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Why the binge model doesn’t always make the best TV
There’s a reason TV critics and reporters call FX Networks president and CEO John Landgraf the “mayor of television” — and it’s not just because that’s kind of a funny title to give to somebody. Of all the executives in the TV game right now, Landgraf has a reputation as the most thoughtful about the past, present, and future of television, and his semiannual addresses to TV journalists have coined the term “Peak TV” and first raised the issue of Netflix not measuring its viewership.
In this week’s episode, Landgraf joins Todd to talk about where TV is now and where it’s headed, as part of our series of conversations with the most important and insightful executives in the TV industry. He’ll also discuss which show on another network he most enjoys and what he worries the medium is losing from switching over to the binge model.
Then: Todd is joined by actor Jonathan Pryce (of Game of Thrones fame) to discuss his new movie The Wife and a long, storied career, filled with notable firsts.
|Aug 09, 2018|
Sharp Objects’ Patricia Clarkson on finding the mom roles worth playing
Adora Crellin is a difficult woman to love. The monstrously suffocating mother of Camille, the protagonist of HBO's terrific murder mystery miniseries Sharp Objects, Adora keeps finding ways to undercut her damaged daughters and to visit the deep-seated trauma in her soul upon the women who should be able to rely on her most.
So just imagine playing Adora and how that might seep into your soul. Fortunately, we've got Patricia Clarkson, one of America's finest actors for portraying difficult, damaged mothers (who seem to pass along those qualities to their difficult, damaged daughters), in the role. She finds notes in Adora most actors wouldn't even look for. It's spellbinding work, among the best work in the esteemed actor's career, and she's been nominated for every award you can think of.
Clarkson joined Todd this week to talk about knowing which moms are the right ones to play, what Sharp Objects gets right about the South, and which of her roles people most notice her for. And after that conversation, stick around for a chat about the state of the TV industry with PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger.
|Aug 02, 2018|
Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley on labor unions, capitalism, and his hit movie
The riotously funny, incredibly inventive new movie Sorry to Bother You has become one of the summer’s most acclaimed films, as well as an unlikely hit in arthouses. The movie’s tale of a young man named Cassius Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield), who takes a job in a call center, drifts wildly from genre to genre, sometimes seeming like a comedy, sometimes like a call to political action, and sometimes like a near-future science fiction movie.
But uniting all these ideas is a commitment to forthrightly leftist politics, and director Boots Riley dropped by the show to talk with Todd not just about making the movie but about how he wants to use it to explore ideas about unions, about political organization, and about building a movement.
We follow that up with a chat with Jonah Levy and Matt Silva, the makeup artists behind the movie Uncle Drew, who turned a bunch of NBA legends into their older selves. They talked to Todd about the basics of movie makeup and their favorite movie makeup designs of all time.
I Think You're Interesting has been nominated for this year's People's Choice Podcast Awards! Cast your vote for I Think You're Interesting free before Tuesday, July 31st at podcastawards.com.
|Jul 26, 2018|
How Neko Case writes her beautiful, brilliant songs
Neko Case’s nearly 20-year career has been marked by some of the best songs of that time frame, chronicles of a country and world that often seem to be plunging into chaos but always manage to just avoid doing so. Her solo albums, including the brand new Hell-On, have been a major part of that, but so has her work as a vocalist with the indie-pop group the New Pornographers and as part of a trio of singer-songwriter superstars with K.D. Lang and Laura Veirs.
Case’s songs don’t always provide easy explanations or answers. They’re about what it means to find yourself caught between what you need and what the world needs, or between the expectations others have of you and the expectations you carry for yourself.
Case joined Todd in the studio this week to talk about crafting her career across those nearly two decades, the notion of writing timeless songs in a world that keeps rushing forward, and the idea of building a place within the music industry where women can feel supported.
|Jul 19, 2018|
The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 and the summer’s biggest movies, discussed and explained
Believe it or not, the summer entertainment season is half over. Fall TV will be firing up in just a few short weeks, and the summer movies of 2018 have just about run out. (Mission: Impossible — Fallout is the only big release still coming.) That makes it a great time to check in on some of the biggest pop culture items of the summer, in this special episode with two different segments.
First, Salon's Melanie McFarland and Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya join Todd to talk about the second season of Hulu's The Handmaid’s Tale, which all of them liked until they found certain elements of its ending deeply polarizing. They’ll talk about the baffling moments of the finale, the show’s depiction of racial issues, and where they think it might be going in season three.
Then, Vox's Karen Han and The Undefeated's Soraya Nadia McDonald join Todd to talk about the summer’s biggest movies, from blockbusters to smaller films you might have missed. If you’re looking for something to see at the multiplex this weekend, this is a must-listen, so check it out.
|Jul 12, 2018|
Inside the world’s best true-crime podcast
Call the APM Reports production In the Dark a “true crime" podcast, and everybody involved in it will bristle, just a bit. Yes, it starts from the place of exploring crimes that really happened. But it’s not interested in exploring the crimes so much as it is the injustice of the American justice system.
So my apologies for calling In the Dark a true-crime podcast, when it’s so much more than that. But every week, when I listen to it, I’m reminded that the form could be so much more than it has been.
With each new season, In the Dark digs deeper and deeper into the ways that the American justice system lets down the people it’s supposed to be protecting. Its recently concluded second season centered on the case of Curtis Flowers, who was tried six times for the same spree killing, his convictions consistently overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. The season was a master class, exploring everything from the failures of prosecutors to racial bias in jury selection.
This week, In the Dark’s producer, host, and head reporter Madeleine Baran joined me to talk about the second season of the show, as well as how the best true-crime … er … criminal justice podcast gets made.
|Jul 05, 2018|
You may not immediately recognize Bob Balaban’s name. But you know his voice
Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Gosford Park. Moonrise Kingdom. The original cast of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. These might seem like wildly different projects, but they have one man in common: actor Bob Balaban.
Balaban is one of the consummate “hey, it’s that guy!” actors. His name might not immediately ring a bell (unless you, like me, love to keep track of all the great character actors), but the second you see his face or just hear his voice, you’ll instantly know who he is. He’s been working steadily on stage and screen for 50 years, and he’s also written and directed his own projects. (Heck, Gosford Park emerged from an idea he had.) If you love good movies and television, you’ve become well acquainted with Bob Balaban.
His newest project is Condor, a spy thriller on the DirecTV Audience Network. Balaban is exactly the sort of person you wouldn’t expect to pop up in a series so high-octane. It's all the more delightful that he’s there, seeming like the quiet, sensible one amid all the foot chases and action sequences. He joins Todd to talk about his long, illustrious career, and just why it was time to finally play a spy.
The actor Balaban is talking about in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is Anton Wolbrook.
|Jun 28, 2018|
Stand-up Hari Kondabolu is so much more than The Problem with Apu
Hari Kondabolu identified a problem. His self-hosted, self-produced 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu, which aired on TruTV, discusses how The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon created a caricature of South Asians and perpetuated a stereotype that hung over South Asian kids like Hari and followed them into adulthood. The documentary isn’t a call for Apu to be removed from the show or fired into the sun or anything like that. No, it’s an earnest discussion of how these types of stereotypes can still hurt people.
But The Problem with Apu has come to define Hari’s work in a way that is both deserved — it’s a really good little documentary — and maybe a little unfair. See, Hari is also a tremendously funny stand-up comedian, someone who tells jokes about racism and the divisiveness of American politics, all the while making you laugh at the way many of us have only built up those divides. In his new Netflix special Warn Your Relatives, Hari jokes about race, homophobia, the Trump administration, and the time he got heckled by fellow comedian Tracy Morgan.
So Todd was thrilled to be joined in the studio by Hari, who discussed telling jokes about Donald Trump, telling jokes about his mom, and, yes, telling the truth about Apu.
|Jun 21, 2018|
Aisha Tyler on Archer, standup comedy, and being Aisha Tyler
Does Aisha Tyler sleep? That’s a question you might reasonably ask after looking at her IMDb page for a moment or two. She’s a regular on two TV shows — FXX’s Archer and CBS’s Criminal Minds — while also hosting Unapologetic, a new talk show for AMC. And that’s in addition to all the other one-off hosting gigs she takes on. And yet she’s always fresh, funny, and on point.
