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April 9, 2020 31 mins

This week, host Jamie Loftus interviews actors AnnaSophia Robb and Tiffany Boone on playing young Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Also hear from production designer Jess Kender and showrunner Liz Tigelaar on bringing you back in time to take a hard look at Mia and Elena’s pasts.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:16):
Hello, and welcome back to another juicy behind the scenes
episode of Little Fires Everywhere, the official podcast, the only
place aspiring nine Shaker rights can get a full look
at the heroic work going on behind the scenes on
the Hulu drama series we are all addicted to. I
am your co host Jamie Loftus, and oh boy, if

(00:36):
you are listening to this after watching episode one of six,
we have a lot to discuss. So, first of all, spoilers,
whether we're talking about eighties Mia and Elena or nineties
Mia and Elena, there is a lot going on. And
if you're not giving recent Carrey's reactions in every scene
at this point, I don't know you. Today on the pod,
we're going to be talking to a lot of incredible people.

(00:57):
We'll be talking to production designer Jess Kender, who brought
a Lena and MIA's passed to life, including rebuilding the
nineteen eighties art scene in New York. Will also be
speaking with Liz tigg Lart, the Little Fires Everywhere showrunner,
head writer, and executive producer, about building out this area
of the show's world. But first, I was so excited

(01:17):
to sit down with the two fabulous actors who played
the eighties era Mia and Elena, Tiffany Boone and Anna
Sofia Rob, respectively. I got a chance to sit down
with them ahead of the Little Fires Everywhere premiere, and
if you've seen the episode, you know that they are
incredibly talented, but guess what, they're also super nice. Here's
a little bit of our conversation. Oh okay, So first,

(01:39):
if you could both introduce yourself and just say your character,
name of you wonderful, and then we'll just start talking.
I'm Tiffany Boone and I play young Mia, I'm on
A Sophia Rob and I play young Elena Richardson. Awesome. Okay, So, Anna,
Sophia and Tiffanya so excited to have you both here.
This episode is being released the same week that we

(02:02):
have now both met both of you. Um and your backstories.
So I guess I wanted to start with what was
your because um a lot. I mean, there's some of
the Mia story included in the book, and none of
the Elena story included in the book. So kind So
what we're both of your reactions to first reading what

(02:23):
happens to your character? Yeah, so the young Elena storyline,
it felt so natural though I think that's what I was.
I mean, I wasn't surprised by that, but I thought
the author the writers did such a beautiful job in
turning this sort of like snippets of Elena. I think
there's like there's a passage of her talking about her
relationship with Izzy, and we change it a little bit
in the show to talk more about sort of um

(02:47):
a slightly like unwanted pregnancy and then go deeper into that,
and I think they really it's a it's such a
different version of Elena, and we see her completely like
unraveled and then have to like ravel herself back up.
And so I think it's a really good opportunity to

(03:08):
understand why she becomes the way she does and her
sort of like desperation to have control because she knows
what will happen to her if she thinks about the
things that she could have been for me. There's certain
things that are tangle in my brain between the book,
in the script as far as um, as far as

(03:31):
her story so um, but reading it, I was just
like so interested in exploring how MEO, when she gets older,
becomes this tough person to break through to, you know,
and so to see all the challenges that she goes through,
and it opens the audience up to like feel empathy

(03:52):
for her um finding out her backstory. And that's interesting
to me to be able to like just to read
that and learn that, and then to be able to
bring at to life and hopefully bring even more humanity
to the characters so that people can understand why she
makes some of the choices she makes. That was just
really interesting to me. I mean, you both do so
so incredible, and when you see your performances transition into

(04:17):
Recent Carry, I feel like it almost for me double
down and like, wow, they really killed it because the
way that you both clearly took on the other actors
mannerisms and their interpretation of the character, and you know,
and and not even just doing like a copy paste
of Recent Carry, but like it just it was so
thoughtful and wonderful, and I'm glad that it was edited

(04:40):
in a way that really like showed what an amazing
performance both of you gave. Thank you, right, I was like,
I don't know when thank you? So I guess I
guess the obvious thing that everyone is interested in is
how did you prepare to play younger versions of Recent Carry.
What was the prep process for that for both of you?

