Paley Festival: Dirty Sexy Money
Last night, I attended the Dirty Sexy Money panel. For what happened during the panel discussion, read on past the jump...
Pre-Dirty Sexy Money Fun
The opening clip from the Paley archives was from 1992's American Experience: The Kennedys. It focused mostly on the driving force behind the Kennedy family, Joseph P. Kennedy, who used his power and connections to boost the political careers of his progeny. It also underscored the family's "us versus the rest of them" mentality.
Next Barbara Dickson, director of the Paley Center in Los Angeles, spoke briefly about DSM calling it a "wickedly funny adult drama" and a "guilty pleasure that comes without guilt." The latter is exactly how I would describe the show. Dickson then introduced the moderator for last night's panel: Entertainment Weekly's Lynnette Rice. Rice said that the show "had me at the title." Moreover she emphasized how DSM was the only show on TV to have a prominent politician in love with a transexual and have a morally bankrupt preacher hide his illegitimate son by passing him off as a Swedish orphan.
Rice also introduced Craig Wright who, while he was quite articulate and animated, started his speech by saying, "I don't know what I'm about to say." Wright, the show's creator and executive producer, talked at length about the privilege of working for network television. He said the medium allows the storyteller to tell ten million people what happened over breakfast.
Then we watched a montage from season one. We saw the first five minutes of that amazing pilot I'm sure you all remember. And we viewed scenes for all the individual characters.
The cast and producers were brought up on stage in this order:
Seth Gabel (Jeremy Darling)
Glenn Fitzgerald (Brian Darling)
Natalie Zea (Karen Darling)
Billy Baldwin (Patrick Darling)
Peter Krause (Nick George)
Zoe McLellan (Lisa George)
Blair Underwood (Simon Elder)
Greg Berlanti (executive producer)
Craig Wright (creator and executive producer)
Donald Sutherland (Tripp Darling) and Jill Clayburgh (Letitia Darling) were not in attendance because they were promoting the premiere of DSM in England. Samaire Armstrong (Juliet Darling) was not there either. However, no one on the panel gave a reason for her absence.
Rice began the panel by asking Wright where he got the idea to write about this rich powerful family, the Darlings. He said he wanted to "create a Dynasty or Dallas for the new millennium with more self-awareness." Berlanti expanded on Wright's statements by saying Dirty Sexy Money was a "post-modern" take on Dynasty. But audiences don't just want to bask in the opulence of the wealthy family. Rather, they are more obsessed with the "cracks in that facade."
Rice asked Blair Underwood about his seemingly unlimited work on television this past year. How did he work it all out timewise? He replied that it was very convenient to film DSM and In Treatment. DSM actually tapes on Stages 23 and 24 of Paramount Studios and In Treatment tapes on Stage 25. Underwood said he was "blown away by the pilot" (especially by the cast and the world Wright had created). He loved his enigmatic character Simon Elder. Underwood was also interested in being Tripp Darling's nemesis. Finally, Underwood remarked that he was intrigued by Elder's being born in Russia. Of learning about the African-American experience in Russia, he said, "I was educated."
Zoe McLellan said of her character Lisa George's marriage, "She must really love him." Indeed, Lisa is "devoted to [Nick] even though the situation is beyond frustrating." McLellan also thinks that Lisa is coming out of her shell more. In addition, McLellan brought up that she did NOT see the kiss with Jeremy Darling coming. But it was good for her character to receive attention and respect from Jeremy, McLellan believes. "They need each other at that point," she affirmed.
"Oh my God, I love her," Natalie Zea exclaimed about Karen Darling. When Rice asked if Zea felt bad for her character, she said quickly, "You don't need to feel sorry for her. She's fine." Zea also mentioned that fans come up to her and say, "my husband loves you" all the time. However, they usually aren't all that friendly, she joked. Then she said, "I didn't marry your husband...yet."
Lynnette Rice then joked with Glenn Fitzgerald asking him if being an ass just comes naturally. Fitzgerald laughed and said that he approaches his character Brian with "full commitment." He went on to say that no matter how absurd a situation is to the audience, it's never absurd to Brian Darling. How he's feeling is never ridiculous to him and Fitzgerald keeps that in mind when he approaches the character. Wright chimed in saying that Fitzgerald didn't just want to say "I hate you" all the time either. While that line is funny, it can only be used so many times. Craig Wright commended his cast by saying that they all enriched the concepts of their characters.
Seth Gabel said of Jeremy Darling, "he's on a journey to find himself." However, Gabel assures us that Jeremy won't be finding himself any time soon. He's the little boy of the family so Gabel thinks we can expect more hijinx and reckless behavior.
The Issue of Carmelita
Rice wanted to know if the producers were upfront about Patrick's relationship when Billy Baldwin signed on to the show. Baldwin said that not only did he know about Carmelita, it was a reason for him to do the show. He went on to say that fans come up to him and tell him that Patrick and Carmelita are "the most normal relationship" on the show.
