  don't  really  think  of  myself  as  the  space  guy,  the  guy  who  does  space  shows.  But  I  read  this  article  and  I  couldn't  stop  thinking  about it.  And  actually,  it  was  originally  brought  to  me  by  a  friend  of  mine  who I  worked  with  years  ago,  Matt  Reeves.  And  Matt  said, "Is this  is  something  you'd  like  to  work  on  with  me?"  And  so  we  met  with  Chris  Jones,  got  more  excited  about  it,  and  that's  how  the  project  started.

 

 I  mean,  the  thing  that  I  find  so  wonderful  about  it  is,  to  me,  I  felt  like, " Oh,  this  could  be  a  show  about  a  marriage  and  about  family  and  about  nuanced  human  stories,"  which  are  all  the  kinds  of  shows  I've  always  worked  on,  but  against  this  incredibly  exciting  backdrop,  this  epic  backdrop  of  space.  That  felt  different  to  me  and  challenging  to  me  and  something  that  I  got  very  excited  about trying  to  tell  a  story.

 

00:01:58
Jenny Curtis: The  show,  though,  was  created  by  Andrew Hinderaker?  Or  how  did  he  get  involved?  Did  you  bring  him  on?

 

00:02:03
Jason Katims: Yeah.  So  what happened was  we  optioned  this  story  from  Chris  Jones.  And  then,  so  Andrew  Hinderaker  had  been  working  with  me  on  a  couple  of  shows.  So  he's  this  amazing  playwright.  And  worked  at  first  on  the  show  that  I  did  called  Pure  Genius  and  then  on  The  Path,  which  Jess  Goldberg  created.  And  Andrew  took  this  article  and  found  this  incredibly  personal  way  in,  which  is  always  the  most  exciting  way  to  really  dig  into  a  project.  He  really  told  the  story  about  how  he  had  a  long  distance  relationship  with  his  long  time  girlfriend  who  had  some  pretty  serious  medical  issues.  And  that  was  what  he  was  using  to  tell the  story  about  Emma  being  away  from  her  husband  and her  family  at  a  time  when  her  husband,  Josh  Charles's  character,  has  a  very  serious  medical  issue.  And  once  he  sort  of  came  up  with  that  premise,  we  all  get  very  excited  because  we  felt  like  he  was  leaning  into  what  the  potential  of this  story  is.

 

And  the  other  thing  that  he  brought  to  this,  which  is  something  that  we're  all  really  excited  about,  is  the  international  crew.  And  the  idea  that  while  it's  about  this  family,  this  long  distance  relationship,  and  really  the  ultimate  long  distance  relationship  between  Hilary's  character  is  trying  to stay connected to her  family,  it's  also  about  this  new  family  forming  in  space  and  these  people  who  all  come  from  very  different  worlds  and  different  religions,  different  philosophies,  different  ways  of  seeing  things,  reasons  to  be  at  odds  with  each  other  at  moments.  And  yet  the  idea  of  these  disparate  people  coming  together  to  work  together  and  ultimately  form  this  new  family  together  is  also  incredibly  poignant.

 

 So  the  show  really  just  works  on  so  many  levels.  It  was  by  far  the  most  challenging  show,  from  a  producing  point  of  view,  that  I've  ever  been  involved  in.  I  mean,  every  show has  some  visual  effects.  Parenthood  had  visual  effects.  Nobody  would  know  it  did,  but it did. But  this  show  was  a  new  level.  And they  took  so  much  time  in  preparation  to  figure  out  how  to  make  the  show  and  how  to  make  the  show  feel  real  and  accurate.  It's  not  intended  to  be  sort  of  science  fiction  in  that  way,  like  in  a  Star  Trek  way,  it's  supposed  to  feel  like  what  it  would  be  like  if  NASA  put  up  or  when  NASA  does send a  ship  to  Mars.  Our  production  designer,  David  Sandefur,  actually  got  renderings  from  NASA,  which  is  what  he  based  our  spaceship  on.  So  it  was  very  challenging  to  make  it  this  story  that  was  speculative  fiction,  but  to  have  it  feel  real  and  not  like  sci- fi.  What  would  it  be  like  going  on  this  journey  to  try  to  do  this  thing  that  nobody's  ever  been  able  to  do  before?

 

00:04:42
Jenny Curtis: And  a  journey  to  Mars is not going  to  go  easy.  There's  a  lot  of  drama.

 

00:04:48
Jason Katims: Yeah.  A  lot  of  drama.  One  of  the  things  that  we'd  always  talked  about  was  that  the  drama  of  what  happens  on  earth  has  to  be  as  riveting  as  what  happens  in  space.  And  that's  the  thing  that  I'm  actually  most  proud  of, of  what  Andrew  and  all  of  us  did,  and  Jess  Goldberg,  who  came  on  to  showrun  and  partner  with  Andrew in  doing  the  show.  When  you  cut  to  those  scenes  on  earth,  you're  not  just  waiting  until  we  get  back  to space.  It's  really  the  opposite.  It's  like  those  scenes  are  as  emotional  to  watch  what  it's  like, what  it  does  to  Josh's  character, what  it  does  to  Talitha's  character,  who  plays Hilary and  Josh's  15  year  old  daughter.  Talitha's character  actually,  when  we  were  in  the  writer's  room,  was the  character  that  I  gravitated  to  most because  I  thought  it's  so  wild  that  this  is  going  to  be  about  a  three  year  mission  in  success  for  Hilary's  character by  the  time  she  sort  of  returns.  And  that's  high  school,  that's  all of  the  high  school  for her.

