Well into the fall TV lineup, a number of new shows continue to impress. With a diverse set of showrunners shaping the way we see television, we can expect the standard to continue to rise. One such name to look out for is Chad Hodge.
Building on an ever-growing repertoire of quality television like
The Playboy Club
, Hodge adds a new title to his résumé. Premiering this week on TNT,
takes Michelle Dockery from her polished British lifestyle on
and casts her as a modern femme fatale. Out of prison on good behavior and attempting to stay sober, a con artist finds herself entangled in a dangerous new relationship.
We recently spoke with executive producer Chad Hodge about the new series, queer roles, and being a gay man in television.
: I loved
. What was it like getting that show off the ground?
Well I created the show based on the books by Blake Crouch. I only envisioned it as an event series. I don’t know if you remember all the promotion and marketing before the episode aired but it was like 10 episodes only. That was the vision of the show I had planned. It was great that it did so well that Fox wanted to do more episodes but by that time, I had already sold
which was also based on books that Blake Crouch had wrote. So he and I had such a great time working on
together that we started working on this show together. I had sort of already moved on so I couldn’t work on
but I felt like my contribution to what that show is was my vision for the first season. So I passed the baton when they wanted to keep going.
Were you happy with the direction the show went in the second season?
I have to be totally honest with you. I have not seen it. I’ve been so busy doing
that I have not had time to watch it yet but it sounds great from everything that Blake has told me.
You said Blake Crouch also wrote the book
is based on. What specifically about that book attracted you to want to make another show?
Well Blake and I had such a great time doing
together that we wanted to do something else. I didn’t know Blake before
. I started reading his catalogue. He’s a very prolific author. I think I started reading the second or third book in his huge stack of work, and he said, “I wrote these three novellas, these short stories about this woman a long time ago, and I think you’d really like her.” He sent me these three novellas about this woman, Letty Dobesh. The character of Letty really jumped off the page at me, and I sort of saw who this woman could be and who she was, the woman that Blake created, and how we could breathe life into her and make her a fully fledged human being in a series. Really, the first book is a jumping off point for the series, and then it just exploded from there. So to answer your question, it was really this character. Whereas
is a story-driven piece of writing and television show,
is much more of a character driven piece.
From the first episode, I love the way you really explore her addiction. Is that something that’s going to be central to the show?
Oh absolutely. Yea, she’s just out of prison. She’s an alcoholic. She’s addicted, she has drug issues. She’s trying to be good, and she’s trying to figure out what good means for her. One of the things she realizes, whether she’s verbalized it or not, she can replace the high of drinking or doing drugs with going and stealing or doing a job. Like when she pours the booze down the sink, that gets her just as high. Does that make her good? That’s the one constant struggle she has is replacing one addiction with another and trying to find the balance of who she’s supposed to be and what’s the best version of Letty.
Michelle Dockery plays Letty on TNT's
premiering November 15.
I guess you could say this about many shows today but there seems to be a lot of feminist undertones. Would you say the feminism in the show is intentional or does it just kind of go with television today?
It’s definitely something intentional. For me, when I read this character and I envisioned what this could be as a show, it had everything to do with what it means to be a woman in today’s world, how women relate to men, how they find their voice. The whole show is through Letty’s point of view, and you’re seeing the world through her interactions and through her eyes. When you’re in that closet with her, when she’s hiding in the hotel room and hearing the conversation between these two men, one asking the other to kill his wife, the coverage of that entire scene is done from inside the closet. It’s how she sees the world. So then that bleeds into everything, what it means to be a woman and how that feels, which is why I was really insistent that we had a woman direct the pilot. As much as I have many women in my life and I enjoy writing about women, sometimes more than men, I’m not a woman. And I wanted a woman to bring this show to life. So Charlotte Sieling directed the pilot, and I actually met Charlotte because she directed the second episode of
. That’s how we met, and we hit it off immediately. So she brought something incredibly important to the creation of
Yes, that is something coming up. And I don’t want to reveal plot details because it would spoil some things but there’s a very interesting and modern story coming up with one of our characters that resulted actually from some experiences I had while making the pilot. Then I came up with this story that comes into
about halfway through. So you’ll see.
