Nicole Kidman ejected old photographs to connect with her past during Roar's eight standalone episodes, but Issa Rae is ignored until the point of real invisibility by white film executives, and Merritt Wever, unlucky in love, falls into a demonizing relationship with a verbally abusive duck.
Roar takes the gamut from comedy to straight-up horror for co-creators and Carly Mensch, who combined the material from Cecelia Ahern's short story collection of the same name, and created three (mostly four) seasons of. After three (almost four) seasons of. They recently discussed their new partnership, which included an intimacy coordinator for Wever and her mallard co-star, as well as their take, two years later, on GLOW's COVID-era closure.
Something that made me feel when watching Roar is how little magical realism is actually on television. Any suggestions on why, and was that the appeal?
Carly Mensch It was something different for us. We're grounded, naturalistic writers. But we wanted to be successful. This was a really complicated answer, as to why you don't see more of it, but it may be difficult to pull it off. There are also resources and scale to film production.
Liz Flahive It's difficult to make a TV show no matter how large or small it is. Here we're bringing the technical flow of what we can do virtually and combining that with visual effects. So, as we were really trying to make the bite marks more successful, we also drew eight stories. So, as we were also trying to elucidate how the bite marks were going to be, we also became engaged with Merritt Wever, one duck.
Mensch You were asking this same question. Why aren't there more fiction like this? I think when we read the book, that literary quality was beneficial to us. It felt like a struggle. Part of what drew us to it was that there wasn't much of a template.
Liz, that episode was your directorial debut. Had no one mentioned that you never work with children or animals?
Flahive Go big or go home, guess? I was not anticipating directing this episode. I thought it would be somebody else's problem, and I was super happy to see how they solved it. Then there was another duck that was fantastic at walking. There was one duck that was really good for the crazy sex scene. We only had to figure out which duck was going to play which scene.
Mensch We never treated the episode like a stunt. Yes, Liz had to figure out how to make seven ducks hit marks and where to put the camera on but most of our time was to investigate something quite serious: an emotionally traumatic, abusive relationship. Every conversation we had about the purpose of scenes was as grounded as if we were telling it between two actors. And we were. Justin Kirk, who plays the duck, had us on set.
Flahive What draws people in is maybe Merritt Wever naming a duck, but I think that shows, especially during the sex scene, were so important. We even had an intimacy coordinator, treating it like any other sex scene that we would have on any show, making sure the actors were comfortable... and even making the ducks feel confident.
One thing that occurred to me in watching Cynthia Erivo's episode, The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin, is that body horror is most often infected on female characters.
Flahive I'd love to see a male body horror story!
Is It Possible to See The Fly as a male body horror story?
Mensch The episode starts off with childbirth, which is just a messy and complicated body story in real life. We were engaging in developing as a mom, rather than putting her on the couch when she misses her. I've always felt that way, but I'm not sure why we're doing this.
Tell me a little about casting. You've got a few great names on board.
Mensch We created all of the scripts ahead of time and went through a list of people who we loved for different roles. We knew we wanted to go after some people we had already worked with. We also knew we needed some huge-hitters in these roles because you must just follow these stories and get on the move right away. We assumed people would be like, "No, that's too strange." But they really connected with it.
What exactly was the price you gave me? It's streaming and one might pick up anywhere you like, but people are constrained to begin at the beginnings, and you did lead with racism and dementia.
Mensch We didn't want to hide the fact that we're taking on the big things. [Laughs.] A new anthology shows that people will kind of pick and choose where they want to start, and kind of subvert how Apple has laid them out. However, we did not want to hide the ball. These may be a light fluff veneer, but there's a lot of ambitious, topical work in it.
Flahive There are many different ways this might run in depending on who you talk to in this whole group of people who make the show. I don't think there's one way to do it, which is also a different place for us to be in terms of presentation.
Betty Gilpin, who really broke out with GLOW, has an episode. Do you know how important it is to be the one who gave her a great break?
Flahive The joy of being a playwright in New York is that you get hooked into actors before they launch. Betty was someone who was the workshop of my second play. She then came into Nurse Jackie, and Carly and I worked with her there. Sometimes, you just get lucky and see people before the world gets to see them. It's just wonderful that we had to be first to the party.
Mensch It's just a pleasure to have an idea like, "Oh, there's a woman who'll be sitting on a shelf for a large poor of this episode." When we first began to think about Betty, it gave the character the idea the focus to us. She is a special bird.
Nicole Kidman's Last Roar Question: What is the amount of time she was eating in The Woman Who Ate Photographs?
Flahive She was eating rice paper and marzipan.
This is your first project since Netflix canceled GLOW before you finished the final season. Non-profit organizations remember the surprise of that decision, not only because it was a well-liked show, but because I think it's when a lot of individuals lost trust in Netflix as being pure in it for the creative. Two years later, how do you think about the events?
Flahive When talking about another show, we thought things would come up. During the height of a pandemic, when there were so many terrible losses around the world. We were extremely sorry not to get to make that final season in profound ways. They always were. But at that moment, there was just so much loss and change.
As you continue to make the show, there are many occasions when the time is different. I think it's fair to say that at least we had a great creative time there. I still think about these characters every once in a while. Like my brain develops into believing that it's still gonna happen. We both have a strange phantom limb feeling.
Mensch It's an unfinished, unsettling feeling. There was certainly no conclusion. Two years later, we're in the acceptance phase. It happened. Because we got very much into writing that season. We filmed two episodes. Sometimes, when you make something, you forget that the world hasn't seen it. It's so real. And then, I remember it's a private version that never made it like a stillbirth.
Liz and I notice that it's the most underdog move ever to be canceled in the same fashion as the show you're based on. The original GLOW, in the eighties, was ripped from the airwaves ahead of its time. We're at least in good company.