 

And  the  idea  of  her  being  away  from  her  mother  and  watching  what  happens  to  her  and  watching  her  grow  up  was  so  intriguing  to  me.  To  me,  that  was  as  exciting  to  me  as  the  stuff  that  was  happening  in  space. And  I  felt  like  the  challenge  was  to  make  sure  that  as  we  made  the  show  that  those  scenes  were  as  riveting  and  even  more  so  watching  them  try  to  stay  connected  and  watching  those  essentially  Zoom  calls  before  I  knew  what  the  hell  Zoom  was.  When  we  wrote  them,  essentially  what  they  were  trying  to  stay  connected  first  by  those  video  chats,  and  then  eventually  just  with  sound,  and  then  eventually  just  by  emails  and  texts  that  are  delayed  for  longer  and  longer  the  further  they  get  away.  All this  stuff  just  felt  very  emotional  and  moving  to  me.  It felt like we could  do  the  show  and  have  a  take  on  it  that  feels  different  to  me  than  other  shows  that  I've  seen  that  are  about  space.

 

00:06:32
Jenny Curtis: Because  she's  young,  going  back  to  Talitha's  character,  it  feels  like  we  can  connect  most  to  her  because  she  really  wears  her  processing  on  her  sleeve.  Do  you  find  that  because  you've  also  done  a  lot  of  work  with  characters  who  are  in  their  adolescence,  is  that  something  you  gravitate  towards  always?  Or  is  that  specific  stories?

 

00:06:50
Jason Katims: I  gravitate  toward  those  stories.  For  some  reason,  I  always  have.  Maybe  I've  been  stunted  in  my  growth  or  something.  But  I  always  have.  The  first  show  that I  worked  on  was  My  So- Called  Life.  And  Winnie  Holzman,  who  created  that  show, became  a  mentor  to  me.  And  I  remember  her  describing  adolescence  as  an  emergency.  Everything  is  always  an  emergency  in  adolescence.  And  I  thought  that  was  just  a  great  way  to  think about it.  And  of  course,  that  suggests  drama  when  everything's  an  emergency.  It's  a  great  time  to  write  about  because  so  much  change  happens  in  short  periods  of  time.

 

00:07:25
Jenny Curtis: You  mentioned  My  So- Called  Life.  And  Edward  Zwick,  who  was  also  on  My  So- Called  Life,  was  on  this  project  as  well.  Can  you  talk  about  the  team  that  you  kind  of  created  from  all  walks  of  your  life  and  how  that  kind  of  felt  bringing  in  so  many  connected  people?

 

00:07:40
Jason Katims: Yeah.  On  this  show,  I've  worked  with  more  people  that  span  my  entire  career  in  doing  this  in  a  way  that's  never  happened  before.  And  I  think  in  some  way,  it's  because  of  the  challenge  of  making  the  show.  And  coming  to  Ed,  Ed  hired  me  on  My  So- Called  Life.  And  then  I  did  the  first  show  that  I  created,  Relativity,  with  him  and  Marshall.  And  Ed  literally  found me, I was  a  playwright  living  in  Brooklyn,  and  he  found  me  under  a  rock  in  Brooklyn.  He  read  one  of  my  plays  and  called  me.  And  out  of  nowhere,  he  literally  gave  me  a  chance  to  write  on  My  So- Called  Life.  He  introduced  me  to  Matt  Reeves,  who's  the  person  who  I  found  this  project  with  and  started  this  project.  There were  so  many  other  people  who  played  key  roles.
 David  Boyd  was  our  cinematographer  who  then  became  one  of  our  great  directors  on  Friday  Night  Lights.  He  was  our  cinematographer  and  producing  director  on this  show.  And  I  hadn't  been  able  to  work  with  them  since  Friday  Night  Lights.  I  hadn't  been  able  to  work  with  Ed  since  Relativity  and  My  So-Called  Life.  I  hadn't  been  able  to  work  with  Matt  Reeves  since  The  Pallbearer,  which  is  a  script  we  wrote  together.  And  of  course,  then  there's  Andrew  and  Jess  who  I've  worked  with  on  The  Path  and  Pure  Genius.  So  it  was  an  amazing  experience.  It's  sort  of  what  it  took  to  (inaudible)  the  show  because it  was  just  having  Ed  involved  in  this,  he  was  the  perfect  director  for  it  because  he's  done  all  these  incredibly  huge,  epic  movies  with  this  huge  landscape,  but  he's  done  this  intimate  storytelling  in  television  with  Thirtysomething  and  Once  and  Again  and  My  So- Called  Life.  And  our  show  requires  those  two  things  with  equal  attention  put  on  both  the  visual  landscape  and  the  grandness  of  it,  but  also  the  sort  of  tiny  moments.

 

 So  it  was  a  thrill  to  get  to  work  with  Ed  again,  particularly  on  this  project  that  was  a  challenge  to  all  of  us.  And  it  became  this  amazing  collaborative  effort  to  make  the  show.  So  many  people  had  such  huge  parts  of  this.  David  Sandefur,  our  production  designer,  who  really  came  up  with  the  sort  of  look  for  the  spaceship  and  the  moonscape  where  they  launched  from.  It  was  very  exciting and  a  bit  overwhelming  to  take  this  on.  And  I'm  really  proud  of the  show.  I  mean,  I  did  write  an  episode,  which  I'm  really  proud  of.  It was  so  much  Andrew  and  Jess  who  sort  of  took  this  on  and  did  the  heavy  lifting  and  deserve  the  credit  for  it.  But  I'm  so  proud  when  I watch  the  episodes  that  it's  everything  that  we  imagined  and  more. In a few  weeks,  I  guess  we'll  see  what  everybody  else  thinks.  But  to  me,  I  feel  like  it  grips  you  emotionally,  these  characters'  stories. And  I'm  excited for people  to  see  it.

 

00:10:22
Jenny Curtis: A  Moment  of  Your  Time,  a  new  podcast  from  CurtCo  Media.

 

00:10:27
Speaker 5: Currently  21  years  old,  and  today-

 

00:10:29
Speaker 6: I  felt  like  magic descended  from  her  fingertips  down to the base of my spine.

 

00:10:31
Speaker 7: You have  to take care of yourself because the world needs you and your voice.