Tyler got her start as a standup comic in the late '90s, at a time when, she says, black women were often pigeonholed into a certain style of comedy while she was much more comfortable making jokes about her love of all things geeky. She followed that up with a hosting gig on Talk Soup, and from there, her career took off and continues to fly high.
So Aisha joins Todd in the studio this week to talk about her career, her time in standup comedy, and playing Lana Kane on Archer for nine whole seasons. It’s the longest she’s played a single character, she says — unless you count all that time she spent playing Aisha Tyler. And after this interview, we think maybe we do.
|Jun 14, 2018|
How to make great TV, according to the showrunners of Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Vida
Another TV season is over. You might not have noticed its end, thanks to the way TV never goes away any more, but technically, the TV season wraps at the end of May.
So it seemed like a good time to get some of the best TV showrunners together and ask them how they create great standout TV, when there's way too much of it. Salim Akil of Black Lightning (CW), Aline Brosh McKenna of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (CW) and Tanya Saracho of Vida (Starz) join Todd for a lively discussion about this era in TV.
Topics include producing good TV on a budget, telling stories about communities traditionally underrepresented in fiction, and finding a way to stand out amid all that clutter. If you're a TV fan, or just curious about what it means to work in television when there are nearly 500 scripted series, you'll love this discussion.
|Jun 07, 2018|
The Americans' showrunners and star bid farewell to TV's best show
If you've listened to this show ever, or read anything Todd has ever written, then you know The Americans is one of his favorite shows of the past several years. Last night, it ended.
For this special episode of the show, Todd is joined by star Matthew Rhys (who plays Philip) and writers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, who run the series, to talk about the series' incredible final season and its even more remarkable finale. There are spoilers if you haven't watched the entire series, but also lots of talk about finding the series' voice and the whole, wild six-season ride.
And, if nothing else, if you've never heard Rhys's real, Welsh accent, well, you're in for a treat.
|May 31, 2018|
What great horror looks and sounds like, with the makers of The Terror and A Quiet Place
Sometimes, the scariest thing is what you don’t see onscreen. It’s a lesson taken to heart by the folks behind two of the best horror projects of the first half of 2018 — the AMC miniseries The Terror and the gigantic hit movie A Quiet Place.
In this special horror showcase episode, Todd talks to Soo Hugh and David Kajganich, the showrunners and head writers of The Terror; and then with Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, the sound designers of A Quiet Place. All four talk about how to build horror unconventionally — The Terror by starting from a real, historical event that didn’t actually involve supernatural interference (though the TV show adds a fearsome creature to chow down on stranded sailors) and A Quiet Place by stripping out almost all spoken dialogue.
It’s a great time for horror, and Soo, David, Erik, and Ethan bring unique perspectives to what’s made the genre boom so much and where it might be headed.
|May 24, 2018|
Veteran comedy writer Nell Scovell on 30 years of being "the only woman in the room"
Writer Nell Scovell has worked for some of the best, most popular TV shows of the past 30 years. She wrote for David Letterman. She wrote for The Simpsons. She created the '90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She wrote on NCIS. And at too many of those jobs, she was the only woman working in the writers’ room, countering Hollywood’s endless boys’ club.
Scovell’s new memoir, Just the Funny Parts, is an excellent chronicle of her time in the TV trenches, as well as the times she’s branched out into writing books (she co-authored the massive bestseller Lean In with Sheryl Sandberg) and writing jokes for President Obama. Above all else, the book makes the argument that having more diversity in Hollywood writers' rooms will make movies and TV shows funnier.
Scovell joins Todd for a frank and funny conversation about all those famous shows she’s worked on, her push for better representation of women behind the scenes in Hollywood, and her best Simpsons memories.
|May 17, 2018|
The Magicians' Sera Gamble on making great fantasy TV without Game of Thrones money
“This shit should not be cheesy,” Sera Gamble says. She’s talking about the visual effects and production design on the terrific Syfy fantasy series The Magicians, which just completed its third season, a cinch to make Todd’s top 10 of the year. While the show is one of TV’s most inventive, it has a fraction of the budget of something like Game of Thrones, which makes finding interesting ways to present otherworldly scenarios without breaking the bank a creative challenge.
Fortunately, Gamble is up to the task. Her work on the long-running CW series Supernatural won her fans, thanks to her affinity for deeply creepy but deeply affecting monsters. And The Magicians, while a fantasy show, is one of TV’s most thoughtful shows about mental illness and the tough choices you have to make in your 20s when you’re still trying to figure out just who you are.
Gamble joins Todd for the first installment of a series of episodes with writers Todd loves. They talk about producing great fantasy TV on a budget, what makes a great monster and how The Magicians became an unlikely but timely show about women's anger.
|May 09, 2018|
Thanos and Roseanne: how two mad titans took over pop culture
This week on I Think You’re Interesting, we’re trying something different, by dissecting two of the biggest pop culture stories of the spring.
First, Vox culture writer Alex Abad-Santos joins Todd to talk about the fallout from Avengers: Infinity War. The conversation is full of spoilers, particularly when it comes to the film’s controversial ending, which some love and some hate. If you haven't seen the movie and want to avoid spoilers skip ahead to 24:29 to hear Todd's conversation about the Roseanne revival with Vox culture writer Caroline Framke and Vox deputy culture editor Genevieve Koski.
After being off the air for more than 20 years, Roseanne debuted with huge ratings and solid reviews but the show has quickly become better known for its star’s politics. As one of the most famous Trump supporters in the entertainment industry, has Roseanne the actress overwhelmed Roseanne the show? Todd, Caroline and Genevieve tackle that question and more.
|May 02, 2018|
Why 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the greatest films ever made, 50 years later
Even if you haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s mind-melting 1968 science fiction epic, you probably know at least something about it. It’s one of those movies, like Star Wars or Citizen Kane, that has become so thoroughly dissolved into our pop culture that you’ll have heard of the villainous computer HAL or know the famed music cue (Richard Strauss' “Also sprach Zarathustra”) that plays over its most indelible images.
But how were those moments created? The story of 2001 is the story of an almost obsessive attention to detail, of a budget that almost completely destroyed the film’s studio, of an initial wave of terrible reviews that might have killed a lesser movie. At every step of the way along its production process (and even after its release), 2001 is a fascinating example of big-time moviemaking gone right.
This week, Todd is joined first by Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson to talk about 2001’s long legacy, then by author Michael Benson, whose book Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece is the definitive account of the making of the film, to talk about how this titanic achievement came to be.
|Apr 25, 2018|
How Jean Smart beat Hollywood's age biases to build a nearly 40-year career
Designing Women, Frasier, 24, Fargo, Legion, some of the best TV shows of the past 30-plus years have one terrific actress in common: Jean Smart. Tall, striking, and bold, Smart has carved out a path in Hollywood that involves never doing the same thing twice — to the degree that her immediate follow-up to the sitcom Designing Women was a role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in a made-for-TV movie.
Smart is currently one of FX’s Noah Hawley players, bouncing between the TV producer’s Fargo (where she played an unlikely Midwestern crime boss in 1979) to his X-Men series Legion (where she plays the head of a secret program investigating mutants). Just watching Hawley write for Smart makes clear how versatile she is. He keeps tossing new challenges her way, and she keeps landing them with precision.
But, needless to say, there are plenty of actresses who haven’t managed to build nearly 40-year careers. What’s unique about Smart is how she seems to never stop working, even as she’s never content to be pigeonholed into a “Jean Smart role” (whatever that would mean). She joins Todd this week to talk about building such a long career, her memories of Designing Women, and her attempts to understand just what’s happening on Legion.
|Apr 18, 2018|
Wonderful Midwestern moms, explained by comedian Louie Anderson (who plays his own mom on TV)
One of the most sympathetic, compelling portraits of motherhood on television centers on a performance by a man. On FX's Baskets, which recently completed its third season, comedian Louie Anderson plays Christine Baskets, mother of twins Chip and Dale (both played by Zach Galifianakis), and he describes the experience not as trying to put on a character but, instead, as channeling his own mother, Ora, a South Dakota native who spent most of her life in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. When he steps out of his trailer, Louie says, it's as if he opens up a conduit to his mother (who has passed away), wherever she might be.
