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'In Treatment' Writers Analyze The HBO Drama

In HBO's In Treatment, Gabriel Byrne stars as a psychotherapist who is working through some serious issues of his own. Executive producers and writers Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman discuss the show's third season.

44:22

Other segments from the episode on November 1, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 1, 2010: Interview with John Futterman and Anya Epstein; Review of two films, "Carlos" and "The social network."

Transcript

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'In Treatment' Writers Analyze The HBO Drama

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The HBO series "In Treatment" started its new season last week. It stars
Gabriel Byrne as Paul Weston, a psychotherapist who is insightful about his
patients' problems but has great difficulty coping with his own. At the end of
last season, he and the therapist who is treating him parted ways. He has a new
therapist this season, played by Amy Ryan.

"In Treatment" was adapted from an Israeli series, and the first two seasons
revolved around stories from the Israeli show. But this season, all the stories
are original. My guests, Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein, are the new show
runners, and they wrote the new episodes revolving around Paul and his
therapist.

Futterman also wrote the screenplay for the film "Capote." He starred as
journalist Daniel Pearl in the film "A Mighty Heart" and played the straight
son in the film "The Birdcage."

Epstein wrote for the series "Homicide" and "Tell Me You Love Me." Epstein and
Futterman are married.

Each episode of "In Treatment" is a therapy session. There are four episodes
each week. The first three feature Paul and his patients. The fourth episode is
devoted to Paul's sessions with his new therapist.

Here's an excerpt of a session with Paul and Jesse, a 16-year-old who is gay,
has had multiple partners, probably unsafe sex and feels unwanted by his
adopted parents. Jesse is played by Dane DeHaan.

(Soundbite of television program, "In Treatment")

Mr. GABRIEL BYRNE (Actor): (As Paul Weston) Have you been having trouble
sleeping?

Mr. DANE DeHAAN (Actor): (As Jesse) No, have you?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Have you been taking your Adderall?

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse) You mean have I been selling my Adderall?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) No, that's not what I said.

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse) Yeah, but that's what you actually want to know, isn't
it?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) You seem pretty anxious today. I'm just trying to figure
out why.

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse)Well, I don't have to sell that (BEEP) anymore. My ship's
about to come in.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) What do you mean?

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse) Do you want to see something awesome? It's this new app
I got. It's called Hoser(ph). You just open it, and it finds out where you are.
It tells you exactly where the closest hookup is. Over 1,500 guys join it every
day. That's weird. Wow, your office is like a dead zone, dude.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Can you put that away, please?

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse) You're like an anti-sexual forcefield around this place
or something?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) I'm not going to ask you again. Put it away.

Mr. DeHAAN: (As Jesse) All right.

GROSS: Dan Futterman, Anya Epstein, welcome to FRESH AIR, and congratulations
on the show. Now this season is the first season in which the season is
starting from scratch. The first two seasons were based on the Israeli series.

So, starting from scratch, as opposed to using an Israeli template, did you
want to make major changes in the style of the series or the kinds of
relationships between patients and therapists?

Ms. ANYA EPSTEIN (Writer, "In Treatment"): We were both tremendous fans of the
first two seasons, hadn't seen any of the Israeli series before we started
working. So I think our primary concern was how can we keep the show consistent
and match the quality that we so admired.

But given that, I think we also did try to think about starting from scratch:
What could we do different, or what do we want to do differently?

GROSS: And how did you answer that?

Mr. DAN FUTTERMAN (Writer, "In Treatment"): Hagai Levi, the Israeli creator,
set up a great template in that this therapist is not just any old therapist.
He's a therapist who's specifically challenged by his patients, in that he's
always having to figure out how far do I go?

Do I cross the line with this patient? Am I interested in this patient, jealous
of this patient, angry, turned on? And that has continued in the American
series. And that became the challenge for us, to find story lines that would
awaken different parts of Paul Weston and tempt him to either cross the line or
hold back.

For Paul Weston, the Gabriel Byrne character, that's his drama throughout all
these sessions: How far do I go? How much am I tempted to cross lines with
these patients?

Ms. EPSTEIN: We wanted to do that without repeating the same dynamics that
Hagai had landed on and done so well. So, you know, we felt that we had seen
two male patients so far that Paul sort of entered a confrontational dynamic
with. And we thought okay, what kind of male character can we bring in where
the dynamic is different? And that led pretty early on to Irrfan Kahn's
storyline.

GROSS: Well, let's talk about that storyline. He's a Bengali man whose wife has
died. So he's moved to Brooklyn to live with his son and his daughter-in-law,
who is American-born. But he's very unhappy living with them. Do you want to
explain why?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: First, I want to say that we, you know, in talking about how do
we challenge Gabriel, having been through a number of patients in the first two
series, how do we continue to challenge him both as a character, Paul, and also
as an actor.

