Mark Worthington

Emmy-nominated production designer Mark Worthington’s American Horror Story swan song is an art deco nightmare dream come true.

American Horror Story: Hotel‘s Hotel Cortez as realized by Emmy-nominated production designer Mark Worthington is more than just an art deco fantasia.

Mark Worthington

It’s a physical manifestation of the many moods, periods, and ghosts within its walls. It’s also something of a human Roach Motel: people check in, but they don’t check out. Relatively hidden within the splendor, though, is an elaborate nod to the hotel’s Spanish namesake, the conquistador Hernán Cortés. He makes an appearance in the hotel’s elevator on an ironwork design of Cortés’s arrival in the New World. A sun rises and sets behind his head, depending on your vantage point. Brilliant gold rays emit from the sun and stream across the lobby, later transforming into moonbeams. Over a glass bar, the moonbeams resolve into a moon over the head of La Malinche, Cortés South American native translator and consort.

None of that detail appeared in the script. Those choices represent the contributions of Mark Worthington’s Emmy-worthy design. And it’s an entirely bad ass design choice.

“My time on American Horror Story has provided me with literally what would otherwise be a career’s worth of production design. Many people are not fortunate enough to not have that level of variety within their whole career, much less inside of one show,” Worthington said. “It is unusual and very exciting to work on a show like that for that reason alone… There’s a DNA to the show that I think is very demonstrable and recognizable. You go from doing an old, beautiful haunted house in L.A. then to this 1960s mental asylum then to New Orleans in the Garden district in an Antebellum mansion to a circus.”

A bloody great career in Ryan Murphy’s Horror

Ironically, Mark Worthington wasn’t the first American Horror Story production designer.

Oscar-nominee Beth Rubino (The Cider House RulesAmerican Gangster) provided the original design for the famed Season 1’s Murder House, but scheduling conflicts prevented Rubino’s further involvement in the series. At the same time, Worthington’s continuing work on the Once Upon a Time pilot proved challenging  given Vancouver’s higher cost of living expenses.

Enter Ryan Murphy.

After a brief audition process, Murphy and Worthington immediately gravitated toward each other. Worthington appreciates Murphy’s creative process, starting without a script but with very strong kernels of the story and character notions. Over time, Murphy and Worthington worked together to hone those ideas through research, sketches, and lots of conversation.

“He has a kind of notion of central space, a central visual idea. Usually, it’s in the form of a space or a building,” Worthington said. “So you’re starting with that iconic anchor to the whole thing. He sees those sets as characters themselves, but you’re starting with that strength of an idea and passion for it.”

Worthington also admired Murphy’s autonomy over the final product. Studio heads didn’t bring notes or helpful suggestions for the series’s direction. It was just Ryan and Mark, working out the look and feel of the horror.

“In every other show I’ve ever done, there were ‘tone meetings’ where you show things to the executives. I’ve never had to do that on Horror Story… The creative center of the show is where it should be. There’s no meddling,” Worthington said.

Mark Worthington
(Photo: Ellen J. Brill/FX)

Designing the Hotel Cortez

The primary design concept for the Hotel Cortez is deeply rooted in art deco. Worthington absorbed as much art deco inspiration as he could, looking to examples from San Francisco to France to the Chrysler Building to the Empire State Building. Art deco thematically heralds scientific progress, modernity, and opulence. Its sharp angles and cold resonance feel perfectly suited for Hotel‘s ghastly, tormented inhabitants.

But the Hotel Cortez ultimately becomes more than its infamous and extravagant lobby. Each space of the hotel personifies the characters that inhabit it.

Take the hotel’s fictitious architect, Mr. March (Evan Peters). His space combines what Worthington calls a “fussy, meticulous” aesthetic with his more hardcore, steely, and torturous side. It’s a combination that echoes the popular Steampunk design movement. Those design elements wildly differ from those that represent Hypodermic Sally (Emmy-nominee Sarah Paulson), a “great, sprawling mess” of a character according to Worthington. Her design elements offered a softer touch to convey the broad, eclectic sense of her character.

“There were touches of Stevie Nicks in her character. Not obvious, deliberate ones,” Worthington said. “But it’s the music that she might listen to, the cultural, or pop influences she might have listened to when she died.”

Worthington also works directly with actors to develop the space in which they create their performance. One design goal, among many, is to take feedback and try and incorporate the interpretations of their characters into the design. He doesn’t shut himself off from inspiration whether from actors or real-world examples of art.

“The ideas can come from anywhere. The idea is to be open when they do arrive, so you’re not precluding things based on your own biases,” Worthington said.

Mark Worthington
(Photo: Ellen J. Brill/FX)

Lucky number seven?

American Horror Story: Hotel marks Mark Worthington’s seventh Emmy nomination. ABC’s Ugly Betty account for two and the rest hail from the AHS series. Shockingly, he has yet to win for his memorable designs. Not for the haunting and cavernous interiors of Asylum. Not for the brilliant Antebellum designs of Coven. Perhaps Hotel‘s exciting opulence will be lucky number seven.

“This one was very special because of the reaction. People were so bowled over by it, especially when they came to see it in person,” Worthington said. “I try to create 360 degree environments as much as possible. I want the actors to feel when they walk on a set that they’re in a space that’s complete. You feel in a way that you’re helping them do their job in creating the character. That set, you really did feel like you’re in an actual hotel.”

Aside from potential Emmy glory, Worthington is now working on CBS’s upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. He ceded production design duties on American Horror Story‘s sixth season in search of something different. Chances are, it’ll be a while yet before Murphy’s horror anthology series hits deep space.

Until then, Worthington has a date at L.A. LIVE’s Microsoft Theater for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. He’s been there before, but the experience never gets old. The competition, though, remains incredibly stiff. Much like the above-the-line acting and series categories, the crafts categories are filled with the best examples of what television offers today. Worthington’s Hotel designs will compete against those from House of CardsPenny DreadfulThe Man in the High Castle, and a little plucky Emmy upstart.

“We’re up against Game of Thrones, and we all know what the outcome’s going to be there,” Worthington laughs.

Maybe, but does Game of Thrones have venus flytraps? Did I mention that the columns in the Cortez’s lobby are topped with venus flytraps?

Mark Worthington’s fantastic little design Easter egg is worth an Emmy all on its own.

