Raphael Bob-Waksberg is reading me some numbers. As the seasons of BoJack Horseman progressed, he had his team create some quantitative data to look at the show’s hiring practices for voice actors: over five seasons, 35 percent of the people cast have been nonwhite actors. Not bad, he explains, but it wasn’t the full picture. So the data became more granular, looking at the number of roles played (because actors can voice multiple parts) — 29 percent — and the lines of actual dialogue spoken by actors of color, which sat at 13 percent overall. “This is bad, and this is the number I would point to when I’m confronted with the Well, what about the white people? argument,” he says. “When I look at this number — white people saying 87 percent over five seasons — I can only respond that white people are doing fine! We are in no danger of stamping white people out of the show any time soon.”
The issues around racial inequity and whitewashing have weighed on Bob-Waksberg in recent years, as he realized that his colorblind philosophy in the early days of BoJack actually just meant they were only hiring white people, including the principal cast, where Alison Brie voices the Vietnamese-American character Diane Nguyen. (Aaron Paul voices Todd Chavez, but it is unclear if he is Latino.) That “original sin” as he calls it, has resulted in a season-five press tour that has been part mea culpa, part promotional, and thoroughly BoJack.
Bob-Waksberg is a charismatic talker, and it’s easy to hear his voice — funny, voluble, a bit neurotic and highly self-aware — guiding the overall sensibility of the show. Talking to him, it’s hard not to go meta, especially considering that this season of BoJack Horseman is about men making apologies, with one character, Vance Waggoner, a parody of Mel Gibson, doing it very badly. He wants to show that he’s not only listening, but taking proactive steps to address the issues. (The percentage of dialogue spoken by people of color has gone from 3 percent in season one to 25 percent in the most recent season.)
But this isn’t just about that! Over two phone conversations, we discussed the narrative beats of the most recent season of BoJack Horseman, whether animals eat humans in the show, and the possibility of real systemic change in Hollywood.
How are you?
I’m recovering from the Emmys.
How were they? I didn’t watch.
They were a very BoJack-ian affair, only without the jokes.
I’m sorry, dude.
It’s curious BoJack has only ever gotten one nomination for Kristen Schaal. Obviously I think the show should have been nominated every year.
Thank you. I’m happy for the people who win, but I’m not sure what the point [of the Creative Arts Emmys] is, honestly. I feel like awards shows are good for PR. That’s why you want to win, so you can go on TV and people can go, “Oh, I’ve heard of that show. Let me go check it out.” But if the award show isn’t televised — what are we doing? Is it just so we can pat ourselves on the back? I don’t want this to come off as sour grapes because I think there are a lot of great shows and a lot of great people that are honored at the Creative Arts Emmys. But it’s hard for me to get excited about them, especially when we don’t get nominated. [Laughs.] And look, I guess it’s a nice feather in our cap so I don’t want to say, “Don’t nominate us next year.” In general, my experience with awards shows has been when you win, they’re fun, and when you don’t win, they’re boring and you want to go home.
We can circle back to this if you win.
Sure! Then I’ll be like, “They’re great! I love them!”
Let’s talk about season five. How did the Philbert story line, where BoJack stars in a gritty prestige drama, come about?
Philbert felt like a fun way to comment on a lot of the tropes that are happening in the world of drama right now, particularly the male anti-hero subgenre. But it also felt like a fun way to comment on our show and on BoJack, so it became a productive lens for us to look at a lot of different things throughout the course of the season.
Did you watch True Detective?
I watched the first season. I never saw the second season. I don’t want to call out specific shows or disparage them because we’re all doing what we can, and we’re all trying. But that kind of show, I would say, is generally not for me.
Well, unless I’m misreading it, Philbert seemed like a pointed send-up of True Detective, especially when you have a line like, “Time is like a woman: completely impossible to comprehend.”
Yes. [Laughs.] Certainly True Detective was one of the things on our mind as we were working on the season. But I would say that reading is very generous to a lot of other shows that I would put in that same category. True Detective maybe announces itself the most and is the most flagrantly that, but there are a lot of shows that are invested in the trials of difficult men and the women who get in their way and/or sleep with them. And more than the show, what was interesting for me was the idea of this auteur and new kind of showrunner that does interviews like this one that we’re doing and is the face of their show in ways that I don’t think are necessarily healthy to the art form of television. I’m wary of that narrative: “Look at this genius who made this show.” Wrapped around that is something that has been discussed a lot recently, which is the confusion of genius with assholery, and this idea that if you’re a tyrant then you’re a genius, or if you’re a genius then you’re a tyrant. That has been really bad for the industry.
