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From Hornery, this is a special interview episode of Blood Ties. I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of one series American Scandal and executive producer of the audio drama 1865 Blood Ties has just concluded its second season. Contrary to what some people on social media have been saying, the story of the Richland family is fictional. Dr. Peter Ridgeland is played by the actor Wayne Night. But this most recent season of Blood Ties does draw inspiration from real life stories of corporate corruption, white collar crimes and drug research.
On today's episode, one reads, Chief content officer and the director of Blood Ties, Marcia Lewis, sits down with its star, Gillian Jacobs. They talk about some of the Real-Life inspirations for the latest season and what it was like to make the series in the middle of a pandemic. OK, I'm recording on my end.
All right. So this feels like the appropriate place to start if we're going to talk about what it was like to make blood ties. Season two, describe for me what this current setup is looking like. I'm looking at you on a screen, Gillion. You've got your closet clothes hanging behind you. Yes, I'm standing in the closet, and we just spent a half an hour unsuccessfully trying to connect to an external microphone, which we seem to be able to do for days on end when we are actually recording the podcast.
And now it will not work.
I am actually in the studio here. I wonder. You are. I am, yeah. This is about my third time here since March and it's nice to be here. But, you know, of course, the office is still closed luckily when we were recording, but we did have some technical difficulties, but we were able to make it sound pretty much like season one despite the fact that you are in your closet.
Marcelina did an incredible job of talking me through, setting it up and then adjusting all the levels and wondering did its usual fantastic sound design.
So I think it sounds great. One of the things I wanted to talk about a little bit was the real life influences of this season. So Dominic Monaghan plays David Hammer, obviously, who's the acting CEO of the company post Dr Peter Richlands disappearance.
The old man was right. In the end, the drug works. What's Vereker? It's a polypill on the medications you need to prevent the heart attack in a single, beautiful pill. This is the Holy Grail. Your dad saw it years before you see it. Pharma is the future of this company.
So what were some of the real world influences that you drew upon for season two?
I give a lot of credit to Ben Gray, who's the writer. Season one obviously had a lot to do with the Me Too movement. And we drew a lot of inspiration from the what was happening as we were pulling that together in twenty eighteen, twenty nineteen. And like a lot of good TV series, when you got into season two, you want to start to open up into a new sort of story universe. But again, we wanted to look at something that was on an ethical boundary and clearly something that is going to cause challenges for our main characters to deal with.
So Ben and I did a bunch of research into the idea of overseas drug trials. And in season two, for everyone who's listen to it, that is what Eleanor and Michael uncover, that this drug that they're kind of rushing to market, they've gone out. And when the local state side United States test didn't give them what they wanted, they went and did more overseas tests. And this is a real thing that started in the nineties and two thousands.
And there's a couple of really interesting examples of big, big drug companies that have gone overseas to conduct trials and have had some adverse outcomes and have still gotten the FDA to approve that drug. So one of them that was really well known drug is Celebrex.
I don't know if anybody remembers Celebrex, but if you have arthritis pain, there's reason to celebrate it. Celebrex salivates.
It was an anti inflammatory and the trials that they were doing overseas showed elevated risks of heart disease and strokes in the patients. But supposedly the Pfizer big drug company covered it up and they were still able to go ahead and continue to promote it. And they've been calling these countries rescue countries. If the trials don't work out in the United States, you can go have trials in a different country and that will, quote unquote, rescue the trials and rescue the drug.
And I also thought a lot about another one, D'Errico bad batch when we were working on it, when we went into the whole world of stem cells and debates around how stem cell treatments are produced, how effective they are and how effectively they are applied and by whom and who's administering them. I mean, did you learn anything through working on bad batch that that a. Two blood ties, season two. Yeah, so it's interesting because I think when we first came up with blood ties, bad batch, Dr.
