Jack Amiel and Michael Begler Q&A: ‘The Knick’ creators
HBO shows characteristically spend years in development, but “The Knick” finished filming its first season a mere six months after being picked up by the paycaster based on its pilot script. “It just became a question of availability. We just really had a window in which we could actually pull this off,” explains Michael Begler during our recent webcam chat in which he was joined by co-creator Jack Amiel. “We got the greenlight at the end of May 2013 and we started shooting in September, so we only had a pilot at that point and had to write nine more. And not only that — they had to build the thing, they had to create all the wardrobe. We had to cast over 170 speaking parts, so it was quite an undertaking.”
Despite this rushed schedule, the show’s high production values and Oscar-calibre talent both behind and in front of the camera — Steven Soderbergh and Clive Owen respectively — make the hospital drama, set in 1900, feel right at home among the lavish period pieces that typically air on HBO. Except it does not air on HBO.
Instead, the premium cable outlet is using “The Knick” to help rebrand subsidiary network Cinemax as a secondary home for prestige programming. “I don’t think it feels any different. I mean, it was a choice to go on to Cinemax; it was this idea of instead of being one among many to be the standout,” says Begler. Amiel adds, “When we play all around the world, nobody knows that we’re Cinemax or that we’re HBO or that we’re anything. They just know that we’re the same network as ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ because we go through the same distribution.”
“The Knick” may have flown under the radar compared to those two titles in terms of media exposure, but it is a real sleeper this Emmy season. “I find that the people in the know in the industry really are aware of the show in a way that’s really satisfying,” says Amiel with good reason, as “The Knick” already received nominations this awards season from industry guilds for its costumes, hairstyling, makeup, production design, visual effects and writing.
“I’m sure there’s a strategy, but we don’t know it,” Amiel laughs when asked about selecting episodes for Emmy consideration. Because they are, “really proud of the pilot because it really was that genesis of the whole thing and that had to be right or else the rest of it was never going to play,” they are unwittingly employing a common strategy used by new show. The show will be back for a second season this October, to which Begler teases, “It’s going to be bigger — bigger, bolder and faster.”