Making La La Land
Marc plays each of the characters. But everyone else in the show, we are promised, is real. And that's what makes it such gripping television - if you've seen Marc's previous work like My New Best Friend and High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman will know that Marc can remain in-character and push the buttons of his unsuspecting co-stars to an incredible degree.
Which must also make it pretty challenging to put together. So over the next few weeks, Misha Manson-Smith, Director and Executive Producer of La La Land, is going to tell us all about it - starting with why they decided to do it in the first place.
The point of making La La Land...
In La La Land, we wanted to make a real-world comedy about the adventures of Gary, Brendan and Shirley as they escape their pasts and struggle to succeed in the underbelly of Hollywood. It's a weird strata of LA life, full of characters who could've walked straight off the set of a David Lynch movie. Recently a journalist asked why, if we intended to satirise this world, did we engage with people like Ruta Lee, who are basically pretty nice. The answer is that on one level the show is an expose of the seedier side of Hollywood, but we also wanted it to be about Marc's characters getting mixed up with some of LA's most extraordinary personalities and just enjoying the comedy that comes from them trying to get along together.
As you'll see in episode four, where Gary goes "method" and spends a day shadowing mattress salesman Neil Leeds, the show is about giving screen time up to these unwittingly hilarious real life characters, rather than feeling like every encounter has to be taking down the bad guys.
The thing is, LA is a pretty liberal place. People are generally really nice, so we realised that if you want to make a show in and about LA, you need to adapt to that, rather than trying to bait rednecks in a way that would only really work in Alabama. Also, going after racists and getting them to say something racist is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, we wanted to do something different.
Our satirical agenda is really more in Marc's characters than it is in the people they meet. For example, when Brendan pitches a climbing documentary that may result in the deaths of his subjects, it's as much about him sending up a particular school of documentary-making, that's all about sensation over integrity, as it is about showing how unethical producers can be if there's a fast buck to be made.
Similarly, in the scene in episode one where Shirley 'reads' that girl by the pool and rips off her credit card, she isn't a great target, sure, but I don't think she feels like a target at all - I think the scene is quite gentle, and all about Shirley digging his own grave so viewers can see that he's both a charlatan and incompetent. She was the perfect person for that scene and completely saw the funny side afterwards. We took a lot of care to make sure we didn't end up filming with someone who was desperate for cash, or going through something stressful in his or her life. We also took care to present people in the show as they really were, rather than trying to humiliate or stitch them up in the editing. On the whole, it's Marc's characters who usually end up looking like fools.
La La Land continues on Tuesdays at 10.30pm on BBC Three.