Sounds interesting, I look forward to seeing it. I also loved
The Playboy Club
and how that had such a huge queer subplot.
Thank you! I’m so glad you saw that. Yea, the Mattachine Society and all of that.
Yea, before it was even a norm on TV, if you can really call it a norm today. Do you think that was before America was ready to see that?
America definitely wasn’t ready to see
The Playboy Club
. We know that for sure. [
] But in terms of that storyline, it was very adamant about that story. And when you’re telling the story about five different women in the ‘60s, why wouldn’t one of them, at least, be an LGBT character? And what would that woman be going through in that time period in Chicago? To me, it was a very natural part of what that story would be. Obviously, I see the world from an LGBT point of view and so do you. I don’t sit down and say, I want to have a gay character. If it works in the story, then of course. But to me, there are very few stories where that wouldn’t work because we’re everywhere, and we’re part of the fabric of almost any setting, any time period, any place.
TV has definitely change a lot in that short time since then. Do you think it’s more embracing of queer stories than film?
I don’t know if TV is more embracing than film. It’s certainly more embracing than it was a few years ago. I think now, because of the sheer number of shows and the number of networks and the demand for high quality television, it’s so amazing. I’m finding very few barriers anymore because the only right is to write something original and real and truthful.
It’s amazing seeing gay men like you, Greg Berlanti, and Ryan Murphy having such a huge impact on television. Do you think it’s becoming a gay man’s game or is it that they’ve always been there but now they’re just more visible?
I think that gay men have always been here, of course. I think what’s different now is there’s a recognition of writer/showrunners in the process of making shows like the one you’re interviewing me for now. There’s a recognition, whether it’s men, women, gay, or straight which is great. There are so many writer/showrunners getting the recognition they deserve like Shonda Rhimes and Julie Plec.
You were also working on a biopic of Anita Bryant. Is that still in the works?
It is in the works. It’s a biopic, an indie movie. It’s always hard to get these movies made but it’s something I’m working very hard to make it become a reality. It’s a very relevant story. It always will be because Anita Bryant was the beginning of the division and the beginning of uniting us as a culture ironically, and also the beginning of the Christian right really. And that is always a very relevant story, and it’s a very fun movie in a strange way. So I hope it gets made one day.
Well I look forward to seeing it. You recently added Broadway to your
. How did that come about?
I was an actor as a kid. I was in all the high school musicals, and I’ve always been a huge theater fan. For a long time, TV writers really didn’t do theater and playwrights really didn’t do TV. That all really started to change like five or six years ago. And I remember about eight years ago, I said to myself that I would really love to get into writing for theater, especially writing books for musicals. The theater agents were sort of like, “We’ll call you.” About four or five years ago, things started to change and we in TV started to hire playwrights on our writing staffs and then vice versa, they started opening up to TV writers and film writers. I got a call about doing
for Universal. They wanted to turn their 1940s movie with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire into a big stage musical for the first time. Theater projects take a very long time to develop and come to fruition if they even ever do. We’re talking years and years. So this was a very unique situation because Universal was very set on creating this show, and they told me that if I could come up with an outline in three weeks, Universal and the Goodspeed Theater in Connecticut will announce it as a part of their next season, and they’ll produce it. So I was like, holy shit. [
] So I did, I came up with an outline, and they announced the show. We had a great run at the Goodspeed, and last summer, we were at the Muny in St. Louis, which is the biggest theater in the country. That was another successful run, and it piqued the interest of Broadway. So the Roundabout theater company produced the Broadway version of
, and we just opened at Studio 54.
Do you think you’ll be doing anymore theater in the future or do you have anymore projects that you’re excited about?
I’m definitely going to be doing more theater. I’m actually doing a new project for Universal that I can’t tell you about yet. And I just wrote a movie that’s shockingly getting made because movies don’t get made anymore. In fact, I wrote it three years ago but it’s just getting made. It’s also based on the first of a trilogy of novels called
The Darkest Minds
by a woman named Alexandra Bracken, and Fox and Shawn Levy are making it. It starts shooting in March, which is kind of crazy. And it stars Amandla Stenberg.
premieres November 15th at 9/8c on TNT.
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