'Boss': Farhad Safinia On the Season Finale and What's Ahead

Boss Ep 108 Kelsey Grammer - H 2011

Boss Ep 108 Kelsey Grammer - H 2011

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Boss season finale.]

On Friday, Kelsey Grammer's freshman drama Boss ended its first season with a shocking finale: Chicago Mayor Tom Kane's degenerative neurological disorder caught up with him after a busy Election Day where he learned that not only did his wife, Meredith (Connie Nielsen) betray him but his trusted fixer and right-hand man Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan) was behind the leak that could have ended his political career.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Boss creator Farhad Safinia to discuss the finale, the show's low ratings and what's ahead for Season 2.

The Hollywood Reporter: Season 1 ended with everyone's jaws on the floor. How soon will Season 2 pick up after Tom's collapse?
Farhad Safinia:
It also leaves Tom on the floor, right? (Laughs.) I don't think you're going to see the same types of mechanics at play in the second season as you did in the first season. We're going to move the story along to interesting, different places than what you saw. I never wanted to have it go landing on formula and trading on that formula. Hopefully what you see next is different; hopefully better, maybe more interesting. When it picks up is a crucial reveal.

THR: Will you be changing the show's tone for Season 2?
We're not changing the tone in terms of the work we're striving for with the show. Storywise, I feel like the show needs to progress. We're telling the story of this guy and we'd be doing a disservice to the audience if we just said, "What's the new plot in Season 2 against Tom Kane in Season 2? What's the bigger, badder version?" We have to do justice to the central character we've created. He's facing this end run and if we don't do that in some way then we've dropped the ball on this character. Tonally, I think we've hit the right notes and I'd like to keep going in that way.

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THR: The show has struggled to break through the clutter and attract viewers. Why do you think it hasn't connected?
I don't really know why the ratings are the way they are. I wish they were much bigger; I want everyone in the world to watch the show (laughs). I guess it's a combination of a lot of different factors that I don't have control over: it's new show, on a network trying to establish itself differently than it has before. I think the people who have seen it are pretty into it and I hope it'll continue to build an audience like other shows that have come along and tried something different.

THR: What does Ezra's murder mean for Tom? Does it make him less of a political figure and more of a gangster?
I wish that last sentence is something we would ask all of our political figures. I relish that question because I find that the way we look at our political figures in any time we live in is obscured by certain wishes and desires about how we want the world to actually be as opposed to what it is. When you look at Tom Kane, the guy is only interested in maintaining power -- what does that mean in terms of his relationships, friendships, his basic humanity? He's not a cartoon character. Yes, the show is heightened and has operatic flourishes. But in some other way, he's a character aware of his deliberate moral failings in the sense that he knows the bad that he's doing. He's not doing something bad and turning and winking at the audience; he's aware of what he's doing and he carries it heavily. If I look at the kind of disappointments I had and the things I've found out about decisions that have been made -- back room deals and the abandonment of the ideals on which we put them there in the first place -- I ask myself, "What do you have to do to become that kind of guy?" When the show was starting, I said we're going to explore what happens to the moral fibers of an individual whose entire goal is to hold on to power and then explore the relationships, friendships with family, colleagues and so on and explore what happens when this rhetoric of violence translates into actual violence. Where does that line exist?

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THR: Will Donovan return?
I will not say no to that question. I'm going to use a Tom Kane trick and not answer the question. (Laughs.)

THR: You see the gunshot wounds; he's sitting in the chair, dying. There's no way he could survive that. It wasn't a hallucination, right?
There are very many interesting places to explore that character additionally. What you saw happen at the end of Season 1 did happen. We have a steady and fast rule that any time Tom is having a hallucination he's there. He doesn't hallucinate about things that happening elsewhere. His hallucinations occur with him in the room.

THR: Could Ezra appear to him in a hallucination?
It's certainly on the table.

THR: Ezra is gone, Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) has seemingly quit he job, his wife has betrayed him and he sacrificed his daughter in order to maintain power. How much will he regret using his daughter for political gain?

Safinia: I hope he's regretting it to hell. The opening scene in Episode 1 is Tom Kane at his best and that's the best he ever was or will be as a politician; it's all downhill after that because he's losing his faculties. It doesn't mean we won't see glimpses or echoes of the kind of man he is or has been: the man who rose to that position. We saw his abilities this season and why he is the power. We saw the decisions he's able to make even though he's falling apart. Here's a guy who started off rising up through the ranks, and eventually as he's rising, had to shed more of his humanity and get rid of the aspects of himself he thought were the weakest in order to rise and sustain his power. When we meet him, he's this creature that's gotten rid of baggage of humanity that would get in the way of being in power.

Now, faced with this news, he's starting off on journey of looking at himself and thinking, "Was that a worthwhile thing to do as a human being?" He's exploring this thing with his daughter and who knows what it's going to do with his wife. Are there other major things he did in his past in terms of shedding humanity that he needs to re-explore? He's trying in Season 1 to go back and get closer to his daughter and then realizes that the moment he becomes weak, everybody is out for blood and can sense it and wants to topple him. He regresses back to who he's been. He flirts and dances with redemption, which you clearly see him not achieve in Season 1. The thing I do think we'll see in Season 2 is this flirting with trying to find something redemptive -- a place for himself to redeem himself in some way. Whether we'll achieve it or not, I hope that we don't achieve it until we're done telling his story because I think the story ends when he redeems himself.

THR: Sounds like we may be seeing a bit more of Tom's past.
The idea of what has happened between him and Meredith is interesting: Why are they the way that they are? People don't become that way out of nothing. There's a journey there. The relationship with his daughter continues to be of interest because she clearly was a heavy casualty of what ever household she grew up in. The relationships with his colleagues: he's a very lonely person. That shot where he's sitting alone in his office, and Stone is no longer there. The idea of that image is to show you how incredibly lonely it is to become who he is and be who he is for what he is. That journey up to that place takes a lot of doing. You can definitely explore a lot of those things from his past. Whether it's done in flashbacks or another form like re-examination where 5, 10, 20 years later in present time you're re-confronted with the person or with a situation that you dealt with back then and how do you feel about that now? That example is what happened with the dump, Reyes, his daughter. We'll see more of that for sure.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit