Jonathan Ames never faces a shortage of creativity or ambition. The writer responsible for masterminding Bored to Death for three years, not to mention penning a number of successful novels, is currently steering the ship of Patrick Stewart’s new vehicle, Blunt Talk, on STARZ.
Blunt Talk is a perfect distillation of Ames’ trademark neurotic, impressionistic approach to writing. The series acts as a formidable addition to the already-strong resume of Stewart, but the show is just brimming with rich characters that have as many dysfunctions as they do skills. The series is set at a sensationalistic news program and might have flown under your radar last year, but the show’s strong sophomore season provides plenty of reasons to come on board.
In honor of the start of Blunt Talk’s new season, we speak with its creator, Jonathan Ames, about the symbolism behind this year, Don Quixote and male relationships, the possibility of returning to Bored to Death, and much more.
DEN OF GEEK: What are you hoping to say in Blunt Talk’s second season and how does this story evolve this year?
JONATHAN AMES: Well I guess I’m hoping to say many things. First of all, one of the things that we’re talking about this season–and it’s a more serialized story–is that Walter pursues one big news story, which is the drought in California and Los Angeles as well as corruption surrounding its water supply, specifically recycled water and that technology. So we make an allusion to Chinatown visually and thematically with Los Angeles, water, and corruption. So that’s the new story. I’m also trying to this season, after establishing all of the characters last year, just going deeper into all of that; the whole ensemble. The kind of the uniting theme is sort of romance, heartbreak, and love.
I was happy to see Walter’s cryptic, stylistic dreams reappearing in the show. Do you see these as a constant in the series to play with each season?
Yeah, in season one it was Burt Lancaster films. In a later episode this season, Walter has another Orson Welles dream, and it’s a scary Orson Welles dream. Last season we did Burt Lancaster and he was swimming and flying, but this year they’re a little darker because he’s caught up in this intrigue. He’s having these ominous Orson Welles dreams. So yeah, it is something that I have fun playing with. Walter lives in Los Angeles, so the fact that he dreams in exact replicas of film clips is a fun, strange thing that’s adjacent to reality. The show itself makes lots of allusion to film and cinema.
Both Blunt Talk and Bored to Death do a really beautiful job at portraying the beauty in male friendships. What about this specific sort of bond are you attracted to?
Well for a long time–about 20 years or so ago–I read Don Quixote, which is very much about the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. So I think that really imprinted on my mind–you know the way animals or babies get imprinted with something. So that dynamic of friendship as a way to tell stories and write dialogue has always been something that’s appealed to me. It’s come up in my novels and almost everything I’ve written.
Then that master/servant relationship between Walter and Harry, I’m a big fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and the Jeeves novels. I even wrote a novel that was very much an homage to Wodehouse and so I tried to pick that back up in Blunt Talk with Walter and Harry. With him, it’s a very Don Quixote/Sancho Panza relationship. Walter I’ve always seen as a very Don Quixote figure. He’s a dreamer. He’s someone who dreams of being a hero and doing the right thing. Then his sidekick might be a little more in touch with reality, however how in touch Harry is with reality is certainly open to interpretation. So yeah it’s a dynamic I’ve always enjoyed.
I feel that Blunt Talk is also a nice departure from Bored to Death in terms of female characters on this show as part of the ensemble. That we have at least three very strong female roles. Rosalie, Celia, and Shelly Kinkle. Whereas Bored to Death was so male-centric and here we have three very fun roles for women.
Are you at all interested in slowly incorporating Duncan Adler (Jason Shwartzman) into becoming a regular on the show?
Duncan certainly hasn’t run his course on this show. He shows up a few times this season, particularly in episode eight. In that we go back to the prison that Duncan is in and do a whole prison episode. We see another play that Duncan is putting on in prison and it’s really funny and hysterical. But yeah, I love Jason’s involvement. I could certainly see bringing him back in season three. At one point I thought, maybe Duncan could get a little broadcasting segment on the environment or something. That he gets released from jail but has become such a ratings hit for them. We’ll see if that circles back.
I’m also very excited about your new TBS series pilot, World’s End. How has that experience been so far and what attracted you to that idea?
I’m in the editing room right now as we speak! We finished shooting about two weeks ago. It went really well. We have a really fantastic cast. This was a project that was brought to me by Ben Silverman. He had found this Icelandic series called Heimsendeir that translates to “World’s End.” He was looking for a writer–or wanted me to adapt it–I’m not sure. I watched the Icelandic version and I found it wonderfully funny, humane, and it has a great tone. It’s about an asylum where the inmates take over. So I just really loved the material and it was an interesting challenge to adapt it for an American audience and re-fashion it. I took a minor character and gave them a much larger role to make the show a little more of my own, too. So it’s been a fun project. It’s actually something that preceded Blunt Talk, fell dormant, and then came back to life.
Just because I still hear rumblings about it every so often, is there any progress with some sort of Bored to Death movie on HBO?
I did get commissioned to write a script. I wrote two totally different drafts. I thought that neither of them quite worked. I’d like to look at them again, maybe one of them worked better than I thought. But yeah, I don’t know…You know like in the end of The Great Gatsby, “We move on hopefully from the current, falling ceaselessly from the past…”
I do wonder though, the further we go out in time if we can still come back to it. People are so fond of the show that sometimes when these movies are made people get disappointed because what you can do over the course of a season is so much greater than what you can do in an 85-minute movie. That’s really only three episodes. So I don’t know if it would leave people wanting, or if we could recapture the magic. But I won’t say never! The actors all remain interested and we’re all still good friends, so maybe it could happen.
The whole Blunt Talk porno storyline is some great stuff. Would you be flattered if someone actually made a Blunt Talk or Bored to Death porn?
I don’t know about flattered, but I guess they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I think I’d be amused. Porn can obviously be exploitative of people but maybe if it was gentle and loving porn that would be interesting. I wonder if there’s been a Bored to Death porn….I have seen a lot of people dressing as Bored to Death characters for Halloween, not that I think anyone would be able to guess who they are.
Is there a certain moment or piece of character development from this season that you’re particularly excited for people to see?
All the characters go through so much. Getting to see Harry outside of his uniform and catching a glimpse of his romance; Harry with a broken heart waltzing on Sunset Boulevard. I think that’s some fun stuff. The whole Jim and Celia romance. Shelly’s emergence, which you’ll see more of as the season goes on. Rosalie singing at the piano bar. I think there’s a lot of rich stuff for all of the characters.
Blunt Talk’s second season premieres October 2nd at 10 p.m. on STARZ.