Does taking on the role of a showrunner doing press sit uneasily for you?
Oh yes, I’m very ambivalent about it. There’s a line in the show that’s along the lines of, “Television is a collaborative medium one person gets all the credit for.”
I was thinking about that line!
[Laughs.] And that line got a bigger laugh at the table read than I was expecting. I don’t like the idea that TV is thought of as an auteurist medium because I don’t think that leads to a good understanding of TV, and I don’t think it leads to good TV. If it was just a Raphael Bob-Waksberg show, it would not be as good.
Speaking of the auteurist Kool-Aid, Rami Malek’s casting seems particularly perfect considering he’s on Mr. Robot. Did you always have Rami in mind for that voice?
I think he was our first choice, but that was more because I liked him as an actor and not because of any meta-textual quality. The fact that he stars on one of these dark, brooding, twisty dramas … I don’t mind that meta-textuality! [Laughs.] And I think he enjoyed it too, honestly. When he was in the recording booth, he said, “You know, I think I’ve worked with a couple of people like this.”
I’d like to talk about the incident this season where BoJack chokes his co-star Gina while shooting Philbert. The most interesting thing to me was when she wants BoJack to go along with the interview covering up the assault afterwards, because she doesn’t want to be remembered by something that was done to her. It made me think a lot about the ways in which we are invested in systems that perpetuate things like assault, racism, sexism, even if we are personally hurt by it. How did that decision come about in the writers room?
It came from a few different places. We never want to give BoJack what he wants too easily, even if what he wants is to be exposed and shamed and use this moment to “let him off the hook,” which for some characters would be a relief. To play it as a twisting of the knife felt very potent dramatically. Part of it, too, was we really wanted to give dignity to the character of Gina and have her be active and make her own choices and not feel like she was just there for his story or his development.
Do you think the way BoJack uses animation as a form allows us to be more empathetic? The other side of that question is, does it let him off the hook more?
I think yes to both questions. Certainly that’s one of the things I love about the show being animated: People project themselves onto him more easily because he is not a person, he is a horse somehow. If you see Will Arnett in a show, you think, “Well, that’s Will Arnett, that’s not me.” But seeing a horse somehow feels more universal, or it feels more like, “That could be me.” But we write him as a fully nuanced person. And in this season, it was very important to us that even as we see him do the worst thing we’ve ever seen him do, we are also showing him at his most vulnerable, wounded, and human. It is very easy to see “bad guys” and say, “That is a bad guy,” but I think the truth is more complicated and it does a disservice to us as a society to write off bad men and reward good men. The good men have done bad things and the bad men have done good things. I don’t think the good forgives the bad, but I also think the bad doesn’t destroy the good.
It’s tricky stuff. I’m not always sure where I land on it, and that’s why this season is ambivalent. It’s up to all of us to make our own decisions about how we feel about these people and these situations. I want to be careful here, because I’m very interested in the idea of forgiveness. I think it is important for us as people to forgive the people in our lives, and find ways to allow them to redeem themselves, and for us to be able to forgive ourselves and find ways to be better. I don’t think that necessarily scales to forgiveness on a public level. Questions about BoJack, and how Diane feels about BoJack, don’t necessarily apply to how I should feel about Louis C.K. or Mel Gibson.
How do you feel about them?
I feel like they haven’t done the work — for me. I cannot speak for the people they have specifically wronged. I cannot say when those people should or could forgive them. That is not my business. But I will say, when Louis C.K. “went away,” his last note was, “I’ve done a lot of talking, it’s time for me to do some listening.” If he’s “back” now, I’d love to hear what he’s listened to. I’d love to hear what he’s learned. I would like to see that interview where he talks about the journey he’s made. I certainly want to see that before I see more jokes from him. I would love for him to talk, not just to the women he’s wronged, but to the men who gave him a standing ovation. I want to hear him say, “Here’s what I did wrong, here’s why I shouldn’t be so easily forgiven, here’s the work that I still need to do.” I feel like all of these guys go on the “I said I’m sorry” tour, which is not doing it for me.