(05:00):
For me, I keep saying that I feel like I
had and I'm sure you feel the same way. Um
to Carry. I've been a fan of hers for so long,
you know, Like I have been a fan since before
she like everyone knew who she was. I watched her
in this independent film called Lift and like two thousand five,
and I would watch that film over and over again,

(05:20):
and I've been a fan ever since. And like, I
think she's a very specific actress. She takes a part
of herself to every single character, but then like changes
certain things, and so I've always kind of watched her process.
So when we started working together, I had a conversation
with her about the way she looked at the character
and you know, her thoughts on it and everything like that.

(05:41):
And then for two or three weeks I was just
on set watching her scenes and taking notes of like
her hand movements and her mouth and how she moved
her head, and but trying not to mimic her as much,
just like finding where the motivation for the stuff comes,
because like I could just go in some hand movements
or whatever, but I was trying to figure out, like

(06:04):
choices that Carrie would make about the character, like, Okay,
at this moment, she heard this line, and she took
it this way, and she thought of it this way.
And so by the time we got to my first
day of shooting, I kind of just felt like I
didn't have to think. I literally felt like I was
thinking as Carrie as she would think the character. That

(06:24):
makes any sense. So I really just thought of it
as getting inside of Carrie's brain in a really strange
way and just trying to live there for three weeks.
That sounds really cool and really intense. Yes, yes, yes,
and then what about you? Weirdly similar, Actually, Reese has
been one of my idols for forever. I am also

(06:45):
a child actor, so like I watched her movies when
I was a kid, and and so I feel like
I like watched her sort of grow up, and so
like knowing her sort of mannerisms and her voice. And
as soon as I got the audition, I listened to
her book on tape and I would just like listen

(07:05):
to her voice and her cadence and sort of like
came on set, I would just sit at Video Village
and watch Reese like I had a bunch of conversations
with her, and she said, well, she's probably deferential to men,
definitely like white privilege, and just in the sort of
the intentionality of how she speaks, she made specific choices

(07:28):
like definitely with this character and watching her where she
would sort of squint and it's like this judgment of
like I'm judging you, but I still am your best friend.
And I remember Reese saying, I feel like Elena would
join any club, but she'd have to be the president
of that club. That was really helpful for all the

(07:50):
scenes where she's really put together. But then I was
asking Reese about I was like, I'm not a mom.
What is it like to have mass sitis? Have you
had like have you had postpartum? Like what is this?
And she was just saying like, imagine just your hormones
just being absolutely wild and literally like if she was

(08:11):
like if anybody touched my baby, I would I would
scream at them and this sort of like explosiveness. And
so watching her on set, listening to her voice, she
also recorded her lines my my lines for me because
I wanted to hear her sort of like, well, I
was just like I don't want to this up, you know,
I was like, I was like, I might as well

(08:33):
just ask and see if she and she did, and
I was like, this is absolutely amazing. So I felt
I felt creepy, Like I felt like I would watch
her like a creepy amount. Did you feel that way, Tiffany?
Like I just felt like I was just like shadowing
her every move, listening to her voice, watching her face
constantly trying to be respectful, but I'm also just trying

(08:53):
to do my job. It'sionalon creepy them. I feel like
a lot of times I would like not even tell
Carrie when I was on set. I don't know if
somebody else would, but I would just like I would
never say I wouldn't even say hai to her. I
just show up, watch and leave and that be it.
Because I also didn't want her to feel like she

(09:14):
was being watched, you know, like I just wanted her
to like totally have she just still had a job
to do, you know. So I was just kind of like, Okay,
I just want to make myself like a ghost pretty much.
Like it's weird how I don't know. I had this
experience on set, that imposter syndrome because you're playing a
Verton or like playing a version of somebody who is

(09:34):
one of my like idols and then I'm playing this character.
It was also just such a great experience. I was like, Okay,
I'm going to watch Reese. I'm going to be able
to soak all of this up. But what I didn't
realize is I've never been on a set with so
many supportive women and having like challenging conversations about motherhood

