“Little America” is one of TV’s hidden gems, an eight-episode anthology series that tells poignant true stories of immigrants living in America. Based on the Epic Magazine story of the same name, Apple TV+ debuted the program in January from executive producers Lee Eisenberg, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. “As much as possible we really tried to cast people from the countries of origin or children of immigrants,” Eisenberg reveals about the show’s unique casting process during Gold Derby’s TV Showrunners panel (watch above). “There were challenges but the rewards for it were so great because the stories felt so intimate.”
When Eisenberg looked up some of his various cast members’ filmographies, he recalls thinking, “One was the bad guy in ‘Homeland,’ the other was the bad guy in ‘Jack Ryan.’ They just hadn’t played scenes were they were sitting around with their family and there was music and dancing and love.” He adds, “The casting process was so kind of enlightening and exciting for us. We would start sending emails back and forth like, ‘Oh my God, did you see that guy?'”
How did Eisenberg come up with the idea for a show about American immigrants? He readily admits, “I, as writers do, was sitting around trying to come up with what my next show was going to be and I started thinking about the shows that I was really getting excited about as a viewer.” He cites the “Parents” episode of “Master of None” as a big inspiration, plus his own father’s story of coming to America from Israel. “I thought, what if there was a series where every episode was that and it didn’t feel special or exceptional that characters that didn’t look like characters that were usually starring in TV shows were kind of in the foreground?”
Being an anthology series with eight different stories, casts and time periods, Eisenberg claims he’s “never gotten more emails” than during the four months he was shooting “Little America.” “There’s wardrobe, there’s cultural consultants, there’s dialect coaches,” he explains. “Authenticity and kind of the texture of the specificity of it were so important to the show. I’m really proud of what we did, but there were just a million decisions and everything was happening at once.”
Also in our exclusive video interview, Eisenberg talks about how hard it was to create an episode order for the Apple TV Plus platform, how many of the real-life immigrants were involved in the productions, and why he didn’t want the show “to feel political.” Eisenberg is a previous Emmy nominee for writing and producing both “The Office” and “Hello Ladies: The Movie.”
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