 

00:10:32
Speaker 8: Trust  me,  every  do- gooder  that  asked  about  me  was  ready  to  spit  on  my  dreams.

 

00:10:38
Speaker 9: Her  fingers  were  facing  me.

 

00:10:40
Speaker 10: It can  feel  like  your  purpose  and  your  worth  is  really  being questioned.

 

00:10:43
Speaker 11: It ain't going  to  stop  me  from  playing  the  piano.

 

00:10:45
Speaker 12: She  buys  walkie- talkies,  wonders  to  whom  she  should  give  the  second  device.

 

00:10:49
Speaker 13: Pets  don't  love  humans.  We  never  did.  We  never  will.  We  just  find  ones-

 

00:10:52
Speaker 14: The  beauty  of  rock  climbing  is  that  you  can  only  focus  on  what's  right in front of you.

 

00:10:56
Speaker 15: And so  our  American  life  begins.

 

00:11:00
Jenny Curtis: We  may  need  to  stay  apart,  but  let's  create  together.  Available  on  all  podcast  platforms.  Submit  your  piece  at  curtco. com/ amomentofyourtime.
 Talking  about  the  team,  just  to  go  back  really  quick,  was  it  an  active  choice  where  you  said, " I'm  going  to  reach  into  my  past  for  all of  these  people?"  Or  did  it  become  kind  of  a  reflex  for  you  that  suddenly  you  found  yourself  bringing  in  people  from  your  past?

 

00:11:32
Jason Katims: No,  it  wasn't  an  active  choice.  It  just  happened  that  way.  It  started  with  Matt  and  I  reading  this  article  and  getting  very  excited  about  it.  So  in  a  way,  it  did  get  started  with  somebody  who I had  been  wanting  to  work  with  since  I  first worked  with him.  And  life  happens  and  you  go  in  different  directions.  So  we've  always  stayed  connected  over  the  years  through  friends  and  helping  each  other  on  projects  that  we  worked  on.  And  so  that  was  very  exciting  and  that's  what  started  it.  But  then  when  looking  for  a  director,  we  were  trying  to  find  who  is  the  person  to  direct  this?  Because  some  things that  I  said  of  having  to  have  somebody  who  could  sort  of  take  on  space  and  also  we  felt  like  would  get  that  this  is  really  a  show  about  the  nuanced  moments  the  characters  had.

 

 And  so  Ed  was  just  the  person  to  direct  it.  And  it  was  very  exciting  in  talking  to  him  about  it  once  he  read  the  script  and  decided  he  wanted  to  do  it.  What's  great  about  Ed is  once  he  is  in,  he's  in.  And  it  just  like,  he  became  as  invested  in  wrecking  this  as he  would  be  in  anything  that  he  had  directed  or  features  or  I  think  anything  that  he's  done.  And  it  was  really  lovely  to  have  that  experience  of  working  with  him  in  that  way  and  watch  him  take  this  on.  And  while  I  worked  with  him  on  My  So- Called  Life,  I  got  a  little  bit  of  a  glimpse  into  his  process  as  a  director.  This  gave  me  much  more  of  a  window  into  that.  He's  a  master.  And  it  was  really  great  to  be  able  to  work  with  him. And  it's  like  you  can  sort  of  see,  when  you  watch  the  pilot  episode,  how  much  he  took on  to  sort  of  create  the  aesthetic  for the show and  the  look  of  the  show and  to  get  these  wonderful  performances  from  Hilary  and  the  rest  of  the  cast.

 

00:13:03
Jenny Curtis: Do  you  find  that  in  this  stage  of  your  career  you're  still  learning  from  people  in  situations  like  that?

 

00:13:09
Jason Katims: Oh,  it's  no  doubt.  I  mean,  look,  it's  no  doubt.  Every  time  you  take  on  a  project,  you're  challenging  yourself  in  a  different  way.  Everything  has  to  be  in  some  way  something  that you  feel  like  you're  just starting  when  you  do  it.  It's  more  exciting  when  you  do  a  show  and  you  get  a  little  scared  when  you're  doing  it.  And  can  I  do  this?  Or  is  this going to  be  where  they  discover  that  I'm  a  fraud?  And  this  one  more  than  others  that  I've  taken  on  because it  just  was  such  an  undertaking  to  do  it.  And you  really  just  had  to  have  such  faith  because  it's  also  a  visual  effects  show.  I  mean,  so  much  of the  stuff  that  happens  in  space.  I  mean,  the  spaceship  was  built,  but  all of  the  environments  that  were  outside  of  that  ship  were  visual  effects.  And  of  course,  we  were  doing  things  like  hanging  people  on  wires.  And  especially  the  bigger  set  piece  sequences,  especially  in  the  second  episode,  there's  a  huge  spacewalk  sequence.

 

 And  when  I  watched  the  first  cut  and  there  was  no  visual  effects  in  it  yet,  and  I  was  like, " Okay,  I'm  just going  to  have  faith  that  this  is  going  to  be  good."  And  those  visual  effects,  our  team  was  amazing,  but  it  takes  a  long  time  when  you  have  a  big  sequence  like that.  It  takes  a  long  time  for  seeing  what  that  exterior  of  the  spaceship  and  the  moonscape  is going  to  look  like.  And  it  takes  a  long  time  so  that  the  details  are  put in  so  that  it  actually  feels  real,  it  actually  feels  like  the  astronauts  are  walking  on  the  moon.  It's  not  until  the  very  end  when  you  put  together  the  sort  of  details  and  the  visual  effects  along  with  the  sound  effects,  you  can  actually  suspend  your  disbelief.

