“Blood will tell, but often it tells too much.” – Don Marquis

What: Nina Cabrera, red hot MILF has a lot on her plate. Besides trying to get her 5 year old son Alex into the very elite Chelsea Academy, she has problems on the job where she uses her skills as a Stanford MBA to manage the accounting and banking duties… of the Tijuana drug cartel founded by her recently deceased father.

Who: Nina Cabrera has run into the immovable Lacey Andrews, admissions director of Chelsea Academy, who has a great prejudice against working single mothers. Nina wants nothing more than for her 5 year old son Alex to attend the school for its renowned music program. With two other kids at home, the recently widowed Nina must also contend with a charmingly indulgent alcoholic mother, a daughter entering awkward adolescence and a resentful teenage stepson who has discovered the joys of sex and cheap girls.

Int. Chelsea Academy – Admissions Office – Day

Lacey: (flipping through the application in front of her) How do you pronounce your last name?

Nina: Cabrera.

Lacey: That’s Spanish?

Nina: Yes. My father was Mexican.

Lacey: Your English is excellent.

Nina blinks. It’s pretty obvious she was born and raised in the States. She swallows a sarcastic reply and simply says:

Nina: Thank you.

Lacey: So that’s your maiden name. You’re not married?

Nina: My husband passed away five years ago.

Lacey: I’m sorry. How did he die?

On Nina for a beat. She’s thinking about how to answer. Then suddenly we’re:

Ext. street – day – flashback

A quick shot of a handsome man getting in a sedan, turning the ignition key, and then BOOM! The car EXPODES.

Int. Chelsea Academy – Admissions Office – Day

Back to Nina. Her expression betrays nothing.

Nina: Car accident.

Lacey: How tragic. So you’re raising three children alone?

Nina: My mother lives with us.

Lacey: That must be a big help.

Nina: It really is.

Cut to:

Int. Nina’s House – Day – Flashback

Nina’s mother is Sandy, Caucasian, 60s and a former Miss California. But right now she’s teaching five-year-old Alex how to pour three fingers of scotch.

Int. Chelsea Academy – Admissions Office – Day

Lacey peruses the application. The silence stretches. She closes Nina’s file, pushes it away. She smiles.

Lacey: I’m going to be honest with you, Mía Cabrera. Most Chelsea moms don’t work.

Nina: Okay…?

Lacey: That way they can be invested in their children’s education. Active. Involved.

Nina: That’s not an issue. I am very involved. My children are my priority.

Lacey: You work. It’s a problem.

She’s so matter-of-fact about it you’d like to punch her. Nina purses her lips. She does not lose her cool.

Nina: Do you have single dads here?

Lacey: (confused beat) Yes.

Nina: And they work, I imagine? The dads.

Lacey: Well, yes, but I’m not sure how that –

Nina: So the problem isn’t that I work. It’s that I’m a woman who works. (thinks) What is the word for that sort of… policy?

 
Nina smiles, perfectly charming. Lacey, for the first time, grows uncomfortable and starts pushing papers around, really wanting to change the subject.

Lacey: Well, of course, everyone is different and of course we consider the… uh… extenuating, uh… in any event, I’m sure we could find ways to keep you involved.

Nina: I’m so happy.

Lacey: Good. Good. What is it, exactly, that you do for a living?

Push in on Nina. This is the hardest question to answer. Then, in quick succession, we see a barrage of images:

-- A stack of hundreds, quickly shrink-wrapped in plastic with a thonk.

-- The money jammed into a crate of other bricks of hundreds. The crate slammed shut. On the lid, a colorful illustration of hands with polished nails, words in both Korean and English: SUPERSEXY POLISH – Deserving for You in Desirable Hand Nails!

--  The crate loaded into the back of a moving truck, filled with dozens of similar crates. Two men holding submachine guns roll the gate shut. As the truck drives away, reveal Nina, making notations on her tablet computer.

