One of the things I really liked about the first episode is how the tone is so unique. I’m sure a lot of people will use the word “mash-up” for it. When you were working on the show, both in production and in editing, was there a mantra or a touchstone you used to try to get that tone right between the comedy and the drama?
Zelman: [laughs] I wish.
Lieberstein: Yeah, we’re constantly finding it and we need a guide like that. It is a daily discussion about staying on tone. And what is it? What is our tone? It’s one of these things I think we don’t often know until it works. Like, “Oh yeah, no, no, no, that’s good. That’s entertaining.”
Zelman: We don’t know how to define it, but we know it when we see it. It sounds like a joke, but like Paul said, we’re always —
Lieberstein: We couldn’t point to another show and say, “Oh, we’re doing that. We’re doing a version of that.” Which was hard to get on the same page with all the writers, and actors, and worried people. It constantly worries people.
Zelman: Yeah. People get very nervous about that.
Lieberstein: But I feel like it’s an opportunity to either crash and burn or really put out a unique show.
Absolutely. And part and parcel with that, did you have a specific pitch to [series lead Bob Odenkirk] to get him hooked?
Zelman: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I mean, no, not really. He read the script.
Lieberstein: By the time I talked to Bob, he was a 100% in. He loved this character and wanted to do it.
He just read the script and was like, “Yes, please?”
Zelman: I would say the only thing that he questioned and wondered about was, I think the original script that he read was about 38 pages long. And he said, “Now this couldn’t be like a 22-minute half-hour, right? Or is it?” And we said, “No, we don’t see it that way.” But we also didn’t exactly know where it would go.
Lieberstein: For a long time, it was intended to be a true 30-minute show for streaming.
Zelman: So I think there was a little confusion with Bob there and then we soon said, “No, no, this is 30 minutes. This is 34 minutes, or however it would play, and that’s what it needs to be.” And I think something clicked for Bob and he said, “I get it. Okay, this is its own thing, it’s going to have its own life.” And then we ended up expanding a little more to meet the hour-long format of AMC.
It didn’t seem like an hour. That’s a good thing.
Zelman: Yeah, people want to define it — is it a half-hour, or an hour? We had a lot of back and forth asking, “Do we have to restructure this whole thing?” And in the end, we’re like, “No, let’s just add a little bit more to these characters, and we think it’ll sustain because there’s enough there.” And hopefully we were right.