As a Jewish person, I would love for Mel Gibson to go on a tour. I would love for Mel Gibson to go to college campuses and talk about hate speech. I’d love for him to talk to men about what to do with their anger, to not abuse their significant others. I think they need to be a positive in the world now. They can’t just be a neutral and hope that everybody forgets. These famous men can do a lot of good in the world, and so I don’t want to write them off completely, but I haven’t seen from any of them the indication that they want to or they are willing to do that. So that’s what it would take for me to forgive them. But you know — [laughs] — to each their own! It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I never heard from any of them again, personally.
Do you think Hollywood is capable of a larger systemic upheaval, or is it only able to punish those who are most egregious so that the system can keep running?
I, by nature, am very cynical, but also very optimistic. I do believe that large systemic change is possible. Is it likely? Not on its own. I also believe that small changes can make a world of difference. Les Moonves is the guy who’s in the news now. He absolutely represents a much larger problem than just Les Moonves, but get rid of him and you’ve solved some problems. There’s a lot of good that can be done by cherry-picking the worst abusers and getting rid of them. I don’t think that fixes the thing beneath the thing. That is a job for all of us to be constantly doing. But I do think a lot of good has come from the last year of exposing some of these people and making examples out of them.
How do you view an organization like Times Up?
I think it’s a positive for the industry and for society. I’m very wary of these movements being commodified and becoming a status symbol. I overheard someone talking about, “Oh yeah, I remember I saw her at the Times Up retreat at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa,” which is a funny combination of words but does not, on the surface, undercut all the good Times Up is doing as an organization and movement. I still want to say, “Fuck those limousine liberal hypocrites,” but I do think a lot of good has come from it, and in a way, making progressivism and outrage fashionable and chic can be very helpful. So I don’t want to begrudge that approach. But again, I tend to be very cynical, so when I think about Times Up and how my own agency, CAA, signed Mel Gibson and he’s still a client there, it makes me wonder, “Who is time up for?” The Vance Waggoner story came directly out of my frustration. [Editor’s note: Vance Waggoner is the bad-boy megacelebrity in BoJack who goes on apology tours.] It’s not like he was an old client and they kept him on. They just signed him a year ago. And I was outraged! I couldn’t believe it.
Did you ever say anything to them?
Yeah. At the time I complained to my agent and I had a couple of meetings with some people there and I said, “I have a real problem with this,” and they very respectfully listened to me and that’s the last I heard of it. [Laughs.] He’s still represented there as far as I know! I definitely got the vibe of, “You should feel like you’ve been heard at this meeting,” which I understand was all they were going to do for me, so I can’t be too frustrated by it. They asked, “Would you like to meet Mel?” and I said, “No, I don’t want to hear from him directly.”
What’s he going to say to me? The work he needs to do is public. Maybe it’s my job to take that meeting and tell him that directly, but I don’t want to be in a room with him. I think he’s gross. Maybe that’s me shirking my responsibility as a good white man. Maybe I should talk to him and talk to “my people” and tell them what to do. I don’t believe he would listen to me. Based on my meeting at CAA I don’t think that my meeting with Mel Gibson would go well, but maybe that’s the coward’s way out. I don’t know.
On BoJack, has anyone ever complained about a joke to you or asked you to take something out?
Generally people are aware that when it comes to shows like BoJack Horseman, if you complain about it then you’re just making a bigger mess for yourself. The best defense against a BoJack Horseman barb is to just ignore it and then people will be talking about something else a week later. Oh, here’s something — but this is just a general matter of taste. Very, very early on, there were conversations in season one where BoJack is talking about Todd’s rock opera, and he says, “That was, and I don’t put this lightly, worse than a hundred 9/11s.”
Thank you! See? It’s okay! A New Yorker laughed at it! There was some concern that this was crossing a line for BoJack. Now of course, it’s very quaint to think back to a time when saying that line would be crossing a line for BoJack. I remember having the conversation about, “Well, who is BoJack? Are there lines they won’t cross?” And someone said, “I think the key to BoJack is that he goes right up to the line, but he won’t cross it.” And I said, “The thing about BoJack is that he does cross the line, but he crosses back and forth and you never quite know where he’s going to land.” It’s the fun, but also the discomfort of the show.
In your interview with Inkoo Kang at Slate, you talked about the casting of Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen as the “original sin” of the show. Would you do things differently if you were casting now?