And one of the things we landed on was let's, why don't we just cast the best
actor in the world to play opposite him. And, you know, somebody's got to be
the best in the world. And I think it's Irrfan Kahn.

GROSS: He's great. He's really great.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: He is amazing. I mean, who knows on the female side, you know,
maybe Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, who knows? I think it's Irrfan Kahn on the
male side.

So that was thrilling to us to have him finally agree to do it and I think
really exciting to Gabriel. For the question that you asked about the
character, he has lost his wife about six months ago. He's been transplanted to
Brooklyn and living with – and in a very Americanized household.

His son, who used to be Arun in Calcutta has since – he attended university and
met his now-wife. He's calling himself Aaron(ph), and they're raising their
children in a very Americanized household. And his daughter-in-law, playing
terrifically well by Sonya Walger, is both a little harsh, critical and also
provocative in certain ways, toward Sunil, Irrfan's character, in ways that he
finds both intriguing and confusing and somewhat angering.

GROSS: So let's play a scene here, and before we do, I should mention that
Irrfan Kahn was in the movie "The Namesake," playing the father. He was very
briefly in "Darjeeling Limited," playing the father of a son who is killed.

And Dan, you starred with him in the movie "A Mighty Heart," in which you
played Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journalist who was beheaded in Pakistan.
And he played an inspector.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Yeah, sort of the chief Pakistani inspector, trying to find him
and then find out who did what they did.

GROSS: I should mention that of course Irrfan Kahn was in "Slumdog
Millionaire." I neglected to mention that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: That's right.

Ms. EPSTEIN: As the inspector. So okay, so here's a scene from "In Treatment,"
from the first episode that Irrfan Kahn is in. In this scene, Paul, the
therapist played by Gabriel Byrne, has finally gotten the character Sunil to
speak because at the beginning of the session, he refuses to even speak. That's
how alienated and depressed he is. But he's finally speaking now. And they're
talking about basically how uncomfortable he is in America.

(Soundbite of television program, "In Treatment")

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) It must be very difficult, the loss of a voice,
displacement from your country, feeling trapped in a house that you're not made
welcome, where you don't feel you belong.

Mr. IRRFAN KAHN (Actor): (As Sunil) Whatever makes you say that, Dr. Weston? I
have so many things. I have my small room, my child's bed, my flat-screen TV,
my (unintelligible). So there has been a discussion about another child. So
they will eventually turn my room into baby's room.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) And where would you go?

Mr. KAHN: (As Sunil) Basement, where there's not so much sunlight. So I'll have
to leave my poor plant upstairs. You're not from here, either.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) No, not originally, but we moved here when I was a kid.

Mr. KAHN: (As Sunil) I had an Irish friend in the university. I recognize the
accent. They are waiting for me.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) I'm very glad that you came in today, Mr. Sunil, and I
just want you to know that I would like to help you in any way that I can.

Mr. KAHN: (As Sunil) I wonder if you could write me a prescription that would
allow me to return to India, where my wife would be alive.

GROSS: Okay, that's a scene from "In Treatment," and my guests, Dan Futterman
and Anya Epstein, are the show runners for this HBO series, and they write one
of the storylines.

You've talked about making the series more American now that you're not taking
the storylines from the Israeli series. This is such an American story, the
story of, you know, an immigrant coming to the United States and maybe, you
know, certainly in his case being uncomfortable, feeling alienated. So is that
one of the reasons why you wanted to write the storyline, in addition to
wanting to write for Irrfan Kahn, the actor?

Ms. EPSTEIN: Yes, I think it is. I mean, we were also very aware that in
addition to being an American story, this seemed like a very New York story, as
well. And Paul Weston, this season and last, has moved to Brooklyn.

And I think – I read an article in the New York Times called "The Invisible
Immigrants," about older immigrants coming to America. It focused on immigrants
from India and the troubles they faced adjusting not coming to America to make
their fortunes and seek out their dreams but often to live with adult children
at the end of their lives and suffering from loneliness and depression but not
having any outlet for that and often not having psychotherapy being part of
the, you know, their culture.

So that's really where it came from, and it did seem like an American story and
not one that they might have told in the Israeli series.

GROSS: In this series, the character that Irrfan Kahn is very uncomfortable
with therapy because in India, he says, therapy is just for people who are
severely mentally ill. He doesn't even want to be called a patient because
patient means you're in a hospital.

So even though he's kind of warmed to it a little bit, he's pretty anti-
therapy, and I'm wondering how familiar Irrfan Kahn was with American-style
psychotherapy.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Not at all. I mean, I think he knows about it, but I think he
has an equally suspicious judgment of therapy. I know that he has not been in
it, and he does – I don't think he knows anybody in India who is in therapy. So
he was very interested and comfortable playing that part.

