[03/09/07 - 06:32 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: FX's "Nip/Tuck"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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7:06 p.m.: Hey it's Daily Variety's Stuart Levine! Here's here to intro the creator of the show, Ryan Murphy.

7:09 p.m.: Ryan takes the podium to tell us about the episode he's brought - season two's "Rose & Raven Rosenberg." Why this episode? Because it has a three-way and conjoined twins he jokes, adding that he first saw guest stars Reba & Lori Schappell on an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show." This is going to be a good panel, I can feel it.

8:00 p.m.: Stuart returns to bring out the panelists - Kelly Carlson (Kimber), Roma Maffia (Liz), Dylan Walsh (Sean), Ryan Murphy (executive producer), Julian McMahon (Christian), John Hensley (Matt), Michael M. Robin (executive producer). News flash: the ladies like Julian McMahon. (Missing in action: Joely Richardson (Julia), who's currently in London and "sends her best.")

8:03 p.m.: Ryan talks about how the show came about: "The very brief story is I was a journalist in the mid-90s. I was the L.A. bureau chief for the Miami Herald and my job was to cover hard news and there was none so I was writing about the Zsa Zsa Gabor trial, things like that. And calf implants for men had just come out... which I thought was absolutely fascinating and ridiculous and I said - 'Can I go undercover?" - and write an article about getting these implants. And he said, 'Well that sounds fun so do it.' So I found this very gullible but sweet plastic surgeon who had me come in for a consult and I was going to write the article all the way up until the surgery. And in the consult he told me like 10 other things that I needed to have done to my face. And he used a lot of words that I actually used in the pilot - 'beauty is symmetry' - that I was a moderately attractive person but my ears were a half a centimeter or a millimeter off or something. He basically said that I should do like all these surgeries. I was so stunned because I was in my car thinking 'he's right.' And I called my editor and said I can't do this story. And I never forgot that, my meeting with this guy. And the 'tell me what you don't like about yourself?' thing came from that meeting. So a lot of the stuff that was the genesis of the pilot came from that. And then Mike [Robin] and Greer [Shephard] and I had worked on a lot of episodes of 'Popular' together and I was sort of stuck after that doing 'hair and makeup' shows. And [my agent] said, 'What don't you try and do something that you got into this business to do?' When I was a kid my favorite movie was 'Carnal Knowledge.' So I put 'Carnal Knowledge' and plastic surgery together. And that became 'Nip/Tuck.'"

8:06 p.m.: Ryan on the core of the show: "I always say [it's] a love story between two heterosexual men."

8:16 p.m.: Ryan on how Dylan got involved: "I was writing a Sean scene [for the pilot] and I went into my den... and turned on an HBO movie and there was Dylan. And he was so miserable in that movie. I could just tell he was like - 'I want to do something' - and I had loved him so much in 'Nobody's Fool' so I actually wrote that part for him, the only part that I wrote for someone in that pilot. And we finished the pilot and the day we got greenlit I went with Mike and Greer and we went to King's Road Cafe and there was Dylan Walsh, sitting in the cafe. I walked up and I said, he was reading the New York Times or something, and I said, 'You don't know me but I wrote this pilot.' And he said, 'What? What? Thanks.' [He was] incredibly rude. I was like screw him!" This causes Dylan to add, "I thought he was the waiter!" Ryan continues: "So when he came in the next day he was like, 'Oh my God, I'm so sorry.'"

8:18 p.m.: Ryan on how Roma and Julian came aboard: "I was obsessed with Roma Maffia's dialogue with Demi Moore in "Disclosure" to the point where I would recite it to friends. She came in and I said, 'I want to do the scene for you,' and I did the whole [thing]. Julian's part was written for a Latin male actually. And Julian came into the room and was Julian and I thought, 'Well, that was very interesting.' And I turned over his resume which said 'Givenchy Man of the Year.' I was immediately hooked."

8:19 p.m.: Kelly on the joy of playing Kimber: "What's so great about it is I literally play a different person every year. She has a new facade, a new personality. And it's a different person and it's really refreshing."