He's also used his fond memories of his mother to write a new book, Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too, in which he reminisces about how she protected him from a dangerous, abusive situation during his childhood and prepared him for his long career in comedy, which has included highly acclaimed standup work, the 1990s animated series Life With Louie, and a gig hosting Family Feud. His standup is notable for pivoting between gently poking fun at himself (usually via his vast roster of self-directed fat jokes) and telling more emotionally risky stories about his life growing up with his large family.
Louie joins Todd this week to talk about learning to play his mother, wondering just what was in her chocolate frosting recipe, and what it takes to tell a good fat joke that's not needlessly cruel.
|Apr 11, 2018|
The 5 best coming-of-age movies about teen girls
Lady Bird was one of the surprise hits of 2017, with its bittersweet, deeply funny depiction of teen girl adolescence. And that got Todd to thinking: Why is it so rare to see good movies about teen girls coming of age?
To answer that question, he brought in Kay Cannon, director of the new comedy Blockers, a very funny gross-out raunchfest, which just so happens to be about teen girls figuring out their sexuality while their parents wrestle with the sexist double standards we apply to young women in that very situation. (We assure you it’s a comedy.) Kay also wrote the screenplay for Pitch Perfect and was part of the writers' rooms on both 30 Rock and New Girl.
Kay joined Todd to talk about making Blockers, but also to run down her five favorite teen girl movies of all time. (And, yes, one of them is Lady Bird.)
|Apr 04, 2018|
Jason Katims, showrunner of Friday Night Lights and Rise, on why teens make great TV
Few TV heavyweights have done as much to tell thoughtful, moving stories about teenagers as Jason Katims. While he was a young playwright, Katims broke into the television industry as a staff writer for My So-Called Life — ground zero for realistic depictions of adolescence on TV — then quickly went on to work on any number of iconic teen shows, culminating in his five-season stint as the showrunner of the gorgeous small-town drama Friday Night Lights, following football players in a Texas town.
Katims has, of course, written about non-teenagers too. For six seasons, his Parenthood told thoughtful stories about people struggling with very mundane, very real problems. (It was great.) But he’s gone back to high school with his latest series, Rise. The NBC drama follows teenagers involved with a drama program in a dying Pennsylvania steel town.
Todd has been hoping to talk to Katims for years now, which made this discussion all the better. Katims touches on the differences between high school football coaches and high school drama directors, the lessons he learned from the legendary creator and producers of My So-Called Life, and how he learned to be judicious in using Friday Night Lights’ most famous catchphrase.
|Mar 28, 2018|
How to write a joke for President Obama
How do you write a joke for the president of the United States? How do you come up with something that will seem perfectly cutting but not too cruel, silly but not stupid? How do you not denigrate the highest office in the land with — sniff — comedy?
Those were all questions David Litt, a speechwriter for President Obama and one of the folks most instrumental to Obama’s comedy monologues at the White House Correspondents Dinner, had to face when he worked in the White House. And after he left, he wrote his memoir Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, a whole book about his time working for the president, complete with lots of advice on how to write jokes for the president.
Todd talks with Litt this week about the strengths and limitations of political comedy, the joke he wrote for Obama that he’s most proud of, and the similarities between working at the White House and his new gig at Funny or Die.
|Mar 21, 2018|
Bill Nye, on becoming the Science Guy and Saving the World
If you don't hear the words "Bill Nye" and automatically fill in, mentally, "the Science Guy" (ideally with the exact right tune and rhythm from his old theme song), then you probably weren't alive during the 1990s, when Nye's series (Bill Nye the Science Guy, naturally) became a hit with kids, parents, and teachers throughout the country. A former engineer and stand-up comedian, Nye's ability to blend introductions to scientific concepts with goofy humor made him a favorite.
Since that show left the air in 1998, Nye has become an evangelist for the joys of understanding the way the world works. Yet even as he's worked to continue educating everybody about science, science has become more of a hot-button issue than ever before, leaving Nye in the middle of political debates over climate change. Hence his new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World, now in its second season.
It's a talk show, sort of, but it's also a series filled with scientific demonstrations, reported segments, and comedy bits. It's like a variety show where everything revolves around science somehow.
Nye joined Todd to talk about his evolution from engineer to entertainer, how he's felt landing at the center of political debates, and what engineering has in common with making a TV show.
|Mar 14, 2018|
Designing the worst workplace in the world. (Only for a TV show. Don’t worry.)
Comedy Central’s Corporate is a deep, dark dive into American corporate life that is one of the most promising new comedies to debut in years. Set in the nondescript but completely soulless corporation Hampton DeVille, Corporate finds dark yet incredibly funny humor in the concept of just trying to survive within the sorts of corporate structures many of us work in every single day.
The series was co-created by Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman (with series director Pat Bishop), and Ingebretson and Weisman also star. That’s notable because before Corporate, the two were mostly known for making and starring in web videos. They mark just the latest example of online talent crossing over into the television mainstream (if you can call Corporate “mainstream”).
As the series prepares to air the last two episodes of its first season (it’s already been renewed for a second), Ingebretson and Weisman join Todd to talk about how to make a funny comedy with visual flair, why the horrors of corporate life are great fodder for a TV show, and what’s funny about the fact that we’re all going to die. (Trust us; it’s funny!)
|Mar 07, 2018|
The "I Think You’re Interesting" Oscars Spectacular
Todd loves the Oscars, so this week's episode features not just one but two Oscar nominees from this year's crop. First, Todd talks with Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson about the year's biggest prizes.
Then he's joined by Julian Slater, the Oscar-nominated sound designer and sound editor of the action-musical Baby Driver. Julian tells Todd all about crafting the sonic world of one of 2017's most ambitious aural experiments, then he explains the difference between the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing Oscars' categories.
The episode concludes with a discussion with I, Tonya editor Tatiana Riegel who joins from Berlin to explain why editors are so important to the filmmaking process. She also talks about balancing the many complicated tones of one of the year's most tonally adventurous movies.
|Feb 28, 2018|
Bonus: Today, Explained. "Black Panther Is the Most Important Movie of 2018"
Our Bonus episode today is a new show from Vox.com called Today Explained, which comes out Monday through Friday. It's going to tell you all about what happened in the news that maybe you didn't know about. It's got a great team of people working on it, and I wanted you to get a chance to listen to one of their first episodes.
So here's Today, Explained's edition from earlier this week, all about the movie Black Panther (which we covered this week in our episode with the movie's costume designer Ruth Carter). The episode has some great context to what a cultural phenomenon Black Panther has been, and why it's so meaningful to so many people.
|Feb 23, 2018|
Love the look of Black Panther's Wakanda? Meet the woman who designed its costumes.
If you've seen Marvel's new movie Black Panther, you know that one of the best things about it is its use of costumes and sets not just to create the fictional world of Wakanda, but also to tell little stories about its history and culture in every single frame. Just looking at this movie, which opened to the second-biggest four-day box office in film history, is half the fun.
That's why for the first episode in a post-Black Panther world, we wanted to talk to Ruth Carter, the designer of the movie's costumes, from that sleek superhero suit, to the Dora Milaje's battle gowns, to the plethora of other costumes that tell you, at a glance, which part of Wakanda certain characters are from. And that's to say nothing of the moments of high fashion, when T'Challa and his allies step out onto exciting spy missions.
Though Black Panther is Carter's biggest movie yet, she's been designing costumes since the 1980s, having designed the costumes for almost every one of Spike Lee's films and received two Oscar nominations for her work on Lee's Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg's Amistad. Carter joins Todd to talk about telling the story of Wakanda through clothing, collaborating with great directors, and why every superhero movie is dependent on one workshop in Europe.
|Feb 21, 2018|
Finding work — or just creating your own — as a deaf actor in Hollywood
Though 20 percent of the American population has some form of disability, just 2 percent of working actors represent that population on screen and stage. Is it any wonder so many roles for those with disabilities are played by actors without them? And is it any wonder that this discrepancy is causing more and more controversy and discussion?