GROSS: That part of the man who's uncomfortable. Yeah. Go ahead.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: That's right. That's right.

Ms. EPSTEIN: We wanted him to end up in therapy by the end of the summer, but
we didn't succeed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: But, you know, part of this storyline, we talk about finding
characters that would awaken something in Paul.

GROSS: Oh, I just got it. You wanted Irrfan Kahn to be in therapy, the actor
himself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: That's right.

GROSS: Okay, delayed reaction.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Right. Instead, he's talking about buying an apartment in the
East Village, which he fell in love with, which would be great. And he wants
Adam Rapp, the writer of that storyline, to write a play for him so he can come
live here and act in a play.

GROSS: My guests are Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein. We'll talk more about
writing for the HBO series "In Treatment" after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests, Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein, are the show runners for the
HBO series "In Treatment," and they wrote this season's episodes about the
therapist sessions with his own therapist.

Now, you reserved for yourself the storyline of Paul being in therapy. In
previous seasons, Paul's therapist was played by Dianne Wiest, and she was so
wonderful in that part.

Ms. EPSTEIN: She was.

GROSS: And she was both very wise in the role, but at the same time, there was
constant conflict between them because there's this whole back history where he
believes, Paul the therapist believes, that it was because of her that he was
never promoted to direct a psychiatric institution where they'd both worked,
and she'd been his mentor, and anytime she criticized him, he took it as a
personal affront. So it was a very uncomfortable relationship that they always
had.

Did Dianne Wiest leave the series, or was she written out of this series
because it was time to move on for the character? Like what happened that she's
not in it anymore?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: We thought that that story had played itself out, that he had
left her care as his supervisor and then left her care again as a patient, that
she had seen him and his wife as a couples therapist. She had been his mentor
and teacher and that that story had kind of played out as much as we felt we'd
be able to play it out this season.

Ms. EPSTEIN: I also think Warren had ended, Warren Light the show runner of
Season Two, had ended that storyline on a very final note, where Gina's
character says: This is the moment where I should be saying my door is always
open to you, but I'm not going to say that.

So I think we felt it would have been a lot of manipulation and maybe awkward
manipulation on our part to open up that storyline again.

GROSS: So the new therapist that you hired to work with Paul is Amy Ryan, who
is also really terrific. Why did you want her? And people will know her from a
variety of roles, from her comedic role on the NBC series "The Office," from
her role in "Gone Baby Gone," which is a crime story based in Boston, and she's
mean in that. She's cold.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So why did you want her for this?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: They may also know her from the movie "Capote," which I wrote,
and she was – she played Marie Dewey, Chris Cooper's wife.

GROSS: Oh, of course. I wasn't putting that together, right.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: And she's someone who I've acted with in New York in readings.
And Anya cast her. She's a little bit of our...

Ms. EPSTEIN: Good luck charm.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Good luck charm, yeah, angel in our relationship. When we all
worked together, when I first met Anya, when she wrote a "Homicide" episode
that I acted in, Amy was also in that episode, and we've been friends ever
since. And I think she's just wonderful. She seemed the perfect person to play
opposite Paul both in terms of her wisdom and gentleness, but she can, as you
said, also be tough.

And we wanted someone to be tough with him in ways that Gina, the Dianne Wiest
character, had such a complicated relationship with him that we wanted to – and
was not probably the most effective therapist for him because of that. We
wanted to see what would happen when someone was detached, tough and because of
that detachment very intriguing to Paul.

Ms. EPSTEIN: And I will also add to that list highly, highly intelligent. I
mean, I think we were a little self-conscious about the fact that we were
coming in and replacing Dianne Wiest's character, whom we loved so much, but
who was an older woman, you know, with a woman 20 years younger.

And we were afraid of being criticized for coming in and just sexing up the
show a little bit. And it was very, very important to us that we found someone
who, you know, was not only young and attractive but who was to be taken very,
very seriously by Paul and also by the audience. And Amy combined all of those
factors in a great way.

GROSS: So you needed to find an excuse for Paul to go back into therapy, not
that he needed an excuse because he can really use the therapy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But he wasn't really ready to sign up for it. So what excuse did you
come up with?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Well, the excuse that he, at least that he gives himself is that
he needs – he's having a terrible time sleeping. He has convinced himself,
because of some hand tremors that have set in over the past several months,
that he is developing Parkinson's, the disease that his father died from in the
last season.

And he's having a terrible time sleeping and he needs a refill of his Ambien
prescription, and his Baltimore doctor refuses to do it anymore long-distance
and insists that he find someone in New York. And his doctor in New York
recommends: Why don't you just go see Adele Brouse(ph), played by Amy Ryan. She
can refill it. Tell her what's going on.