Death and a lot of the other projects that we've done that have dealt with reporters have all contributed. And part of it was that we wanted to tell a story that would draw in listeners from those shows. But it wasn't just that. It was also like I've learned a lot about what it's like to be a reporter. So when I think about, like Connie's character or the way that she pursues a story that's from having worked with the Spotlight team or worked with somebody like Laura Beal, who's the host of Dr.
Death and Bad Batch, and I learned a ton about bad doctors and permissive hospitals and the idea that the surgeon and the doctor is a God in a hospital setting, which informed a lot of season one in the way that Peter Richland is treated and the way he's able to get away with so much criminal behavior.
Did you ever tell anyone about this? Did you talk to him in the hospital? You have to understand how hospitals work. Surgeons, do you don't you question the surgeon, you're there to make sure that he has everything he needs.
It became another part of my job that much, certainly because we went in a lot into the FDA and how hard it is for the FDA as a government organization to keep up with what in the case of bad batch, it's unregulated companies, things that aren't trying to get approved as official drugs. And then you add on to that, what, like a big pharma company is able to do in terms of how much money they're able to spend. It becomes really difficult.
And we call it that bad batch, a game of whack a mole. You know that they're constantly playing catch up. They're playing a game of whack a mole. And this is a constant refrain around government agencies trying to regulate deep pocketed companies. And we just yeah, we live in a world where I think the companies, a lot of money can get away with a lot.
I'm going to reference a non Wandrille podcast. I hope that's OK. OK, OK.
Go for the dream. I don't know if you listen to that podcast too. Yeah. Season two is also a lot about supplements and vitamins and I learned a lot through listening to the dream that I felt like dovetailed into issues you are talking about and bad batch. And it made me even more suspicious of everything.
Yes, the dream is really amazing. And just generally I think something about podcasts are so good at it, kind of breaking down these spheres of influence on these institutions. And Laura Beal, who's the host of Dr. Death and Bad Batch, I was at this event with her where Gwyneth Paltrow was speaking. And it was really funny sitting next to Laura because all she wanted to do is have the person who is interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow ask about how she could possibly promote so many unsupported supplements and medical treatments in goup.
And that was just not the kind of interview it was. But Laura is, you know, really all about exposing those kinds of things. So I think there is some Laura and the Connie Beckwith character.
So what can you tell me about this new wonder drug? It actually sounds pretty remarkable. They've been working on it for years now. It's funny how companies always make their biggest breakthroughs when they're desperate for good press and their stocks in the shitter. Is it a female Viagra? I'm not quite that. I'm not buying. So I also something.
Where are you saying that people think Dr Peter Richland is a real person?
Yes. If you Google, I think blood ties, one of the first things that pops up is, is Dr Peter Richland real or where can I learn about Dr Peter Richland?
So we tried to make it clear this is an audio drama, but some people thought it was a real story.
And are there real life people that you drew on specifically for that character?
He's supposed to be kind of an unassailable medical figure. We wanted to think of somebody who would be beyond reproach in the public sphere, Paul Farmer, who is a really well known physician, or even Dr. Spock, you know, the famous child psychologist who, like everyone, has his book and he's just known as this godfather of child rearing for a certain generation, like someone who no one in society could possibly imagine that a character like this would end up being someone who abused their position and engaged in sexual assault.
But, yeah, that was the idea. Cool. I wanted to ask you, all joking aside, like how it was recording season two compared to season one, given the technical kind of world that we're in right now.
Yeah, thankfully, you have prioritized having the actors doing their performances at the same time and doing the scenes together since the beginning. And so we found a way to do that, even though we were all remotely in our homes and not physically in the same room like season one. But for all intents and purposes, it felt pretty similar because I have a hard time reading off the page and making eye contact at the same time. So even when I was standing next to Josh in real life, I, I would find myself just staring at the page more often than not.
So I had him in my ear. We are all doing it together at the same time. So thankfully in that respect it felt pretty similar. And then I also just felt lucky that it was a job that I could do from home. And I'm so glad that we were able to do it.