Int. Chelsea Academy – Admissions Office – Day

Resume Nina. Totally innocent.

Nina: I’m in business.

And as icing on the cake, her job has become much more difficult of late. Luis Sandoval, her late father’s aide, recently assumed primary management responsibilities and is demanding a greater cut of the action. His tactics have become rather worrisome as he is also planning the execution of an Arizona congressman supporting the building of a border fence.

Nina, knowing that she must address the problem in person, puts on her sexiest dress, and with her most loyal aide Frankie in tow, hops a plane to Tijuana to attend Sandoval’s birthday party,

Ext.  Beach – Evening

The sun has just dipped below the horizon. Sandoval smokes a big Cuban and holds court with a few of his Lieutenants – men who try hard to look and act like their boss. Scantily clad women toast marshmallows on the bonfire. Vasquez, a beefy guy who is smarter than he looks, sees Nina’s approach, leans in and whispers to Sandoval.

Sandoval: Nina!

He gets up and pulls Nina into a big bear hug.

Nina: Happy birthday, Luis. You look great.

Sandoval: The princess returns! I’m honored. What do you think of all this? Do I know how to throw a party or what?

Nina: It’s… pretty unbelievable.

A few other men, including Stefan and Francisco, have come down to the beach. Nina looks around – clearly a meeting is about to take place. Sandoval speaks in Spanish to the marshmallow girls, and they all get up and leave.

Sandoval: (to Nina) Hey, have you had a chance to look at the house? I need to pick some tiles for the master bathroom. Could use a woman’s touch.

Nina: Oh. Sure. I’ll check it out before I leave.

An awkward beat. Nina is the only woman left on the beach.

Vasquez: We’ve got a little business to discuss down here, so…

Nina shoots a look at Vasquez. This is getting her annoyed.

Nina: Really? Interesting. I’m actually in this business, Chico.

Vasquez and Sandoval exchange a look. Sandoval is not pleased, but smiles wide.

Sandoval: It’s okay. You stay. Wouldn’t want to upset the princess.

A few of the lieutenants snicker – though not all. As the scene progresses, we notice a definite divide between those who support Sandoval, and those who do not.

Sandoval: Alright. My man has a solution to our little problem here.

Vasquez: The guy has a house in Phoenix. Found it on Google Earth. Parks his car in the driveway. Figure we get up there, little C-4 under the hood. Boom.

Sandoval: He’ll be there next week when Congress takes a break.

Nina starts at that.

Nina: (alarmed) Congress?

Sandoval: If we’re lucky we’ll get some of the family too. I want headlines.

Nina: (can’t help herself) I’m sorry… you’re going to blow up a congressman? A U.S. congressman?

Vasquez: Martin, from Arizona. He’s pushing for a border wall.

Nina: (panicking) Wait a minute, wait a minute. You can’t kill a congressman. It doesn’t work that way.

Sandoval: Works whatever way I want.

Nina: You have to think about this, Luis. The only reason you’re able to do business in the States is because the violence stays here. Nobody cares if a bunch of Mexicans are killing each other.

Sandoval: I’m gonna make them care. They need to be afraid of me.

Nina: They’ll be afraid. And every Fed and CIA agent will have us in their sites.

You can see some of the lieutenants (including Stefan and Francisco) are starting to be swayed by Nina’s argument. One of them, Gonzales, chimes in – he’s closer to Stefan’s age.

Gonzales: She’s got a point. They leave us alone now.

Stefan: What do you think we should do, Nina?

A beat of silence as all eyes go to Nina. She swallows, unprepared. But, as she speaks, she begins to gain confidence. Actually starts to sound like she knows what she’s talking about.

Nina: Um… well… he’s a politician, right? We just need a scandal. If he doesn’t have a vice… we create one. Drugs. Hooker. Underaged boy. All of the above. (shrugs) He’ll be too busy fixing his image to build any wall.