 

 So that was  something  that  so  many  people  that  do  what  I  do  have  been  doing  that  stuff  for  years,  I  just  haven't  done  those  types  of  shows. And  so  it  was  exciting  for  me  to  do  it.  And  it  was  a  total  learning  experience.  And  working  with  Ed,  it  was  a  learning  experience.  Even  though  I  had  worked  with  him  before,  it  was  a  different  context.  And  I  got  to,  on  one  hand,  collaborate  with  him  in a  way  that  I  hadn't  before.  But  in  another  hand,  I  sort  of  got  a  sort  of  front  row  seat  to  watch  him  do  what  he  does.

 

00:15:15
Jenny Curtis: The  anti- gravity  stuff  wasn't  just  outside  the  ship.  It  was  also  inside.  So  does  that mean you  had  the  actors  on  wires  for  all  of  those  scenes  then  when  they'd  pop  in,  say  something  sassy,  and  float  out  of  the  room?

 

00:15:25
Jason Katims: That's  right.  Yeah.  So  there  was  a  lot  of  wire  work.  The  actors  had  to  go  through  sort  of  pretty  intense  training  to  do  that,  way  more  intense  than  they  imagined.  When  we  first  sat  down  and  met  with  Hilary  about  doing  the  part,  we  talked  about  the  character and  we  talked  about  it.  She  was  so  excited  about  this  show  because  it  was  her  dream  when  she  was  an  eight  year  old  girls  to  be  an  astronaut.  So  she  was  all  in  from  the  beginning.  And  we  sort  of  brought  up,  because  it  was  important  to bring up at  the  beginning  that  there was  going  to  be  wire  work and  there's  going  to  be  training, it  was  going  to  be  intense.  And  she  was  like, " Oh,  I'm  all  in.  I'm  ready."  That's  such  a  big  part  of  her  life.  And we were  like, " Oh  my  God."  Very excited that  she  was  up  for  it.

 

 But  even  Hilary,  who  in  her  regular  life  has  an  insane  fitness  routine,  even  she  was  a  little  bit  challenged  and  overwhelmed  by  just  how  much  it  took  for  her  and  for  all  of  them  to  do  that.  But  not  only  the  work  that  they  had  to  do  while  you  were  wired,  but  to  act  while you're  doing  it.  And  so  that  was  a  big  undertaking.  But  we  had  such  an  amazing  crew  and  we  spent  so  long  prepping  for  this  stuff.  I  do  think  the  actual  process  of  doing  it  was  less  chaotic  and  overwhelming  than  it  seemed  as  we  were  planning  it.  And  that  has  a  lot  to  do  with  the  team.  Ed's  work,  preparation,  David  Boyd,  again,  our  DP,  that  I've  been  trying  to  work  with  David  since  Friday  Night  Lights  and  finally  lured  him  here  between  Ed  and  space,  I  got  him.  But  because  on  Friday  Night  Lights,  he  was  a  DP  who  was  so  fearless  and  embraced  the  way  we  wanted  to  shoot  that  show,  more  than  embraced  the  way  we  want  to  shoot  it,  he  helped  create  the  way  we  shot  that  show.

 

 That  was  obviously a  very  different  animal.  I  mean,  it was a lot  about  shooting  handheld  and  with  no  rehearsal  and  taking  the  sort  of  down  and  dirty  approach.  This  is  a  very  different  thing,  but  he  approached  it in  the  same  fearless  way.  And  it  was  just  everything  that  we  said,  can  we  do  this?  Yes,  but  we're  on  a  TV  budget  and  it's  got  to  look  like  this.  He's  like, " Yes."  He  sort  of  planned  it  out.  And  we  had  so  much  going  for  us  once  we  actually  started  shooting.

 

00:17:35
Jenny Curtis: You've  said  that  the  isolation  aspect  of  the  story  has  become  obviously  more  poignant  during  the  coronavirus  times.  Are  there  parts  of  the  show  that  you  connect  to  now  more  than  you  did  before?

 

00:17:47
Jason Katims: Yeah.  The thing  that  was  interesting  is  we  shot  the  show  and  then  it  was  that  middle  couple  of  weeks  in  March  that  were,  I  think  for  all  of  us,  these  surreal  moments  where  we  went  from  thinking  we  had  a  couple  months  left  of  post  and  we  were  already  finished  shooting.  We  went  from  thinking, " We're  a  small  group  here,  we  could  finish  up."  And  we  went  from  that  to  literally  in  a  24  hour  period  realizing  no,  everybody  has  to  go  home. They  have  to  go  home  right  now.  And  we  just  basically,  without  even  knowing  how  we  were  going  to  finish  the  show,  we  just  sent  everybody  home.  And  then  at  this  point,  it  was  our  editor,  mostly  our  visual  effects  artists,  post- production  people,  our  mixers,  all  of  those  people.  And  of  course,  all  of  us  are the  sort  of  producers  and  directors  who  are  still  looking  at  cuts.

 

 And  we  just  said, " We  are  going  to  just  have  to  figure  out  a  way  to  do  this  a  little  differently."  And we sort  of  took  out  that  sort  of  human  connection  aspect  of  it.  And  there  was  a  lot  of  watching  cuts  on  my  computer  at  home,  emailing  notes  or  getting  on  Zoom  and  going  back  and  forth  with  notes  in  that  way.  And  suddenly,  I  was  watching  cuts  while  this  was  happened and  all  the  episodes  resonated  in  this  way  that  felt  different  than  they  did  before  because  it  felt  like,  in  a  weird  way,  working  together  on this  show,  we  were  going  through  that  sort  of  feeling  of  being  away  that  is  what  the  show  is  about.  And  of  course,  in  a  bigger  way,  all  of  us  were  being  separated  from  our  friends  and,  a  lot  of  cases,  our  family  members,  and had  to  find  new  ways  to  try  to  stay  connected.  And  we're  dealing  with  the  effects  of  what  it  feels  like  when  you're  isolated  and  when  you're  not  connected.