I think it's interesting because I think in some ways Season one felt like it had more trial and error than season two, because I think you, me, Josh, all the people involved, we were feeling our Ben Gray, who's the writer, we were sort of feeling our way through what we thought would work and wouldn't in this in this new medium for all of us. Yeah. I had never directed in this medium, although I had been involved, I've been involved with the non-fiction ones, but still scripted as different, and somehow, even though the technical challenges were there, we could be a little bit more like you guys already had a rapport.
I felt like then we knew what was going to work for audio.
We recorded pretty quickly, I feel like. Yeah, and maybe in some instances actually got through scripts faster. I was very happy with how the whole process worked and I feel like I learned a lot.
Audio was taking these skills and into future things. Things to Marcellino has taught me. Yes.
Marcellino Villalpando is our audio engineer and he was instrumental in making this happen. He would basically jump onto the actors computers and record them remotely so that we would have a local recording and everyone was just super patient. And to ask actors to be acting and also engineering for themselves was definitely a new experience, I feel like.
Yeah, I mean, how was it for you post-production wise? I also feel like did the season come out faster?
Part of that was because we felt like we left season one on such a cliffhanger. And, you know, we were very grateful that people were really into the season, that we felt like it was important that we get it out as quickly as possible, which was still six months. But that was one thing where even when the pandemic hit and we started to think about release scheduling of some of our shows, we were like, we can't push blood type season two.
People have to know what happened.
Have to know they've got to know what happened to Peter Ridgeland.
So, yeah, we stayed on that tight schedule and that's when I think it really helped, where we could be a little bit more intentional about like what worked and what didn't. We didn't really talk about it much in the first season interview, but we did end up reshooting certain scenes, retracting certain scenes, reordering things as often happens in post, whereas this one we did a lot less of that. What we wrote ended up being what's in the episodes, much, much more.
And that was, I think, a lot of just what we learned worked and didn't work so that we could set you guys up for success as best as possible. At least that's the way I felt on our side. I don't know how it felt on your side.
No, I was shocked at how I don't know that we did any rerecording for season two. So, yeah, I was a much faster process of releasing it.
Yeah, we expected to do reshoots and then we we ended up not having to actually. So great loss to you and the rest of the cast.
I'm curious, what do you think? Like when you listen to it? I know that everyone doesn't like to listen to their own voice.
Yeah. It's the first thing that comes to mind is I hate the sound of my own voice. But the second thing that comes to mind is that it's it's really engaging. It hooks me and I grew up listening to books on tape. My mom and I would read books on tape or books on CD from the library. And so it feels really great to be now part of that in this way. But I don't like the sound of my own voice.
I think nobody does. We're working with another actor on a project and it's the same thing she is, I don't think listen to the episodes until she absolutely had to.
Yeah, it's so painful. You're so much more resonant in your own skull.
But I also think, you know, I learned a lot Josh has so much experience doing voiceover work, so I just learned a lot also from being in scenes with him.
Oh, like what? The way he modulate. I don't even know if this is conscious or not on his part, but the way he modulate his voice tone wise, I think is very engaging and he has a way of making it all the lines. I don't know. They felt very spontaneous to me and never felt like he was reading anything. And so that was just very instructive for me of, you know, because you don't really focus on your voice that specifically when you're acting on camera.
But to just remember that that is really the only tool you have when you're doing something like this. And so you need to do more of the storytelling through your voice and whether that's pitch, volume, tone, whatever those all those things are. So I was just so impressed by him.
And so I was trying to just imitate have basically I really enjoyed the triangle between you, Josh and Dominic Monaghan as well. He was a voice. He has to.
Oh my God, he's got such a great voice.
Oh, it's just so cool hearing him read the lines just like what a voice we decided early on we wanted somebody British to play that role because again, you're just always thinking about making sure that everybody sounds different when you're making an audio drama because it's hard to follow if two people sound too similar. And he just had. Yeah, it was just the. I remember the first thing he did, it was just like, wow, yeah, he was effortless, too, and, you know, just jumped right in and I feel feel like just nailed everything right off the bat.