Yes. There are two things I would do differently, which I think are separate things. I mentioned this in the interview with Slate: The issue of diversity in general is a little different than a white person playing an Asian person. I do want to be careful to keep those conversations somewhat distinct even though they are absolutely related. One thing I would do differently outside of Diane is, I don’t want to have a show that has all white people in the main cast. I think that is inappropriate. I don’t know how else to say it. I think that it is bad politically, but I also think it is bad creatively. It leads to a less interesting show, and that was a mistake. So that is 100 percent something I would do differently. And the other thing is, I would not cast a white person to play an Asian character. That is also something that is inappropriate. I knew at the time that it was somewhat inappropriate, but I don’t think I realized quite what it meant and what I was doing, and I allowed myself to believe that the world of animation was a little different than the world of live action. It is in some ways, but that’s not really a good excuse.
What shifted your thinking?
I will say, you shifted my thinking somewhat. The podcast you did with Aisha [Harris], you said something that really stuck with me, because up until that point the general criticism I’d seen of the character from Asian people was, “It’s really great to have this nuanced, fully formed, Asian-American character who is not a stereotype, but it’s a bummer that she’s played by a white actress and it’s hard to separate from that. That’s an asterisk.” And one of the things you said on the podcast really surprised me because it was not that. [It] was that, if you knew you had Alison Brie in the show, why didn’t you just make her a white character? The idea that having another white character would have been better than this odd approximation of what an Asian-American character is shook me, surprised me, and made me really think of it in a different way. It made me realize, “Oh, this is hurtful. It’s not just a bummer or inconvenient or not ideal. This is bad.” I’m still grappling with that and what I can do now to fix it. We’ve tried some different things, and we will try different things.
The phrase “original sin” is quite evocative, but I do feel that is a thing that’s baked into the show and I’m not sure how to fix it. But I do understand better now what it really means, and it is a process. Another thing you said on Twitter…
No, it’s good! You said, “BoJack is good about a lot of things but it’s not good about race.” You might have said “smart.” [Editor’s note: It was “smart.”] And I remember seeing that at the time and thinking, “That is accurate. I will take that.” But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like, “Yeah, but the opposite of good isn’t fine, the opposite of good is bad,” and there are ways in which we’ve been bad about race and that needs to be fixed. There are things we are doing to fix those things. Some are as simple as putting a sticky note in my brain that says, “don’t do that again,” but it is something I am much more interested in engaging with than when the show first started.
I assume that’s why there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of recurring voice actors of color this season: Hong Chau, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Issa Rae, and Wanda Sykes, to name a few, all have prominent roles.
It occurred to me while we were making the first season that we were hiring a lot of white actors. Unfortunately it took me a while to notice that because in our industry, and to be frank, most of the rooms that I’m in, I’m often surrounded by white people so it’s not a notable event. But I realized, “There’s really no way to look at this other than we are over-hiring white people.” So I talked to my casting director, Linda Lamontagne, and I said, “I really want to make sure that we’re getting more people of color in here.” You can see in the second half of the first season, more people of color pop up in smaller roles. For example, Cedric Yarbrough as Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface and Phil Lamarr as the sloth lawyer.
Then at the end of the second season, I looked around again and I said, “I think we’re not doing enough,” and this general idea of, “Let’s just make sure we’re casting people of color and keep that in the back of our heads” wasn’t doing it. Every time we would have a new character, I’d get a list of exciting actors who maybe could play them, but it was mostly white people just because that’s who most of the big stars are. That is kind of the industry we’re in, unfortunately, but also we weren’t looking harder. And so I made a rule at the beginning of season three: “I want to make sure we don’t do an episode again that doesn’t have any people of color in the cast,” because up until that point, we had an embarrassing number of episodes that were all voiced by white people: main cast, guest cast, everybody. I really felt this is not acceptable.
Now sometimes we’re getting off on technicalities, cramming someone in who just has a couple of lines, and I really want to make sure we’re not just giving all the juicy parts to the white people. We started keeping numbers on how many people of color we were hiring, how many lines of dialogue they had, how many characters they were playing, because every actor tends to play between one to three characters. And we found we were getting better every year as a function of both actors hired and lines of dialogue. I’m happy to say that season five, we did even better than season four on all of those rubrics, but there’s still room for improvement. It feels very odd to be looking at these as numbers when this is such a sensitive and specific thing, but I find it is helpful to push ourselves to be better. And even with that, there are gray areas as “who counts” as people of color and what does that mean.
I do think that’s very mature of you.