And so he finds his way into her office hoping get a prescription and leave.
And she says some very incisive things that cause him to decide to come back.

GROSS: Yeah, so let's play a scene from Paul's first session with his new
therapist, a psychiatrist, actually, played by Amy Ryan. And in this scene, you
know, he's kind of testing her to see, you know, how smart she is. And he's
basically asking, you know, oh, have you heard of Gina Tole(ph), my former
therapist? You know, she's very famous. You know, she's one of the most famous,
you know, one of the best therapists on the East Coast.

Oh, so you haven't heard of her, huh? They're kind of going back and forth on
this. And then Adele, the new, the psychiatrist, starts asking him some pretty
incisive questions, for instance about his relationship to his father. And he's
very, Paul's very impatient with all this questioning. He feels like he's been
through it before. He doesn't want the therapy. All he wants is his
prescription. So let's pick it up there.

(Soundbite of television program, "In Treatment")

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Please, enough. I've been over this 100 times with Gina
about my anger at my father for walking out on us when I was a teenager, my
mother's suicide when I was 17, my need to save people as a result. I've been
over this again and again with one of the best analysts on the East Coast.

I do understand it all. There's really nothing that – nothing more for you to
contribute to that.

Ms. AMY RYAN (Actor): (As Adele) I just want to make sure I understand
something.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Sure, fine.

Ms. RYAN: (As Adele) You said Gina Tole was your teacher. And then she was your
supervisor?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Yeah.

Ms. RYAN: (As Adele) And after that, your analyst?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Yes.

Ms. RYAN: (As Adele) And she also saw you and your ex-wife as a couple's
therapist?

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) Correct.

Ms. RYAN: (As Adele) I see.

Mr. BYRNE: (As Paul) What do you mean you see? What are you implying?

Ms. RYAN: (As Adele) I'm not implying anything. I'm just trying to understand
the methods of one of the best analysts on the East Coast.

GROSS: Ouch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So is what she's saying in that scene reflective of what you thought of
the relationship between Gina and Paul in the first two seasons?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: I think it's one of the things that made that relationship so
interesting and so complex and probably ultimately not terrific therapy for
Paul, which was - I don't think the intent that she was to be the best analyst
for him. It was that, let's put two people in a room who are – who have a very
complex past and make good drama out of that.

She is having a very hard time with Paul. And so she says something purposely
provocative to finally break through this shell. We had a lot of discussion. We
had a psychiatric advisor on this season. He also was on last season, helping
Warren Light run the show. And he – we had a lot of discussion about this line,
which he said was really too provocative.

GROSS: That last line, I want to see...?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Yes, that's right.

GROSS: The methods of the best therapist on the East Coast, that line?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: That's right.

Ms. EPSTEIN: That's right. Too snarky, he said.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: But we thought: You know what? We're not doing a documentary
about therapy, where you try to compress so much into such a short period of
time. And the real challenge is to get good drama out of it. And as long as
she's aware of what she's doing, let's just have her do it.

GROSS: Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein will talk more about writing for the HBO
series "In Treatment" in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this
is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We're talking about the HBO series "In Treatment," which started its third
season last week. The series is about a psychotherapist, Paul Weston, and his
patients. Gabriel Byrne stars as Paul Weston. This season, Paul is back in
treatment, but with a new therapist played by Amy Ryan.

My guests Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein are the showrunners. They also wrote
the episodes where Paul is talking to his new therapist. When we left off, we
heard a scene from Paul's first session with her.

I want to play another scene that you've written for Paul and his new therapist
- or psychiatrist, I should say. And in this part, you know, Paul has brought
with him a new novel written by his former therapist, the character Gina,
played by Diane Wiest in seasons one and two. And he's just bought it after
seeing an ad for it in the newspaper and, you know, he's kind of talking about
how his great former therapist has written this book and everything. He's
looking at the book, showing it to his psychiatrist, and now he's looking at
the book jacket photo of his former therapist. And you mentioned snarky. This
can be a little bit snarky.

(Soundbite of HBO series, "In Treatment")

Mr. GABRIEL BYRNE (Actor): (as Paul) Yeah. It's a pretty good photograph. It's
airbrushed, but she looks great - great big smile. Very pleased with herself. I
would be, with blurbs like these.

Ms. AMY RYAN (Actor): (as Adele) You've read the back?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Insightful and sharp. A masterful spin through the
tortured human psyche. That's Lori Moore. Wise and deeply empathetic. Amy Dunn.
Guess - I guess it's good.

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) How does it feel reading those quotes? Now, that's high
praise for woman whose talent and intellect you say you respect, and yet you
read that...

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) I'm happy for her.

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) Okay.

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) I am. I am. It's - I'm not claiming it's not - it's not
complicated, and there's not some jealousy. Sure. But, of course, I'm -
actually I, well, I should wait until I read it myself. But I'm pleased for
her. Yeah.