Absolutely. So are people asking for season three? What's what's going on? Are we doing more Kanjo? Any announcements to make?
I've got no announcements.
We'll make season three, but we're trying to get through this. Still in the closet. We could do it right now. Let's just do it.
Improv you can do. I'm proud you're not good at improv.
Sure, I can improvise an audio drama by myself in six episodes. No problem.
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You know, there are things I was already doing. Yeah, I am a very lazy when it comes to research. I just basically would ask you all my questions instead of looking anything up.
Now, is it laziness or is it that you find it's like not as helpful as you might think doing research? I know actors have different approaches.
Well, I feel like this script was good and told me sort of everything I needed to know. And then because I am an avid wandering listener, I was making connections to other shows, doctor death, bad batch, other shows of yours that I had listened to where I felt like I had maybe gotten some real world context for these sorts of things.
Do you think that being a podcast listener helped inform, like, your rhythm of how you were going to do this show?
It's interesting because I think you guys would tell me to slow down. But when I do, voices for animated shows are always telling me to speed up. So you also have to for the medium and the content and with with an animated show. A lot of times you're sinking it more closely to, you know, an animatic. They've already sort of pre drawn the episode. And so it has to go to a certain rhythm. But with this, I think because there was so much information that we're laying out in a lot of the lines, the listener can't get any of the information.
Visually, it was important to slow it down more. I took classes in college like reciting prose aloud, and I do find skills like that come into play where you were like, oh, these are the operative words in this sentence to hit.
I remember you saying when we first hit the voiceovers that you're that you mention that class you took.
Yes. Yeah. At the time, I didn't know why they were making us do that. And now I do find that it has proved useful.
When you write your memoir and do your audio book, you'll be ready. Ready to go. Where do you think Elenor story goes from here?
I think she's going to grapple with power and legacy and who she is versus who she's been trying to be. And she should probably go into intensive therapy, given everything that's happened in her family.
Yes, she's gone through a lot and six months. Yeah.
And her mom died, too, like so many things happened to this woman, death of both of her parents, corporate malfeasance, so many things. Maybe she needs a vacation. Maybe she's not skydiving. At the beginning of season three.
Six, three, two, one. OK, I know you already know this, but I'm not really the skydiving type, I'm pushing myself to try new things at the beginning of season two.
I think the idea is that she was doing a lot of self care going into season two and she was ready to put it all behind her. And then, of course, life had another plan.
Yeah, I don't know. I'd be curious to keep following her. Well, one of the things I've really enjoyed, like getting to know you through this process, is all the other stuff that you're working on. So I would love to hear how you're keeping yourself busy during the pandemic. Yes.
So I have a movie that's now on demand called I Used To Go Here that was supposed to premiere at South by Southwest. So I've been doing press from home for that and I hope everyone listening goes out and rents it on demand. I used to go here so that I did early on the Zoome reunions. We did the table read of community, I think right around the time when we recorded blood ties and I've been working on various other projects that I probably can't name, but I am lucky that I have been consistently busy throughout these few months.
So it is remarkable what you can figure out how to do. I had to get an Ethernet cord because my Internet connection was not great in the house. So now, armed with a 100 foot Ethernet cable, I've been able to accomplish a fair bit to your night expert now.
Oh, Lord, it clearly not, because I couldn't figure out how to hook up my external microphone for this.
You know, it's funny, with the reunion's sort of Josh Gad did a series of these reunions and he had talked to us a couple of months before about doing that as a podcast. And I remember saying to him, like, well, how are you ever going to get all these huge actors and directors to all align at one time to all do it? It's never going to happen. Like you can't get Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and all these, well, the pandemic.
So he was able to do it with United appart, which was great.