Courtney B. Vance

Although Sarah Paulson has gathered the lioness’ share of the plaudits for her performance in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, the show is renowned for the amount of acting talent on display. Playing Johnnie Cochran, lead defense counsel for O.J. Simpson, Courtney B. Vance also stands-out and currently favors to win a Best Actor in a Limited Series at the 2016 Emmys. I spoke to Courtney while he was spending time in Africa what preparations he made for such a role, what he made of the success, and what in his acting background prepared him for this role.

Courtney B. Vance
(Photo: Ray Mickshaw / FX)

At AwardsDaily TV we all published our favorite TV shows for the year, and the show [The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story] is my number one show for the year. And I mean that. So to get to talk to you is an honor. 

Thank you.

How did you head towards the field of acting as you were growing up? Was it something you wanted to do? How did you get there? 

No, I knew nothing abut acting. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I was raised by parents who valued education. My mother was a librarian, and my father was a manager in a supermarket. So both my older sister and I were raised to value education. We basically grew up in a library. It was a local library branch near the house.

At what moment in your career did you think “Ah this is where I wanted to be, this is what I was striving for.” Was there a point like that? 

There probably was. At every stage I knew nothing about acting. I just knew as a student I would figure it all out. I knew that I wanted to start theater with each show I’ll meet different people, and I’ll figure out what to do. Of course after my second show I had so much fun. After a year at Harvard, I didn’t think of it as a career, so I was playing catch-up at that point. After I got into it I wanted to go to Canada. There was a big art scene over there at the time. I had a Plan B, which was to work a steady job, and get enough money for the summer so I could do workshops like the Shakespeare company and got into it that way.

What’s it like being married to Tina Turner? How did you meet Angela Bassett? 

Ah, Tina Turner. [Laughs] We met at drama school, she was finishing up, and I was coming up to the drama school in April to try and figure out a way to pay for it after I had got accepted. After I finished talking to the finance estate officer, two students were in charge of taking me out and showing me the area, and Angela was one of those students. I met Angela. We talked about the school, read manuscripts, and we kept coming into the same circles.

So let’s talk about the show The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Has anyone ever bought you gloves that didn’t fit? 

[Laughs] No, they haven’t.

How much did you watch of the O.J. Simpson trial? Did you follow the whole thing? 

No, I followed nothing. I was a big O.J. Simpson fan. I was in shock. Back then I was shooting Mario van Peebles’ Panther, so we were there up there doing that. Everyone was very excited about that. We all gathered in the lobby of the hotel watching a game, and all of a sudden the O.J. Simpson thing came on, and everyone was like “Oh, what is this?” It was the shock, and I couldn’t watch it when they put it on the television. I knew nothing about the trial.

Exactly how did you get the part of Johnnie Cochran? 

My manager and I were at my wife’s premier for American Horror Story, and we came out to the reception area and my manger saw the writers and producers. I had not heard about the O.J. project. It was a very cordial conversation at first. They said they’d put me in their minds, and when I actually met with Ryan [Murphy, producer] and Brad [Falchuck, producer]. We decided we were right for each other.

What was your interpretation based on for Johnnie Cochran since we only have the courtroom footage of him? How did you develop a sense of the real man? 

You know, Robin, because I didn’t watch the trial or follow the trial I was a little intimidated by the whole process.  I said to myself I felt I was not going to watch the tapes or watch all kinds off footage. I felt I would be imitating it if I watched this. I did what I needed to do to tune into him, so jumped right in. We knew we would be flying with ten episodes. We knew we would have a great time but didn’t know there would be four or five cameras on me. I didn’t have chance to read a lot of what happened, then I saw myself in the mirror, and I looked like him. I was going to make my choices in this film. I am me, I am not him – the people are great, the stories are great, the scripts are great, it was right on the money.

The scene were the cops pull Cochran over in a white neighborhood – have you ever personally experienced anything like that? 

Yes, I did. It happened to me in front of my own house. My children were with me at the time. I thought I heard something, so tried to look outside the door and when I opened the door there were five police officers. They were like “Come on out. Get on your knees.” I had watched Law & Order, and all those sort of shows. I mean, we were talking midnight in all white neighborhood. I came out, got on my knees. One officer saw it was me, and they were like “Oh boy, I am so sorry Mr Vance.” It was very humbling. I was just glad my children did not wake up and see me on my knees.

Wow. So Ryan Murphy is white. Most of the screenwriters were white. Did you have any reservations about this story that is crucial to the American black experience handled by white guys? 

No. John Singleton directed one of the episodes. One of the other writers is black. The stories were very, very well, thought out, and well documented. It was more about a story well told.

It was. What do you make of the amazing reception from critics and audiences for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story? Everyone usually talks about the Drama category with the Emmys, but people are talking about the Limited Series this year. 

I think we were all shocked. The furthest thing from my mind, that everyone would praise it. You know, maybe a few, we really didn’t know. We had lived through it at a certain age, and those that were young at the time, this was a new experience for them. We just wanted to make the best project we could, and we put our money were our mouths were. It was getting the best cast, best directors, best crew, best sets and locations, to make sure we have the money to get it exact. There’s like five or six lawyers scrutinizing every line, making sure everything was accurate. After that we had the marketing. People would say that they don’t want to wait to see things, they binge watch – but this was so good according to the public, people would wait for it, and watch it week by week. Talking about it by the water-coolers, all these wonderful conversations and dialogue, people talking about the issues, the white, the black. It really made a difference.

The history part was accurate, but it was a really good drama in its own right, almost like watching fiction. It was that good. You could forget this actually happened. 

That’s true, that’s true. That is how I like to see it. That’s how good it was, could have been a fiction story. Younger folks watching who didn’t know anything about it were like “This really happened?” or “You could not write this.” This really happened: a perfect storm of celebrities, race, family, sports heroes, marketing, the corporate world, the police. All involved in this story. It was all in there: this man, and the way he was from USC [University of Southern California] to Brentwood. In this bubble, the hero, the police loved him, white people loved him. With this case everything started to get real. This was the case will be talking about for years and years and years afterwards.

Did you get to keep any of those suits? Did you get to take them home? 

No, it was the eighties, nineties. I didn’t really ask. What I really wanted to do was keep the wig.


Congratulations on the show, and the reception. And good luck with the Emmys and really to everyone who is nominated.

Thank you so much.