More and more of the lieutenants are getting on board with this. Sandoval is starting to grow very angry. Stefan smiles, looking proud.

Stefan: That’s very elegant.

Sandoval: No. No. This guy is dead. Period.

Nina: Luis, please, this is stupid—

Sandoval: (explodes) AM I THE BOSS OR ARE YOU THE BOSS? AM I THE BOSS OR ARE YOU THE BOSS?

He is screaming in her face, the veins in his neck bulging. He looks crazy. Sandoval kicks at the bonfire, sending flaming logs sparking across the sand.

Sandoval: You go back to counting money. I’ll run the real business.

He tromps off, followed by a few of his loyal lieutenants. Off Nina, shaken, feeling like she’s screwed up –

And yet… Nina’s idea has many proponents and she is left with little choice but to try to derail Sandoval’s murderous plan and put her own into effect… a plan that is successful in marginalizing the congressman but one that also puts her in a head-on collision with Sandoval whose machismo has been wounded to the extent that he kidnaps Nina’s son, demanding a million dollars in ransom, or tribute as he comes to think of it.

No Meaner Place: It was extremely difficult to decide which scenes and what dialogue to use from this disarmingly, dangerously smart, funny and action-packed pilot.. More specifically, it was impossible not to use so much because Butters and Fazekas successfully used a combination of speechless visual flashbacks with ironic understated dialogue to fully establish character, direction and future development. It is, to coin a phrase, the perfect premise pilot without a premise. Not only have they established character but they have provided character growth and development within the first hour of what would have been a dynamite series.

Creating an inherently evil character is extremely difficult to pull off, but Butters and Fazekas have created an immensely likable woman whose entire underpinnings are the banality of evil. Not since Don Corleone made an offer that you couldn’t refuse has such iron-willed charm been seen.

Life Lessons for Writers: Hell hath no fury [fill in the blank].


Conversation with the Writer:

 

Neely: I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk to you guys. This was such a fabulous fabulous script.

Michele: Thank you very very much. Thanks so much for being able to reschedule this. We’re wrapping up on “Chaos” and if you can imagine, it was chaotic! We appreciate you being flexible.

Neely: Appropriate that it was chaotic.

Michele: It was aptly named.

Neely: What are the chances for renewal look like?

Michele: They’ve already canceled it. They’ve aired three episodes and I think they’ve said they’re going to air the rest in the summertime. But, yes, they yanked it. I don’t know what you can expect from a show that debuted in April on a Friday at 8:00. The cards were stacked against it from the beginning.

Neely: Pretty much.

I try to read every pilot script that’s greenlit to production (last year I read 78 network pilots, this year I read 82) and I keep a database with pertinent information about each one because it’s impossible to remember them all, unless of course something was really wonderful (which yours was) or truly awful (and those shall go unnamed). Many of them blend together, which makes sense when you consider that networks are usually casting their nets for trends, trends that are usually remarkable only for their predictability. Under analysis I wrote:” The best pilot I've read. Character, development, story and future are all fabulous. But then under recommendation I wrote: Don't know if this will make it. This is for the wrong network. It should have been for FBC or FX. My feeling of dread was all pervasive. How did this end up on ABC?

Michele: It ended up on ABC because they wanted it the most. Actually both ABC and FBC bid on it; ABC offered the best license fee and they offered a penalty to the studio if they didn’t shoot the pilot. So… they just wanted it the most.

Tara: When you work for a studio and have an overall deal, which we do, they don’t want to sell to cable; they haven’t figured out how to make the cable market financially worth it yet.

Michele: Especially if they’re paying us a premium to develop for them. They didn’t want us to be developing for cable because the business model doesn’t sense. They want us to be developing for network.

Neely: I’ve heard the same thing from a number of people. Yes, I understand financially why it’s more viable for them to go broadcast, and there’s no question that broadcast needs the content; on the other hand, when longevity is at stake and when you view syndication possibilities (even though everyone says that syndication for one hour is dead)…

Michele: Look at “Hawaii 5-0;” it’s already been sold into syndication after its first year.

