Respected comedy director Rebecca Asher talks to Awards Daily TV about “The Floor” episode of Netflix’s hit Grace and Frankie.
Director Rebecca Asher knows her way around comedy. Asher’s comedy repertoire includes behind the camera stints on such comedy classics as Arrested Development, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, black-ish, and most recently, Trial & Error. Her directorial work on Netflix’s hit streaming series Grace and Frankie, though, features some of her best work to date. In “The Floor,” the titular duo throw out their backs early in the episode and spend the entire half hour on the floor. Critics praised Rebecca Asher’s directorial choices as helping elevate a simple plot.
Here, Rebecca Asher talks to Awards Daily TV about “The Floor” and the other episodes she directed for Grace and Frankie Season 3.
You directed four episodes this season, but let’s look at “The Floor.” Talk about how you carried out having the cast on the floor for filming?
From the moment I read it, the first thing I thought was we were going to need a camera up high that’s for sure. Working out the blocking was interesting. I knew that going in, the beginning of Scene 3 when they’re both on the ground and Grace says, “What the hell happened?” I saw that on a high and wide frame because that shows how helpless and alone they are in that moment. It’s also pretty funny.
It was important to everybody to make it as realistic as possible. The great thing about this show is that you are dealing with real issues about aging, and you want to stay true to that and have it be funny and not worry about them too much. It was an interesting balance to strike. I spent a lot of time crawling around and blocking it myself.
We brought in Brian Avery who’s a stunt guy because that scene required heavy padding for them. He came in, and I worked it through with him. We carved out 30 minutes with Jane and Lily walking them through the blocking. They did it to make sure it felt real and funny, and then we did it.
It’s a lot of shooting. We added a few more angles and that was it.
I was on set last year when you were talking about the space. How did that work for you?
Thankfully, we have Jerry Deats who is the key grip. His dad created something called the stage crane, and it’s huge. The great thing about it is the body of the set. It’s built to go over the walls of the set so you don’t have to worry about moving furniture so you can put the crane in to fit. Logistically, that was helpful.
Jerry also made a broom handle so the camera could be low enough so we could pull it as Jane is crawling. It took some time to shoot. We had one long day to get the crane stuff right. Lily and Jane are such badasses, and they work so hard. What you don’t have is the challenge in that way because they’re game and amazing and prepared and smart and they are smart.
Luke Miller who lights everything had challenges because it’s not every day you light the actors on their hands and knees.
What was that like for you directing Jane and Lily and telling them you needed them on the floor?
They were so game. They had such a good time. They love each other, and they love what they are doing. There is no challenge that you can put in front of them that makes them flinch. It’s never about “I can only be on the floor for ten minutes.” They’re so collaborative and it makes that part of it really easy.
I really loved the ending of the season with the hot air balloon.
She’s telling her to go with the person she loves, and they did a great job of it.
What’s the experience been like for you?
It’s been wonderful. Marta is as collaborative as the rest of the cast. In many ways, I feel that I’ve found my people because they’re all so smart. Everybody works so hard, and they know how important it is to have this show about an age group that is otherwise not seen very much on television. They like you to come with other ideas and don’t fear them. It’s completely refreshing to work with a great bunch of women.
I love the story this season where we had the musical episode. I loved that we learned about the backstories of the children. That’s always a delight to see that, especially now that we are in Season 3.
I love those characters. You feel like they grew up together and they are siblings. It gives you a sense of what have done.
How has working on the show helped you to grow as a director?
I would have to say when you see pros like this… I can’t stop fawning over them… When you see people who have been doing it so long and are so good at it, it is just my number one priority to work as hard as I possibly can on behalf of them. I’m so inspired by them to be better.
Jane and Lily are not just producers in name. You’ll be waiting for a lighting setup, and you’ll be hearing the dailies from the day before playing in the other room because Jane watches them. Jane will say in a refreshing way if she sees something that she likes or something she’s concerned about. I love that she is absolutely in the process 100 percent. I swear she never stops. She’s either shooting this show, learning her lines, or she’s marching in a political rally. She’s inspiring.
They all are truly as amazing and as inspiring.
That’s amazing to hear. What do you think is the main appeal of the show to the younger people?
I haven’t really spoken to people to find out. I should. I think in some way the show allows for them to see in themselves a future for themselves beyond where people say you have a future. They have a long life ahead of them, and here are examples of men and women in their 70’s who are living their lives 100 percent. I wonder if it strikes that kind of chord.
It’s a good character piece too. It’s about relationships and these people happen to be older. When you see chemistry like that, it makes you want to watch it.
Do you have a favorite scene?
Hmm. I love that scene we were talking about earlier where Grace tells Frankie that she has to go and all those quirky things they’ll miss about each other. The stuff on the floor was great fun to do because they did a great job.
I loved “The Sign” episode.
Oh my gosh! Yes! I loved the scene where Jane is trying to negotiate with Nick and Lily keeps interjecting. That was a great moment, and Lily gets up on the table. She is so funny and so great in that scene. There are so many scenes that I could mention.
Grace and Frankie Season 3 currently streams on Netflix.