Matt Shakman Interview: ‘The Great’ director
“I was beginning to feel like the old unmarried sister in a Jane Austen novel,” jokes director Matt Shakman about finally receiving his first ever Emmy nomination this year. The former child actor (he co-starred in ABC’s TGIF sitcom “Just the Ten of Us” from 1988 to 1990) has spent the last two decades directing episodes on some of TV’s most acclaimed shows, but has only now been cited by the TV academy, this time for directing the pilot episode of Hulu’s “The Great”.
“It’s a great honor. I have been in the TV biz since I was a kiddo, so it doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’s just a great honor.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Shakman above.
“The Great” was created by Oscar nominee Tony McNamara (“The Favourite”), who landed the show’s only Emmy other nomination, for writing the show’s pilot. The series, which Hulu recently renewed for a second season, is an irreverent take on the early years of historical figure Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning).
It follows a young Catherine, who arrives in Russia to marry the brutish Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) but soon realizes that Russia is a backwater ruled by an impulsive emperor running amok in a depraved and violent court of sycophants. She devises a plan to usurp and kill Peter, take his crown, outplay the church and military and get his court onside. The series features lavish design, razor-sharp dialogue and hilarious performances.
Shakman was attracted to the project because of the way it deftly mixes a variety of tones. It is at times very funny, often cringe worthy and sometimes surprisingly serious and emotional. The director likens the tonal shifts that the show employs to the way in which the best plays are often written.
“For thousands of years, theater has been playing with tone that I feel TV is only just starting to catch up to,” he explains. “Where you’re jamming all these really cool tones and genres together, in way feels more like life. So, for me it was these bold and outrageous characters, the fact that it was equally dramatic and also comedic and even horrifying.”