One of six Emmy-nominated actors from The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Courtney B. Vance is in the running for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

Lou Diamond Phillips

Lou Diamond Phillips talks about his first Emmy nomination for Crossroads of History and about working in comedy

Since his breakout role as Richie Valens in La Bamba, it’s been fascinating to watch as Lou Diamond Phillips has pivoted his career to diverse roles both in television and film. In July, Phillips received his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in Short Form Comedy or Drama Series for his role as Chieftain on The History Channel’s Crossroads of History. The honor matches his Tony nomination on Broadway for his role in The King and I. Not only is it his first Emmy nomination, but the category is also new to the Emmys. Crossroads of History is a show you need to be watching. It retells unknown yet factually correct moments in history with liberal doses comedy with Phillips appearing in the Columbus episode. I caught up with Phillips to discuss his first Emmy nomination, what’s in store for Longmire, and how he’s going to be singing on Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Well congratulations. This was your first Emmy nomination.

Yes indeed. I have to say it’s so out of left field. For me to be nominated in comedy is a bit of a head scratcher. I’m known mostly for drama, and I’m quite proud of the dramatic roles I’ve had. Longmire is going into its fifth season. I go for a day to do Crossroads of History, just to have fun, and the next thing I know I’m getting nominated for an Emmy for it. It was a surprise all around.

Are we going to be seeing you in more comedy now?

I certainly hope so. The funny thing is I’m very proud of the comedies that I have done. The Big Hit is a cult favorite. Disorganized Crime is an underseen Disney comedy way back in the day, and it certainly has its fans. I don’t look like a guy you cast in comedies, the bulk of my work wouldn’t speak to it necessarily. I love the fact that this nomination helps expand a preconception about me and open the door to do more comedy because I really do love it.

I cut my teeth in comedy, it was actually my first professional paying gig even if it was seven bucks. I did sketch comedy at this punk club back in 1980 in Fort Worth, Texas. That grew into what became known as the Front Room company at Stage West where we would do the classics such as Hamlet or Dr. Faustus at 8:00pm, and at midnight, we’d turn around and do these very raunchy sketches called The Zero Hour. Even then, I was pushing the boundaries of what my wheelhouse was.

How did you even get involved in Crossroads?

They called. I don’t even know if Elizabeth Shapiro had seen any of my work before. There were comedy shorts, and YouTube videos. There are a handful of people in Los Angeles who know that I’m funny. Not so long ago, I did Another Period with Natasha Leggero. That was a lot of fun, so maybe they caught that and thought I was perfect for this vignette about Columbus. You never know what work of yours is going to be seen when it goes out there.

I tell young acting students this, that you really need to do every job, no matter what it is, to the best of your ability and bring your A game every single time because in this day and age everything you do is out there for consumption. I 100 percent ended up doing The Night Stalker because Megan Griffiths met me at an awards ceremony where I won Best Supporting Actor for Filly Brown that introduced Gina Rodriguez.

Now, here you are nominated for the first time, in comedy, in a brand new category.

I have no expectations because this was such a surprise and I’m enjoying the ride.

Are you a historian?

I am. I was boringly good when I was in high school. History yes. I was literature minor and drama major in college. I most definitely am of the mind that we need to learn from history otherwise we are destined to make the same mistakes. A lot of the fiction I’ve been doing lately, I’m wading through Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. I should say I’ve returned to my activist days where I espoused a lot of Native American values. I feel I need to be up on the history.

One of the things I love about Crossroads of History is that Elizabeth Shapiro came up with this brilliant idea that there were these pivotal moments that actually happened. She takes this satirical lighthearted view of them, but the truth of the matter is there’s a lot to be learned here. Had things gone a different way then maybe history would have played out differently. I loved the fact that Hitler got rejected from art school.

What would have happened if he hadn’t?

I loved 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Trying to go back to prevent Kennedy from being assassinated. You can’t change history, but you can examine it.

I read Buried My Heart At Wounded Knee. It’s a wonderful documentation and a great read. Have you read it?

I haven’t. It’s my first time. Some people like to call it revisionist history. We’re not revising the history. We’re revising the perception of it, and that’s very important because as they say, history is written by the victors. The written history will skew a certain way, but when you examine the facts and look at things from a different perspective, say perhaps a more informed and open-minded perspective, then you get a better idea of what the big picture was. We owe it to ourselves and the generations to follow. Even though Crossroads of History is a very funny and light-hearted look at history, it’s got cogent and valid points.

It was so cleverly done. It reminded me of Monty Python.

Absolutely. The beauty of it. It’s not broad. We were told to approach it as if it were a drama. [Laughs] The truth of the matter is the writing was so fantastic, all we had to do was commit to the voracity of the lines, and it comes out hilarious.

What were you doing the morning the nominations came out?

I was working. I was doing a cameo in an Independent film in Loca. Danay Garcia is the lead, and she is about to make her debut on Fear the Walking Dead. A few of my buddies are in it too, Emilio Rivera, Cuete Yeska both were in Filly Brown appear with me. It’s a gritty and tough look at Mexican cartels. There I am with my hair slicked back and an orange jump suit. You know what people expect from me these days, and I got the phone call. It was a bit of a shock and a bit out of context for what I was doing that day.

You’re so busy these days, I can’t keep up, but it’s a good thing.

I have to say, a lot of these challenges being put in front of me now are some of the most exciting of my career. I feel I’m playing these roles that have depth and texture. I’m playing guys who have lived a bit and have history. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m also keeping my eyes open for things that continue to expand the resume.

Longmire has quite a following. It’s doing really well.

The fifth season starts on September 23 on Netflix. My character really benefitted from the move. We add 20 minutes, and you get a full episode on that network. On A&E we had 42 minutes, and sadly it was my character. A lot of my stuff ended up on the floor. We’ve seen the difference with Season 4, and we’ll see it with Season 5 where Henry gets his own backstory and the audience is treated to an insight into his character.

Which is great because we get to learn his backstory finally. The fans will love that.

Absolutely. We get a lot of his emotional life and what’s going on with him, and a few outstanding threads that need to be resolved. He had gone down this perhaps dangerous and slippery path of being the new Hector on the reservation, and how was that going to play out. How is that going to convolute his relationship with Walt? There are some very interesting things happening. I’m very happy that much of it is native-centric, and we’re bringing back fantastic guests.

How long did Crossroads take to shoot?

It was literally a day. They come out of the blue. I get a call from my manager who says, “There’s interest in you to do this thing next Thursday. Are you open and are you interested?” I read the script and the next thing I know, I’m on set for the day.

First of all, the script was hilarious. I will always jump at the chance to do comedy. What made it even more fun for me, was my buddy Oscar Nunez was already involved, Michael Mando from Better Call Saul was on it. Carlos Alazraqui is in it too, we both provide voices on Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latina princess. It’s the usual suspects and for me, it makes it fun as I get to hang out with buddies.