 

 And  that's  the  theme  of  the  show.  It's  a  theme  that  resonated  us  before  this  happened,  but  honestly,  it just  feels  more  moving  to  me,  even  more  moving  to  me,  watching  it  now  in  this  context.  So  the  beautiful  thing  about  the  show  is  that  it's  so  uplifting  and  it's  aspirational.  That's  really  the  beautiful  thing  about  it.  So  when  you're  watching  it, it's  not  like, " Oh,  this  is  what  it's  like  to  be  in  quarantine."  It's  not  that  experience.  I  mean,  the  experience  is  one  of a  feeling  of  being  connected,  it  says  feeling  of  coming  together  and  doing  something  for  the  greater  good  and  testing  the  limits  of  what  we  can  do  as  human  beings.
 So  it's  got  very  high  aspirations  in  that  way,  but  it  does  feel,  when  you  watch  some of  these  scenes of  people  being  separated,  you  connect  sometimes  in  just  a  visceral  way  and  sometimes  in  a  literal  way.  I  mean,  when  you  see,  in  the  first  episode,  Hilary  trying  to  talk  to  her  husband  who's  in  the  hospital  and  she  can't  be  with  him  in  the  hospital.  Well,  that's  a  very  literal  connection  that  we  can  all  relate  to  now  having  lived  through  this  for  over  the  last  period  of  months.  And  so  it  definitely  feels  like  the  show  has  become  something  that  I  feel  even  more  connected  to  than  before  this  happened.

 

00:20:32
Jenny Curtis: The mission in the  show  is  set  to  be  three  years  long.  Is  that  the  plan  for  the  show?  Or  do  you  have  an  idea  of  the  arc  of  what  the  ideal  length  would  be?

 

00:20:41
Jason Katims: We  have  sort  of ideas about it.  We've  talked  about  it  both  among  Jess  and  Andrew  and  I  and  the  writers.  We've  talked  about  it  to  Netflix.  We  sort  of think  that  the  length  of  this  mission  does  suggest  what  the  length  of  the  show  might  be,  but  we  don't  have  any  definite  answer  to  it  other  than  we  definitely  want  to  proceed  hopefully,  knock  wood,  beyond  season  one.  We  feel  like  there's  a  good  story  to  tell  over  several  seasons.

 

 The  great  thing  that's  changed  in  television  since  I  started  doing  television,  it  used  to  be  the  goal  was  to  do  a  show  that  was  going  to  last  100  episodes.  That  was  the  only  goal  in  shows  in  terms  of  just  what  the  network  wanted.  That  was  what  their  business  model  was  built  on.  And  now  with  Netflix  and  Apple  and Amazon  and  Hulu  and  streamers  having  such  a  prominent  role  in  television,  that's  changed.  And  the  good  thing  that's  come  out  of  that  is  that  what  really  is  happening  now  is  people  are  saying  the  show  should  be  how  long  the  show  should  be.  And  that's  a  great  thing.

 

 That's  one  of  the  reasons  I  think  that  television  has  continued  to  get  better  because  it's  not  doing  episodes  for  the  sake  of  getting  to  a  certain  threshold  where  you  can  sell  your  show  to  syndication.  That  world  is  more  or  less  a  thing  of  the  past.  Now  it's  about  what's  competitive.  It's  like  how  do  you  make  your  show  feel  singular  and  important  in  the  huge  crowd  of  television  shows  out  there?  Compel  people  to  watch  it,  right?  And  so  one  of  the  ways  to  do  that  is  to  have  the  show  not  drag  on,  not  slow  down,  and  to  actually  tell  the  story  that's  the  right  amount  of  episodes  for  that  particular  story.

 

00:22:31
Robert Ross: Hi,  I'm  Robert  Ross,  host  of  Cars  That  Matter.  You  might  be  wondering  what  makes  a  car  matter.  And  I  have  a  feeling  you  already  know  the  answer.  Some  cars  have  changed  history.  Some  you  can  hear  a  mile  away.  Some  have  lines  that  make  your  heart  skip  a  beat.  If  a  car  has  ever  made  you  look  twice,  then  I think you  know  the  ones that  matter.  Join  me  as  I  speak  with  designers,  collectors,  and  market  experts  about  the  passions  that  drive  us and  the  passions  we  drive.  Cars  That  Matter,  wherever  you  get  your  podcasts.

 

00:23:08
Jenny Curtis: You  recently  got  the  green  light  for  a  personal  project  that  you  are  creating.  I don't want to  get  this  wrong,  but was  it  Amazon?

 

00:23:15
Jason Katims: Yes.

 

00:23:16
Jenny Curtis: Okay.  So  Amazon  gave  you  the  green  light  for  creating  a  project  called  On  the  Spectrum.  And  I'd  love  to  hear  more  about  that.

 

00:23:22
Jason Katims: Yeah.  It's  based  on  an  Israeli  format  called  On the  Spectrum,  which  is  an  absolutely  beautiful  show. It's a  wonderful  show.  And  it's about  three  young  adults  who  are  all  on  the  autistic  spectrum,  who  are  roommates  together in  an  apartment.  There  is  a  sort  of  life  coach  who  works  with  them.  It's  sort  of  a  coming  of  age  story  about  three  20- somethings  trying  to  figure  out  all  this  stuff  that  you  would  imagine  they  would  figuring  out  about  friendship  and  love  and  jobs  and  all of  that  stuff  with  the  added  complication  that  they  all  have  autism.  And  it's  been  a  wonderful  show  to  work  on.  We  cast  all  three  leads  have  autism.  We  shot  the  pilot  and  it  was  just  a  wonderful  experience  working  with them. There's just something about the show that's  been  very,  very  special,  and  (inaudible)   has  been  fantastic.  And  the  only  thing  to  hope  now is that  at  some  point  we'll  be  able  to  shoot  them.

 

00:24:13
Jenny Curtis: Finding  the  leads  for  it,  was  the first  time  they  met  in  a  chemistry  read?  Or  how  did  you  find  them?  How  did  you  make  sure  they  would  get  along?  And  what  was the process in  casting  the  show?

