“I think we set the bar really high in season one,” admits Michael Begler as we chat with him and Jack Amiel via webcam (watch above) about their Cinemax series “The Knick.” Set in New York in the early twentieth century, this medical drama stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon who battles drug addiction while making groundbreaking medical discoveries. “Now that we had set this base of who all these characters were,” Begler continues, “season two really gave us the opportunity to drill down into them, who they were, their personalities, their flaws.”
In season one, Amiel explains, “a lot of it was setting our world, letting people understand what 1900 was, and really explaining what the limitations were on different groups: on immigrants, on the Irish, on women, on African Americans.” In season two, “we wanted to show how those different groups pushed back against the constraints of society.”
The duo, best known for writing such comedies as “Raising Helen” (2004) and “The Shaggy Dog” (2006), saw this as an opportunity to try something new. “We weren’t the guys who normally people would associate with a show like ‘The Knick,’” concedes Amiel, “and so you have to prove you can do it.” Proving it, “requires so much research, and so much understanding, and such a mastery of so many areas.”
They praise Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic” ), who came out of semi-retirement to helm all 20 episodes of the first two seasons, with helping to make the show so special. “It’s hit that sweet spot for him,” says Begler, “and we are the beneficiaries of that. I think that he really gets to play on this giant canvas, which is very appealing to him as well.”
They were nominated for the first season by the Writer’s Guild of America in the New Series category. That season was also recognized by the Emmys, winning for Production Design and competing for Directing, Makeup, Hairstyling, and Prosthetic Makeup. As well, Owen contended for a Golden Globe for Best Actor. “It’s all just icing on the cake,” Begler admits. “We’re just so lucky that we get to do the show at all.”
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