Wright said that he wanted to include this controversial relationship because it was a "chance to say a lot to a lot of people," and to "transmit normalizing influence about diversity." He thinks it would be irresponsible to not use the medium of television to try to affect some change. Wright said later on of Baldwin's character that Patrick "started as a character in the closet." His journey in season two will be toward openness. Wright believes that that openness should bring Patrick Darling success (a very counter-cultural notion, he admits).
The Strike & The New Season
"It sucked," Natalie Zea said of the 100 day WGA strike. Dirty Sexy Money shot ten episodes with the writers and shot three without them. The cast all commented on what it was like to shoot episodes without the writers. While they were grateful to continue shooting, they didn't have the guidance of the writers. Apparently, episodes 11, 12, & 13 were somewhat free-for-alls and some parts have to be reshot when DSM starts production for its second season on May 1.
Rice also questioned the cast about the new season. Were they worried DSM wouldn't get picked up? Are they upset about ABC pushing back the second season to the fall? McLellan said that she felt it in her gut that the show would come back. Krause stated that Dirty Sexy Money was the only show to ever get picked up during a strike. Seth Gabel jested, "I thought, 'Man, I need to get a movie'" when he heard ABC was pushing back the second season. But then he said that he would fill the time by enjoying his wife and their new son.
Wright and Berlanti seemed happy with more time in between seasons. It's a high quality show and they like having more time to work on the stories. Wright said that ABC ordered 13 + 3 episodes for the second season and 3 more scripts on top of that.
What about the murder?
Wright, Berlanti and the cast were not very open when Rice pushed for season two spoilers. Even the audience didn't seem to want to know about what's going to happen. Wright said, "People don't want the secret of Lost, they want to watch Lost," and the audience cheered.
Rice pressed for information about the murder mystery. Krause said he doesn't know who killed Dutch yet: "Nick George doesn't know, so I don't know." Wright assured Rice and the audience that the murder will be solved: "We didn't start a murder mystery to not solve the murder mystery." He hinted that the murder would be solved this coming season. Wright also offered, "If the strike hadn't happened, we would have solved it in the first season." And Billy Baldwin pointed out, "Did you ever see any body?"
Finally, Wright advised the audience to read the Divine Comedy if they want to know what happens on Dirty Sexy Money.
- Rice asked about the all-star cast. Did Wright want certain people? Did the studio give them an unlimited budget to get these actors? Wright retorted, "We wanted to do the show in claymation." And Billy Baldwin quipped, "We were cheaper."
- While Peter Krause greatly enjoyed working with Craig Wright on Six Feet Under, he was hesitant about his return to network TV because of Sports Night.
- The "3 Ants" in the George's apartment is indeed real art by Robert Russell.
- Of using twins in DSM, Craig Wright said that he's always been fascinated with twins. He says you have two characters to tell one story in any given episode.
- Rice asked why Dan Rather was in the pilot. Wright countered with, "'What's the frequency, Kenneth?' Tha's this show." Berlanti then commented that they wanted randomness with the celebrities on the show.
- When asked about the hefty budget for the show, Craig Wright said, "We spent billions...on every second." It came out that DSM is probably one of the most expensive first-year shows ever and had one of the most expensive pilots ever. But, that sense of reality and that cast costs a lot of money.
- The party scene on the bridge was taped on a green screen set at Paramount.
- About half of the jewelry worn on Dirty Sexy Money is real. In one episode, Natalie Zea said she had over a million dollars worth of diamonds on her. She said she didn't even realize it until a guy followed her to the bathroom. At that point, Zea figured out that he was her bodyguard (or the jewelry's bodyguard).
- Despite Dirty Sexy Money's focus on Patrick Darling's political career, the show will not time their election episode with the November elections.
- Nothing important here but Peter Krause is insanely good looking in person! Just had to throw that in there.
- A fan asked about the changing length of Peter Krause's sideburns. "I don't know I'm particularly known for my grooming," he joked. He then said that Matt Gross (executive producer) asked him to shorten his sideburns.
- The panel agreed that Jill Clayburgh and Donald Sutherland bring an authority to the show with their characters. Seth Gabel jested that Jeremy Darling is intimidated by Tripp and he himself is intimidated by Donald Sutherland.
- ABC came up with the title Dirty Sexy Money. Wright's original title was The Ruins. The family's name would be the Ruineys (or Rooneys) and the tabloids refer to them as "The Ruins." The title was changed to The Darlings which was too ironic considering the personalities of the characters and finally ABC came up with Dirty Sexy Money.
- Greg Berlanti was asked by a fan about the future of Eli Stone. He says it's 50-50 whether the show will get picked up or not.
- The possibility of Karen being Nick's
brothersibling was bounced around in some writers' meetings before they decided on Brian. Wright said that he went to the whiteboard and wrote INCEST on it. Then he drew a circle around it and put a line through that circle.
- There will be more of Brian, Jr. in season 2 of the show.
- Seth Gabel is married to Bryce Dallas Howard and I swear she was sitting across the aisle from me.
Check back with TV Squad tomorrow because I'm attending The X-Files panel tonight.