The Unexpected Way 'Transparent' & Jill Soloway Are Changing How Great TV Is Made
One of the many great things about the Amazon Prime series Transparent is that it allows so many different plots to take center stage. Sure, the main story is about Maura's journey into self discovery as a transgender woman, but that's far from the only important topic that's explored throughout the series. From Sarah exploring bisexuality to Raquel's recent miscarriage, no issue is off limits on this show, which makes for some pretty fantastic character exploration. So, what's the show's secret for its unique approach to television? A lot of it has to do with the cast itself and the techniques creator Jill Soloway uses to create unity among her actors. Jay Duplass (Josh), Gaby Hoffmann (Ali), and Amy Landecker (Sarah) recently spoke about such methods during a recent Transparent Season 3 press event and shared how their work environment is unlike any other in Hollywood.
"There's not a lot of memorizing lines because the lines can change on the day," Landecker reveals about the close connection between the themselves and the writers. "It scares some actors to feel like there's this wide open area of like, 'what do you want to bring to the table.' They want control, and I think Jill's really good at finding those actors that actually enjoy sort of free falling."
While the actors all attend workshops to work on character development, there are a few less technical rituals that happen on set to make the process as a whole feel much more organic, which is how this thing they refer to as "The Box" came into creation.
"We have a thing called 'The Box' this year," Landecker explains. "We go 'Box! Box! Box!' and someone gets up on The Box and shares some story that's relevant to them in their life." This could be anything from something sad like a family death or a happy event like a wedding, which helps to create a sense of unity and closeness within the cast. "It turns into this collective moment for everyone to connect before we start working," Landecker adds.
Considering how many emotions and real-life issues these actors are tackling, it makes sense that they'd want to feel closely connected to each other and like they're in a safe environment. And, according to Landecker, Duplass, and Hoffmann, these "kumbaya" gatherings can sometimes last up to 40 minutes, which is not only acceptable on this set, but encouraged. "Jill really sets the tone of positive irreverence," Duplass says. So, for them, the relaxed atmosphere feels less about losing time or money and more about feeling connected with their characters and those around them.
That's a very unique approach to how things are normally done on a TV set, which many stars have apparently found very refreshing when they've been asked to step into a role. "Guest stars, and I'm not exaggerating, cry when they leave our set," Landecker says. "They're so upset that they don't get to stay and that the rest of the business does not function that way."
All of this plays in to how Transparent has transcended all expectations and raised the standard of what qualifies as great TV — both for viewers and for those inhabiting the roles.
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