Magazine article Variety

Matt & Ross Duffer 'Stranger Things' & Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy 'Westworld'

Magazine article Variety

Matt & Ross Duffer 'Stranger Things' & Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy 'Westworld'

Article excerpt

DRAMA SERIES RARELY GENERATE more sustained buzz and attention than Netflix's "Stranger Things" and HBO's "Westworld" did in their respective first seasons. Now the creators behind both scifi phenomena - "Stranger" siblings Matt and Ross Duffer, and "Westworld" husband-and-wife Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy - find themselves deeply ensconced in Emmy season. Even after such breakthroughs as "Lost" and "Game of Thrones," that's still unconventional territory for genre shows. But as Variety discovered when all four gathered for a showrunners conversation, these duos are still just happy anyone is watching their work.

Both of your shows earned a lot of industry nominations at the end of last year. How do you feel heading into Emmy season?

Jonathan Nolan: I worked in broadcast TV for five years [CBS' "Person of Interest"] which was very liberating because there was no chance you were getting anything. You had the fan response, which was great, and the ratings. It was a little disappointing at the end of every year, but it became kind of a pure thing. [Awards attention] is incredibly gratifying on "Westworld," especially the guild nominations - the WGA, the DGA, the PGA - that was really, really exciting. We wrapped up our run the week they started announcing nominations. The timing of it was really cool. We worked on this thing for so long and then you put it out there. The next week there's recognition from your peers, which is the most gratifying part of the experience. But I will carry with me forever the memory of working in a medium in which you were in outer space as far as the awards were concerned, and you had to satisfy only yourself, which is good training.

Ross Duffer: ["Stranger Things"] was not intended as a show for awards; it's about children fighting -> -an interdimensional monster. To even be in this discussion at all is crazy, it's surreal. I agree with what Jonathan was saying. For us, the DGA was almost the most surreal.

Matt Duffer: Oliver Stone was there. Ridley Scott was there. Michael Mann was there. [Alejandro G.] Iñárritu was there. I was literally just staring at them. It was something that got us into the room with these people. Or the AFI [luncheon] - Scorsese was two tables away from me. It feels really great because these are the people we grew up idolizing and looking up to. Your brother [Christopher Nolan] was there at the DGA ...

Jonathan Nolan: Yep.

Matt Duffer: That's the coolest thing. Mostly I'm too scared to meet them, but occasionally I'll go introduce myself. These shows, there's so much work that goes into them .

Ross Duffer: And it's crazy how much content is out there. We were worried if anyone was even going to watch it.

Matt Duffer: It's like we cut through in some way, [the awards] validate that - and the people who are killing themselves working on the show. We have a mix of people who are super experienced whose work we admire and people who are young and inexperienced but very passionate. They all put a lot into the show. I think it's great when they're recognized by their peers, it keeps everyone energized. We're in the middle of season two, and it's exhausting. To have those nominations come out in the desert of season two - episodes four and five - is nice timing.

The guys here all received DGA nominations for directing, but Lisa, you haven't directed yet. Will that change?

Lisa Joy: Yes, this year I'll be directing an episode. It's something I wouldn't have been allowed to do [anywhere else]. The great thing about TV right now for all of us, just out of sheer opportunity - how many episodes they're making, how ambitious the shows are now, how philosophically and visually and creatively ambitious they are - it's a wonderful time to foster new voices who I think otherwise would've been squeezed out of TV and film. It's very hard for a woman to say, "I'm gonna direct a Marvel movie now based on this indie I did." It takes so many steps to get there and there are so few slots. …

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