Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, the team behind FX’s “Mayans M.C.” — co-creators and executive producers Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and star J.D. Pardo — talks with Variety’s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, about their “fierce” sequel to the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.”
And in the second half of the podcast, the team behind Lifetime’s “You” — showrunner Sera Gamble, and stars Penn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail — discusses with associate features editor Danielle Turchiano the challenges of their stalker drama.
Listen to this week’s podcast for free below and at Apple Podcasts:
Asked why he wanted to revisit the world of “Sons of Anarchy,” Sutter jokes that the reason was “money.” But the truth is, he always had the idea for setting a spinoff in the world of the series’ Latino motorcycle club. It became a reality once “Bastard Executioner” ended after one season. “I knew that I wanted to set it on the border, I knew that our hero was going to be a prospect who didn’t have a lineage to the club, like Jax did,” says Sutter.
“And then I knew intuitively that a white guy from Jersey shouldn’t be writing about the Latino culture on his own.”
That’s why he brought in James, whose background, says Sutter, made him the right fit. James, who had spent years in gangs (and ultimately landed in prison), says he didn’t want to tell his story, but the opportunity to work with Sutter convinced him. “I knew the reason I was so scared to do it was because I had to do it,” he says.
The cast is nearly all Latino, as are the writers and the crew, which lends authenticity to the series. “It’s about having seen black and brown characters for so many years as one-dimensional, criminal characters,” says James. “For the first time, those of us on the show, behind the camera, in front of the camera, who grew up in a cycle of poverty, violence, and incarceration, for the first time we get to tell our story from the inside out.”
And that authenticity includes addressing the headlines of today, where the border has become a lightning rod issue. “My mandate on ‘Sons,’ and on ‘Mayans’ as well, is if I created three-dimensional, authentic characters, I create an authentic world where every detail of the world is real,” says Sutter. “When everything is rooted in that kind of authenticity, then the stories can be as big and absurd as I want them to be. … It all has to be rooted in that reality, and that reality includes what’s happening at the border.”
For “You,” Gamble, who adapted the show from Caroline Kepnes’ novel, says her biggest challenge was finding the “singular tone” of the story about a bookstore employee, Joe (Badgley), who begins stalking a young woman, Beck (Lail), who comes into his place of work.
“We wanted to capture the thing that make the book so sticky and delicious and hard to forget and disturbing, which is that it’s kind of two things at the same time,” Gamble says. “It’s a kind of scary thriller, and it’s also a really warm and intimate romance. It’s both things, and it has to be both things.”
Understanding why Joe behaves the way he does was essential for Gamble as well as Badgley, who admits that he was at first “a bit perplexed” when considering playing Joe.
“I was thinking, ‘Do I want to participate in bringing someone like him to life?'” Badgley admits.
Much of “You” relies on voice-over to let the audience in on Joe’s inner thoughts. “The honesty is what compelled me when I read the book. Because you’re inside his head, you’re hearing truly uncensored thoughts, and there’s something that feels just accurate about that,” Gamble says.
She reveals that Beck will take over the voice-over at a certain point to allow the audience inside her mind, too, and show that “Joe is not always a terribly reliable narrator.”
“And the reason we wanted to wait a second to do that is because we wanted to give the audience the chance to make the same mistake,” Gamble says.
Both Badgley and Lail are playing different versions of their characters when they are in moments alone, versus with other characters. “There are multiple truths inside of her,” says Lail. “It’s such a good reminder that people are not always what they seem, especially through the lens of social media.”
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