 

00:24:22
Jason Katims: Once  Amazon  gave  us  the  go  ahead  to  make  the  pilot,  I  said, " I'd  love  to  see  whether  we  can  cast  these  characters  authentically."  And  they  were  very  excited  about  the  idea. But  I  didn't  know  what  the  talent  pool  was  going  to  be  out  there,  honestly.  So  I  called [inaudible 00:24: 39],  who's  a  casting  director  I've  worked  with  many  times.  And  I  know  she  has  a  child  with  challenges.  I  knew  this  idea  would  be  really  exciting  to  her.  So  I  called  her  and  she  basically  said, " Great."  And  she  did  both  all  the  traditional  things  of  just  sending  out  a  breakdown  to  agencies,  but  she  also  scoured  the  country  and  just  started  calling  acting  programs  that  she  could  find  that  had  more  diverse  actors  in  them,  and  schools,  and  just  anybody  that  she  can  think  of.
 And  she'd  call  me  I  think  a  week  or  two  after  she  started  doing  this.  And  she  said, " I've  just  had  the  best  two  weeks  because  this  community  has  been  so  amazing."  Because  it's  like  she'll  try  to  reach  somebody  and  they  would  say, " Well,  I  don't  know  anybody,  but  you  know  what?  You  should  call  so- and- so  and  all  this." And it  became  this  grassroots  thing.  And  we  wound  up  casting  three  actors  who  are  all  on  spectrum.  They're  all  wonderful.  Very  different  than  the  characters  that  they  play,  but  still  having  their  deep  connections  to  the  characters  that  they're  playing.  And  that  part of it  has  just  been  this  very  exciting  part  of  the  process  to  work  with  them.  And  when  we  were shooting the pilot, we  were  trying  to  make  sure  that  we  could  accommodate  in  any  ways  that we  want  to  accommodate.  And  some  things  were  really  important,  like  trying  to  keep  the  set  quieter.  And  we  were  sort  of  thinking  ahead, would  this  be  challenging?  And  it was  so  smooth.  And  these  actors  were  such  pros.

 

 A  lot  of  crew  members  would  come  up  to  me  and  say, " Oh, I have  a  brother  who  has  autism  or  a  child  or  my  friend's  kid."  You  just  find  that  there  was  so  much  good  will  on  the show who  felt  this  kind  of  connection  to  it.  And  one  of  the  things  I  love  about  writing  about  these  characters  is  they  have  no  filter.  So  they  say  what's  on  their  mind.  And  that's  just  generally  funny.  It's  also  very  emotional.  We're  not  shying  away  from  the  hard  things  that  they're  going  through.

 

 I  have  a  son  who's on the  spectrum.  And  I  first  started  writing  about  this  in  Parenthood  with  the  character  of  Max.  And  I  remember  when  we  first  started  doing  that, I  was  talking  to  network  about  the  idea  of  making  a  character  with  Asperger's  on  the  show.  And  at  the  time,  there weren't  really  any,  and  especially  on  a  network,  a  character  with  autism  where  they  said  they  had  autism.  And it  was  really  important  for  me  that  if  we  were  going  to  tell  the  story  that  we  were  out  there  with  this is  what  it  is.  And  I  remember  one  of  the  things  they  said  was  this  is  something  that  you  could  tell  lots  of  stories  about.  And  I was like, " Oh  yeah,  there's  plenty  of [inaudible].  We're  not  going  to  run  out  after  episode  seven."


 In  a  way,  it's  this  beautiful  thing  for  me  to  do  this  show  because  everybody's  doing  these  new  versions  of  90210,  a  new  version  of these shows.  So  people  would  say  like, " Would  you  do  another  Parenthood?"  And  when  I  would  think  about  that,  what  I  kept  thinking  about  was  Max,  that  character.  And  I  was  thinking, " Oh,  I  would  kind  of  like  to  see  what  it  would  be  like  to  see  Max  as  a  young  man."  And  so in  a  weird  way,  I'm  doing  that  in this  show.  The  reason  why  this  came  up  for  me  and  why  I wanted  to  do this  show  was  my  son  is  now  23.  At the  time  when  I  started  doing  this,  he  was  probably  21,  I  guess.  And  so  I  was  kind  of starting  to  think  about, " Well,  what's  the  next  chapter  of  his  life?  What  will  it  be  like?"  And  I  remember  I  did  a  PSA  a  few  years  ago  and  I  found  out  this  statistic  that  85%  of  people  with  autism  who  have  a  college  degree  are  unemployed.  And  I  was  like, " Well,  that's  not  right."

 

 There  are  people  who  are  obviously  very  capable  who are  not  being  put  in  a  position  to  contribute  to  the  world  in  a  way  that  they  should.  And  that's  a  story  that  needs  to  change.  So  I'm  very  excited  to  be  sort  of  telling the  story,  because  I  think  that's  a  story  we  sort  of  see  less  of.  I  think  a  lot  of  times  when  we  hear  autism,  we  think  of  children  with  autism.  And  those  children  grow  up.  And  my  son  was  part  of  a  early  wave  of  when  a  lot  of  people  started  getting  diagnosed  with  this,  and  it's  only  gotten  more  prevalent  since  then.  So  a  lot  of  those  people  are  sort  of  coming  of  age  now.  So  I  think  it's  a  timeless  story  to  tell.

 

00:28:32
Jenny Curtis: When  you  added  the  storyline  to  Parenthood,  I  read  somewhere  that  you  originally  were  really  nervous  about  it  because  you  weren't  sure  if  that  was  too  personal.  Did  that  change  how  you  feel  now,  or  is  the  importance  of  telling  the  story  overshadowing  the  fear  of  being  too  personal?

