Jessica Yu Interview: ‘Fosse/Verdon’ director

Jessica Yu earned her first Emmy nomination this year for directing the fourth episode of FX’s “Fosse/Verdon.” After building a successful career as a documentary filmmaker, and winning an Oscar for 1996’s documentary short “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien,” Yu sees a clear parallel between her early projects and what she’s doing now in narrative film making. As she admits in our exclusive interview (watch the video above), “Of course I liked the freedom of documentaries even if the budget weren’t very high, and now you see a lot of freedom in streaming content and limited series, so it’s a really exciting time.”

Yu is Emmy nominated for the series’s fourth episode “Glory,” which chronicles Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) having an emotional breakdown in the midst of achieving his greatest success. The dichotomy of Fosse’s experience immediately hooked the director. “I was so excited when I got this script because I thought it was extraordinary, but it’s also a very internal, a very intimate story,” she says. “And then you have this sort of imaginative explosion at the end that kind of brings everything to a head.”

The episode’s most complex sequence involves a montage of Fosse winning the Oscar, Emmy and Tony in 1973 set against scenes showing his increasing mental instability. “Now he’s at a point in his career where he gets everything he’s dreamed of and having to face the void when all your wishes come true and somehow it’s not fulfilling you,” Yu explains. “You’re not happy and what does that mean about who you are.” She describes the specific stylistic choices she made in order to depict Fosse’s emotional descent. “One thing I liked right away was the idea of leaning into the sameness of getting these awards,” she says. “We were taking the idea of getting a high, whether it’s a high from drugs, sex or these awards.”

Yu acknowledges the irony of the episode’s subject matter as it relates to her own awards experience. “It’s kind of funny how this whole episode is about the emptiness of achievement if you’re not grounded to something that’s meaningful to you,” she contends. But as she told one of her producers after being among the show’s 17 Emmy nominations, “This feels pretty good to be nominated, but I think as long as we don’t celebrate with coke and Quaaludes I think we’ll be ok.”

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UPLOADED Aug 9, 2019 11:59 am