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) What are you jealous of?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Well, clearly, she's made a new life for herself, found a
way to escape from patients like me. Quiet a feat, really - phoenix-like(ph).

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) Why are you so convinced Gina wanted to escape from you?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Well, give another 10 minutes and you'll understand
completely. You're probably feeling it already.

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) No. I hadn't.

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Or you're extremely polite.

Ms. RYAN: (as Adele) Do you feel that way with your patients, like you want to
escape?

Mr. BYRNE: (as Paul) Well, I told Gina once that with patients, I feel like,
it's like two mice in a glue trap, stuck, immobile, getting nowhere.

GROSS: So that's a scene from the new season of "In Treatment." And this part
of the storyline is written by my guests Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein, who
are also the show's showrunners.

So he says that being a therapist with a patient is like being two mice in a
glue trap, stuck and immobile. But the thing is, at the end of every...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...at the end of every season, most of his patients have some kind of,
you know, revelation or awakening or, you know, a big change in their life. So
he's actually a pretty effective therapist, except for the fact that he gets
too emotionally involved, or sometimes too sexually involved with his patients.
And I'm wondering how you're going to handle that, if you want that kind of
epiphany, or if you feel like that is too dramatic, you know, the therapist
rescuing people and having an epiphany at the end of the season.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: You know, I spent seven years in therapy. I'm not sure that I
had any epiphanies myself. So I think we're probably more skeptical of that
kind of a story arch than others might have been. I think one thing we were
interested in doing this season, we're having some surprises. Things happen in
these treatments that are probably not what one expects will be the epiphany
that these patients will have, nor the epiphanies that Paul may have. So we
were interested in spinning these a little bit. I don't want to give away
anything that happens, but...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: ...in particular, the Irrfan Khan story, something strange is
starting to go on between Sunil and his daughter-in-law. Whether Paul is able
to see that or not becomes a very important part of that story, and whether
this character has any epiphanies or not is probably left to the viewer to
decide. But it becomes much more plot-oriented, probably, than past seasons
have been.

GROSS: There's always been a gap between Paul as a therapist and Paul as a
patient. Paul as therapist has so much empathy for the people he's talking to,
and he's so aware of what they really mean and what they're really feeling, in
spite of what they're saying. But as a patient, he's just so clueless about
what motivates him, and so clueless about how rude he's usually being to this
therapist. And it's always like one thing I've had trouble reconciling about
the character of Paul. And I'm wondering how you plan on dealing with that in
your season.

Ms. EPSTEIN: Well, I think it's something that our psychiatric consultant says
can be very true of...

GROSS: Is that true? Really?

Ms. EPSTEIN: ...of him and his colleagues, that, you know, psychologists and
psychiatrists don't always make the best patients and sometimes just revert to
complete children once they enter the therapy room themselves. We were
interested, in this season, that Paul is able to be less different in his own
life and in the room. I mean, that - the dark way he speaks of his work in that
first episode is really a reflection of how he's feeling in his own life - not
necessarily at work, but stuck, alone, unable to make a change. And as the
season progresses, we were interested in sort of amping up that crisis which
they began in season one and having him get to a darker and darker place where
he's no longer sure that he can continue his work as a therapist effectively.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Like everybody, I mean, he's a liar, and he presents what puts
him in the best light. Talking about Gina, he says, oh, you know, I'm happy for
her. And Adele, probably for the first time in his life, really challenges him
on that and doesn't let him get away with those sorts of lies.

My mom, you know, my mom is a psychoanalyst, and she used to say - sort of
adding to what Anya said about therapists in their own therapy. But she used to
say that you spend so much time as a psychoanalyst talking about parenting and
how people are parented. And psychoanalysts are historically just the worst
parents and blind to what they're doing with their own children. And that, to
us, was interesting to explore.

GROSS: Would you say that's true of your mother? And if your mother's
listening...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Except for my mother.

Ms. EPSTEIN: ...put your hands over your ears.

GROSS: Watch it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Except - no she would say this about other people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right. Of course.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: She was terrific.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And, Dan, did you lie to your therapist the way you say that a lot of
patients do to theirs?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: You know, whether consciously lying, I think I - my - to
probably giving you more information than you want, my issue probably with my
therapist was wanting to be a good patient and, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FUTTERMAN: ...that probably comes from my - you know, look how much
progress I'm making. Look how open I am. Look how honest I am about myself. So
that - you know, which I think gets in its own, gets in the way of actually
making progress. If I lied, that probably could have help and sped things along
a little bit.

GROSS: Anya, you're studying psychotherapy, right?