 

00:28:47
Jason Katims: Yeah.  The  idea  of  putting  the  story  out  there  in  the  world  overshadows  my  fear  of  loss  of  privacy  over  it.  There's  the  Israeli  show  that  it's  based  on,  so  this  is  not  a  show that's  based  on  my  son.  Not  that  Parenthood  was  based  on  my  son,  Max  was  his  own  character.  But  still,  this  is  even  more  so  I'm  basing  these  characters  on  the  original  characters.  Obviously,  I'm  going  to  draw  from  my  own  experiences  as  you  always  do as  a  writer,  but  I'm  sort  of  not  concerned  about  that  privacy  thing  because  this  is  from  a  format  of  characters  that  were  created  not  by  me  or  original  form.

 

 The  other  thing  is  I'm  so  excited  about  the  show  that  not  only  did  we  cast  three  characters  on  the  spectrum  to  be  the  leads,  but  that  those  three  actors  are  willing  to  be  open  about  that  and  are  embracing  it.  And  I  feel  like  this  is  the  next  stage  that  we  need  to  get  to  with  autism.  I  remember  reading  about  Hannah  Gadsby  and  how  she  sort  of  came  out  and  talked  about  after  she  did  that  incredible  piece  that  wound  up going to  HBO,  I  think.

 

00:29:51
Jenny Curtis: I  think  it  was  on  Netflix,  yeah.

 

00:29:52
Jason Katims: On Netflix.  But  after  she  did  that  piece, I was  so  blown  away by it.  And  afterwards,  she  came  out  and  saying, " Oh,  I've  been  diagnosed  with  autism."  And  she  started  talking  about  it.  And  I  was  like, " This  is  amazing  that  she's  doing  this."  And  it  struck  me  as  this  is  a  very  important  thing  right  now  to  see  a  character  on the  spectrum  wanting  to  date  or  being  on  a  job.  In  the  pilot,  there's  a  scene  where  Jack  is in  a  meeting  with  his  boss  and  a  bunch  of  team  members.  And  he  sort  of  inadvertently  says  to  his  boss, " You  have  inferior  intelligence."  And it's  like  you  don't  really  say  that  to  a  boss,  but  it's  like  this  is  what he  says.
 And  I  think  what's  interesting  is  that,  not  that  I  want  to  promote  people  being  mean  to  their  bosses,  but  I  do  want  to  promote  the  idea  that  there  are  people  who  have  these  sort  of  quirks  to  their  personalities  who  have  a  tremendous  amount  to  offer  the  world.  And  I  think  if  we  can  get  past  those  quirks  a little  bit,  we  can  see  what they have  to  offer.  We  could  see what they  have  to  bring  to  the  table.  Not  just  in  work,  but  in  relationships  and  friendships  and  all of  these  many,  many  things.  I  feel  excited  in  that  way  to  be  telling this  story,  demystifying  it,  and  just  showing  people  who  are  on  the  autistic  spectrum  who  have  jobs  and  relationships  and  friendships.

 

00:31:05
Jenny Curtis: So  a  lot  of  your  work  comes  from  some  kind  of  source  material,  as  this  came  from  an  Israeli  show,  Away  came  from  an  article.  What  is  it  about  a  piece  of  source  material  that  sparks  for  you,  that  makes  you  say, " This  is  what  I  want  to  create  something  about?"

 

00:31:20
Jason Katims: It's  a  weird  combination.  Well,  first  of  all,  the  reason  why  I  would  do anything is because I have  a  deeply  personal  connection  to  it.  And  my  job,  if  I  don't  have  a  personal  connection  to  it, is  to  find that personal  connection.  When  they  first  sort  of  brought  up  the  idea  of  having  me  do  Friday  Night  Lights,  I  was  like, " This  is  not  a  show  for  me  because  I'm  a  baseball  guy,  not  a  football  guy."  I  had  never  been  to  Texas.  And  it's  like  the  idea  of  small  town  life.  It's  just,  this  was  not  me.  I  grew  up  in  New  York  City  and  I  was  a  baseball  fan.  And  so I was  like, "No,  no,  no.  Why  would  I  do this  show?"  And  then  I  started  to  see  the  source  material. I was  like, " Oh  my  God,  this is  the  greatest  thing  in  the  world.  And  this  could  be  an  amazing  show."  And  so  you  start  to  find  ways  to  develop  yourself  inside  this  world  and  these  characters  and  find  your  way  in.

 

 I  remember  when  I  was  brought  on  to  be  the  showrunner  of  the  show,  I  had  to  do  press  for  the  show  and  I  hadn't  yet  done  anything to the  show  yet.  And  I'd  never  been  in  that  experience  before.  So  there's  all  this  pressure  on  me.  And at  a  certain  point,  one  of  the  executives  from  the  studio  took  me  aside.  And  for  whatever  reason,  they  were  concerned  in  some  way  that  I was going  to  be  able  to  do  this.  And  they  were  like, " Jason,  are  you  going to be able  to  do  this?  You  have  to  do  this.  You  have  to be able to  take this on."  And  I  was  like, " Oh  my  God,  I  feel  like  Coach.  I'm  just  like  Coach  coming  to  Dylan,  Texas,  taking  on  this  shitty  team,  and  people  expecting  to  bring  home  a  championship."  You know  what  I  mean?  It  was  like  the  greatest  gift  that  was  ever  given  to  me  because I was like, " This  is  how  I  relate  to  the  show."

 

 And  of  course,  the thing about  Friday  Night  Lights  was  it  wasn't  about  football,  it was  about  family.  It  was  about  a  marriage.  It  was  about  surrogate  parenting.  It  was  about  coming  of  age. It was  about  trying  to  live  a  better  life  than  your  parents  live.  And  your parents  wanting  that  for  you.  And  it was  about  all  the  things that  were  just  about  life.  And  then  I  had  people  to  help  me  talk  football.  And  then you  really  love  football,  go  figure,  you  know?  And  so  you  sort  of  to  try  to  find  ways  in.

