Actors say, “These are our novels,” about…wait for it…TV!

In the wonderful world of tomorrow, AIs will oversee all the robots and drones as they do the real work, and humans will indulge in lifetimes of inquiry, learning, and other scientific and philosophical pursuits.

Some of us will of course turn to literature for entertainment and education. But we won’t be reading our literature. No way. Who needs it when, as the following Los Angeles Times headline and article demonstrate:

The Spreanza family gathering around a television in a supermarket to watch Jill Corey perform. (Photo by Gordon Parks//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

For these five dramatic actors, the depth of storytelling on TV stuns
by Mary McNamara

se are our novels,” says “Ray Donovan” star Liev Schreiber of the quality of current television programming. And who can argue? With the depth and complexity of characters being written today, it’s storytelling at its finest – so let’s all gather around the new Tolstoy, shall we? Schreiber wasn’t alone in marveling at the intricacies of modern plotting. He was joined in a conversation with The Envelope by fellow actors Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”), Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), Bob Odenkirk(“Better Call Saul”) and Jean Smart (“Fargo”) to talk about character development, changing roles for women, and remembering what it is your character doesn’t know. Here’s what they had to say in that late April chat.

We have represented here mini-series, we have anthology series, dramas. But one thing that unites you guys is that the characters are very complicated. Even when they are bad guys, they have some sort of essential humanity. Or even when they are heroes, they have things that they’re dealing with. How do you balance those often contradictory characteristics?

Bob Odenkirk:  Well, I just call the writers and say, “Stop adding sides to my character.”

[Laughter]

Odenkirk:  Because Saul Goodman in “Breaking Bad”was such a one-dimensional—sort of intentionally—guy. He was a facade of that he was presenting. So I didn’t feel like it was a lot of work to get these new sides to the character when he was Jimmy McGill, to try to marry those two up. And I just love all the interesting versions of the guy that there are, just like real people. I mean, you’re one way at work, and you’re a different way with your family, and on your own, you’re a kind of a different person. And it all made sense to me right away. It wasn’t hard.

So you approached them like two different characters, not like “I have to get to here”?

Odenkirk:  No, I didn’t think about that at all. Because we all knew right away, [co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould] and I, who really wants to watch Saul Goodman for any length of time? The actual Saul Goodman as presented in “Breaking Bad” was just a selfish, self-interested—he was fun to watch in short increments, but you wouldn’t really want to build a show around him. So they just sort of threw that away and built somebody from the ground up.

What about you, Jean? You played the crime matriarch, sort of accidentally, because her husband has been felled by a stroke and she’s having to take over. How was that?

Jean Smart:  Well, first of all, I loved the fact that her name was Floyd and I never asked [“Fargo” creator] Noah Hawley why he named her Floyd until we were done. I came up with my own notions of why he called her Floyd. But the thing I loved about her was that she was just a very practical person. You just do what needs to be done, no matter what. And Noah had laid the character out so well that I had a great backstory for her almost right away. But, like, in the second episode, there’s a scene where she’s in the kitchen basting a turkey or something, and her son is out in the barn doing, shall we say, “enhanced interrogation” on a poor fellow. And I’m sure she knows what’s going on, but but then he comes in the kitchen later and makes a dirty joke, and she bites his head off for using crude language….

Read it all at the Los Angeles Times