Neely: So it’s not dead. And there’s definitely off syndication syndication possibilities because of the content needs for filling air space on the smaller cable outfits that don’t have their own original programming.

When you look at longevity, it’s very short-sighted for studios not to consider where something is going to succeed the best, and therefore, last the longest, generating a steady money stream. The rule of 5 episodes a week for 20 weeks may be necessary for comedy but not for drama. You don’t need the 100 (or 75) episodes for a viable cable to cable sale. And there’s still foreign sales when you reach the 13 episode threshold.

Also, short 10-15 episode orders (within appropriate constraints) are more likely to engage those short attention spans and keep the writing fresh.

Michele: I don’t disagree.

Neely: I honestly think, especially since this was Fox studios, F/X, tonally, was the right place. And look what F/X has done with “Justified.”

Michele: I just watched “Justified” last night.

I’m not sure that this would have worked there. I don’t know F/X well enough in terms of their brand. I don’t know if “Cutthroat” was too female-centered to work on F/X.

Neely: Don’t know. That’s bringing up a whole other issue. I hadn’t thought of F/X as being strictly male-centric, which it may well be; but this was about a really hot woman and what guy doesn’t want to see that.

Michele: To that end, I think that’s why ABC was very excited about this and wanted it to work because ABC, from what I understand, sees their audience as upscale women. A woman living in Beverly Hills, living a glamorous lifestyle, even though it’s a criminal lifestyle, makes sense in the abstract – I think the crime element was something they maybe hoped would attract men, even outside our key demo of upscale women. It might have attracted men, and possibly even a different age group. I understand why ABC thought it would work and wanted it to work.

Tara: At the end of the day I think they were scared of it, which often happens.

Michele: Also I do think there was a problem with our lead. The fear about Mia (Maestro) was that she was too young and I don’t think they ever got over that fear. This was a pilot of a show that was going to live or die on the casting of the lead.

Mia was our second lead. We had originally cast Rosalyn Sanchez, who I also love, but the network ultimately decided that she wasn’t working for them. We got all the way up to the read through, very close to production, when we had to do an emergency recast. With Mia, she’s very beautiful; I think, though, that they thought she was too young. We’d written it for someone who was born and raised in the United States. We couldn’t find that so originally it was going to be Rosalyn, born and raised in Puerto Rico; then Mia, born and raised in Argentina. But as much as we tried to write the character to fit somebody who wasn’t a native English speaker, I think, we started to feel as if we were fitting a square peg into a round hole because it wasn’t conceived that way.

Neely: You’ve actually just hit the nail on the head on why ultimately this might not have worked. I didn’t see the rewrite, but in the version I read, it was really critical that Nina be American born.

Michele: I think that the script…

Tara: …in its best form is the earlier draft.

Michele: Believe me, we looked at every available Latina actress in LA and New York and Texas and… We always knew that that was going to be the biggest challenge about doing the show.

Neely: What about Italian American? All she had to do was look Latina.

Michele: I was completely against that. I feel like you’d get crucified for that. You write a role for a Latina character and then cast a white girl. I think that would be offensive. Yeah, you could do it and believe me, ABC even suggested Demi Moore in the beginning. (everyone laughs).

Neely: She might be slightly past her MILF stage.

Michele: I think you just need to commit to that casting. I’d have had a really hard time with a white girl in that role and I’m a white girl. (laughing)

Neely: To a certain extent, I agree with you, but since it was so critical, it’s one of those things that maybe you just cast the best actress for the role and put the ethnicity aside, even as offensive as that is. It works both ways. Shonda Rhimes did a great job of colorblind casting because she was looking for the best actor for the role.

Michele: I think it doesn’t quite apply here because of the backstory of the character of Nina. She’s supposed to be of Mexican descent.

Tara: Nina’s ethnicity was important to the overall plot.

