Zander Lehmann Q&A: ‘Casual’ creator
During our recent webcam chat (watch above), “Casual” creator Zander Lehmann revealed that the idea for his Hulu original series came from personal experience. “I was living with my sister for three years,” he says. “We’ve been very close for a long time, and then she started dating my best friend. He would sleep over at the apartment some times, so I would see him. Ultimately, he decided that was uncomfortable for him, so he and my sister moved out. As a result, I felt like I should write a television series about the three of us set ten years in the future, as if I was a bachelor and my sister had just divorced her husband and moved back in with me.”
The show stars Michaela Watkins as a recently divorced therapist who, with her teenage daughter (Tara Lynne Barr) in tow, moves in with her brother (Tommy Dewey), the founder of an online dating site specializing in everything from serious relationships to casual encounters. The swinging single encourages his sister to dip her toes in this brave new world, to mixed results.
“There used to be this weird stigma about meeting people online that I think is no longer the case,” explains Lehmann. “I feel like we’ve seen a lot of dating shows, a lot of shows about modern love, but having the online dating perspective, I thought, sort of gave it a real feeling, something I know a lot of people are going through, and I felt like there were a lot of stories. It’s how you present yourself online, obviously very different from how you present yourself in a bar or in a restaurant if you just meet someone. The idea of someone having a persona online versus how they are in real life I thought was really interesting.”
He had high praise for his actors. “We brought in a ton of people to read for every role,” he recalls, “and it was just a matter of who understood what they were saying, and who really felt like they were believable in those roles. You look at Michaela Watkins and Tommy Dewey at first glance, you would never believe those two could be related but ultimately, we felt like their chemistry was so good, and they read the roles so well, you sort of had to realize it doesn’t matter if they don’t necessarily look alike. They just embody the characters so much, we will work around that.”
He also spoke highly of Jason Reitman, who helmed the first two episodes and stayed on as an executive producer. “He was always my dream director for this project,” Lehmann admits. “He straddles that line between drama and comedy so well in a way that I think a lot of people try, and a lot of people are not really able to get.”
Their efforts paid off with a nomination for Best Comedy Series at last year’s Golden Globes. Lehmann described that recognition as, “very surreal. I don’t usually get up that early, and I suddenly had about fifty text messages that woke me up. I had to go take a walk around the block, because I had no expectation this would happen, and then I called everyone from the cast and crew, and we were all very excited. It was very much a whirlwind. I think we were all just happy that people liked the show; the fact it got nominated was icing on the cake.”