I have Elena of Avalor on DVR. I can’t wait to watch it. Not only is it groundbreaking for Disney, but it’s also exciting.

It is exciting, and I’m thrilled. I think it started out as a guest spot but is now this recurring villain. Being a Disney villain is second to only being a Bond villain. [Laughs]

How true. We only remember the villains.

Right? He’s not a totally despicable villain. He’s goofy and funny at times. I understand I’m going to get to sing in future episodes, so I go back to my Broadway roots a little bit.

Would you ever go back?

In a heartbeat. It was a magical experience and once again, the one time I appeared, I got nominated for a Tony Award which was wonderful and I’m incredibly grateful. I need to make sure when I go back I need to make sure it’s something completely different.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a comedy, and I’m talking to a few people about mounting an off-Broadway production of it.


Crescenzo Notarile

Gotham lenser Crescenzo Notarile talks about filming the moody action series away from the Bat Signal in what he dubs “the Platinum Age of Television.”

Cinematographer Crescenzo Notarile, ASC, AIC, faced no small task in recreating the dark and brooding world of Batman’s Gotham City for Fox’s Gotham. It surely felt intimidating, tackling the project given the dominate visions that came before him. Every incarnation of Batman from the Day-Glo 60’s series to the luscious decay of Tim Burton’s vision seemed to take root in the imagination of that era. One of Gotham‘s most critical tests became achieving its own visual sensibility separate from previous representations.

This challenge pushed Crescenzo Notarile forward all the way to his recent cinematography Emmy nomination for Gotham Season 2’s “Azrael.”

Crescenzo Notarile

“It was a little daunting at first, obviously because of the history and the calibre of that franchise,” Notarile said. “What got me past that… is the fact that this is pre-Batman, when Batman was a small boy. So, when I wrapped my head around that idea and that concept and that dynamic, a few knots in my gut unravelled a bit.”

Breaking into the DC world

Notarile wouldn’t have necessarily considered himself a comic book guy. Sure, he’d seen DC films before, but it wasn’t necessarily the first thing to which he gravitated. Like any consummate professional, Notarile threw himself into research, learning the stylistic lingo of the world through Batman comics and graphic novels. The education altered his own personal style and sensibilities, and Emmy took notice.

“I was not surprised, but I was very aware in a wonderful way, in an inspirational way, of all the grand compositions. The angles of the compositions. The dynamics of high angles, low angles. Acute compositions. Exaggerated compositions. Obviously, that’s a signature in the comic book world,” Notarile said. “That’s what really inspired me initially to open up my heart for this particular project and to really embrace that.”

That memorable Emmy morning

You never forget your first time. For Crescenzo Notarile, the news of his first Emmy nomination came amidst the bustle of a working set. The director approached him, eventually hugging him and telling him, “You did it.” Puzzled, it took a few moments before the reality sunk in, causing chills on the back of his neck.

“I think my chest expanded maybe twice its size with proudness,” Notarile said. “I looked over my shoulder, and there were a lot of my crew members just looking on. They apparently knew as well, and they all smiled and clapped. It was a nice feeling.”

Notarile will compete against some heavy competition in Game of ThronesHomeland, House of CardsDownton Abbey, The Man in the High Castle, and Bates Motel. Given the category’s whopping seven nominations, television cinematography seems to be thriving in what Notarile has coined “the Platinum Age of Television.” Each series offers gorgeous, challenging visuals. Sure, the equipment gets better each year, but there’s more to it than that, according to Notarile.

“You still need a heart, mind, and soul to do what we do,” Notarile said. “All [the technology] is secondary. What’s primary is being a storyteller… You still have to tell the story.”

And this talent for brilliant storytelling could carry Crescenzo Notarile all the way to the podium on Emmy night. Check out our full interview with Notarile below or by subscribing to the Water Cooler Podcast on iTunes.

Crescenzo Notarile

Tommy Kail

Grease: Live! director Tommy Kail talks to ADTV about his Emmy nomination for Fox and Paramount TV’s smash hit

Tommy Kail followed up his Tony Award win with an Emmy nomination for the musical ratings juggernaut, Grease: Live! from Fox and Paramount TV. Clarence and Joey chatted with Kail about his successful season and what he plans to do next now that Hamilton made a killing at the Tonys.

Even though he’s been at the helm of two very large and different theatrical experiences, it’s very easy to chat with Tommy Kail. He speaks with an openness that only suggests a very collaborative environment on set, and that surely is responsible for his two highly successful directorial efforts.

Broadway’s Biggest Night

When asked about the Tony Awards ceremony, Kail compared it to a big theatrical party, and he commented on the strength of the entire Broadway season.

“It was a really robust season. There was some sort of perceptible shift that I hope continues. There seemed to be a lot of new voices, a lot of new artists, a lot of new people that hadn’t thought that Broadway was for them,” Kail said. “It showed that the tent was big. It felt like a big theatrical prom.”

Director Turned Audience Member

When he was asked if he had a particular moment that he loved watching, we talked about Keke Palmer’s quick change and about other projects. He seemed most grateful, however, about giving his cast and crew a chance to thank the audience back.

“I was really excited to have a curtain call. I loved the opportunity to kind of just throw this party at the end,” Kail said. “That ending finale moment was very satisfying.”

Returning to Hamilton

After September’s Emmy ceremonies, Kail plans to direct two more productions of the historical Lin-Manuel Miranda musical.

“I will be in New York City rehearsing the show for five weeks with a brand new company of actors, and then we go to Chicago in September. Our first performance is September 27th, and then we open October 19th. I’ll be Chicago for that month. I am in the process of casting our San Francisco/LA company right now.”

Have a listen to our full interview with Grease: Live!‘s Tommy Kail below or by subscribing to the Water Cooler Podcast on iTunes!

Tommy Kail
Kail (center) on the set of Grease: Live!

Daredevil‘s Philip Silvera talks about his Emmy-nominated stunt coordination

Philip Silvera makes one thing very clear when he discusses Daredevil‘s fight sequences. He’s not there just to stage a fight between two characters. He is very clear that his “action design” is there to push the story forward and help further develop the emotional arc of the characters. Best known for his stunning Season 1 Daredevil hallway fight sequence, Silvera shockingly missed out on a nomination during last year’s Emmy cycle. Like any great fighter, though, he picked himself up, moved on, and came back bigger and better than ever. His Season 2 stairwell action sequence makes the hallway look like an average day at a daycare.