Ms. EPSTEIN: I did. I found myself increasingly fed up with the television
business in recent years and have always been interested in psychology. So, I
think it was last spring, I enrolled in the marriage and family therapy program
at Pepperdine University and thought maybe I would leave television writing
behind. I took one class and then we got this job offer, and it was really
probably the only show on television that would've made me at least take a
break from the program and go back to writing.

GROSS: What was so discouraging about working in television that you were ready
to get out altogether and start a different profession?

Ms. EPSTEIN: Well, I had worked on - you know, I think - I started off working
on "Homicide," the show that Danny and I met on, with Tom Fontana, who's really
a wonderful man and a brilliant writer and was incredibly nurturing and
generous with people who work for him, and I think I got a little bit spoiled.
So then we came out to L.A. and I had other experiences which maybe weren't as
either stimulating or loving, and I was writing for shows that I wouldn't
necessarily always watch on television. And I was frustrated and a little bit
board, as well.

GROSS: My guests are Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman. We'll talk more about
writing for the HBO series "In Treatment" after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein are the new showrunners for the
HBO series "In Treatment." The former showrunners only hired writers who had
been in therapy themselves. Futterman and Epstein have both been in therapy.

So how helpful is it to have been in therapy in order to write the show? Are
you actually drawing from your own experiences?

Ms. EPSTEIN: I do think that, as Danny said before, that the type of heavily
psychoanalytic therapy that we'd experience and that we, you know, sort of
adhered to would be very hard to replicate on the show. And so it was
frustrating sometimes to be writing, you know, what we knew wasn't accurate
based on our experience or wasn't necessarily the best kind of therapy. Because
I think that I had come to believe that the less said by the therapist, the
better, which I don't think Gabriel Byrne would've appreciated and wouldn't
have been very dramatic.

I'd say, in some ways, the therapy started to veer more towards what I
encountered in Los Angeles, you know, shopping around for therapists here, and
all of a sudden they would speak up and say, oh, well, when I was in my 20s -
and I'd say, shh. You're not supposed to be saying anything.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. EPSTEIN: Well, why are talking? Or they'd even go so far as to say here's
what I think you should do, which would never have happened in my prior
experience, but sometimes, on occasion, did happen on "In Treatment." But at
least Paul was always very aware that he was breaking the rules.

GROSS: In talking about writing, do you see "In Treatment" as writing more for
a play or a TV series? It's always a two-character thing. Basically, it's two
people sitting in a chair and talking to each other, which nowadays is very un-
TV like because things move much more quickly on TV.

Ms. EPSTEIN: We were very aware in contemplating whether or not to take this on
that most of the writers who'd been involved in the past were playwrights.
There was Warren Light. Marsha Norman wrote last year, Jackie Reingold and then
Sarah Treem, who wrote our two favorite storylines from the first two seasons.
It was Sophie the gymnast the first season, and April from last season. She
wrote the Jesse storyline here. She's also a playwright, whereas Danny and I
had no experience in that medium, and it was daunting to us, the idea of not
being able to escape with a cut to to another scene was very, very scary.

GROSS: Oh, I never thought of that. Why is that scary?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Oh, it's so much better. You can write, you know, two or three
pages and then cut to somebody running down a street and cut to another
character talking and leave things sort of as a cliffhanger. But this really,
as you said, it's like a two-character, one-act play that, hopefully within it,
has some act changes. And we had a lot of discussion, first with Hagai and then
with Sarah Treem about how to structure that half-hour of television in a way
that it can move naturally and dramatically. And it was something we definitely
had to learn by writing.

Ms. EPSTEIN: Hagai did talk about it as a three-act play. You know, first where
the character comes in and says what they want to talk about and their version
of what they're there for, and then the second act where, you know, Paul probes
and you get to hear what it is they're really there for, and then a third act
where there's some sort of summation or analysis on Paul's part. And we didn't
stick always so tightly to that form, but it was very helpful to have it diving
in.

GROSS: Anya you're from a writing family. "Casablanca" was written by your
grandfather, Philip Epstein and his identical twin...

Ms. EPSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...your great uncle, Julius Epstein. Your father Leslie Epstein directs
the creative writing program at Boston University and has written several
books. Did you grow up hearing a lot of talk about writing?

Ms. EPSTEIN: I did, and I grew up with frequent warnings from my dad to be
anything but a writer. I obviously didn't heed his advice. But...

GROSS: Why did he warn you away from it?

Ms. EPSTEIN: For him and for many of us, certainly for me, writing can be very,
very hard and torturous sometimes. I think that I chose television writing
because you couldn't afford to be tortured writing for television. You know,
you had quick turnarounds, quick deadlines. It couldn't be perfect. And that -
somehow, that was freeing for me.

GROSS: So how old were you when you first saw "Casablanca," which was written
by your great uncle and your grandfather?