That's what makes the new Sundance Now series This Close so interesting. It's the first show in American television history to be created and showrun by two deaf writers, and those creators, Josh Feldman and Shoshannah Stern, also star as Michael and Kate, two best friends whose co-dependent relationship sometimes keeps them from building healthy relationships with other people (or, on the flip side, helps keep them from being burned by genuinely unhealthy relationships).
The show is a fascinating little slice-of-life dramedy, but it's also an insightful look at what it means to be deaf in America, and the many different forms of experience within that community. It's the best kind of TV show, one that tells you a new story you maybe haven't heard quite this way.
Feldman and Stern joined Todd to talk about their show, along with the series' director, Andrew Ahn. But they also talked about what non-deaf writers get wrong about the deaf experience and why it's so important for those with disabilities to tell their own stories.
|Feb 14, 2018|
Bonus: The Podium, from the Vox Media Podcast Network and NBC Sports
Opening Ceremony co-host Katie Couric discusses what to expect from the broadcast (8:30 ET, NBC), the unified team of North and South Korea, and her interview with figure skating star Nathan Chen. We'll also take a look back at some pivotal moments in Olympic history and how the Winter Games have evolved from 1924 to today.
|Feb 09, 2018|
"Narnia was not up to code": The Magicians' Lev Grossman on building fantastical worlds
Few fantasy series of the past 10 years have had the reach of Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy, beginning with The Magicians in 2009, continuing with The Magician King in 2011, and concluding with The Magician's Land in 2014. The books, which attempted to blend the fantastical elements of books like Harry Potter and the Narnia series, garnered warm reviews (including from Todd), then were quickly scooped up to be turned into a TV series before the books had even completed the publication process. The process of adaptation took many years and several false starts, but the (excellent) TV show version of The Magicians finally debuted in December 2015 on Syfy, and it has gone on to forge its own identity — similar to the books but also separate from them. That made it a great time to talk to Grossman, whose books are probably more visible than ever but who also has to deal with readers who come to his books knowing the characters better for their TV versions, who have slightly different personalities and sometimes even different names. Grossman and Todd talk about learning to stop worrying and love your TV adaptation, his happiness that his books were all published before the TV show began, and his ideas for how to build a compelling fictional world, whether fantastical or realistic.
|Feb 07, 2018|
Justina Machado is giving one of TV's best performances. Here's her acting advice.
"I have people that are not Latino arguing with me about what we’re like," Justina Machado says about two-thirds of the way through her chat with Todd. The actress, who joins ITYI to talk about the latest season of her Netflix sitcom One Day at a Time, has been giving superlative performances for two decades now, with a career that encompasses everything from the live episode of ER to an Arsenio Hall sitcom to the classic HBO drama Six Feet Under.
But it's One Day at a Time that has given Machado a part that lets her show off all she's capable of. In any given episode, she might play the highs of being a hugely accomplished working mom, or the crippling lows of depression and PTSD. She gets to deliver wisecracks that bring instant laughter and long monologues that will wring tears. She gets to do anything and everything and a little bit of what's in between.
That's why Todd wanted to have her on, but their conversation very quickly ranged from talking about One Day at a Time to talking about women of color finding work in Hollywood, while trying to avoid taking roles that are simple stereotypes, as well as what Machado has learned from getting to work with Rita Moreno (a pioneer when it comes to Latina actresses) on One Day at a Time. And lest you think that sounds too heavy, know that every answer Machado gives is punctuated by her amazing laugh — one of the best in show business.
|Jan 31, 2018|
How Hans Zimmer found the music of the ocean
Blue Planet II is one of the most stunning visual achievements of the year. The new BBC America nature documentary takes viewers deep beneath the waves to observe strange creatures and the delicate balance that keeps the world's largest habitat in harmony.
The miniseries is also a huge sonic accomplishment in representing the sounds of the sea. Crackling icebergs, creatures scuttling along the seafloor, and water washing along — they all contribute to a show that sounds like nothing else. Much of that is thanks to the music, composed by the team of Jacob Shea, David Fleming, and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. The series' musical themes evoke the undulation of the waves and the beauty of the undersea habitat. What Zimmer describes as the ocean's "epic" quality is evident throughout.
Zimmer, Shea, and Fleming joined Todd this week to talk about writing the series' music, and after that conversation, he talks with series producers Orla Doherty, Mark Brownlow, and James Honeyborne about how the series captured some of the most dazzling images of the ocean ever put on film.
|Jan 24, 2018|
The best film and TV performances of 2017, according to our critics panel
Awards season is once again upon us. We’ll soon know which films and performances have been nominated for the Oscars, and the Golden Globes are receding into the past.
But let’s talk about what’s really important: Which performances from 2017 did our panel of critics like most? Todd is joined by Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson and Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore to discuss their favorites. The list (across film and television) is wide-ranging, from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the little-seen Chilean film A Fantastic Woman.
Along the way, the three talk about how hard it can be to describe a great performance, whether Adam Driver breaks the new Star Wars movies, and who gave the best performance in Get Out.
|Jan 17, 2018|
Phil Rosenthal created Everybody Loves Raymond. Now he hosts a food and travel show. Can we have his life?
Phil Rosenthal is one of Todd’s favorite people within the TV industry to talk to, because he loves making television — whether he’s writing it or starring in it.
He's probably best known for creating the Emmy-winning series Everybody Loves Raymond, starring Ray Romano. The show ran for nine seasons, winning the Emmy for Best Comedy Series twice, and it has gone on to a healthy life in reruns. Rosenthal spent several years after Raymond left the air creating new sitcom pilots, translating Raymond for the Russian audience (which he covered in the very funny documentary Exporting Raymond), and trying to get his dream project off the ground.
Now, not only is that dream project happening, but it’s in its second season on Netflix. Somebody Feed Phil follows Rosenthal as he travels the world’s great cities, looking for their most delicious dishes, whether it's incredibly spicy soup in Bangkok or an unexpectedly tasty taco (made from “a part of the cow” rarely eaten in America, Rosenthal says) in Mexico City. He joins Todd this week to talk about his show, why not having a poker face is great for making a food show, and which comedies he loves on TV right now.
|Jan 10, 2018|
Ask Todd Anything, with guest host Caroline Framke
It's a very special episode of I Think You're Interesting, as guest host and Vox culture writer Caroline Framke asks Todd all the questions you asked about criticism, great TV, and life itself. Along the way, they'll discuss whether Todd can possibly watch TV just for fun anymore, what it's like working with an editor, and what his favorite TV show of all time is. Stick around for Todd's answers to the same questions he asks his guests in other episodes!
|Jan 03, 2018|
Is the secret to battling climate change a better promotional strategy?
The ways climate change is altering our planet can be hard to see, since they happen so incrementally, and often far away. That’s what’s made the documentaries Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral (a finalist for Best Documentary Feature at the 2018 Oscars) so valuable. The former tracks shrinking glaciers, while the latter shows the devastating die-offs of coral reefs, all thanks to the planet’s rapidly warming atmosphere.
But Richard Vevers, a former advertising expert who's one of the main subjects of Chasing Coral, thinks he might have the answer: a better promotional strategy, one that shows human beings how the world is changing, while still preserving hope that something might be done about it.
Chasing Coral itself is an example of that strategy. Pull it up on Netflix, and you’ll see formerly colorful coral reefs, home to all manner of sea life, bleached pure white. Yet the movie does offer hope that there’s some way out of this, if we change our ways in time.
Richard joins Todd to talk about coral reef die-offs, yes, but also a life spent under the waves, and just what keeps drawing him to the depths of the ocean.
|Dec 27, 2017|
What happened in Hollywood in 2017 — and where it might go in 2018
From the Oscars mixup to the Disney-Fox deal, and from Netflix’s continuing inability to launch major movie hits to the seemingly endless stream of sexual misconduct revelations, 2017 was a big year for entertainment news, arguably the biggest in decades. Every new week brought a new story with the potential to alter the industry in incalculable ways.
It was such a big year that a near-strike by the Writers Guild of America ended up being a footnote.
