Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum chats with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, the co-presidents of Amblin TV. The executives open up about how they got their start in the business, the secrets of their 20-year (and counting!) partnership, and what defines an Amblin show.
They reveal the origins of one of this season’s hit series, CBS’ “Bull,” based on Dr. Phil’s life experiences. The duo were introduced to Dr. Phil by their agent, and recounted that first meeting with him. “We walk in there and he’s got those blue cards like he’s got on his show, but all the information was on Justin and me,” reveals Frank with a laugh. “He knew every show we did. He knew everything about us. And he started to tell us about this groundbreaking thing he did in law. And we looked at each other and said, ‘This is a show.'”
Another key ingredient to the show’s success was the casting of former “NCIS” star Michael Weatherly. “There are some things that he does that are nontraditional,” says Frank. “He brought humor to it and swagger. And just such a pro.”
Adds Falvey, “Here’s a guy who was coming off 13 seasons of a broadcast show, which is a grueling schedule, and wanted to continue working. He’s a workhorse. I think he recognized he had the perfect piece of material for him.”
Another one of their series, “The Americans,” finally got recognized by the Emmy Awards in its fourth season, which Falvey calls “very, very gratifying.” “It’s so rare after four years for something like that to fall into place,” he says. Adds Frank, “People always says it’s an honor to be nominated. You look at that Emmy category, it truly is. … To even be in that conversation is truly incredible.”
The FX spy drama will end with its sixth season in 2018, and the executives say even though they know what’s coming, “it still surprises you at every step,” says Frank. “It really just is a dream to work on.”
As for what they’ve learned working for Steven Spielberg, “Everything,” says Frank. “We don’t take lightly who we work for. He works as hard as he did in his 20s. He has a remarkable work ethic. Not only is he arguably the greatest living storyteller, he’s also a great humanitarian.”
Both marvel at his attention to detail and his ability to juggle multiple projects. “We joke with him that we believe he’s cloned himself,” adds Frank with a laugh.
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New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.