Ms. EPSTEIN: That's a good question because we've been - I have wondered
whether my daughter, who is now nine, is old enough and I think not, but
probably sometime in my early teens.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. And what did you think of it? How did you like it as a movie and
what did it mean to you that your family had written it?

Ms. EPSTEIN: Oh, at that age I don't know. I do remember being surprised by how
funny it was, that even at that young age I got the jokes. And I once had the
experience of watching it in Bryant Park, where they were, you know, thousands
of people at those HBO movie screenings they do. And that was wonderful sort of
lying back under the New York City skyline and hearing people quoting the lines
out loud and then also the laughter which, you know, I think people think of
that movie mostly as a romance and with some intrigue but not at all as a
comedy and it really is is very funny.

But really, you know, intimidation was a large factor of how, you know, how
when you have that in your family, how on earth do you live up to that and how
would I dare write a word?

GROSS: How did you overcome that intimidation?

Ms. EPSTEIN: Oh, I don't know, by forcing myself to do it.

GROSS: When you apply for, like, a writing position like earlier in your career
before you had a track record, when you applied for a writing position, did you
let people know your lineage?

Ms. EPSTEIN: Oh, no. No. I would rather get by on my own merits. I think I was
too embarrassed to do that.

GROSS: My guests Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein are the show runners for this
HBO series "In Treatment." And one of the storylines in the new season of "In
Treatment" involves a middle-aged actress who's making a comeback in a Broadway
production of "Night of the Iguana." And she's having a great deal of
difficulty remembering her lines and this terrifies her. And, of course,
there's all these other issues. But anyways, that actresses played by Debra
Winger.

And although she was very famous early on for her roles in "Urban Cowboy" and
"Terms of Endearment," she in the past few years kind of dropped out more or
less, except she was terrific in "Rachel Getting Married" as the mother of the
bride. How did you decide to cast her? Was it your decision?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: It was. I mean, we were interested in a story that deals with an
actress who, in certain ways, has a slightly similar story to Debra's story,
just in a sort of overview of someone who was formerly quite famous, remains
very talented, but as happens to many actresses, roles and opportunities kind
of dry up in their 40s and 50s.

And we thought who would be the dream person to play this part? Do you think
Debra Winger would do it? And we have the talk with HBO about it. They were, of
course, thrilled for us to take the chance, and so we begged her to do it, and
she luckily agreed. She was really remarkably game to face all of the issues
that this character is dealing with about a waning career, fears of aging, that
I think many actresses would have shied away from. But she is bold and brave
and open to any experience. And she was really a thrill to have a part of the
show this year.

GROSS: I like the way in this new season you've included a couple of people who
are afraid they're getting or might get a disease and how they deal with -
should I go to the doctor, should I not go to the doctor? If the doctor tells
me I don't have it do I believe him? Or do I keep going to doctors until one of
them tells me I do have it because I know that I have it. Why did you want to
emphasize that?

Mr. FUTTERMAN: I think that, you know, that in particular happens with
Gabriel's character Paul Weston. We were, for him, we were looking for ways to
sort of push him over the cliff that he's been teetering on the edge of for two
seasons...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: ...in terms of his frustrations with his career, his loneliness,
and also his aging. And that felt like a very palpable way to do that and to
see him become obsessed about some aspect of his life in a way that his
patients often are and for him to be able to, as you say, deal in an objective
and therapeutic and helpful way with people but be blind to it in his own life.
That felt exciting to us.

GROSS: I want to thank you both so much for talking with us. It's been great to
talk with you. And congratulations on the series.

Ms. EPSTEIN: You, too.

Mr. FUTTERMAN: Thank you so much. It's a total pleasure.

Ms. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein are the show runners for the HBO series
"In Treatment," which is shown Monday and Tuesday nights.
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Carlos And Zuckerberg: The Men, Myths, Movies

TERRY GROSS, host:

The last few weeks have seen the release of two critically acclaimed movies,
each exploring the career of a man who has entered popular mythology. David
Fincher's "The Social Network," which is in theaters everywhere, stars Jesse
Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. "Carlos" by the French
director Olivier Assayas is a five and a half hour saga about the notorious
'70s terrorist Carlos the Jackal. It's currently in selected theaters and
available On Demand through most cable companies.

Our critic-at-large John Powers says that seeing them side by side got him
thinking about how much social values have changed over recent decades.

JOHN POWERS: If you'd been born 1,000 years ago, or even 300, you would have
lived your whole life in a society whose values were essentially those of your
great-great-great-grandparents. These days, however, history moves at a
dizzying speed. Ideas I once took for granted now seem as long gone as getting
a telegram.

