FX's 'Fosse/Verdon' Producers: #MeToo Era Makes This Story Relevant

Sam Rockwell-Michelle Williams-Getty-H 2019
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FX's limited series Fosse/Verdon was in the early stages of development when a series of #MeToo revelations about powerful Hollywood figures hit.

The show's creative team then realized that rather than elide or work around some of the more questionable aspects of Bob Fosse's behavior, they should lean into it.

"It's an ongoing conversation. It's a conversation that never ends," said Nicole Fosse, the daughter of Fosse and Gwen Verdon and a consultant on the series. " So no matter what has happened that we've found out already, no matter what we've addressed, you can't just sweep it under the rug. It's a conversation that needs to begin in the household in every family, and it needs to be open and ongoing. I just think it's really important to tell the truth."

The show will track the decades-long creative and personal partnership between Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Verdon (Michelle Williams). Early on, executive producer Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen) and the other producers (including the Hamilton duo of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail and The Americans co-creator Joel Fields) wondered whether it was the right story to tell for this time. Then the #MeToo movement took hold.

"There are so many troubling aspects of this story, and it was right around then that this incredible explosion of the truth, really, and in this industry in particular, came to light," said Levenson. "It suddenly felt like, we have to tell this story because of that, instead of how are we going to tell this story and not glamorize it or skirt by some things. That's actually the subject of it."

The show takes place mostly in the 1960s and '70s, with the "period ideals and period ethics" of that time, Nicole Fosse said, and how different those are from the current moment.

"You see things clash here and see problems created, and the effort made to find the gray areas, to not go into black-and-white thinking," she said. "People can do terrible things but they can still be good people, and there's a struggle between the characters to find that, to be able to continue to appreciate parts of each other and remove themselves from other aspects of each other's lives."

Levenson also hopes Fosse/Verdon will tear down the Great Man idea that singular art is the product of one person's genius. He described a photo of Fosse directing the 1969 film version of Sweet Charity that cropped one way appears to be just him directing a group of dancers.

"But if you zoom out, you see Gwen Verdon is standing right next to him directing this other group of dancers," Levenson said. "Part of what I hope the show does is it opens this conversation in terms of talking about 'the man' and 'the work,' and how do you separate the man from the work, that we also broaden the definition of 'the work' to understand that it's not just this one man's work. It's also Gwen's, it's also this incredible group of dancers, and not allowing that mythology of the genius to take away from the incredible contributions that people like Gwen Verdon made."

Fosse/Verdon is set to premiere April 9 on FX.