Michele: It wasn’t just an arbitrary thing because we’ve certainly gotten a lot of that “this role has to be a certain ethnicity.” And usually, why, does it really matter? In this case it wasn’t arbitrary, it was really important to the whole piece.

Neely: Yes, but she was the daughter of a blue-eyed blond gringa.

Of course, Eva Longoria would have been a good fit.

Michele/Tara: I would have loved Eva Longoria – she’s not available. (laughing)

Michele: I think ABC was really going after Jennifer Lopez for a long time. I would have been happy with that too. I loved her in “Out of Sight.”

Neely: Your characters were unbelievably vivid and fun. You really nailed the banality of evil. Lacey, the admissions director, was clearly a worse human being than Nina!

Michele: I think that was certainly intentional. Because you’re starting from a place where your main character is a bad person, at least on paper, the challenge is how to make her a rooting interest for the audience? We wanted to show that evil comes in many forms, from many different places.  It was intentional to show that just because…

Tara: … Nina grew up in a bad business and had done bad things, but she’s a really good mother. So we wanted to show that balance. Can we root for somebody who’s bad?

Michele: “The Sopranos” was a very big influence on Tara and me.; we loved that show. You root for Tony and he’s way worse than Nina. He’ll kill somebody on screen while he’s taking his daughter on a college tour and you still root for him.

Neely: I have to say that the way you introduced Nina was positively brilliant. I think that if you had tried to set up the rooting interest after we’d seen what it was she was really doing, then it would have been too late. But setting it up as a mom trying to do something for her child against odds was really inspired.

How do you both know so much about the Mexican drug trade?

Tara: We researched a lot. We both came from “Law & Order SVU” where we typically did our own research.

Neely: Where did you start?

Tara: A lot of internet research. You can find anything now a days. The initial article that got us thinking about the idea was a Time magazine blurb about women in the drug cartels.

Michele: I didn’t realize this, but according to the article Tara found, women in Mexico are typically responsible for the finances of the family. So when all the men were getting arrested and put in jail, the women, who were doing the family finances, segued into taking on the responsibilities for the cartel finances; keeping the books; it sort of left the women, who already knew about the business inside and out, running it. You have the additional benefit that for a while the authorities weren’t looking at them They did not think that women were running these things; they were looking for the men. So the cartels were able to operate way under the radar and were doing it in a new way, like laundering money at nail salons or at typically female businesses. And these new ways of doing things put them a couple of steps ahead of the drug enforcement authorities. It took the authorities a while to catch up with the change.

Neely: That’s amazing. What a great jumping off point.

Michele/Tara: Definitely.

Neely: More to the point, though, which one of you has gone through the private school wars? You really nailed it!

Michele: That would be Tara.

Tara: It was all that year, for kindergarten and it was just so nerve wracking. It was the worst experience.

Neely: Tell me a little bit more about it because I have been through the private school wars and it’s not pretty.

Tara: You know what it is? You’re just trying to figure out what school would best suit your kid. They’ve all got different methods. And meanwhile, they’re judging you and how much money you’re going to be able to give…

Michele: …and were even passing judgment on you, Tara, because you worked for a living.

Tara: You definitely felt that they preferred stay-at-home moms. They wanted people to be really involved with the school, which is lovely and I try to be involved with both of my children’s schools, but I work. There were definitely schools where I was at a disadvantage because of it.

Michele: There was dialogue in that Lacey scene that is almost verbatim from what Tara went through in her school interview. Like… “Well, you work.”

Tara: (laughing) It was a little bit more obvious in the Lacey scene, but not much.

Neely: Well, ladies, you’re talking to someone who was once kicked off an auction committee at my son’s private school (cackling).

Michele: Nice. Fantastic!

Neely: Yes it was. My straightforward sensibilities were not appropriate for the California Club moms. The “kiss-off” phone call was hilarious.

Michele: I love it. I love it.

