Paul Feig interview: ‘Minx,’ ‘Welcome to Flatch’ producer
Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer Paul Feig had an absolute banner year, being behind two successful nascent TV series, HBO Max’s period comedy “Minx” and Fox’s docu-style sitcom “Welcome to Flatch” — both of which premiered on the same day, March 17. He serves as an executive producer on both series and additionally as a writer and director on “Welcome to Flatch.” “I want everything to be of good nature,” he tells Gold Derby in a new webchat. “The message has to be: ‘People are great, you’re going to get by, you can win, you can beat the system occasionally’ — but it also [has to be] realistic.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, “Minx” follows Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond), an earnest young feminist who joins forces with a low-rent publisher (Jake Johnson) as her last resort to get her anti-patriarch publication onto the world. Together with said publisher Doug, she creates the titular erotic magazine for women, which also features essays from a progressive female perspective. On why he decided to throw his weight behind this project — which is basically a fictional retelling of Playgirl magazine’s conception — Feig reveals that he was fascinated by Playgirl when he was younger and has vivid memories of when it was first published. So, when future showrunner Ellen Rapoport pitched the show to him, he thought it was “a perfect idea to do.” Having worked on a ton of R-rated movies that owe their ratings mainly to profanity, he elaborates, “I didn’t know if I wanted to do something that’s a sex-based show, but when Ellen pitched it, the characters were so funny, and I realized it’s a workplace comedy. It just happens to be about people who are naked when they work — and I kind of love that.”
SEE our interview with ‘Minx’ star Jake Johnson
At the heart of the show is the compelling relationship between Joyce and Doug. While Joyce wants the magazine to help lead the conversation around equal rights, Doug views it as a revenue generator for an underserved market. By the end of the season, however, it becomes clear that these two characters depend on each other much more than they would like to admit. “I like that it’s about somebody learning the business and then somebody learning how to deal with another perspective on things,” says Feig about Joyce and Doug, respectively. “What I love about Doug is that [his] character could be gross very easily and be played very sleazily… Doug is just a businessman, and he says it in the pilot: ‘I’m the American dream.’ And that’s what I just really dug about it, because he’s giving her good advice. But also, she’s fighting back in a great way too. But they both have to kind of meet in the middle.”
“Welcome to Flatch” embraces a completely different style of comedy. It follows a documentary crew as it goes to the small fictional town of Flatch, Ohio, to study young adults and their current concerns. Their main focus is the daily lives of cousins Kelly (Chelsea Holmes) and Lloyd “Shrub” Mallet (Sam Straley) and their idiosyncratic surroundings. In our chat, Feig reveals that he considers docu-style comedy to be the “best way to do TV comedy.” He expands, “Having done ‘The Office’ and having done a bunch of [episodes of] ‘Arrested Development’ — there’s a freeness to it. I love performers who can improv, who can surprise each other, who just capture lightning in a bottle. In that documentary style, you shoot the whole scene in one take, basically, because the two cameras are gunning around. So, you’d shoot it multiple times and have all these different ways you can do it — and the actors can surprise each other.”
The series is based on the BBC Three sitcom “This Country,” which takes place in a small village in the Cotswolds. Relocating the story to Flatch, however, was a rather easy transition for Feig. “It seemed like the easiest transition in the world because a small town in the Cotswolds is identical to a small town anywhere in America,” says the Emmy nominee, who drew inspiration from his own small-town Midwestern upbringing. “When we were first putting [the show] together, everybody was like, ‘Well, you’re not going to make fun of small towns…?’ No, [series developer and executive producer] Jenny [Bicks] and I are from small towns. The last thing we are going to do is make fun of them. We want to have fun with them the way that we did when we lived there.”
Feig directed the first three episodes of “Welcome to Flatch” and scripted two episodes of the show’s debut season, the third (“Dance It Out”) and the fifth (“That Old Flatch Magic”). Both the Fox sitcom and “Minx” were renewed for a respective second season — much to the jubilation of the creative, who now definitely wants to write a haunted house episode for “Welcome to Flatch,” among other things. “My friends and I used to put on haunted houses all the time, and they were terrible. So, I’m pretty sure Kelly and Shrub are going to put on a haunted house this season,” he jokes.
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To date, the multihyphenate has racked up four career Emmy nominations, earning his first two bids for writing episodes of “Freaks and Geeks” (2000-01). Rounding out his total are two citations for “The Office,” for which he was recognized once as a director (2008) and once as an executive producer (2009). He is also a prolific director, writer, and/or producer that is behind films such as “Bridesmaids” (2011), “The Heat” (2013), “Spy” (2015) and “A Simple Favor” (2018), as well as a host of other TV shows, including “Weeds,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and “Love Life.”