(09:57):
and about class and about race and figuring all of
this stuff out and constructing these characters and what they
want to do, and watching being able to sit there
and like do my job as an actor, but then
also thinking, wow, this is one of my favorite sets
I've ever been on in terms of like watching women collaborate,
like so women. Yeah, yeah, I've never actually I have

(10:21):
to actually amend this because I've said I've never been
in a on a show that like where the video
village was all women. I actually have one other time,
but let me tell you it did not go like this.
And it's because and it's because like it's not like
they're not just having women there just to say they
have women there, you know what I mean. Like sometimes
it's like, oh, let's fill a quota, and let's say like, oh,

(10:43):
we're being so progressive because we have a bunch of
women here and whatever. And it doesn't always work because
the women don't work with integrity and they don't necessarily
care about the work, and they don't necessarily care about
supporting other women and like and like doing the highest
quality of work that they can. And these women, like,
like you said, we're just so supportive, insanely supportive of

(11:05):
what we were trying to do, trying to make sure
that we were feeling our best and feeling like we
were doing our best work, but also like just being
like badasses and like running the sets so well and
just it's one of the most inspiring um situations I've
been in. Well, it didn't also, it didn't feel just

(11:26):
like a, oh, we're making a TV show. It's where
what is this show saying? Letting every single character like
speak for themselves, but having like empathy for each of
those characters and bringing them to full life, which I
think is is one of the best parts of the show.
And it seems like challenges for both of you specifically

(11:47):
where you know you're you're each in this one episode
and you have to pack so much empathy and moments
where both of your characters aren't necessarily likable for the
entire you know, quote unco quote likable and in the
decisions that they make, because you're also playing a time
period where I'm pretty sure neither of you were alive
or but what was your initial in for being able

(12:15):
to empathize with your character at the point that they're
at in the flashbacks? When developing roles, like growing up
in theater, our teachers would always be like, you just
don't get to judge your characters. That's all understood. You
don't get to judge them because the second you start
judging them, you're not going to be able to do
them justice. I mean, I don't know if I'm delusional
because I was playing the part, but every decision she

(12:37):
made still make sense to me. But because I that's
when I was living, you know, that's what I was
living as, and it made sense to me. She was
desperate and you know, was losing so much all at once.
She's young, and she's you know, so dedicated to her art,
and she wants to prove herself, and you know, all
she's falling in love. All these things are happening. I

(12:58):
think what was helpful for me is visualizing Elena's story
is this sort of tightly wound little like spring, and
then there's this part in her life that just like
you know, she's she goes to college, she has this boyfriend,
her plan, she goes to Paris. Then there's this period
in her life where she thinks it's going and then

(13:19):
it just like completely just like unravels. It's just like
splatter paint. How do you clean that back up? Like
what would it feel like if I had a baby
and the baby needs to eat and the baby won't
eat and my boobs won't give it, Like it's nothing
is working the way that it's supposed to, and feeling

(13:40):
like everything is just on top of you and crumbling
and you're fully coming apart. Absolutely, I really loved that
edition of Elena having difficulty producing milk and like you're saying,
her body not working quote unquote the way it was
supposed to in these circumstances, because that really connected her too.
I think e b and her storyline and it's like

(14:02):
that's something as we the audience now, like, oh, Elena
and Bibe have so much in common. They would have
so much to talk about if Olenna, we're willing to
have that conversation within the series, we're talking about motherhood,
but it's also motherhood in class and like, so she's
life is hard for her, but it's not as hard

(14:23):
for her. It's like, oh, her, she's getting a remodel
in her kitchen. She can still afford to get as
much formula as she needs. But it's just, UM, it's
that failure to see the other side. I've been asking
everybody this question towards the end of an interview because
I'm just everyone has a slightly different answer that I
think is very interesting. UM, coming from your perspective of um,

(14:47):
where you come into the show and what your connection
to the character is. What do you hope that viewer
takes away from watching this show. I feel like, if
there's thing is about a certain character that upset you,
tease that out, like with a friend, or talk about
it and be able to sort of have those hard

(15:08):
conversations about motherhood or about like if you can afford
to have a child but you don't necessarily want to,
how are you judging that character? Like that is a
very sensitive, hard conversation to have, But I think it's
worth rather than just like watching it and going and
moving on with your life. I think it's meant to