Philip Silvera

Philip Silvera faces some stiff competition in the Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series, Limited Series Or Movie category, including what even he admits is fantastic work in Game of Throne‘s “Battle of the Bastards.” Still, when you look at Daredevil‘s extravagant stunt choreography, it’s clear that the series lives on a completely different playing field. They’re such an integral portion of the series that it’s near impossible to imagine Daredevil without them. That’s the intensity, professionalism, and dedication Philip Silvera brings to the critically acclaimed series.

I know next to nothing about martial arts aside from what I’ve seen in films and on television, including both seasons of Daredevil. How do you approach choreographing these amazing fight sequences?

I think the most important thing is that we are designing for the characters and each specific character has a different style. So, we want to make sure that when we are designing any type of action sequence whether its a fight scene or a driving scene it’s relative to who these people are and pushing the story forward. That’s our biggest thing. When you look at Daredevil, he pays homage to his boxer father, but he spent very little time with him growing up. He spent a lot of time with Stick (Scott Glenn) grown up who is a world-class martial artist and an assassin, but Matt doesn’t believe in those things. So, when he gets a little tired, you see him fall back on the boxing, but he also has the acrobatic sense to him. We try and make sure that we tell those things the right way so that it’s not too martial-arty, not too tricky, it’s just the right balance for him.

With Jon Bernthal’s character, the Punisher, he is tactically trained and has a different mindset when he approaches a battle and how he enters it. He’s proficient with a gun. He’s proficient with hand-to-hand combat, but he doesn’t mind killing. It helps alleviate the pain for him at times. So, I think we keep all of those things very close to how we approach the action and push the story forward.

Would you even use the term “choreography” when describing what you do? It is almost like a perverse dance between the two characters when they engage in a fight sequence.

Right, yeah, you can absolutely use the word choreography. I tend to use the word “action design” because it’s the overall story that we’re pushing forward, but choreography is a great way to describe it.

The single scene I most remember from Daredevil Season 1 was that fantastic hallway fight sequence. Was there a sense of apprehension going into Season 2 that you had to top that?

[Laughs] There is a feeling that I didn’t want to travel down the same path for sure. Especially with doing another one-shot. That was relative to that story, and I think Doug [Petrie] and Marco [Ramirez], our showrunners, had a great vision for not topping it but doing something different. And I think we did. We did something very different with that Episode 3 sequence where we start in the hallway, which is very similar to what we did in Season 1, but then we take it down a staircase. Their idea and concept for it was a descent into Hell, and he’s fighting to hold onto the character that he is and not cross that line, which I thought was genius because if you see every time we get deeper into the staircase, the stakes are raised.

He’s been riding a line and almost getting to that point where he’s crossing it. In that episode, Jon Bernthal’s character the Punisher talks to him about that and tells him, “You’re one bad day away from becoming me.” So, I think that sequence had a totally different feeling to it. It was him fighting to hold onto who he was. The challenge of it for us, though, logistically speaking was in Season 1 we did it on a set with an overhead track. This time, we had to figure out how to do it on an actual location moving through a hallway and down a staircase, and I think that was our other challenge, which he achieve I’d like to think.

Is that your personal favorite Season 2 sequence? The stairwell sequence?

I have a few favorites. It’s hard to pick which one you like the most. Every sequence is special in its own way, and it’s difficult to pick which one you like more. If I had to, I think I love the opening sequence between Punisher and Daredevil in Episode 1. It’s the coming together of these two iconic characters. I love the scene that we just talked about where they’re heading down the staircase in Episode 3. I love the scene in the jail where we see Frank Castle become more and more the Punisher character and his interaction with the Kingpin. And then the most iconic thing we get to see throughout the season is Daredevil throwing his baton for the first time, which again I thought what better way to show Daredevil’s evolution to becoming who he is. That was a fan-favorite moment for me.

How do you work with the creative team to orchestrate the fight sequences? Where do you get engaged into the overall process?

Again, this is a TV show, so we have very fast turnover. As soon as we get the scripts, we go into meetings and we start discussing right away… we’re just kind of running with the ideas. For me its easy because I understand the background of the characters because I’m a fan. I get to bring that to the table.

You’ve been able to work with a lot of Marvel properties in your career looking at your resume.

I’ve been very fortunate to do that, I have.

So you were a Marvel fan before this?

I’ve been a comic book fan my entire life, so yes, I’m a huge Marvel fan as well.

So you’re basically living the dream.

I am. I absolutely am.

I’d read somewhere that you consider “the Black Widow” move “one of the most overused moves for females.” Did you make a conscious effort to avoid that when working out fighting styles for Elektra? 

Well, I made a conscious effort to avoid using it, but it does end up in the show and doesn’t work out her way. There’s a scene in Episode 10 where she’s fighting in the airplane hanger where she tries that move, and she fails miserably. So, I just wanted to show another side of it where it actually doesn’t work out.

Is that where [Elektra] flies across the airplane wing?

Correct. And gets slammed right back down on top of the wing.

So, what’s next for you in terms of the Marvel projects? Are you working on things like Iron Fist or The Defenders?

No, that’s going to be a whole other creative team and action coordinators, and I can’t wait to see what they do. For me right now, I just finished working with Steve DeKnight on Pacific Rim 2 for a little bit, and now I’m starting to prep Deadpool 2.

Congratulations on your Emmy nomination this year, of course. Looking back at last year’s nominees, I was surprised to see Daredevil Season 2 garnered you your first nomination. What does the Emmy experience mean to you?

It’s a huge honor for me. Number one, I’m nominated with peers I’ve looked up to for many, many years and who have inspired me. I’m very grateful that people like our work and are excited about it. Working on this series is a great honor and a privilege, and it’s very fulfilling that people agree with that and enjoy the work we’re putting out.


Beth McCarthy-Miller transformed Radio City Hall from its Christmas Spectacular to Adele: Live in New York City

Beth McCarthy-Miller is in good spirits. She’s currently on set for shooting NBC’s upcoming sitcom Great News and takes some time out to talk about her latest Emmy nomination. “I’m kind of like the Susan Lucci of the Primetime Emmys, but it’s always exciting to be recognized,” McCarthy-Miller said. She’s received a career-total of 10 Emmy nominations, including direction nods for 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, and The Sound of Music Live! This year, she is nominated for directing Adele: Live in New York City, the NBC special that aired in December. NBC aired the special again in April, adding five new songs.