Covering all of it was Richard Rushfield, a veteran entertainment journalist whose new newsletter, The Ankler, launched in 2017 and instantly became a must-read for anybody hoping to understand the business of show. Rushfield’s open, chatty publication broke major stories (like the existence of a group of powerful Hollywood women looking for a way to force the industry to deal with its sexual misconduct issues) and offered an often iconoclastic take on the biggest stories of the year.
Richard and Todd got together shortly before the year’s end to talk about all of the biggest stories from 2017, where all of this might be heading in 2018, and (of course) Star Wars.
|Dec 20, 2017|
Bonus: The writing life of Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist Chang Rae Lee
Chang Rae Lee’s books include “Native Speaker,” “Aloft,” and “The Surrender,” for which he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. His most recent book is “On Such A Full Sea,” a cool, sci-fi dystopia. It was published in 2014. His novels tackle some of the most important themes in American life today, including immigration, life after war, and even the divided Korean Peninsula. Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of three. His home country has been in the news a lot lately. And we’ll be hearing about it for more cheerful reasons in February, when South Korea hosts the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
This conversation is part of The Podium, a podcast collaboration between NBC Sports Group and Vox Media. Beginning in January, we'll bring you athlete profiles, daily updates and exciting stories from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
|Dec 14, 2017|
How 2017's best animated film came to be
Director Nora Twomey and her colleagues at Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon have made a habit of turning out some of Todd’s favorite animated films. From 2009’s The Secret of Kells to 2014’s Song of the Sea, the mini-studio makes beautiful, evocative films about the need for storytelling and the hard-earned magic of growing up.
The company’s latest film — Twomey’s debut as sole credited director — is called The Breadwinner, and it traces the story of a young Afghan girl who is forced to take on the burden of making money for her family after her father is sent to prison. Since the film is set during the rule of the Taliban, the hero has to pose as a young boy to keep making money. This story is balanced against several others in a beautiful feat of storytelling.
Twomey joins Todd to talk about The Breadwinner, her filmmaking philosophy, and finding kids who are also great voice actors.
|Dec 13, 2017|
John Ridley, Oscar-winning screenwriter, on how Los Angeles has and hasn’t changed since Rodney King
John Ridley has been active in Hollywood since the early ’90s, to the degree that he wrote for one of the best obscure sitcoms of that era, The John Laroquette Show. But his career hit turbo speed when he wrote the script for the 2013 Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave, for which he received an Oscar for his screenplay. Since then, he’s written even more movies and produced American Crime, a three-season ABC series that dug into political and social issues with real nuance and depth, in a way even cable television struggles with, to say nothing of broadcast network television.
Now his new documentary, Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, tackles the long buildup to what are commonly known as the LA riots, but which the film calls the LA uprising. Tracing the history of racially charged incidents leading up to the police beating of Rodney King, as well as the horrific relationship between the LAPD and black Angelenos, the film also looks at how Los Angeles was — and wasn’t — changed by the events of April and May 1992.
Ridley joins Todd to talk about the ways history has erroneously remembered those events, as well as his long career in Hollywood and his favorite superheroes.
|Dec 06, 2017|
Exploring the role of religion in the Trump era with Matt Carter, co-host of the Bad Christian podcast
Few religion podcasts have proved as vital to understanding evangelical Christian America in the Donald Trump era as Bad Christian, a podcast hosted by three friends, who all used to be in a band together. (Two of them still are in that band.)
Hosts Matt Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen, all Christians, discuss their issues with the modern church, without flinching. They also reveal their personal journeys as believers, which serve as real-time markers of individual Christians’ evolution on particular issues, especially LGBT rights.
Matt Carter joined Todd this week to talk about the role of the church in Trump’s America, but also his favorite chord progressions, how to protect your voice when you’re scream-singing every night, and how he thinks moving from small-town South Carolina to Seattle influenced his views — religious, moral, and political.
|Nov 29, 2017|
Holly Hunter, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Emily V. Gordon talk about their movie The Big Sick
The Big Sick is a little slice of romantic comedy perfection and one of 2017's best movies. Based on a very real story from the life of very real couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the movie boasts a script by the two, with Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, two real acting heavyweights, joining them as Emily's parents. The Big Sick manages something too few movies do nowadays. As you watch it, you might find yourself hoping that everybody in it will end up happy and more or less okay, which is rarer than you'd think. From Nanjiani's work as a version of himself to Hunter and Romano's estranged-but-trying-to-fix-things couple, the movie is full of beautifully sketched characters, brought together by an unlikely medical emergency. Now, right as the movie hits streaming on Amazon Prime (on Friday, November 24), Hunter, Romano, Nanjiani, and Gordon joined Todd to talk about The Big Sick — but also everything from Gene Hackman and writing partnerships to the best ear of corn Ray Romano ever ate.
|Nov 22, 2017|
How to not screw up Thanksgiving dinner, with chef Samin Nosrat
It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means home chefs all around the United States (Todd among them) are trying to find a way to hew to tradition without turning their plates into a giant pile of indistinguishable starches. And for our first annual I Think You’re Interesting Thanksgiving Spectacular, we’ve invited Samin Nosrat to join us and offer her hints and tips for a successful Thanksgiving meal. Samin’s book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, is one of the best cookbooks Todd’s ever read, and the information it provides about how the four elements in the title interact to make delicious food will help any chef — no matter how experienced — cook even better food. But it can also help brighten up that Thanksgiving plate, and Samin offered Todd advice on making tastier turkey, zingier mashed potatoes, and sharper Thanksgiving salads. She also stuck around to talk about writing a cookbook, devouring delicious food she didn’t cook, and enjoying the perfect vegan holiday season. Pull a chair up to the table and dig in.
|Nov 15, 2017|
The man who wrote the West Wing theme tells us how TV music is made
W.G. "Snuffy" Walden doesn't read or write music. That didn't stop him from writing the theme for The West Wing. Or Friday Night Lights. Or My So-Called Life. Or Thirtysomething. Or, really, many of your favorite TV shows. Walden's career began as a member of a rock band, and he went on to become a studio musician, even appearing on an episode of Laverne & Shirley as a member of Squiggy's band, "the Squigtones." But his big break, the one that would lead him to a massive career and an Emmy (atop many nominations), came when the creators of Thirtysomething wanted a folkier sound for their show about baby boomers aging into parenthood and responsibility. Walden, who wrote much of the score while trying things out on his guitar, got his moment, and he's scored lots and lots of shows since, including four in production right now. Walden joins Todd to talk about the process of writing music for TV (especially when you're composing for multiple shows at the same time), where The West Wing theme came from, and why he loves Jimi Hendrix.
|Nov 08, 2017|
Glenn Gordon Caron reinvented TV in the ’80s. Now he’s reviving the case-of-the-week show.
You may not know the name Glenn Gordon Caron, but if you’re a TV fan, you’ve heard of one of the shows he’s worked on, especially his groundbreaking ’80s detective dramedy Moonlighting, which popularized the will-they/won’t-they relationship, introduced the world to Bruce Willis, and created a tabloid sensation. But Caron’s résumé is so much more than Moonlighting. He’s worked on numerous films, he’s created a short film about human sexuality for Epcot Center, and he’s made many more TV shows, ranging from one-season wonders (like 1999-2000’s Now and Again) to long-running hits (like Medium, which aired throughout the 2000s). His latest task is taking over as showrunner on CBS’s legal series Bull, and he’s given the CBS case-of-the-week format a bit of spit and polish, focusing more on the characters than the cases but still leaving plenty of room for intriguing investigations and legal maneuvering. Caron joins Todd to talk about how he came to Bull, the height of Moonlighting media attention, why David and Maddie hooking up could have worked, and so much more.
|Nov 01, 2017|
Russell Brand on life, addiction, and the pursuit of happiness
Comedian Russell Brand would probably bristle at being described as a comedian. It’s not that he’s not funny, or doesn’t occasionally perform stand-up. It’s more that in the years since he’s achieved fame, he’s become just as notable for his wonderfully unhinged performances in a number of films, as well as for writing books that sensitively and thoughtfully probe questions about himself, our society, and existence itself. The latest of these is Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, and it continues Brand’s string of works that seem rooted less in his desire to make everybody laugh and more to connect with everyone on the planet. The book — which posits that you can use a 12-step program to fix problems and addictions in your life far beyond traditional chemical dependency — made Todd push back against it quite a bit, but by the end, Brand’s argument started to seem more solid. Twelve-step programs are terrifically effective means for forcing us to confront our own weaknesses and dependencies, so why not use them to diagnose issues in bad relationships or toxic workplaces? Brand and Todd talked about his book, yes, but also about his bees, about America’s gun violence problem, about religion, about systems of government, about fatherhood, and about the West Ham football club. It’s a wide-ranging discussion, and Brand’s thoughts on all of these topics are, as always, fascinating.
|Oct 25, 2017|
BoJack Horseman's sly, funny brilliance, explained by the people who make it
Todd loves few TV shows more than BoJack Horseman, Netflix's weird animated comedy about a sad horse. Its recently completed fourth season, which delved into the histories of many of the characters and talked about the roots of trauma and depression, just might be the best the series has ever done.