(15:29):
sort of be talked about in a broader sense, and
I think there's so many moments like that throughout the series. Yeah,
I just feel like it raises so many really hard
questions about class and race and intersectionality. Like it's just
like it raises so many questions that I think are

(15:49):
really hard for women to have, especially like black women
and white women. Yeah, I think it's really hard for
us to have conversation stations about our experiences where we
don't get defensive when we're really listening to each other
without bringing guilt into it. You know. It's just just

(16:10):
from the point of view of playing Mia and a
young black woman who comes into this world where she
thinks she's the only one, the only outsider, and she's
struggling to find her play and she has no money,
and there's so much just in this this one character,
and every character has that much going on, which is
so amazing, you know. I mean, I just really hope

(16:31):
that people who don't normally see themselves in a person
of a different race or uh, different sexuality, you can
watch this and go, oh, okay, I can see myself
in this character, and maybe that will open them up
to reaching out to someone who doesn't look like them
or isn't in the same classes them and opening up

(16:52):
a conversation and having those hard conversations and hopefully doing
the work to you know, build their community out from that.
That's so you both killed that answer. Yeah, and and
thank you so much for sitting down with me. I
truly cannot compliment both of your performances enough. You were
both so wonderful. So congratulations. Yes, amazing job, and thank

(17:17):
you so much for making the time to sit down
with us. Thanks so much, thank you, thank you, Thank
you so much to Anna, Sophia and Tiffany for talking
with us. And oh my gosh, what performances. It takes
more than masterful performances to sell the fully fleshed out
flashback world we see an episode one of six. It

(17:38):
also takes incredibly detailed production design. So next I decided
to speak again with the Little Fires Everywhere production designer herself,
Jess Kinder, who took on not just making an older
version of Shaker Heights, but of New York City as well.
Through some of our conversation. I'm Jess Kinder, the production

(18:00):
designer of Little Fires Everywhere. Hey, Jes, how are you good? Okay?
I am so excited to be talking with you again.
I mean, there's so much to discuss. I mean, I
have a lot of questions about the production design process.
You're not just creating a period piece. You're creating a
period piece twice because you have nineties Shaker and you

(18:20):
have eighties Shaker. So I guess to to backtrack a little,
what was your research process for building out this world?
I felt like the script was very, very clear on
who the characters were, and so it was just as
soon as I read it, I could see in my
head what things should be, and it was a matter
of just finding a way to present to the group

(18:42):
like this is what I see. And so I ended
up for Elena what I really felt like because my
my dad was raised in Cleveland, we would go every year. Um.
He actually had a paper out and Shaker heights, um.
And so in my mind, the sort of level of
affluence that we were trying to go for is this

(19:04):
group of people who, while they're in the Midwest, they
emulate almost more of sort of the New England vibe.
So I pulled a lot of like Ralph Lauren and
Laura Ashley and those type of vibes, and I tried
to think back to when I was graduating college in
n and like what was popular then, And so I
started looking at like the Ethan Allen's because it's sort

(19:25):
of this level of they don't have quite the level
of money to go outside of the normal box you
would look within, but they have enough money to go
to the higher end places. Um. And when I started
pulling those, I was actually pulling reference of interiors of
actual Shaker Heights houses on like the MLS. And one

(19:46):
of the times where I was like I am on
the right track as I pulled a photo of a
dining room from Shaker Heights that had the exact same
dining set as the Ethan Allen ad I had pulled
to pair with it. Oh, So it was like You're like, oh,
it's it's totally spot on that this is what they're
emulating exactly. Is a very like I don't know even

(20:06):
and I feel like it reads so well in the
sets that you designed of just like a very like
Clinton era upper crust wealth look. Yeah. So I guess
this is still this applies to the nineties and the eighties.
But you shot the show in California, So how did
you how how does that work? Cutting because it's you

(20:28):
would never know. I mean you literally brought Ohio to California.
Where do you start, Well, you start with a great
location manager. So we have Baroni Vowel, who's fantastic UM
and she's been doing it for decades, and so if
you say we need to do east coast, Midwest here,
she knows where to go. I've been lucky that I