It was Adele’s triumphant comeback show. Her last performance was at the Oscars in 2013 where she won a Best Original Song Oscar for Skyfall. Good thing McCarthy-Miller is no stranger to music productions. She has worked on Saturday Night Live specials, America: A Tribute to Heroes, and the MTV Music Awards to name a few.

Adele: Live in New York City earned four Emmy nominations this year: Best Variety Special, Best Directing (Beth McCarthy-Miller), Best Lighting Design and Best Technical Direction/Camerawork.  I caught up with her to talk Adele, her catalog, and her nomination.


Let’s talk Adele. How did it happen?

I think Adele had an affinity to SNL because Lorne was one of the first people that put her on TV for that first record in the USA. When she was deciding to do this NBC special, I think Lorne was producing it, he called me and asked if I’d be available. My first job was at MTV. I did lots of music and specials, and they’re always so much fun for me. I’m such a huge fan of Adele’s, so I said, “Yes, please.”

Who isn’t?

I know. And who isn’t and can we murder them because they have terrible taste. [Laughs]

She’s about to do eight nights at Staples Center. I think every Brit and then some is going to the show.

It’s amazing that her voice has gotten better after the surgery. I don’t know how her voice could get better, but it did.

So, you were always a fan?

Huge fan, and she did not disappoint.

You’ve done many live specials before. How do you direct something like this?

This show was a little wonky because we were pulling together very quickly, and we were going in after they had rehearsed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. They were going to start performances the day after, so we had to take things down. We had one day to rehearse and had to change the sets over. The next day we rehearsed, shot the show, and, that night, they tore everything down and put all the Christmas stuff back up. It was a little dicey and dodgy. Es Devlin, who is a fellow Brit like yourself, is really commended for putting the other something that could be done quickly and simply and set around what was already loaded in every wing for the Christmas show and coming up with such a great elegant design idea that really captured Adele in a great way with a lot of limitations.

There were big giant candy canes in the wings that people were hiding. It was a very quick in and out. Also, Adele hadn’t performed years, and she was pretty nervous as well. That did not show through. The crowd was so anticipatory and so excited to see her that… God Bless New York, when they love you, they show it. When they don’t, they show it too. Luckily they love her and I think she felt that as soon as she got on stage. After her first song, the first thing she said was, “Oh, I’m so nervous.”

You captured her so well in this special, how do you prepare for that?

For me, when I direct music, when you’re directing it for TV, you try to give people at home the best seat in the house because they can’t be there live to watch it. You try to give them the experience of what it’s like being in that space. We try to get the set list ahead of time. I take a look at the production design, the way the stage is set up. I look at tapes of the artist so I can figure out where cameras should be to capture the performance. She commands the stage and doesn’t roam too far, so I set cameras up to capture that. With Es’s set design and the projection, we had to put cameras in place to capture those moments as well. I have an AD break down the songs for me. We get to rehearsals and she had a quick off-site rehearsal that I got to go to and see a few songs. The day of, we had everybody on stage rehearsing a bit, we loaded in the audience and shot it. It was crazy.

What did you take away from that whole evening?

I will say, I’ve been a huge fan of hers for a long time, but I had never seen her live before. Just sitting in a rehearsal space with her, I was blown away by how she can command her voice. I did years of MTV Unplugged, there are some artists who are so special and use their voice like an instrument. There are a lot of different artists who are the real deal, the kind who can take their voice and make it work for the song and how it’s intended. They sing like it’s an instrument. Adele clearly has that gift.

For her as a performer, she’s so passionate and emotional when she performs that you feel the pain, the happiness, the sadness and everything that is in each lyric. I was blown away by the presence that she commands on stage. Especially in a world where everyone is now doing lots of bells and whistles to get everything across, she can just stand on stage and command that and emote the way she can and capture a giant audience like what she had at Radio City. That was just unbelievable to me.

That’s the thing about her. It’s never a bells and whistle show. It’s just her on stage, and that’s it. You show that.


It’s always a pleasure to speak to female filmmakers, your resume goes on endlessly from SNL to 30 Rock. What’s it like for you as a filmmaker?

I started on a place like MTV that was the little engine that could. I started directing when I was 25. I started under the encouragement of male directors for which I associate directed. They told me, “You’re going to be great at this, and we think you should do this. We don’t think you should produce. We think you should direct.”

At the time at MTV, I was taking whatever job was paying more money so I didn’t have to wait tables anymore. [Laughs] I have always been encouraged to pursue directing because people thought I had a gift and passion for it. My experience, which I know isn’t the experience of many people, has been 89 percent positive. I don’t think of myself as a woman director or a minority. I think of myself as a director for hire. I know that is not the case for lots of people. Yes, have I been in situations where I’ve been treated differently? I handle it with grace and humor instead of having to yell and scream, “Just because I’m a woman you shouldn’t treat me like that!” I handle it in the way I handle things.

I would say, I’ve had more positive than negative experiences in my career. I know and appreciate how lucky I am that that has been the case.

What do you watch in your downtime? Are you able to watch without critiquing shows?

I can enjoy and watch scripted television. Drama is easier than comedy just because I’m a comedy nerd and that’s my business. I can sometimes watch events, awards shows, and music specials without saying, “Why would you go to that shot?” or “I wish I thought of that shot.” [Laughs]

I like TV. I’m a big fan, and I can sit back and watch shows as just a fan. I can appreciate things a little bit more when they’re really well done because I know how hard they are to get them to be like that.
I can watch an episode of Mad Men and appreciate the fact that from every single costume to every single production design detail that everything is perfect in the episode. I can really appreciate it because I know how much work went into it.

I don’t think of myself as a woman director or a minority. I think of myself as a director for hire. I know that is not the case for lots of people. Yes, have I been in situations where I’ve been treated differently? I handle it with grace and humor instead of having to yell and scream, “Just because I’m a woman you shouldn’t treat me like that!” I handle it in the way I handle things.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into directing?

I would say, my whole career, I worked a lot. I sometimes took something that wasn’t always the most high profile thing, but it’s something that interests me, and it led to something else and it gave me more experience. I would always tell people to find out what their passion is and follow it. Don’t think that anything is beneath you, you might be surprised.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a director when I was 21. I think Spielberg knew it at 8. I didn’t, but I found it and thank God I found it because it is truly a passion of mine. It is what I love to do.

You really need to find what that passion is and follow it. Especially in this business because the hours are long. It’s not quite as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. [Laughs] I love when people think I go to parties in Beverly Hills with famous people. It’s not quite like that.