8:21 p.m.: Julian on the initial response to his character, which always seemed to overlook one particular aspect: "After that pilot, nobody ever said to me, 'You killed a guy and got hams and put him in the swamp!' Nobody ever did that, they said, 'You're a cad! You're a bad boy, you love those ladies!' I just killed somebody!"

8:24 p.m.: More Ryan: "Dylan always said that we jumped the shark in the pilot."

8:27 p.m.: John on getting the news he'd been cast as Matt: "I got a call on the way home saying, 'Hey, you got the part!' And maybe like 10 minutes later for some reason, I don't remember the specifics of it but I pulled a u-turn in the middle of Sunset Blvd. and got broadsided."

8:28 p.m.: John on the joy of playing Matt: "Kind of like what Kelly said to be honest with you, playing Matt - and I say this kind of selfishly to be honest with you - I really feel like I got a supremely lucky draw... because every single season, you know, he's the one character that he - I don't know if I'd necessarily call it evolution but - there's so much dramatic change in him. It's just really nice to come to work quite frankly and to have done four seasons going into the fifth and really feeling like every season you're getting the opportunity to play a different character with the same name."

8:29 p.m.: Ryan on the show's satirical edge: "A lot of people don't realize... it really is a satire of our culture I think [more] than any other show on television. The writers... how we begin every writers' room - we're all very close - and we sit in there and gossip for an hour about what did we read about, pop culture events. [That's how] the Famke Janssen life coach thing came about. We were like, 'Are people really paying people to be life coaches? Like, let's write about that! And [make her] a transsexual!' But that's really how I think of the show. It really is examining how ridiculous, pushed and extreme people are to fill up holes in their lives with the wrong stuff. And that's why every year the parts, the roles, always change."

8:32 p.m.: Julian on why these characters are special: "It's such a fun show to perform. These characters are performance orientated characters. It's not like you just 'be.' So you perform these characters and from one scene to the next, actually in the middle of scenes you can be three different people. Maybe that's just me. [Laughs.] Seriously, you can be this hardass motherfucker one second and be the sweetest guy in the world the next."

8:36 p.m.: Ryan on why FX knows how to sell the show: "Every year of the show [they] come up with posters that are banned in several cities."

8:40 p.m.: Ryan on some of the show's more outrageous surgeries: "The [stuff] on the show is all fact. It's really sort of real. Truth is stranger than fiction. In fact at one time I remember we did a case that was not fact, we did an episode that Mike directed with a face transplant. And we got reamed in the media and literally 10 days later there was a [real] face transplant."

8:41 p.m.: Q&A time, kids. Someone asks Ryan about the much debated "Conor McNamara, 2026" episode. "It was an interesting episode because that was the break up of the marriage of Sean and Julia - again - and we had done it a couple times. And I thought at a certain point it was like the boy who cried wolf. It's like you can't do it and three episodes later they're in love again. So I thought let's do an episode where we tell the audience this really is not going to work out. And that's how that came. It was an interesting choice and now that we're into another season, I have second thoughts about it because you commit to a certain outlook. We can't suddenly kill off Julian. We know he's alive. We can't have Dylan and Julian break up as partners because we know they make it in 20 years in the future. It was a balsy thing to do, but to me I wanted to do something that was... sort of in a weird way boxing you into a corner because it was fresh to me, it was interesting and it was a hard choice, it was a definitive statement about that relationship. And that's why we did it... People were very split on that episode because in a weird way it was very odd television because we took away your choice. We're going to tell you what happened... It can always be a dream, right? We've talked about that - would the audience revolt if it were a dream?"

8:44 p.m.: A fan asks if the actors ever said "no" to any of the things they were asked to do. "I almost said no to the Speedo," Dylan jokes, causing Julian to add that sometimes you have to embrace your "inner gay guy."

8:51 p.m.: Another fan exclaims, "I'm a lesbian but I love you Julian." Once again, I can't make this stuff up.