(20:50):
have also been working only in l A because I
had two kids and decided I wasn't going to travel,
and so I've been on a few shows that have
done that, so you already know the basic pockets that
can pass. And then we needed to sort of fine
tune it down to Shaker Heights, UM. And so we
actually scouted Ohio. Uh, so we didn't even have to

(21:11):
just go off of pictures and honestly, I've been going
there since I was born, UM, and so we knew
already what type of house we were looking for Elena,
and we knew general area where it might be, and
so we just scouted around until we found it. Um.
In fact, that started with Jason Kaplan, who was trained
by Vernick. She came on just a little bit later. Yeah,

(21:32):
so he found that um, and then we sort of picked.
It's funny what we ended up with our Shaker Heights
is almost a little more idealistic than the actual Shaker Heights. UM.
It's we picked an area that when you picture in
your mind sort of the most beautiful, warm, friendly downtown,

(21:54):
you know, with the clock, and it would have the
church people, and it would have all those things. We
found that made it into our Shaker Heights where their
square is. Actually it's not quite that, it's almost one
step below. But we were sort of creating this ideal
world that then you find out is getting eaten away
from the inside right right where you're just like it's
it's so perfect that it almost comes across a little

(22:16):
sinister sometimes. So we we talked a little bit in
our last episode about your choices about setting this Shaker
in the nineties. So then when we do the flashback episode,
we also get a glimpse, you know, around the time
that Elena is pregnant with Izzy, so you just sort
of you know, d aged the place. So what is

(22:39):
that process of we know what this place looks like
in okay, how did it look in four? So what
I loved about that is, honestly, the exteriors remain basically
the same, except the cars in front of them change
because exteriors don't age in the same way that interiors
do things. I don't think the car is yeah, but
the interiors was fantastic because we got to see the

(23:02):
apartment as MIA's apartment and then what it looked like
in Elena's world before Elena fully came into Elena. So
we got to play around with eighties stuff, which was fun,
but for me seeing the apartment have a different character
was almost more exciting. And then when we went into
her house to see it as her mom's, we took
that back more to like the sixties seventies, which is

(23:26):
super fun time period to do, and watched her and
the control that we see that she normally has, Like
if you look around, she would never be in that kitchen.
What we did to it, it was fun to see
her dropped into that environment. And then even I mean
I liked the addition by by the writers, but the
way that you brought it to life was so cool
of like the remodel where you literally see the constructed

(23:49):
world from the nineties. Her in the process of making
that happen is like such a cool character beat to
visually see. And then and then we have this whole
other set piece of New York in the eighties that
sounds like another huge kind of undertaking. So when you
read the script of Okay, this is where we are

(24:11):
in New York, this is this is the scene we're in.
She's a student. What was your preparation process for bringing
that to life? Well, the the great thing there was
So I was raised in Jersey, right across the bridge
from Manhattan, so I came up in the eighties. Um
and And Zingard, director for that episode, has a super

(24:33):
clear vision of ways we were going to accentuate the eighties.
For example, if you look, we kind of controlled the
color palette. They're a little bit more like it's much
more black, white and red, which is sort of what
I think of. You know, it's funny. I actually we
originally had some scenes that were going to be in
the Bronx, and I thought, you know, it's like the
Boogie Down Bronx time. Except it turns out that came

(24:55):
like one year after we were doing But it was
one of those where it's such an evocative time when
New York was still dirty and still gritty, and uh,
there are so many strong visual references um with and
Zinga leading it. It was. It was a very easy

(25:16):
translation to see, you know, graffiti everywhere, but let's play
with these highlights and this rawness and it it came
together really easily. Absolutely, thank you so much for taking
the time, Jess. We appreciate it. Thank you again to
Jess Kender, creator of Worlds. And to round out this

(25:37):
flashback themed episode, I wanted to talk to Liz Tigelaar again.
So if you don't remember, she is the wonderful showrunner,
head writer, and executive producer of Little Fires Everywhere and
put a lot of care and thought into building this
flashback world that doesn't really exist in the book. So
Liz was kind of enough to sit down with me

(25:58):
recently and walk me through what that process is like,
and I wanted to share it with you. Here's our conversation.
One of the things that was so cool about the
book obviously was the like humongous reveal of the mystery
of me as backstory, and I think we knew when
we did UM, when we got to that episode, we

