Woody Allen, Rachel Brosnahan, and John Magaro talk story, character, and auditioning for Allen’s new Amazon series, “Crisis in Six Scenes.”
On September 15th, cast members of Woody Allen’s new Amazon six-episode series, Crisis in Six Scenes, walked the red carpet and attended the premiere at The Crosby Street Hotel in New York City. We got the chance to talk to writer/director/actor Woody Allen and actors Rachel Brosnahan and John Magaro about the process of making Crisis in Six Scenes from inception to finished product.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: What were your inspirations when you were working on and creating Crisis in Six Scenes?
WOODY ALLEN: It popped into my head and I had to have something because I was taking the money from Amazon and I figured this is a nice idea for the series, and just about six episodes is right for it, so I did it.
And how was it adapting now to filming a TV series format as opposed to a feature?
It’s the same thing. You know, you have a cast, write a script, show up, direct the actors, edit the material. It’s no different.
You’re known for your style of auditioning actors, could you talk to me a little about your process and what you look for in an actor?
Well, I usually hire people that I’ve seen or that have been shown to me on video or in movies, and I have the meeting just to meet them, to make sure that they’re sane and rational and not just good actors. I meet them for as short a time as possible because I hate to meet people, and I know it’s annoying for them and they’re nervous and they really want to get the job and I’m nervous because I didn’t want to be meeting strangers, and it’s an awful experience. But they come in, I say hello, I pretend to be interested in them for fifteen seconds, I see that they’re not serial killers and I hire them.
What’s inspiring you right now?
I’ve always been inspired by the same things over the years– The Marx brothers, Ingmar Bergman, Tennessee Williams, W. C. Fields– I have the same heroes, they haven’t changed.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: Could you talk to me about your character in Crisis?
RACHEL BROSNAHAN: I can’t say much because it’s a little secretive, but her name is Ellie, and she’s a fairly well to do young woman in the 60’s New York. She’s very well educated, very well dressed, very well spoken, she’s very conservative, and, I think as you may already know, Miley’s (Cyrus) character Lenny coming onto the show sort of shakes up everybody’s fairly limited world views and Ellie’s not excluded from that.
What was the process like auditioning for Woody and then getting to work with him?
From what I hear, I had a pretty typical Woody audition experience. I cold-read a couple lines, I thought I ended my career in the room, and I got a call saying “he loved you, he wants to come back” and I was like “what?” and then I came back and I read a few more lines, and now here we are! Shooting was wonderful! Woody was so generous and kind and genuinely concerned with everybody having a good time, which was lovely. We were home by dinner almost every night– it was a dream come true to work with such a prolific director whose work I’d admired for such a long time.
Now you have so many amazing projects lined up, like Othello at New York Theatre Workshop and Patriot’s Day, how is it now that your career is really taking off?
It’s been very cool, it’s very exciting. I’m so grateful to be able to play such a wide variety of different characters, that’s one of the most exciting parts to me, that, especially in the last couple of years, I’ve never really done the same thing twice. I’d love to be able to continue that for as long as I can.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: This is your first time working with Woody Allen, can you talk to me about the audition process?
JOHN MAGARO: I think his audition process is kind of stuff of legend now. It’s very different from anyone else’s. He calls you into a room and you go in there and maybe he’ll say a couple of words to you and maybe he won’t. I’d been warned about it from fellow actors of mine who have worked with him and met with him, but I got a call, I guess he had seen The Big Short and he was interested in meeting with me. I went in, he gave me a couple lines to read, I did that, he said good job, and we said two sentences about Paris to each other and that was it! I got a call a few weeks later and he asked me to be a part of it and I felt really honored when that happened. It’s a mystery just like his work. I don’t think a lot of people have even seen the series yet, and when you work for him, you don’t necessarily get the whole script. You get your pieces of the script, so he likes to be a little mysterious, but hey, he’s had a forty year career of doing films and he’s proven himself again and again, and this is another one that’s a lot of fun and a very charming story and hopefully people will enjoy it.
Could you talk a bit about your character, as much as you can reveal, and how you prepped for it?
I play a guy called Alan, and he is a young man who’s in Columbia Business School. Very conservative, very traditional. He’s staying with Woody’s character at his house while he’s studying, and Miley’s (Cyrus) character comes in and shakes up their life and challenges his beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong, and a lot of silliness ensues. How did I prepare? Woody writes characters that are close to the actors he works with, I think they’re close with a lot of people’s experiences in life, and although it’s set in the 60’s, I feel like it’s just as relevant today as it would’ve been then, so you just come in and you live the life, and you play the scenes, and you have fun.
Crisis in Six Scenes is a comedy that takes place in the 1960’s during the turbulent times in the United States when a middle class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down.
Crisis in Six Scenes premieres on Amazon Prime Video September 30th.