It’s been such a pleasure speaking to you. This has got to be it. Right?

I want to beat Lucci’s record before anything happens. I’m not counting on anything. It’s lovely that I got recognized for the show. It was beautiful. It was an honor to be asked to do it. I’m always thrilled when Lorne calls me and asks me to do something because I have so much respect for him. I just love her, so just to be there and be able to watch it. Never mind just watching it was such a treat.

Thank you for capturing the live experience.

I’m so glad. That’s what I tried to do it. Even if one person felt it, then yay.

Mac Quayle

Emmy-nominated composer Mac Quayle embraces the dark side of human nature for Emmy glory

Not every job affords the “bring your child to work” opportunity. Composer Mac Quayle, a 2016 Emmy nominee for his brilliant Mr. Robot score, has to pick and choose those moments. Take a look at his 2015/2016 musical output, and you’ll understand why. Scream QueensAmerican Horror Story: HotelThe People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryMr. Robot. These series contain dark, hard-hitting moments not suitable for young eyes or ears. Critics, audiences, and the Television Academy, however, are an entirely different story.

“My daughter and now my son, they can’t come into the studio when I’m working on it basically,” Mac Quayle laughs. “Some of the images that are on the screen are certainly not appropriate.”

Quayle definitely tends to trend toward the darker aspects of life in his work, but don’t ask him why. He’s not an avid watcher of horror in the vein of American Horror Story. Although, he embraces the challenges presented by Ryan Murphy’s wildly ambitious anthology series. Quayle made the Ryan Murphy introduction through fellow composer Cliff Martinez (Drive) on Murphy’s 2014 HBO film The Normal Heart. The partnership led to Quayle’s first Emmy nomination for last year’s American Horror Story: Freak Show and continues into Hotel where his reinvention of Charlie Clouser and Cesar Davila-Irizarry’s famed opening theme turned heads.

“In the initial discussions with Ryan and his team, the idea for the sound of that season emerged as very electronic,” Quayle said. “There was this main, sort of melodic, sound… some sort of a strange violin that was recorded off of an old LP. The main theme of the season used that sound for the melody, and that was liked so much by Ryan that he wanted to bring that into the opening sequence credits.”

Unfortunately for fans (myself included), the Powers That Be have yet to issue any compilations of the American Horror Story scores, despite Quayle’s persistent pleas. Twitter, use your power for good instead of evil and get this done.

Away from the horror of Hotel and Scream Queens, Quayle does gravitate toward the psychological thriller aspects of shows like USA Network’s Mr. Robot. This gorgeous electronic work, full of driving and persistent paranoia, is available online and garnered Quayle his second Emmy nomination. This score helped provide an entry point into the tortured mind and psyche of Mr. Robot‘s lead character Elliot, played by Rami Malek.

“One of the first pieces I wrote was in the pilot, the first scene when we’re introduced to Elliot when he’s in the coffee shop and about to bring down the owner of the shop who runs an illicit website,” Quayle said. “That piece of music was where I first wrote Elliot’s theme… that’s how the whole journey began.”

The Emmy nomination for Mr. Robot is one of six received by the freshman drama. Given the vast quality of displayed in both above and below-the-line categories, Mac Quayle stands tall among a bevy of heavy-hitting contenders such as A&E’s Bates Motel and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. His return to the Emmy race is still as exciting an event as last year’s first nomination on American Horror Story: Freak Show.

“Last year, it was completely surreal,” Quayle said. “I just couldn’t imagine that I would ever get nominated for an Emmy. This year, it’s still feels similar. I’m really grateful and honored and just super excited that the music is getting recognized and the people are enjoying it.”

Tracee Ellis Ross

I could have talked to black-ish‘s Tracee Ellis Ross all day. The first-time Emmy nominee (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) has an infectious laugh that transmits over the phone, and her respect for the work is understood through her expressive speaking voice. When I chatted with her, we talked about her relationship with television husband Anthony Anderson, being back on set for Season 3, and briefly about diversity on television. And, yes, I even asked if she’d be down for a Girlfriends revival.

Congratulations on your first Emmy nomination! Everyone at the site is a big fan of yours, so we were all very excited about your nomination.

Thank you very much! I am beyond thrilled. It’s a very exciting moment in my career and in my life. The added layer of knowing the historical context in being one of five black women nominated in this category—and the first in 30 years—adds a whole other layer to it. It’s excited enough! And it adds this deeper layer of meaning to the whole thing.

When someone told me the statistics of how few black women have been nominated in this category, it’s still staggering. It’s totally insane.

It’s staggering. But it’s not just as a black woman. It’s all different ethnicities and the full spectrum of diversity (age and ethnicity and all of those things) wanting all of these categories to reflect that and wanting the work in television in general and in Hollywood to really represent the fabric of this country and the human experience in general. So it is staggering and fascinating to a certain extent. You sort of go, “Wait, what?”

How does it feel to be part of a cast that’s predominantly black when there’s so much talk about diversity in entertainment?

The truth of my experience in my work on television in my work—both on Girlfriends and black-ish (shows that I’m most known for) featured predominantly black casts. All the characters were black, so that has been my experience. My family life is extremely diverse. My actual ethnicity and ethnic makeup—my father is white and Jewish and my mother is black. My world, not just my immediate family, is completely diverse with ethnicities and all of those different mixes.

Being on a television show in this day and age that is continuing to expand the world’s understanding and narrative and identification of what a family is is really exciting. Other ethnicities, any other, for many, many years had to identify with and see how we were the same with a white family on television. And now people get to look at our family as an American family and see how we’re all the same and different all at the same time. It’s a really interesting time, and it’s been asked of me to ask myself certain questions to know how to articulate how I feel about things.

Tracee Ellis Ross
(Photo: ABC)

Your chemistry with Anthony Anderson is so fantastic. Whether Bow and Dre are butting heads or (like in ‘Any Given Saturday’) you’re going crazy together.


What is your favorite aspect of Bow and Dre as a married couple?

My favorite aspect of Bow and Dre is Anthony and Tracee. We just have so much fun together on and off camera, and we have a real partnership. He’s just a generous, big-hearted human being and we have a lot of respect for each other. Let me think. If I had to pick the favorite dynamic between us, I would have to say that we both have no shame. (Laughs) Let me say that’s number two! Number one is the fact that I trust Anthony comedically and in my work life in a way that I have not trusted any work partner. For example, when we do physical comedy or anything like that I know that Anthony will never let me fall. And I won’t let him fall. Even if I say his line or he says my line, we’ll just seamlessly pick it up. It’s just been there from the beginning. My favorite thing would have to be the trust we have for each other that allows us the freedom to be really stupid.

