Even when it comes to limited series, it’s not often that you see a singular director behind each and every episode. When it does happen, it can be, as “The Underground Railroad” creator and director Barry Jenkins says, “a bit crazy-making.”
Jenkins, his cinematographer and longtime collaborator James Laxton, and sound supervisor Onnalee Blank participated in the Variety Streaming Room presented by Amazon Prime Video to discuss “swinging for the fences” on the 10-episode adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel, “The Underground Railroad.”
“There was a moment where James and I both looked at each other, and I think we understood that we were both insane,” Jenkins said. “But you know what, though? It was kind of dope.”
He explained a moment in the show where he spontaneously directed a camera operator to turn to Chase W. Dillon, the 10-year-old actor playing Homer, for a shot of him crying. Jenkins says the shot was completely unplanned but is one that receives a lot of positive feedback from the audience. It was also one he could not have pulled off without teamwork.
“Moments like that — really just feeling that both the operator and the actor want to keep going and sending that camera back… maybe a different director coming on for just that episode doesn’t have that same level of intuition,” Jenkins reflected. “So, I think even though it’s the most difficult thing James and I have ever done, I do think it’s the most cohesive and the most fully realized thing we’ve ever done.”
Watch the full conversation above.