Amazon hit London for its show-and-tell Tuesday with a starry cast in tow: Julia Roberts, Jon Hamm, Rachel Brosnahan, John Krasinksi, Orlando Bloom and Matthew Weiner were all in town to talk about their Amazon projects. Mark Burnett and Neil Gaiman also made cameos, the latter fresh off the announcement of his new overall deal with the streamer.
With Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke presiding, the company showcased clips from upcoming British fantasy comedy “Good Omens,” the second season of Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a few new French- and German-language series, and one French-and-German-language show. Here are five things we learned from the event:
1.) Amazon’s Europe strategy: international talent deals and non-English drama
Amazon has already locked “Catastrophe” co-creator Sharon Horgan into a deal and has now added Gaiman to its international bench. He said the deal came about after he worked with Amazon “almost accidentally” on “American Gods” and “Good Omens,” which debuts in early 2019.
There are seven productions up and running in Europe, said European content boss Georgia Brown, who revealed that Amazon is working with some of the continent’s biggest producers. Shows are in development with Wildside and Lux Vide from Italy, with producers Marc and Jean Dujardin in France, and with Boomerang and Tournasol in Spain.
But it’s not about quantity, said Brown. “It’s really not a volume play for us, and I think that’s why we sit aside from our competitors. We are commissioning through a very local lens, so it’s local shows in local language for audiences and shows they cannot see anywhere else.”
2.) Mrs. Maisel hits the road
Rachel Brosnahan, who plays the title character in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” said Midge gets to head to new places in the Emmy-winning show’s sophomore outing. “We go to Paris and we also spend time in the Catskills – there’s a lot of traveling this season,” said Brosnahan, who was joined onstage by fellow cast members Marin Hinkle and Michael Zegen. “I’m looking forward to showing our audience more of our world. Throughout that world expansion you get to know a lot about the other characters on the show. We got to spend a lot more time shooting as an ensemble this season.”
Brosnahan said she and Hinkle cherish a comment from series fan Steven Spielberg, who told them at the Golden Globes that the show is “the best Jewish musical since ‘Fiddler on the Roof.'”
3.) Mad Men: John Hamm on ‘Good Omens,’ Matthew Weiner on ‘The Romanoffs’
Hamm said it was an “easy yes” when Gaiman told him about “Good Omens” and asked him to play the Archangel Gabriel. “There’s a tone to the book that’s very lighthearted even though it’s dealing with the end of the world,” Hamm said onstage. “When people ask me what’s it about, I say, ‘Well, it’s a comedy about the apocalypse.”
Weiner, with whom Hamm worked on “Mad Men,” spoke about his new anthology series “The Romanoffs,” which has its world premiere in London later Tuesday. The show won’t be for bingers, since it will be the first Amazon original to drop episodes weekly instead of all at once.
“When I finished ‘Mad Men,’ I was catching up and binge-watching and I really wanted a chance to have a show where you didn’t have to catch up. It would be different every week,” Weiner said. “We’re lucky enough to go on once a week, so people will have a chance to have a conversation about it.”
4.) ‘The Grand Tour’ rolls on, for now
Amazon has ordered Season 3 of “The Grand Tour,” which stars the blunt-spoken – some say offensive – Jeremy Clarkson, but the streamer has been silent on whether a fourth season is in the offing. Producer Andy Wilman ushered in a clip by saying: “There’s press here, so there’s some dialogue in it. There’s a higher IQ in this room than our viewers [have]. Normally, we just use primary colors and music for the viewers.” When the video finished, he called it “the most retarded clip you are going to see all day.” Season 3 takes the team to China, Colombia and Mongolia, among other locations. Executives would not be drawn on possible further seasons.
5.) Local and regional unscripted projects are in the works
Amazon unveiled its new big unscripted series “Eco-Challenge 2019” from Mark Burnett and MGM on Tuesday. Brown told Variety that Amazon also plans to do regional and local non-scripted shows – and it wants producers to take big swings. “It takes a lot of hard work and time to sit down with these [unscripted] creators and set them up with the freedom to think big,” she said, adding that the European content team will continue to grow: “We’re definitely building out.”