 

 In  Parenthood,  I  decided  I  wanted  to do  an  adaptation  of  Parenthood,  which  was  a  movie  that  I  really  had  loved.  And  at  the  time  that  I  was  going  to  do  it,  it  had  been  20  years  since  the  movie  came  out.  And  I  went  to  Ron  Howard  and  Brian  Grazer  and  pitched  them  my  take  on  it.  And  I  was  very  worried  about  going  to  Ron  Howard  and  saying  like, " I'm  going  to  do  your  movie,  but  I'm  going  to  change  it."  You  know?  And at  the  end  of  the  pitch,  Ron's ...  He  was  so  nice.  He's  just  the  nicest  guy in  the  world.  And in  the  end,  he  was  very  encouraging  to  me.  And  he  said, " Jason,  I  just want  to  tell  you,  the  things  that  I  liked  most  about  what  you  just  said  to  me  were  the  things  that  were  completely  different  than what was  in  the  movie.  I  did  the  movie.  I'm  happy  with  the  movie.  I  don't  need  to  see  that  movie  again.  What  you  need  to  do  is  bring  yourself  to  this."
And that is the kind  of  wisdom  that  you  get  from  Ron  Howard.  And  I  think  that  is  what  adaptation  really  is  all  about.  It's  about  whatever  the  story  is  that  you're  telling  whether  you  relate  to  it  from  the  beginning  or  whether  you  have  to  find  your  way  in.  Sort  of  like  in  Friday  Night  Lights  for  me.  No  matter  what  that  source  material  is,  it's  about  making  it  sort  of  deeply  personal  to  you  and  making  it  your  story.  I  mean,  that's  critical.

 

00:34:26
Jenny Curtis: So  yesterday,  I was having kind of  a  crummy  day.  I  was  in  a  terrible  mood.  And  I  decided  last  night  that  I  was  going  to  put  on  Friday  Night  Lights  and just rewatch  a  few  episodes  because  we  were  going  to  talk  and  why  not?  And  I  love  the  show.  I  get  to  the  first  moment  of  clear  eyes,  full  hearts,  can't  lose.  And  it's  just  like  everything  melts  away.  What does  it  mean  to  you  to  have  a  career  where  you  are  literally  changing  people's  days  with  the  work  that  you're  creating?

 

00:34:54
Jason Katims: Thank  you  so  much  for  saying  that.  It's  really  humbling  for  you  to  say  that.  Of  course,  I  don't  experience  my  life  that  way.  I  experience  my  life  as  a  writer,  like  every  writer,  and  we're  all  just  reps  trying  to  craft  stories  and  (crosstalk)   hacks  and  movers  to  some  degree,  and  frauds.  But  I  appreciate  that.  Obviously,  Friday  Night  Lights  is  a  show  that  connected and  it  certainly  connected  with  me.  I'd  be in  the  editing  room  watching  cuts  and  I'd  start  crying  in  the  editing  room.  And then  all  the  editors  would  be  like, " Oh  my  God,  you're  just  like [inaudible 00:35:28]. Don't be such  a  jerk."

 

 But  I  couldn't  help  it.  And  then  of  course  I  tried  to  suppress  my  crying  because  it  was  embarrassing  to  cry  in front of  the  editor.  And  then  all  these  weird  sounds  started  to  come  out  of  me,  these  kind  of  terrible  sounds  that  were really  embarrassing.  And  so  I  think  the  greatest  compliment  is  when  people  say  that  those  characters  become  part  of  their  family.  I  mean,  it's  amazing.  And  really,  actually  the  greatest  compliment  that  I've  gotten  and  I've  gotten  it  a  bunch  of  times  is  when  people  say  they  watched  it  together  as  a  family.  And  I've  gotten  that  a  lot  with  Friday  Night  Lights  and  a  lot  with  Parenthood.  And  that,  I don't  know,  there's  something  about  that  that  means  so  much  to  me,  the  idea  of  a  family  sitting  together  and  watching  and  having  that  be  something  that  they  do  together.  I  mean,  how  can  you  not  be  touched  by  that?

 

00:36:18
Jenny Curtis: Jason,  I  could  talk  to  you  all  day,  but  we're  unfortunately  out  of  time.  So  I  guess  my  last  question,  I  want  to  bring  it  back  to  Away,  what  do  you  hope  people  get  from  the  show  as  they  start  to  watch  it?

 

00:36:31
Jason Katims: We  were  just  sort  of  talking  about  how  some  of  the  shows that  I've  worked  on,  people  have  gotten  emotionally  connected  to  the  show  and  its  characters.  And  that's  what  I'm  hoping  for this  show.  God,  I  love  the  space  stuff  and  I  love  the  look  of  that. And  I  think  that's  so  amazing.  But  the  thing  that  I  really  love  about  the  show  is  the  relationships,  the  characters, the  family  that  Hilary  is  trying  to  stay  connected  to  on  earth  and  the  family  that's  formed  between  these  astronauts  in  this  tin  can  that  they're  stuck  in  together  for  a  really  long  time.  And  so  I'm  hoping  that  people  feel  that  kind  of  connection  to  the  show.  Having  watched  these  episodes  many  times  now,  and  no  matter  how  many  times  I've  watched  them,  I  do  feel  that  connection.  I'm  hopeful  that they will feel that.

 

00:37:14
Jenny Curtis: The  show  is  available  on  Netflix  on  September  4th.  Jason  Katims,  thank  you  so  much  for  joining  me.

 

00:37:20
Jason Katims: It  was  great  talking  to  you.

 

00:37:21
Jenny Curtis: I  really  appreciate  it.

 

00:37:22
Jason Katims: Okay,  bye.

 

00:37:26
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  Jason  Katims.  Co- produced  and  edited  by  Jay  Whiting.  The  executive  producer  of  Hollywood  Unscripted  is  Stuart  Halperin.  The  Hollywood  Unscripted  theme  song  is  by  Celeste  and  Eric  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.

 

00:38:01
Speaker 1: CurtCo  Media,  media  for  your  mind.

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