[Laughs.] Thank you! Can we go meta for a second here? It’s been really interesting for me to watch the reaction to me making these apologies and talking about this. Sometimes I feel I’m getting more credit than I deserve. But in other ways, I feel like that is very encouraging because it makes me want to grow more. So I don’t want to dissuade people for patting me on the back for learning a lesson! I do think the fear amongst white straight men, but also people in general, about apologizing for something is that people are going to jump on you, or you’ll apologize wrong and make it even worse. There are things I’ve said in these interviews that have not been perfect, and I have been corrected. I’ve gone, “Oh, I was trying to apologize, but I said something equally bad there and in some ways it would’ve been better if I’d just kept my mouth shut.” But generally I am glad that I can make mistakes, learn from them, try to grow, and be encouraged to grow.
It’s difficult because a lot of the criticisms have come from people like you who also say they are fans of the show and that it really does feel like people get what I’m trying to do. That makes it easier to swallow the criticism and not go, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of haters so I’m going to tune them out.” That’s kind of a bummer because you as a person of color shouldn’t have to compliment-sandwich racism. You shouldn’t have to say, “I like it, but maybe change this.” But as someone who is hearing the feedback, it does make it easier to swallow. I certainly do not begrudge people for reacting poorly to some of the changes we’ve made on the show and saying, “You know what? Fuck that show.” That is their prerogative and they deserve to be heard just as much.
Does it surprise you how quickly this conversation around race and voice-acting has accelerated?
No, the opposite. I was prepared to have this conversation when season one dropped, and I was surprised that it didn’t happen then. I’m glad it didn’t, because if I had talked about it then, I would not have been able to talk about it from the place of understanding that I have about it now. So I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and listen over the last four years making the show. But I remember when we were casting [Diane], I said, “People are going to be mad about this.” I know that incriminates me more because I knew it was a problem then. I can’t claim naïveté. But then it wasn’t for a long time… or maybe that’s just the people I was listening to and talking to for whom it wasn’t [a problem], because I’m sure you noticed it immediately.
And I’m sure there are people who were talking about it and I was just not privy to those conversations. I thought what we were doing was colorblind casting. I really did, and because of that, I wasn’t actively looking for people of color, and then it turns out we had a bunch of white people. Moves need to be made to be more inclusive. One way to go about that is setting ground rules for yourself, such as, “If you have a character of color it’s going to be voiced by a person of color.” That feels like a great step one.
I still struggle with the question of “Should Diane just be a white woman?” I always wonder, what is Asian-American? There’s a multiplicity of answers, but for me it’s a feeling of recognition where I see it and I know it. When I’m considering the “original sin,” it’s not about casting as much as it’s about the writers room. The fact that there weren’t Asian writers in the room the past season is what I come back to. Do you see that as a weakness of the show that needs to be addressed? I realize that even raises a boatload of other concerns like, “Oh, we need to hire the Asian person to write about Asianness,” which also feels shitty.
Yes, that is a weakness. The writers room is a more difficult body to address than the cast of the show because every year we hire so many more actors than we do writers. It’s an easier makeup to change. We don’t hire new writers every year. I have a policy of not firing writers without cause. If I look at a room and it’s all white people — and we’ve never had an all-white writers room — but let’s say we had a room that’s mostly white people and I go, “Oops, I’m not happy about this,” I don’t feel comfortable not asking one of those writers back to make room for an Asian writer. I understand the arguments against that. I’m not saying my philosophy is correct; I’m just saying that’s how I work.
The writers on the show are very good, and there’s a lot to say for continuity. Every year I’m very thankful to have writers who work on the show over multiple years. It helps me a lot. We had Asian writers the first three seasons, but not on purpose. I wasn’t considering their Asianness when I hired them. The second one, Vera [Santamaria], left after the third season. Then we were hiring for the fourth season and I wasn’t thinking about it, so we did not hire any new Asian writers. Then after the fourth season I thought, “Oh, this is missing that voice,” and it’s hard to pin what that voice is exactly because it’s not like Vera or Mehar [Sethi] would say, “As an Asian person, I think Diane should do this.” It’s a subtle thing, and I wouldn’t want to put either of them in that box because they weren’t like “my Diane writers.” They contributed so much to the show, but I felt like, “Oh, we’re missing this.” And then on season five, we didn’t hire any new writers. That’s the simplest way to put that. But it’s certainly something we’re looking to moving forward.
Do you feel, like a recent piece in the Times about writers room diversity, that there aren’t enough writers of color in the pipeline?
