Emmys: 'Confirmation' Star-Producer Kerry Washington Reveals Biggest Challenge of Anita Hill Biopic

7:00 AM 8/9/2016

by Craig Tomashoff

Plus, how Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency, Idris Elba’s 'Luther,' Bill Murray's 'A Very Murray Christmas' and 'Sherlock: The Abominable Bride' became TV movies.

HBO; BBC; Netflix

  • Confirmation

    HBO

    Frank Masi/HBO

    "There were a couple of particular challenges we had to deal with very early on. Casting, for instance. Because our characters were real people, like Joe Biden and Clarence Thomas, we had to find actors who could really embody these historical figures but not seem like they were imitating them. Once we dealt with that, it also became a challenge to balance history versus art. We wanted to honor the words as they were said during the time when Anita Hill's story was in the headlines because they were so iconic and hold a place in people's memories. We couldn't not talk about pubic hair and a Coke can. Nobody could have known at the time we were working on this that now we'd be living in a moment when Congress won't fill an open Supreme Court seat and Roger Ailes gets ousted from Fox News over sexual harassment charges. Still, it all helped us find a way to make the story more engaging to the people who maybe didn't know Anita Hill's story." — Kerry Washington, Star/producer

     

  • Luther

    BBC America

    Sarah Dunn/BBC

    "Neil Cross' scripts are so packed with detail and action that when we got to the edit, we realized we had nearly enough material for an extra episode! We agonized over what to cut but then realized the answer was just to embrace it and allow the wealth of material to create a relentless pace to the storytelling, reflecting the pressure Luther was under. In the end, pretty much everything made the special." — Marcus Wilson, Producer

    "When Neil and I first spoke about a fourth installment of Luther, we were determined to bring as many of the original team back together as we could. I knew this would be a challenge — success equals crazy schedules, of course — but what was unexpected was the creative challenge of doing everything we wanted to do within the framework of a special, rather than a miniseries. We knew fans of the show might be disappointed that they weren't getting more, so the pressure to fit in all the ingredients of a classic Luther, while moving the story on, introducing new characters and taking it up a notch, was enormous. But the combined genius of Neil Cross' writing and Idris Elba's performance — and lots of late-night calls between Neil, director Sam Miller, producer Marcus Wilson and myself (late because Neil lives on the other side of the world) — meant that we ended up with, I believe, a very special Luther indeed." — Elizabeth Kilgarrif, Executive producer 

  • All the Way

    HBO

    Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

    "To try and go beyond Robert Schenkkan's excellent, widely revered play, Bryan [Cranston] and I decided we had to go even deeper into Lyndon B. Johnson's psyche, to try to capture more of LBJ's private insecurities or intense ambitions than the play could. You can 'hear' private struggles in the many personal calls he secretly recorded during that strange year. To accomplish this, I tried to create additional empathy and drama by contrasting exaggeratedly wide shots of the high-pressure Oval Office or the very public floor of the House of Representatives with extreme close-ups of Bryan, especially during quieter moments. I tried to get so close that Bryan would barely have to whisper a threat to a Dixiecrat, or could bathe his beloved assistant in meager praise, or blast Humphrey with a huge, angry explosion in a tight over-the-shoulder shot. But my favorite close-ups of Bryan were completely silent. You can feel a dozen irresistible forces in play, just looking into his incredibly expressive eyes." — Jay Roach, Director

  • A Very Murray Christmas

    Netflix

    Ali Goldstein/Netflix

    "I was going to say our biggest challenge was pulling ourselves away from the Bemelmans Bar's world-famous martinis, but truthfully, I think it was the joy and trial of shooting all but one scene of our entire film in a single (albeit glamorous Carlyle Hotel) location and in a crazed four-and- a-half-day shoot. Sofia [Coppola] somehow captured a very ambitious script packed with dozens of guest stars performing 14 Christmas songs — all but three sung live on camera — while two March blizzards raged in the New York streets outside. Roman Coppola and John Tanzer designed shots, often using up to five cameras, to capture the live performances, and Paul Shaffer, rightly nominated for an Emmy for his musical direction, somehow played piano and arranged all 14 tunes. And, of course, Bill Murray, in nearly every scene, held it all in place — the calm center of our Christmas Murricane. A Very Murray Christmas was a wild and giddy, high-speed bobsled ride to the finish." — Mitch Glazer, Writer/executive producer 

  • Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

    PBS

    Hartswood Films 2015

    "The biggest challenge for the Sherlock special was re-creating the Victorian era, because our show is usually set in modern times. We solved this problem by harnessing the power of a black hole and actually traveling into the past, as this proved to be cheaper than running up a lot of costumes and renting a horse." — Steven Moffat, Writer-creator 

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