Yeah, right. I think, you know, when we were recording with Dominic, they're like, OK, see you in a few days. And then he hosted a Lord of the Rings. And to be funny. Yeah, pretty cool.
It's been great because I've been showing my kids I've been showing them all eighties movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Back to the Future. Actually, a few of the ones that he did on Reunited Apart were ones that I've shown my my eight year old who's had any dream casting.
If we go forward, who are there any actors, voices that you just love that you think would make great audio drama actors? Oh, that's a great question.
I will give a shout out to a a nonmonetary podcast that just came out Dirty Diana, which Demi Moore is the star of that. And I listen to the first episode. I was just like, oh yes, she's got such a great voice.
We got to get Kathleen Turner right. What a voice. That's a great question.
I haven't thought about people whose voice we have a podcast that's actually coming out in about a week called The Billionaire Boys Club. It's one of our Hollywood and Crime series. And Timothy Olyphant is the co-host and he's got a great voice. So many people. It is an interesting thing to think about when you're only thinking about who do you love their voice and would love to do something with anybody for you.
All right. I just want to work with Holly Hunter.
Well, put that out into the universe. Okay, great. You really want to work with Holly Hunter? Holly Hunter is someone I really want to work with. That way, you can edit it three ways. Yeah, it's I mean, it's fun. When she started to think about it, how many people have such distinctive great voices? Now, that's all I'm thinking. That's not all I'm going to think about his dream casting blood ties when I'm watching things.
It was fun to think of a new character first season two, the one that Dominic played and say we're going to have a new sort of bad guy. And then Wayne Night. Yeah. Who had a very small role in season one. And then I found out that's the third time he's played Josh Guy's father, which I just find amazing. So, you know, to have him step into that role. And we had always envisioned Peter Richland, is this kind of Brooklyn born guy who, you know, made it became super successful and he's just great.
And that I've actually he's been in a lot of shows because my kids also watch Space Jam during the and Toy Story two. And he's in both of those movies. And I would be like doing something else in my house. And then I'd hear Wayne nice voice. And I'd be like, oh, that voice is in my brain from from recording blood ties.
And there he is in Space Jam.
I just thought of a podcast idea for you, a veteran character, actors like Wayne Knight, who have been working for decades with everyone, have them tell their favorite Hollywood stories because that is always my favorite thing on set is in between takes. While they're setting up the next scene, getting the stories from those people who have worked with everyone, you know, and Wayne is one of those people and I think of a number of iconic things. He's been a part of Seinfeld, Jurassic Park.
It just goes on and on and on when you just like to hear Wayne Knight's Hollywood nights with Wayne.
I smell a podcast. He was an amazing sport and we were talking about the challenges of recording remotely and he had to get a new computer and soundproofing in a chair that squeaks and he had to die in a swivel chair.
Do this like sort of dramatic death scene in a swivel chair. And he was just like such a such a good sport about it. No, he's terrific. Well, thank you very much. Thank you. And thank you for doing such an amazing job in the series. And looking forward to season three and any other great podcast ideas you're cooking up, including ones involving late night. Yes. Hollywood Nights with Wayne. If writes itself. Writes itself.
From wondering, this was a special interview episode of Blood Ties, if you like to help us spread the word, please give us a five star review and tell your friends to subscribe. You can also listen to all episodes of Quantize, as well as more great audio dramas like Mine 1865 by joining 100 plus in the one area. Thanks to Marshmallowy and to Gillian Jacobs for today's conversation. Audio Engineering by Marcelina Villalpando and Sergio Enriquez. Executive producers are making Monica Marshmallowy and Hernan Lopez for wondering.
Hey there, podcast listeners listening to whatever podcast you're listening to right now, if you'd like to hear myself, Justin Long and Jay Johnson, my guest, listen to. Life is Short. This week's episode is a really fun one. I catch up with my old buddy. We did New Grill together, and he's just one of the funniest people. So if you'd like to hear it, listen, wherever you're listening right now.