Peter Mattei and Peter Tolan Q&A: ‘Outsiders’ producers
“I had just been thinking a lot about the times that we live in and the basic conflicts,” explains Peter Mattei as we chat via webcam (watch above) about what prompted him to create “Outsiders.” This acclaimed WGN America series stars David Morse as the leader of a large family off the grid in the rugged hills of Appalachia who turn violent when their way of life is threatened by the laws of society. As he recalls, “people seem really angry and a lot of people feel like their freedom is being taken from them, that somehow their lifestyle is endangered. I started thinking about how you could portray something like that in a rather extreme way.”
When developing the script, Mattei reveals, “we clarified some things, but we were conscious to sort of leave it a little bit chaotic.” The show, he believes, has, “it’s own sort of wild quality to it, and so we didn’t want it to conform too much to simple structures.”
Mattei was joined on our chat by “Outsiders” executive producer Peter Tolan, who co-created “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary and worked on “Murphy Brown,” “Home Improvement,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” “Unlike most scripts,” he recalls, “I could actually visualize the world, it really came alive, and was weird and different and compelling.” He immediately hopped onboard.
“I think I’ve figured out over the years,” he humbly states, “that there’s usually somebody smarter than me involved.” As he wryly observes, “I’m usually somebody who comes in after somebody else has had a great idea and just sort of facilitates getting that idea done, or expanding on it, or helping to branch a life beyond the initial thought process of it.”
Tolan has won two Emmys from 14 nominations: Comedy Series for “Murphy Brown” (1992) and Comedy Series Writing in 1998 for “Flip,” the last episode of “The Larry Sanders Show.” He shared that latter with the late Garry Shandling. “He was just a fascinating guy,” he recalls of his friend and collaborator. “I never figured him out.” Tolan was a guiding force on the groundbreaking series. “I was honored that the thing he wanted to do with that show, I understood immediately, and that’s why we were always close.”