BLACK-ISH - “The Leftovers” - When Dre and Bow realize they don’t have a legal guardian for their kids, they make it their mission to find replacement parents should anything happen to them. Meanwhile, Zoey and Junior reveal the truth to Jack about their old dog’s death and other family secrets he naively accepted, on “black-ish,” WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 (9:31-10:00 p.m. EDT) on the ABC Television Network (ABC/Ron Tom) TRACEE ELLIS ROSS, ANTHONY ANDERSONYou guys have chemistry on and off screen. Any time I see you at any awards shows and you both appear together, I think to myself, “I need to make sure I watch black-ish this week.”

I don’t know if you watched when we hosted the BET Awards again this year, but we did this Hamilton thing. Anthony spins me around and we did it in rehearsal and I was a bit nervous. But even then, I know that even if we fall, he’s going to fall underneath me. It’s just a given. Also, Anthony is made out of rubber. Has anyone ever told you that?

I’ve heard rumors…

Anthony sometimes does physical things, and I’m like, “OH MY GOD, ARE YOU OKAY?!” And he’ll be like, “Yeah…why?” He bounces off the floor—it’s amazing. I can do something physical and love it and then I’m literally like, “Oh my God! Where’s the chiropractor!” I must have much more brittle bones than Anthony.

I loved your cameo on Broad City when you were a flight attendant with Tymberlee Hill.


You two need to have a spin off where you guys fly around and experience all this crazy stuff. Would you want to do more guest work like that? And what show would you want to be on?

Let’s think of all the shows that I watch. What’s on right now that I love? I would love to some dramatic guest starring roles.

Let’s put you on The Americans. Let’s just go totally crazy.

Yes, let’s put me on The Americans. Put me on with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright! Let’s get me a role on House of Cards. Let’s switch the scripts completely! I would do anything in a heartbeat with Tymberlee. And I would do anything in a heartbeat with (Broad City‘s) Ilana and Abbi. I adore those women. I was so thankful that they were shooting that on a Saturday and Sunday, so I was able to do that during production. Most of the issue is that we do a really long season. We do 22 episodes, and we shoot from the end of July to March. Trying to figure out how to do anything else is difficult during the TV season. But, you know, where there’s a will there’s a way! (laughs)

Of course! I mean, you’re willing to do it, so let’s just offer you up to every streaming show out there. We can put you on EVERYTHING.

Let’s do that in this interview. Why don’t we let that be your mission to find the time to get me some great guest starring roles.

The headline of this interview is going to be “Tracee Ellis Ross is in Everything. You’re welcome.”

That’s perfect! Here’s what you should call it…”ABC: Let’s Make This Happen”


What do you think?

That’s perfect! That sells itself! To close, I wanted to ask you about something that everyone wanted to bring up. Would you sign on, right now, to do a Girlfriends revival?

This is hilarious. I have said yes every time I’m asked. It’s not up to me. It is more a Paramount/CBS issue. I have always said that I am game. I will be honest with you…I think it’s been too long since the show ended. (Laughs)


Listen…I think we’re pushing it now. (Laughs) But, not going to lie, people are going to be like, “What happened to Joan?” It’s been a LOT of years, but I’ve always said that I’m grateful for Joan and (show creator) Mara Brock Akil and Golden (Brooks), Jill (Marie Jones), and Persia (White). What a time of my life and what an extraordinary experience. I had so much fun playing that role. People still call me Joan. I don’t think I’ll ever be un-Joaned. But, you know, I am totally game. I love that people still want that.

I mean, if Gilmore Girls can do it, Girlfriends can do it.

You’re right! How long ago did Girlfriends finish? 2008? That’s a long time ago! Are you kidding? (Laughs) But, you know what? Isn’t it incredible that all these years later people still connect with Girlfriends? I think it’s a testament to the work that we did and the writing on the show and all of it. I think it really had an impact on people and that’s awesome. I am grateful for that. Well, you heard it from me, I’m happy to do it. But I’m also being honest. (Laughs) It’s been a long time.

It’s another thing I have to work on from this interview.

You’ve got things to handle, buddy!

Jeff Russo

Jeff Russo’s Fargo Season 2 score is as musically diverse as the composer himself and Emmy took notice

Talking to composer/songwriter/guitarist/vocalist/producer Jeff Russo is akin to attending a master class in music theory. On the surface, Russo’s rock roots in the mid-90s band Tonic seem ill-matched with his recent blossoming success as a prolific composer for television scores. Yet, after talking it through with him, it all makes complete sense. The progression of Russo’s career flows gracefully from one genre to the next. From Tonic to the New York Ballet to FX’s Fargo. This progression appears fueled by Russo’s infectious love of music and a series of fortuitous connections.

“A lot of things just sort of fell into place which is I think the way it always happens for people,” Russo said. “I knew I always wanted to write and perform music… Getting into television was just one of those things where I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

An Emmy nod for an epic score

And the right time is now thanks to Russo’s recent Emmy nomination for scoring Fargo Season 2. After receiving a nomination for the first season, Russo took on the challenge of scoring the increasingly epic, bigger, badder second season with characteristic grace and intelligence. His robust score matches the broader visual palate of the second season, which subverts the claustrophobic intimacy of the first season.

“We really did want to nod to how the show was expanding in terms of the broadness of the characters. Season 1 had fewer characters and fewer moving parts. With Season 2, the themes and the music became broader in that it need to cover a lot more ground to cover for the characters that were being introduced,” Russo said. “I wanted to make a conscious effort to broaden the scope of the music and go with the more epic feel of the story being told on a more grand scale versus the smaller scale of season 1.”

What’s next for the Emmy nominee?

As great television exponentially grows across platforms, so do the classic scores that accompany them. Even if Emmy goes in a different direction, Russo’s upcoming slate of work will undoubtedly continue to provide awards bounty. He’s currently scoring CBS’s American Gothic and provided the intimate score for HBO’s The Night Of. Next up is Fargo Season 3, FX’s Legion, and ABC’s buzzy fall series Time After Time. It’s a body of work that ranks Jeff Russo among the great composers of television and film.

Be sure to catch AwardsDaily TV’s full interview with Fargo composer Jeff Russo below or by subscribing to the Water Cooler Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.


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