“The concern as an editor is making sure your audience understands what’s happening at all times,” declares editor Anthony Boys about his top priority on the second season of “The Great.” For our recent webchat he adds, “This show’s all about what’s not being said. So, how do you communicate that, how do you make sure that the audience understands what’s not being said, when everyone else is saying something else and there’s four people or five people speaking at any one time,” he explains. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“The Great” returned for an even more outrageous second season late last year to virtually unanimous “huzzahs” from critics, scoring a 100% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Elle Fanning stars as the titular Catherine the Great in the genre-bending Russian royalty satire for Hulu, who after initiating a coup against husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) at the end of season 1, embarks on the show’s sophomore season pregnant with their child, while dealing with a royal court in disarray, a looming war with the Ottomans and a visit from her serpent-tongued mother Joanna, played by Emmy winner Gillian Anderson.
The series is beloved for its witty, razor-sharp and hilariously profane dialogue, the performances of its excellent cast, and its lavish production values. After earning a pair of Emmy nominations for its first season, including one for series creator and writer Tony McNamara, it has unsurprisingly become a regular on the TV awards circuit, with McNamara scoring consecutive wins for Best Episodic Comedy last year and earlier this year, and Fanning scoring a Best Comedy Series Actress nomination at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards coupled with the cast’s nomination for Best Comedy Series Ensemble.
The show is funnier than its madcap first season, as McNamara and his team push the envelope further, particularly among the ensemble cast including genius creations like the often inebriated General Velementov (Douglas Hodge), quirky Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), highly strung Archbishop (Adam Godley) and close confidantes Grigor (Gwilym Lee), Orlov (Sacha Dawan) and Marial (Phoebe Fox).
Boys edited four of the ten-episode sophomore season, including the sixth episode “A Simple Jape.” In that fan-favorite installment, Catherine is frustrated by the lack of meaningful change in her rule of Russia, so she seeks to shake the court out of its complacency, by playing a joke on them. She decides to give servant Shakey (Ninette Finch) a noble makeover, turning the elderly serf with a heart of gold, whose hands shake so badly that she can barely pour a cup of tea, into a polished aristocrat. But Catherine’s jovial deception unwittingly triggers a series of devastating events, devolving into tragedy by episode’s end.
“When I got the script to that it was a real joy to read, because the season has sort of been building towards that Catherine has had a few successes and so she started to get a bit too big for her boots and started to get overly confident with it,” Boys explains. “Editing the opening scene, where it’s Peter performing cunnilingus on her, then they have an argument. That’s just great fun and you love editing things like that, because it’s just leaning in to two actors being funny and that’s just a joy to cut always. But from then on, I did something slightly different. I eased off on the pace just a bit, for the first half of the episode I purposely didn’t cut it quite as tight as I might normally do and I just wanted the audience just to relax a little bit and maybe a little bit more chilled out than they would normally be watching the episode,” he reveals. “When the time came and when she’s confronted by the nobles and when it all erupts and she’s locked in the room by her right-hand people, that then would hit harder, because I was trying to allow the audience into slightly false sense of security.”
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