Netflix transported Emmy voters back to the Old West with a recent FYC event for their limited series “Godless.” Gold Derby was on-hand at Netflix’s FYSEE space at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood where a panel discussion was held with stars Michelle Dockery, Jeff Daniels and Merritt Wever, writer/director Scott Frank, and executive producer Casey Silver. Listen to the entire 33-minute Q&A above.
“Godless” centers on Frank Griffin (Daniels), a violent outlaw gang leader hunting down his ex-protege, Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), who’s hiding out in the town of La Belle, New Mexico. The town is inhabited almost entirely by women after a mining disaster killed most of the men.
A two-time Oscar-nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay (“Out of Sight” in 1998 and “Logan” in 2017), Frank first conceived the idea for “Godless” as a feature film. But then he expanded it into a seven-and-a-half-hour limited series when he noticed that “all the adult dramas moved from the movie theater to the living room.”
And the story became more feminist after Frank researched mining towns where “there’s an accident, and in a single afternoon they become these matriarchies.” He thought that would be “a great place to set a traditionally male story.” Frank’s radical genre switch-up payed off with Writers Guild and Directors Guild nominations, and now he could follow those with writing and directing noms at the Emmys.
For Dockery, a British actress who earned three Emmy nominations as Lady Mary Crawley on “Downton Abbey” (Best Drama Actress in 2013-2015), a western was “not something that I ever imagined I would have the opportunity to do.” She “knew that it would take some convincing” to land the role of rough-and-tumble ranch owner Alice Fletcher after her genteel breakthrough role, so she sent in an audition tape to help shed her regal image.
The same was true for Wever, who won an Emmy for playing a sweet-natured nursing student on “Nurse Jackie” (Best Comedy Supporting Actress in 2013) but here plays the brash and fiercely independent Mary Agnes. “I always worried about pulling it off,” she admitted. She felt challenged “playing someone so strong and tough at a time in my life when I didn’t feel strong and tough, and that felt almost physically painful.”
Daniels was also cast against type as the ruthless Frank Griffin, though the actor refused to characterize Griffin as a villain or a hero. Instead, Daniels looked at him as “a guy who had a whole bunch of contradictions.” He credited Frank’s writing, which was “so rich and deep. There was such a history there.” An Emmy winner for “The Newsroom” (Best Drama Actor in 2013), Daniels has already reaped bids at the SAG and Critics Choice Awards for “Godless.” He’s on the Emmy ballot in the supporting category for this series while he contends in the lead contest for “The Looming Tower.”
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