Well, I think there’s a subtle distinction there and the article was a little misconstrued. My experience is that there’s a lack of upper-level writers of color. There are a lot of writers of color who are eager to get in, who are good, who are ready to start working. But what is most helpful to me is people with TV experience, people who’ve been in writers rooms before, not just who have that creative spark and are ready to do it — we need those people, too — but people who are comfortable being at the front of the room writing beats on a whiteboard, running a room. I will say it jibes with my experience that it is difficult to find writers of color, and also women, in those roles because a lot of them have been pushed out of the business before they get that high. That is changing and things are going to look very different in five years from now, because a lot of writers of color are going to rise through the ranks.
In a Tumblr post back in the day, you wrote about how “male” is often prefigured as “default” whereas “female” isn’t. It also makes me think about neutrality with regards to race, too, and how whiteness is often seen as neutral. Do you see BoJack as white?
I don’t, although I understand that he can be read that way, and in certain ways he’s coded as white. I don’t consciously write him that way, although I think there are more white people he is like than other people. I would like people to bring their own reads on him. Someone once told me that she saw BoJack as a black man, as a black person herself, because she felt like she really related to the idea that he was the one horse on his show, and that he doesn’t have any horse friends, and he’s “the one who made it.” I can’t say, “Yes, that’s right, that’s what we’re doing,” but I love that interpretation, and so I’m happy for people to make their own reads on it.
Are there animals that are considered minorities in this world?
In the past, we’ve been hesitant to play into that because I think there’s a real danger of getting too specific with it. All of a sudden we’re now saying raccoons are Latinos, and what does that mean? There are parallels that might be interesting to explore, certainly in the broader ideals of what it means to be a minority, or outside of your people. But I’m really hesitant to make one-to-one allegories with it. What does “race” mean in a world where animals exist? What does it mean to be a black American or an Asian-American when there are also anteaters walking around?
Speaking of, I loved the sight gag where a pig diner is looking very concerned that other humans are eating a pig. Do people eat humans in this world?
Maybe! [Laughs.] We’ve left that unspecified. I would say certainly there are animals that eat humans. I don’t know if humans eat humans. Maybe some adventurous ones do. What I’m fond of saying about the show is that the only canon is what has been established on the show. So as of now, it is possible that animals and humans eat humans in this world.
This is a corny question, but are there autobiographical resonances in the show?
Very little. I have a very wonderful, loving, supportive family. I do not have any addiction issues. I really am not like BoJack in most ways. Perhaps we share a certain sensitivity and melancholy, and a certain feeling like there are holes that will never be filled, but I don’t think I feel it as acutely or dramatically as he does. I don’t think those feelings consume me the way they consume him.
Is it more of a general existential anxiety than clinical depression?
Yes. I think that’s right, although I have been very surprised at how well I have taken the success of this show, and also the rest of my life. When I was in my 20s and I was pitching this show, I really bought into the truism that “no matter what happens to you, you’re never going to be satisfied, you’ll never be happy, and that’s all there is.” That had been my experience up until that date. But now I am married to a lovely woman whom I adore, and I have a successful show, so all my personal and career boxes that I thought I wanted were checked, and it turns out that kind of satisfies me. I’m really shocked by it! If BoJack were to end and that was my highest accomplishment, and I have a nice family and I live a good life, I would be very satisfied with that. I really thought there was something deeply wrong within me that could not be satisfied by external forces, and the truth is I’m much more simple than that. It turns out when my life is good, I am happier, and when my life is bad, I am sadder.
Do you have an endgame in mind, or do you just see it continuing as long as there’s story to tell?
Well, I’d love for it to continue as long as there’s story to tell. There are also business considerations which I am not always privy to, so I don’t want to say, “Yes, it will end when I want it to end, at season 25!” That’s not really what I want anyway. These are all conversations with Netflix, and it’s partly a matter of how long they will keep paying us to continue. But as we enter the later seasons, the show gets more expensive and I am not sure if our audience is building for them, although it feels like it is. So I do think the end is probably going to come more from a business place than a creative place, wherever that may be.
I’m not driving towards an endgame because life doesn’t have an endgame. That feels like a dodge, but I do think one of the philosophies of this show is that things aren’t neat and tidy and building towards some supreme, narrative ending. Life happens and continues to change, and stories pulse and recede, so I do not have a firm ending in mind. I have had different ideas of possible ways we could leave these characters, but that evolves as the show evolves. I don’t want to get stuck in my plan for what I think the story is, because for me, the beauty of the story is how it keeps surprising me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.