8:52 p.m.: Julian on his first meeting with Kelly: "[It was like] welcome to the lion's den. I was like, 'We should meet the night before and talk [grins slyly].' And I was talking to Ryan about it, I'm like, 'I really want this sex scene like to be really explicit.' And she had no sense of what was going on - some of it was written and some of it wasn't. So I'm talking to her, I had a glass of wine or something, and I'm like, 'So what do you think about this sex scene?' And she's like, 'Yeah, I think it's really interesting and stuff.' And I was like, 'What about if like I fuck you doggy and slap you on the ass?'... And you did it baby!"

8:53 p.m.: Ryan on why the show will move to L.A. this season: "When I pitched the pilot, initially the pitch was in Hollywood, Beverly Hills. And with the network we decided if you do sort of a 'starlet of the week' approach which it's going to become inevitably, you can't really get into the guys. You have this weird buffer. But the show really had to be set in a city with skin. That's the point of it. So Miami won out. And then we did it for four years and I, after you do four years of a show - how many more times can you go in Dylan's kitchen? How many more times can you go in that surgery room or Christian's apartment? And so I thought it would be very interesting to move characters that you already knew to Hollywood. I don't think it would have worked the first couple of years but I do think it works now. We're just sort of beginning to write those scripts and I think it works great. What I love about it is that they were sort of the big fish in this small pond in Miami and now they're in L.A. where, you know, there's a plastic surgeon on every corner. So they have to at the age of 40 to literally start over."

8:57 p.m.: Someone, who I should point out is sitting near a woman with a Mrs. McMahon T-shirt, remarks Julian has "the nicest buns in all of Hollywood." I'm so glad I'm blogging this. "We could just stop right there," Julian adds.

8:58 p.m.: Ryan on his favorite seasons: "My favorite seasons were season two, which you saw an episode from that, and last season which was our highest-rated season which I was shocked by... After season two we had had such huge success, it was a really big hit, we had just won the Golden Globe, we had had a lot of magazine covers. You know, everyone was sort of doing really well. And there's no way that you can win after a level of success of that nature, which I realized in the middle of season three. Because that was sort of the Carver year. And I thought, let's shake it up a little bit - let's do something, let's take a character that is very sort of gothic and dark and to me there was no difference between that character and a plastic surgeon. I was fascinated but I think for the audience it became very dark and very, too scary. I know lot of people who had loved seasons one and two couldn't watch it anymore. It was very violent. I personally was in a much darker place in my life. I think that you write what you know. So it reflected that. I know the cast hated it. And the reason why is because it's always been a show about this family and in season three we took an outside character who was really calling the shots... and it did as Dylan has said become like 'Police Woman.' They were sort of solving this mystery. I loved a lot of the episodes in that season and it did very well in the ratings. The season finale of season three was I think the highest rated episode I think in the history of the network, when he was unmasked. But for season four, it was really hard to sort of say, 'Okay, let's bring it back to its roots and let's rebirth it again. Can we even do that?' And we did. I loved last season. It became about family. It became about these guys."

9:00 p.m.: Julian echoes Ryan's sentiments: "I wasn't a big fan of season three. And then you kind of get to a place where you're concerned that you know, maybe you'll be doing this thing that, I don't know, you're not enjoying yourself anymore... you're not happy with the work you're putting out there and all that kind of stuff. And I got to say, 'Hats off to [Ryan] and [Michael] because I felt like last season was our best.'"

9:03 p.m.: Ryan closes us out with his thoughts on the ups and downs of critical praise: "That is a cultural thing that you see in our culture. That you don't know until you're in the middle of it. That when you have big success, you will be brought to heel. The media does that to you, the fans do that to you. I mean you can name every huge TV show there has been. You've seen it this season with 'Lost'... people are suddenly attacking it. That happened to us. And then it's interesting. You become the underdog and I think you either sink or swim. And you say, 'Are we going to be four seasons and out? Or are we going to go six, seven seasons.' And I called up the cast and crew and I felt a huge responsibility as I know the writers did to sort of reinvent the show and bring it back to what it was but switch a little and it worked I think. I thought last season was a great season."

COMING SATURDAY: FOX's "Prison Break."

  [march 2007]  


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