Neely: You really did nail it. And Tara, my sympathies. Did your child get into the school you wanted?

Tara: We were actually waitlisted at every school. We ended up going to the public school that’s a block away from our house and it ended up being the best thing for us.

Neely: That’s a great choice because, in general, depending on where you live, the need for private school in order to ensure a good educational outcome generally doesn’t usually occur until around middle school.

Michele: Right.

Neely: We moved here when our son was in high school and I still remember the sting of the high school interviews. We moms are so successful (if that’s the correct word) at making it all about us. It’s like we’re back in school and are subjected once again to the “mean girls.” My husband still enjoys laughing at my enduring insecurities from horrible junior high and high school experiences. Does that still hit you guys? Did some of that residual “mean girls” experience bleed into the script?

Tara: I definitely think we’ve all experienced that. I don’t think it stops in high school. I think that female friendships are very complicated. At times they can be the best thing in the world and they can also be incredibly mean.

Michele: And that was something we had planned on drawing on for Nina throughout the series because you have the additional thing – she’s very beautiful, she’s very wealthy and she’s dismissed because she’s Mexican – as in “you’re the ones who clean my house.” And of course she can buy and sell any of these women; or have them killed. I think there was a lot of potential to have fun with that. How does a crime boss deal with “mean girls?” I think there’s a lot of wish fulfillment in the clever ways she can get back at the mean girls because she has this immense power.

Neely: You even broached that by showing how she got her son into the school (laughs).

Michele: She bought his way in…

Neely: …since she bribed the other parents on the waitlist to go away. It proved, once again, that everyone’s got a price.

Michele: That was her way of realizing and accepting “you have this power so use it.” She had never really gone there before. And when she went there in her career, she went there in her personal life, too. So that’s a lot of her journey – accepting that she can be more than she is.

Neely: Rarely have I read a pilot where the characters were as fully developed, all with the potential for their own arcs – the resentful stepson, the alcoholic mother and the private school parents. The one major story arc I didn’t illustrate in the coverage (I couldn’t do everything; I wish I could have published the whole thing) was the soon-to-be-divorced private school mom, Sophia. Why don’t you guys tell a little bit about Sophia and her all too stereotypic situation with an on-the-skids producer husband leaving her for his secretary.

Michele: It’s stereotypic but a true story. Sophia’s based on two different people who a friend of mine knows. Her 12 year old daughter goes to a private school. My friend was at a dinner party in Brentwood, this really fancy annual fundraiser at somebody’s house, and in the middle of the party the husband and wife have a screaming fight because the husband is leaving her for his secretary.

And the same friend encountered a different mother at the school with a similar story. It was the end of the summer and school had just started up. My friend had gone to the Coffee Bean up the street from the school after she’d dropped her daughter off and she ran into this mom who she hadn’t seen since the end of the school year. She innocently said,”Oh hey! How was your summer?” She doesn’t know this woman that well and the woman burst into tears and says that her husband had left her and just unloads on my friend for 20 minutes. She’s just standing there with the “I was just asking if you had a nice summer” expression on her face. So those were real things that happened.

Neely: We’ve already talked about the casting but I’m interested in knowing more about Mia. You said that Mia was too young; how old was she?

Michele: Was she early thirties Tara?

Tara: Yeah.

Michele: Early thirties but she has an even younger looking face. She was beautiful but because she’s petite, she just seems younger even than she is. She played Jennifer Garner’s sister on “Alias.” Half sister or something like that.

Neely: I think I had probably quit watching by the time she had showed up. I loved that you had Peggy Lipton as Sandy, the alcoholic former Miss California mother of Nina.  How did that work out?

Michele: Fantastic! I remember her coming in when we were casting for that role. Was she the first person we met with?

Tara: Umm… yes.

Michele: She walks in the room and she’s so cool and so doesn’t act like she’s an icon.  Believe me, we met a lot of actresses of that age group who wanted to be treated like they were… Elizabeth Taylor. But she just came in and she’s super cool and funny and smart and it was fantastic and we were very lucky to have her.