The depth of this cultural change struck me as I was watching two of the year's
most interesting films - "Carlos," Olivier Assayas' historical thriller about
the '70s terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and David Fincher's breezy "The Social
Network," which centers on Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard undergrad behind
Facebook. While their stories could hardly sound more different, the movies
have striking similarities - and not only because the filmmakers freely admit
to fictionalizing things.

Both Carlos and Zuckerberg are young anti-heroes who remain ciphers. Both are
narcissistic outsiders who profess idealism while behaving un-idealistically.
And above all, both embody key fantasies of the very different eras in which
they became famous.

Beginning in 1972, "Carlos" charts the violent rise and seedy fall of Caracas-
born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who dubbed himself Carlos, a charismatic political
gangster played with great animal cunning by Edgar Ramirez. Whether working
with Marxist Palestinians or the East German secret police, Carlos styled
himself a revolutionary and he went about his work with sociopathic
ruthlessness. He murdered cops, blew up cafes and trains, and in a spectacular
1975 coup that the film captures brilliantly, he kidnapped the OPEC ministers
in Vienna and ferried them by jet to Algiers.

It's an amazing story and one told with gripping lucidity. Here, early on,
Carlos offers his services to a leader from the popular front for the
Liberation of Palestine.

(Soundbite of movie, "Carlos")

Mr. AHMAD KAABOUR (Actor): (as Wadie Haddad) I have heard the (unintelligible).
He is ready to make any kind of compromise. Our organization serves the
Palestinian revolution. The cowards, that's the traitors, are our enemies.

Mr. EDGAR RAMIREZ (Actor): (as Carlos) I live in London. I can be very useful
there. Mohammed Boudia, who headed operations in Europe was executed by Israeli
agents from the Mossad. I believe I can replace him.

Mr. KAABOUR: (as Wadie Haddad) You are still a boy. I need men.

Mr. RAMIREZ: (as Carlos) So, you don't trust me because I'm young?

Mr. KAABOUR: (as Wadie Haddad) You have to prove yourself. We will give you a
mission.

Mr. RAMIREZ: (as Carlos) What mission?

Mr. KAABOUR: (as Wadie Haddad) Andre will tell you. Andre is a fighter I've
chosen as Wadie successor. He is in Paris now. He will contact you.

Mr. RAMIREZ: (as Carlos) When?

Mr. KAABOUR: (as Wadie Haddad) In time.

POWERS: Despite his big words, Carlos had all the principles of a barracuda. He
was basically in it for himself. But his gaudy crimes touched something in the
zeitgeist, and the media conspired to dress him in an aura of rock-star cool.
You see, this was an age that still believed in liberation movements, an age in
which countless millions, many of them young, dreamed that the world could be
saved by political revolution. Back then, the idea that Barack Obama is a
communist would have had even Ronald Reagan laughing.

Be that as it may, Assayas makes it clear that Carlos never came close to
liberating anybody. Utterly without a mass following, his supposedly
revolutionary violence actually did very little - except discredit the left.
Far from advancing a cause, Carlos' adventurism merely popularized a tactic:
He's one of the founding fathers of today's globalized terrorism.

"The Social Network's" Mark Zuckerberg is also a founding father, but man, have
times changed. Where 40 years ago such a brainy young misfit might have been
drawn to left-wing politics, that idea seems almost absurd in today's America,
even at liberal Harvard. Despite the financial crisis, our culture still
celebrates the values of a go-go capitalism in which Warren Buffet is treated
as a seer and you're more likely to overhear conversation about a new iPhone
app than about the war in Afghanistan.

In keeping with the spirit of the age, Zuckerberg's fantasy isn't toppling the
system, it's being successful within it. More attuned to code than ideas, he
not only invents Facebook 2004, but he fights to retain control of it, a
process that includes turning friends into foes, waging battles in court, and
insulting anybody he thinks dumber than he is - meaning everybody.

Along the way, he makes himself the youngest billionaire in history and
influences the daily lives of Facebook's 500 million users. If Carlos was the
terrorist as rock star, Zuckerberg is a Nerd Messiah, an uncool guy who,
sitting in his dorm room, has changed how we live to an extent that the
globetrotting radical Carlos could only dream of.

Not that this makes him happy - at least according to "The Social Network,"
which views Zuckerberg's entrepreneurial ascent as coolly as Assayas does
Carlos's terrorism. The movie ends with the young tycoon, hugely successful and
wealthy, not a nice guy, but one of the kings of our culture. In his triumph,
he seems a far cry from Carlos, who, by the time he's finally caught and
imprisoned, has sunk into debauchery and irrelevance.

Of course, if the Jackal were a more generous soul, he might consider friending
Zuckerberg, just to give him some avuncular heads up on how quickly, in our
hyperfast modern world, a man's historical moment can fade away.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for Vogue and Vogue.com.

You download podcasts of our show on our website, freshair.npr.org.

I'm Terry Gross.
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