To understand why the season was so potent, creator and showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg, production designer and producer Lisa Hanawalt, and supervising director Mike Hollingsworth joined Todd to talk about not just season four but also the show's evolution and where it might be headed next.
They talked about balancing different kinds of jokes, making sure the audience understands the subtext, and building dramatic stakes when so much of what's happening is about the characters' emotions.
|Oct 18, 2017|
The 5 best superhero performances of all time, according to The Tick’s Griffin Newman
One of Todd’s favorite actors for elucidating, perfectly, what makes one performance work where another doesn’t is Griffin Newman, who plays Arthur, the moth-man sidekick on Amazon’s The Tick. Newman also co-hosts the podcast Blank Check With Griffin and David, where his discussion of acting frequently helps explain things like why one of the hardest characters to play is someone who’s unfailingly good and decent (because the psychology can be harder to tap into) and why Newman so reveres Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work.
That meant when Todd wanted to make a list of the five best superhero performances of all time, Newman was a natural choice to join him. The two trade lists back and forth, and Newman’s is just as idiosyncratic as you’d hope (just wait until you hear which performance he picks from the Marvel universe!), but with some great, deep defenses of his choices. You can also listen to Todd speak up for Christopher Reeve as Superman, which will surely be a controversial choice.
Newman also talks with Todd about what it means to wear a superhero suit on The Tick every week, as well as just why he so admires Michael Keaton. The discussion is mostly about superheroes, but it’s also about finding the emotional realism of a character, even when you’re stuck in spandex.
|Oct 11, 2017|
Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet on making it as a heavyset actor in Hollywood
Fans of ABC’s Modern Family, which just entered its ninth season, know Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker, the role for which he’s won two Emmys. The neurotic but good-natured Cam was half of one of TV’s first major married gay couples, and over the course of the show’s run, Cam and his husband, Mitch, have settled into the sort of farcical bliss we might wish on all sitcom couples.
But the road to Modern Family wasn’t always guaranteed for Stonestreet. He estimates in this interview that he was in more than 100 commercials, many of which required him to build whole characters off just one line or a gesture. He bounced among guest spots on numerous TV shows of the ’90s and 2000s — from Dharma & Greg to ER and The West Wing — and didn’t always seem like he’d find his niche. Indeed, he only heard about Modern Family because a friend of his was auditioning and asked Stonestreet to help him prepare.
Now, however, he can look back on that struggle with both clear eyes and the sort of analysis that offers good advice to everyone pursuing a dream. Stonestreet talked with me about how Modern Family has (and hasn’t) changed over nine seasons, what it’s like hosting his new reality show The Toy Box, and how he tried to find roles that let him keep his self-worth as a heavyset actor.
|Oct 04, 2017|
Novelist Tom Perrotta on white privilege, gender identity, and Tracy Flick 20 years later
Tom Perrotta’s books have become one of our most consistently enjoyable dissections of a very specific sort of America — upper-class, wryly comic, and white. Even when his books dig into a world where something very much like the Rapture has happened (as in The Leftovers), they take place long enough after the catastrophic event for things to be reverting to the status quo. That makes him terrific at picking apart the foibles of our modern world, and it’s also made him a frequent target for Hollywood adaptation. His Little Children became an Oscar-nominated film in 2005, while The Leftovers turned into a tremendous HBO series. It’s Election, however, that won him the most fame. A book the author had largely given up hope of seeing published, Election found its way into Hollywood’s hands and became a classic 1999 film that helped propel Reese Witherspoon to stardom and cemented Perrotta as a novelist to watch. Now, nearly 20 years on from Election’s 1998 publication, Perrotta’s latest book, Mrs. Fletcher, tackles lots of meaty topics, from issues of white privilege to gender and sexual identity, from going to college to the ways the internet has changed all of our lives. They’re places many novelists fear to tread, but Perrotta tackles them with his same command of tone and sly sensibility. He joined Todd this week to talk about finding his way into the heads of characters very different from himself, seeing your book turning up on the big screen, and reading some of his most famous books all these years later.
|Sep 27, 2017|
Ken Burns’s name is synonymous with American history. His new film is eerily prescient.
For a large number of people, just seeing the name "Ken Burns" is mark enough of quality. Whether Burns is producing or directing, his long, multi-part documentaries have been PBS mainstays since the 1980s.
His breakthrough film, The Civil War, released in 1990, announced him as one of the best-known, most beloved documentarians in America, and he's since chronicled just about every corner of American history through a variety of lenses, including the much loved projects Baseball, The National Parks, and The War, among others.
Now he and co-director Lynn Novick have launched one of his most massive miniseries yet: The Vietnam War, a new PBS documentary told over 18 hours and 10 parts. Burns and Novick joined me to talk about the incredible scope of their new project, how they pulled it all together, how they managed to get the rights to all that great music from the period, and the eerie similarities between America then and America now.
|Sep 20, 2017|
Nancy Cartwright is a grandmother — who plays the world’s most famous 10-year-old cartoon boy
Even if you're the least pop culture–aware person in the world, you know who Nancy Cartwright is. You just might not know why you know.
In the late '80s, Cartwright, a voice actor, went on an audition for the role of an 8-year-old girl in a series of brief animated shorts that would air in the middle of Fox's sketch comedy The Tracey Ullman Show. She didn't particularly want that part, but she sparked to something in the girl's older brother, a rascal named Bart Simpson. The Simpson family would be spun off into its own show, Cartwright would turn Bart into a world-famous icon, and she's still playing the kid 30 years later.
But Cartwright is more than her most famous part, even on The Simpsons (where she voices a host of the show's other well-known characters). She was the second Chuckie on Rugrats. She was on a bevy of '80s cartoons, including Pound Puppies. And she's had several memorable on-camera roles, even if you wouldn't instantly recognize her in any of them. Now she's both nominated for an Emmy (for the first time!) for her work as Bart and about to premiere her screenwriting debut, the film In Search of Fellini, based on her one-woman show. Cartwright joins Todd to talk being Bart, the technical process of creating a character using only your voice, and why she loves the filmmaker Federico Fellini.
|Sep 13, 2017|
Actress Kellie Martin has been working since she was 7. Listen to this, and you'll love her as much as we do.