Neely: One of the things I regret most of all, besides the phenomenal writing, was that I would have loved to have seen Peggy Lipton in that role.

One other thing that occurred to me about the pilot was that the elephant in the room was “Weeds.” Personally, other than the mother as drug dealer, I saw no similarities but I bet that was something that was brought up. In this particular scenario, Nina’s involvement with the drug trade was definitely not accidental. How did you deal with that?

Tara: We always knew in conception that it was very different from “Weeds,” and of course it would come up as we pitched it. But, we would explain the ways we felt the show was different from “Weeds” and how we could access different storylines. As soon as we talked it out with the different networks, it actually was something that went away.

Michele: I think the only people who think it’s like “Weeds” are people who haven’t read it.

Neely: I think that would be fair, but in terms of the initial pitch, I could definitely see somebody going “Well there’s already a show like this on the air.”

Michele: Right. But it wasn’t really relevant. I actually had never seen “Weeds” and then when people started making those comparisons, I stayed away from it because I didn’t want it to influence me either way.

Tara: Yeah. As soon as anybody read the script, they went, “Oh yeah. It’s nothing like “Weeds.”

Neely: In all honesty, I don’t think there would have been any point in staying away from “Weeds” because it’s so dissimilar that it wouldn’t have influenced you at all.

Something else I really loved (and I start risking redundancy with all the “I loves”) were some of the slyer influences, like “The Godfather.” Clearly you were inspired by the baptism scene at the end of “The Godfather Part I.”

Michele: Oh absolutely. We fully were influenced by “The Godfather” and, like I said, “The Sopranos.” But I liked being able to tell it from a female point of view.

Neely: The fact that it is from a female point of view is interesting. While Nina may be the most charming person in the whole world, she is truly one of the most evil leading characters that would have been on TV.

Tara: I wouldn’t characterize her actions at the end of the pilot as evil so much as protecting her family.

Michele: If you push her and you threaten her family or threaten people she loves, she will not hold back. I think that was an important distinction for us. She’s not going to be somebody who will just arbitrarily kill somebody, hurt somebody. Her struggle was always to try to do it differently; to try and be …

Tara: I think she viewed violence as a last resort.

Michele: It was only after they kidnapped her 5 year old little boy (and I loved that kid; he couldn’t have been any cuter); that’s what drove her to take such action. She really felt like she had no other choice. We built that into the script – the part where you have no other choice but unleash scorched earth.

Neely: That’s a little bit disingenuous. Much like Tony Soprano, she’s in a truly evil business.

Michele: I think her business is evil. I’m making a distinction between her business and her actions.

Neely: That may be true but you cannot divorce them; it’s what makes her watchable. But at the core, you cannot divorce who she is from what she does.

Michele: I think that’s the epic struggle of the series.

Tara: That is her psychological struggle.

Michele: Yes.

Tara: She would say you could. She would say she is not what she does.

Michele: And I think it’s great that it’s a point of contention there because I think there will be some people who would say “Absolutely not. You are evil no matter what.” Or can you say, “There are aspects of you that are evil even as you try to fight against.” You talked earlier about “The Godfather,” and a parallel example would be Michael Corleone, who was constantly struggling against what his family did; but he was raised in this. This was all he knew. And in a similar way, Nina was raised in this. Constantly fighting against that and constantly trying to find a way to keep her center while doing this other thing. I truly believe Nina, if she felt like she could have just walked away, she would have walked away. But Frankie, who was played by John Seda in the pilot, said, “They’re not going to let you walk away. They’ll kill you; they’ll kill your family.”

So I liked the idea of making it ambiguous, of making it her life long struggle.

Neely: This leads us into a great discussion of "what you are" vs "what you do" that we can continue in our next conversation.

TO BE CONTINUED

Quote

"Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision."

- Salvador Dali

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