(26:22):
knew we needed an equal reveal of an Atlanta back story.
So that was something that we really talked about. And
in terms of jumping around in time, like you said, UM,
we always wanted to do these kind of unique nonlinear
cold opens to start to get us in this feeling
that we could be jumping around in the beginning, and
of course that cold open would be resonant to what

(26:43):
the theme or um, the plot of that upcoming episode
was or whose character story was featured and UM, so
that by the time we get to six, it's our
flashback episode. And what ends up happening is you start
with your nonlinear cold open, and our idea was that
you just never come out of it. So you're we're

(27:05):
telling the audience that it's going to feel one way,
and then all of a sudden, it's like, why are
we still in the eighties? Why are we still in
the eighties? Um? And originally we had had Elena's whole
story in the eighties being episode six, but then we
really and we had a different opening to five. This
was still in the writing process. This is in the
writing process, and this was. This was pretty far in

(27:26):
the writing process, but we felt like we did have
this whole New York story with Elena in five where
she goes to New York and in the book she
has an ex boyfriend named Jamie that's given a few lines.
That was something that we really wanted to take from
the book and then just be like, Okay, how can
we take this little seed that's ce Lesque planted a

(27:47):
backstory and like grow it in to an entire backstory
for Elena? Yeah, I mean, what were were there other
contenders in terms of I mean, because like you're saying,
it's it's just a real like nibble of information that
Celesti gives you in the book and you turn it
into a really thoughtful, um, you know, centerpiece for Elena's background.

(28:09):
Were there other things in that were contenders in the
writer's room of oh, maybe we could show this side
of her, this side of her? What? Um what drew
you to that specific storyline and expanding on it. I
feel like we maybe talked about a couple of different things,
but that had always emerged very early as what we

(28:30):
wanted to focus on because I felt like in the
book and I mean, what is in the book is
that Elena has always had a complicated relationship with Izzy.
And in the book it was discussed about how even
Elena's pregnancy was hard, and that when Izzy was born,
she was in the nick you and she was a
sick kid, and that Elena was always so worried and
so fiercely protective, and that that dynamic really colored their

(28:53):
relationship and shape their relationship. And Izzy was kind of
a fearless kid and Elena was so fearful of her
and then almost and did the energy that Izzy required.
And we thought, you know, how could we how could
we take that spirit but maybe folded into something that
could involve Elena's backstory and a broader sense. So we

(29:16):
thought if instead of dealing with this idea that Izzy
was a sick kid and Elena was protective, what if
we what if we took from what ends up being
the Lexi story and and took the backstory of like this,
that there's always been this fratt nous with Izzy, and
we used it to explore abortion and choice and um

(29:42):
and what your parents teach you and who who's allowed
to do certain things and who's not allowed to do
certain things, and how could we tell a story of
Elena not wanting to have a fourth kid and having
a resentment towards that kid because she couldn't do something
that she wanted to do, which was make the choice

(30:04):
to not have a fourth kid. And how could we
show that her own daughter while still while still learning
um uh, I don't want to say learning not great
things from her, but but while still echoing Elena's beliefs,
maybe in a in a way that's not involving a
lot of critical thought that she still is different than

(30:25):
her mother in the idea that in the nineties, in
her situation, she does have the agency and and does
have the confidence and access Yeah, yeah, most importantly access
to make that choice. Thank you again to Liz Tiggler,
and you can look forward to hearing more of her

(30:47):
later in the podcast series. And we've only got two
more episodes before this podcast series wraps up, because I
guess what, there's only two more episodes of Little Fires
Everywhere and things are heating up. So that's gonna do
it for us this week. Next week, I'm gonna be
talking with the team cast of Little Fires Everywhere about
their experiences on the set and an in depth discussion

(31:10):
about the issues raised by the adoption storyline on the show,
so a lot to look forward to their In the meantime,
you can follow Little Fires everywhere across all your social
media's at Little Fires Hulu and watch new episodes every
Wednesday on Hulu, with episodes of our podcast being released
shortly after. So subscribe now so you don't forget, and

(31:30):
I will see you next time. Sweet Shaker Rights m
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