If you have been watching TV — like, at all — since the 1990s, you've probably seen (and loved) Kellie Martin in something. After beginning her career as a child in the '80s, she landed the role of Becca on the critically acclaimed family drama Life Goes On, a role that would eventually earn her an Emmy nomination. But her career is far more than that one role. She was part of one of the most terrifying moments in ER history. She worked with Lucille Ball. She was a voice in The Goofy Movie, for goodness sakes. Even as she's moved into adult parts, she's continued to work frequently, in everything from Mad Men to Hallmark movies. And now, she's one part of TBS's new, very broad comedy, The Guest Book. But look, Todd just wanted to talk to Kellie because his 10-year-old, Life Goes On-loving self wouldn't forgive himself if he didn't. They discuss everything from how she managed to keep from falling into the pitfalls that consume so many child actors, to how she balances her work and her many other pursuits, to her long friendship with Life Goes On co-star Patti LuPone. Kellie's a great storyteller — and she has many great stories to tell.
|Sep 06, 2017|
How The Handmaid’s Tale traveled from page to screen, explained by showrunner Bruce Miller
Few of 2017's new TV shows have hit with the impact of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, which went from "they're making a TV show out of _that_" territory to 13 Emmy nominations (including Drama Series) in what seemed like record time. Taken from the book by Margaret Atwood, the series depicts a dystopian society, built from the ruins of the United States, where women have no legal rights and where fertile women (also known as "handmaids") are held as slaves by powerful men and ritually raped once a month with the purpose of conceiving a child. The show's reality seemed, for many viewers, to eerily dovetail with actual reality in the wake of the election of a president who boasted about committing sexual assault and still was voted into office. But The Handmaid's Tale would have been excellent regardless of who was in office. The series is beautifully directed, hauntingly performed, and terrifically written. The show's writers room is headed up by longtime TV hand Bruce Miller, and he joins Todd to talk about the series' journey from page to screen, figuring out a way to tell such an elementally feminist story when he's a man, and working with Elisabeth Moss and Margaret Atwood. Note: This week's episode was recorded in Miller's office, and there are some stray traffic noises.
|Aug 30, 2017|
Actress Ann Dowd on how she builds her twisted, darkly iconic characters on The Handmaid's Tale and The Leftovers.
After more than 20 years building her stage and screen resume, Ann Dowd has become a star thanks to her roles as Patti Levin on The Leftovers and the menacing yet maternal Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale. Her characters are a product of the fractured worlds around them, but she manages to imbue them with depth and dimensionality that suggests their tragic origins. They’re villains, but ones who feel just as human as the protagonists they play against.
With season two of The Handmaid’s Tale confirmed and a host of other projects in the works, Dowd now finds herself one of the most in-demand character actresses on television. She speaks with Todd about her theater roots, what it was like to be filming the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale while Donald Trump rose to prominence, and how having children later in her career has given her valuable perspective and balance.
|Aug 23, 2017|
How beloved book The Glass Castle became a movie.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton made 2013's Short Term 12, one of Todd's favorite movies of the 2010s. For his follow-up film, he reteamed with that film's star, Brie Larson, and adapted the beloved memoir The Glass Castle.
The film follows the story of journalist Jeanette Walls, whose childhood years were spent living in extreme poverty, thanks to parents who went way, way off the grid, checking on her at many points throughout her life (including her young adulthood, when she tried to put her past behind her). It's a movie that displays Cretton's tremendous gift with actors, and his ability to tell heartwarming stories in a way that remains, nevertheless, clear-eyed and honest about how hard life can be.
But the book was more than an assignment for Cretton, who grew up in rural Hawaii and loves stories about people bumping up against their own vulnerability. He joined Todd to talk about his ties to the book, the best surfing in Southern California, and what's next for his young career.
|Aug 16, 2017|
How PBS is navigating an especially hostile political era.
By many standards, PBS has had a pretty great 2010s. Downton Abbey was its biggest hit since The Civil War (which aired way back in 1990), Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election (and thus could never follow through on his threats against the broadcaster), and the network has gone from the 15th most watched to the 6th.
But all of that fails to account for a budget released by the Trump administration that would cut the federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting completely. The budget hasn't become the law of the land yet -- and even if it seems like it might, PBS has plenty of friends in Congress -- but it's still the most embattled the network has been in many, many years.
That's why Todd was so happy to have PBS's president and CEO, Paula Kerger, on the program to talk about what happens if the government stops funding PBS, how the network tries to serve everybody from digital streamers to rural antenna users, and just what it's like working with the famously prolific Ken Burns. Warning: This episode was recorded in a hotel and has some minor background noise in a few places.
|Aug 09, 2017|
How one small town recovered from being gutted by the Great Recession — and how it didn’t.
Janesville, Wisconsin, was one of the towns hardest hit by the economic collapse of the late 2000s. When the local GM plant closed, thousands of jobs that supported the entire city evaporated, leaving residents struggling to stay above water. That’s where journalist Amy Goldstein began following their story. The Washington Post reporter started profiling various residents of the town, following them over the course of several years as their fortunes shifted and changed, and as one Janesville split into two Janesvilles — one that recovered from the recession and one that didn’t. Amy joins Todd to talk about why it’s still so hard to look at the effects of the recession, how she reported a massive story over a massive period of time, and why it’s important to tell big stories like this through the lens of individual human beings.
|Aug 02, 2017|
Michaela Watkins on audition rituals, her worst college party, and playing a “coastal elite”
What Michaela Watkins does in Casual, Hulu's dramedy about self-involved Los Angelenos, is low-key remarkable. Her character, Valerie, is outwardly pulled together and the smartest woman in the room. But inwardly, she's falling apart, constantly dragged down in spirals of her own narcissism and self doubt. Watkins's trick is that she makes this both relatable and weirdly sympathetic. You can hate Valerie -- and many devoted Casual viewers do -- but you can never quite escape all the ways she's just like you. That means Michaela and Todd had a lot to talk about when it comes to her acting technique, but also what it means to make a show about such rich, privileged people in a world where those monikers increasingly sound like epithets.
|Jul 26, 2017|
How did a sheet with eyeholes come to be the symbol for a ghost? Director David Lowery explains.
A Ghost Story is that most unusual thing -- a tiny movie that seems to encompass the entire universe. Made for a modest budget, the movie shows what happens to a young couple when the husband dies. It starts as a standard romance -- then somehow comes to skip across all of space and time. Director David Lowery (who also made the Pete's Dragon remake) joins Todd to talk about the movie's genesis, why we think of ghosts as sheets with eyeholes, and how he bounces between big Hollywood and smaller indies.
|Jul 19, 2017|
Errol Morris, one of the best interviewers ever, on true crime and the art of the documentary.
Academy-Award winning documentarian Errol Morris is one of Todd's favorite filmmakers ever, not to mention a world-class investigator and interviewer who's managed everything from getting Robert McNamara to admit he could have easily been branded a war criminal to getting an innocent man freed from death row. He joins Todd to talk about his new movie, his love of photography, and the true-crime boom he kinda kicked off.
|Jul 12, 2017|
Tired of boring blockbusters? Our critics pick the best summer movies of the 2000s.
It's a special edition of I Think You're Interesting as Todd is joined by David Sims of The Atlantic and Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed to pick the top summer movies of the 2000s. Each critic picks their five favorites, and then the arguing begins.
|Jul 05, 2017|
Comedian Maz Jobrani on making people laugh in a deeply divided America
Maz Jobrani comes by his love of political humor honestly. He studied political science in graduate school, before deciding to pursue his dreams of comedy instead. This week, Maz joins Todd to talk about figuring out how to make Trump supporters laugh as a liberal comedian, learning to own his political interests on stage, and avoiding typecasting as a Persian-American taking acting roles.
|Jun 28, 2017|
Alan Sepinwall, on why he doesn’t like the Netflix model of full-season stories
Alan Sepinwall's blog What's Alan Watching launched in 2005, when he was working as a TV critic at Newark newspaper The Star-Ledger. The site would take the TV episode recap, something popularized on sites like Television Without Pity, and turn it into a place for almost instant analysis of readers' favorite shows. He's since moved on to Hitfix and Uproxx and has written two books, each on some of the greatest shows ever made. He joins Todd to talk about why he favors strong episodes to full seasons, the biggest changes to TV criticism over the years, and the greatest TV series ever made.
|Jun 21, 2017|
Fear the Walking Dead's cast on shooting in Mexico in the era of Trump
No matter your thoughts on Fear the Walking Dead, the zombie show spinoff now entering its third season on AMC, it's hard to argue with the show's cast, which is filled with great actors from top to bottom. Recently, three of those actors -- Kim Dickens, Colman Domingo, and Frank Dillane -- joined Todd to talk about whether they prefer playing zombie fights or big conversations, shooting the series in Mexico, and what they've learned over three years on one of the biggest shows on TV.
|Jun 14, 2017|
ITYI EP. 15 Damon Lindelof
The first TV show Damon Lindelof co-created was Lost, ABC's seismic, game-changing series about mysterious islands and the plane crash survivors who love them. Hence, his 2014 follow-up series, HBO's The Leftovers, was hotly anticipated. What TV fans got was at once a more mature work and perhaps an even stranger one, set in world where 2 percent of the population has disappeared and seemingly everybody left behind is losing their minds. In the wake of The Leftovers' series finale, Damon joins Todd to talk about both of his series, plus the shows that inspired him, what he thinks of the new Twin Peaks, and the Leftovers episodes he would have written if he'd had a few more Leftovers episodes.
|Jun 07, 2017|
ITYI EP. 14 The Americans showrunners
Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have spent five years at the helm of The Americans, the '80s-set spy series which many (Todd included) would call TV's best drama. And somewhat fittingly for a show about an arranged marriage made for business purposes, the two were pushed together in the early days of the show, when Weisberg (the show's creator) needed a steady hand to help him learn the ropes of running a big TV show. Usually, these sorts of creative marriages collapse quickly, but Weisberg and Fields have thrived. Todd talks with them about learning to work together, the rise of Russia in the headlines, and the show's most recent (and next-to-last) season.
|May 31, 2017|
ITYI EP. 13 Alan Yang
Alan Yang's series, Master of None, might be the best TV show of 2017. Yang, who co-created the series with its star, Aziz Ansari, also worked on all seven seasons of the beloved NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation, as well as the first season of The Good Place. But the free-wheeling, deeply empathetic Master of None is where he's had greatest opportunity to shine. He joins Todd to talk about the second season, why he loves New York after growing up in California, and what that final shot means.
|May 24, 2017|
ITYI EP. 12 Ane Crabtree
Ane Crabtree has worked on so many of TV's best shows -- Rectify, Masters of Sex, Westworld, and Hulu's new The Handmaid's Tale to name just a few. And though you've seen her work every week on those shows, you might not have known it. She's the costume designer, responsible for bringing these wildly different worlds -- stretched across time and space (and sometimes reality itself) -- to life entirely via their clothes. In this week's episode, Todd and Ane talk about designing those haunting Handmaid's cloaks, Ane's rural upbringing, and what clothes can say about a character.
|May 17, 2017|
ITYI EP. 11 Chris Parnell
Chris Parnell's long comedy career has taken him through a surprising number of venerable comedy institutions. He started out in the improv troupe The Groundlings. He was a major player on Saturday Night Live for years, appearing in some of the show's best sketches. And after SNL, he played the batty Dr. Spaceman on 30 Rock, as well as appearing in almost every other one of your favorite 21st century sitcoms. At present, he's a major part of the voice casts for FXX's Archer and adult swim's Rick and Morty. He joins Todd to talk about why great comedy requires great acting, working with his friends who've become megastars, and why he's glad he didn't get that part in Homeland.
|May 10, 2017|
ITYI EP. 10 Ezra Klein
Ezra Klein isn't just the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Vox (the site that produces this podcast, in case you were unaware). He's a major fan of superhero comics and the films based on them. For this week's episode, Todd sat down with his boss to discuss why he loves comics, how he avoids Twitter, and what he got wrong when he started Vox three years ago.
|May 03, 2017|
ITYI EP. 9 Full Frontal
Since it debuted in early 2016, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee has become one of the most vital voices in late-night television. The show's trenchant but hilarious dissection of an America merrily flying off the rails has proved to be a proud heir to the legacy of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Todd talks with Ashley Nicole Black, Allana Harkin, and Mike Rubens, three of the show's correspondents, about redoing the show in the wake of the election, interviewing Trump supporters, and whether they're part of the liberal bubble.
|Apr 26, 2017|
ITYI EP. 8 Richard Kelly
Richard Kelly's first feature film, Donnie Darko, was nearly lost to the ages when it debuted in October 2001. The Patriot Act had just been passed, and it was not a time when the American moviegoing public was ready to watch a film that featured plane engines falling from the sky. But over the next several years, the movie went on to become perhaps the definitive cult film of its era. Kelly's follow-up films, Southland Tales and The Box, struggled to achieve the same level of cult success (though both have their fans), but he's a fascinating, distinctive filmmaker. He joined Todd to talk about the 15th anniversary of Donnie Darko, his other films, and why he loves musical sequences so much.
|Apr 19, 2017|
ITYI EP. 7 Phil LaMarr
Phil LaMarr is one of the entertainment industry's premier voice actors, having worked on an intimidatingly large number of projects over his career. But he's perhaps best known for two roles: Hermes on Futurama and Jack on Samurai Jack. After a lengthy hiatus (the last original episode aired in 2004), LaMarr returned as Jack in the series' newest season, which is currently running Saturdays on adult swim. Phil joins Todd to talk about how to play a character who's aged mentally but not physically, how he approaches playing incredibly famous roles, and the importance of diverse voice actors behind the microphone.
|Apr 12, 2017|
ITYI EP 6. Rhea Seehorn
When it debuted, Better Call Saul, AMC's Breaking Bad prequel about the early years of unscrupulous lawyer Saul Goodman, drew most of its attention for its ties to its parent series, one of the greatest TV dramas of all time. But over its first two years and now in its third, Better Call Saul has carved out its own space as a weird, funky hybrid of legal dramedy and dark crime tale. Lots of its success is thanks to this week's guest, Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim, a woman who dragged herself up by her bootstraps to a thriving legal career -- only to have said career intersect with those who might tear it all down. Rhea was known mostly for comedic roles prior to Saul, and she joins Todd this week to talk about playing Kim, why she thinks Saul Goodman might be a good person, and all the great TV pilots she made that you'll never get to see.
|Apr 05, 2017|
ITYI Ep. 5 Ceyda Torun
Ceyda Torun's film Kedi is Todd's favorite of 2017 so far. It's a charming but surprisingly weighty documentary following the lives of several Istanbul cats -- some from the streets and others with more comfortable lives. (One even lives near a fish merchant, which seems like a good kitty life.) It's both a movie about cats and a movie about its city, and that made talking to Ceyda a must. She told Todd about why cats are better actors than you'd expect, what makes Istanbul one of her favorite cities, and how she captured all those "cat's eye view" shots.
|Mar 29, 2017|
ITYI EP. 4 Dave Malloy
The career of Broadway composer Dave Malloy can sometimes seem like a series of escalating dares. His works take on everything from the life of Rasputin to the pieces of classical musician Franz Schubert. But by far his biggest hit has been Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 -- a musical adaptation of a small slice of War and Peace, with many of the lyrics taken directly from Leo Tolstoy's novel. It's tremendous theater, invigorating fun, and finally on Broadway. Dave and Todd talk about adapting great literature, his musical background, and his next big dare: a musical of Moby Dick.
|Mar 22, 2017|
ITYI EP. 3 Laura Zak and Kate Fisher
How do you make a great web series, if you don't have the backing of a major corporation? That's a question the creators and producers of Her Story, a YouTube-based series about the lives of a diverse community of trans and queer women in Los Angeles, seem to have asked and answered. They were the first ever independently produced series to be nominated for an Emmy. Co-creator, star, and producer Laura Zak and producer Kate Fisher joined Todd to talk about making great independent TV, bringing voice to groups who haven't always been represented on TV, and going to the Emmys as a tiny YouTube show, up against giants.
|Mar 15, 2017|
ITYI EP 2. Desmin Borges
Desmin Borges is a vital part of what makes "You're the Worst," one of TV's most exciting comedies, so very good. The FXX series deals with serious topics in darkly amusing ways, and that includes Borges's character, Edgar, a veteran who suffers from PTSD and is trying to struggle through it without much support from his friends. Borges joined me to talk about his research into PTSD, the moment that made him realize he wanted to be a performer, and his secret dining nirvana in Los Angeles.
|Mar 08, 2017|
ITYI EP.1 Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy is one of the most influential TV producers in the history of the medium. He's won Emmys for series like Glee and The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and with American Horror Story, he invented the now ubiquitous anthological miniseries -- where each season of a TV show tells a different story with a different cast. But he's also increasingly one of the most powerful people in the television industry pushing for better diversity and representation behind the camera. In this episode, Todd and Ryan talk about breaking into show business, working in Hollywood as a gay man in the 1990s, his diversity initiative, and the stories behind his newest series, the upcoming FX drama Feud.
|Mar 01, 2017|