Tribeca TV Festival Q & A: ‘GOLIATH’ the Amazon Prime Series Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Dennis Quaid, Amy Brenneman
After the screening of two dynamic episodes of GOLIATH Amazon Prime’s Season 3 award winning web series at Tribeca TV Festival, some members of the cast sat down for an enjoyable Q and A along with the director Lawrence Trilling. GOLIATH, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro is a tour de force with superb cinematography that feels more like a film than a TV web series. Season 3 opens on October 4th.
The actors discussed their experiences working with director Lawrence Trilling (all prefer having one director for the entire series) and the enjoyment of working with each other. They also discussed the water crisis of Central Valley California the location of the setting where many of the scenes were filmed. Central Valley is around two hours outside of Los Angeles. It is the agricultural center of the state and globally important for producing nuts, fruits and vegetables for the U.S. and world-wide markets.
Trilling and the others stated that the scenes related to the small town in the Central Valley represented what is happening to the townspeople who have no water coming from their public water supply taps. So when we note in the series someone driving up with cases of water to deliver to various households, this bottled water must be rationed out. They must use bottled water for showers, to wash dishes, for drinking and all their household needs. Water is a precious resource that they don’t have. It’s being diverted to wealthier land owners, corporate farmers and ranchers. It came out in the discussion that so much of it is wasted and the landowners are overpumping to get more water, sometimes to no avail and certainly to the detriment of the land. At the least, it weakens the ground structure and creates sinkholes.
A statistic that seems amazing in this dearth of water for households was quoted during the Q and A. It takes two gallons of water to grow one almond. Meanwhile, households in the area are starved for water and little farms get just a trickle to irrigate their crops, mostly having to depend on rain and good weather. Since almonds are the staple crop that the billionaire Blackwoods Wade, played by Dennis Quaid and Diana, played by Amy Brenneman, are growing out in Central Valley and the trees require a tremendous amount of water, who gets to determine the allotment of water? Is it based on need, money, fairness, greed, equity, decency?
Indeed, the Blackwoods have a tremendous need for water to irrigate their trees. Diana is using the almonds additionally for her own skin care line and medicinal products like milk baths to soothe and relax from the pressures of the water crisis. In a tense, wild scene, Diana has breakfast with brother Wade as he chills out in a milk bath. Amy Brenneman joked about her character’s relationship with her brother which appears untoward and eerie. As the series continues how their relationship evolves is superbly drawn.
Billy Bob Thornton has worked with Dennis Quaid before and they have known each other for years and are buddies, relaxed and comfortable with each other. Thornton admitted that working with actors you’ve worked with before and with a director you have an established relationship with is the best. You have a kind of shorthand you use based on previous knowledge with each other.
This is something which I’ve heard actors and directors discuss is the reason why they enjoy working with the same individuals. Robert Di Nero and Martin Scorsese work with a shorthand, also.
Thornton admitted that when he read the script it was natural and easy and he knew he could play the character who felt like him. The first season out he won a Golden Globe and part of that is due to his understanding and familiarity with the character whose dialogue the writers have kept authentic and viably sincere.
In not trying to reveal too much of the future episodes, Shamier Anderson who plays a twin who is deaf mentioned that it was enjoyable to come up with differences in his twin’s characters with specificity. He had fun working on their ethos. He gave them different clothing and changed the voice, their gait and all the other elements so that tech folks were surprised that the same man was playing two different characters. He also discussed how director Trilling shot the scenes with the twins.
Amy Brenneman joked that in the later episodes Shamier’s characters are like her sons. The irony is that both Diana, Amy’s character, and the twins resemble each other in their manner. They have the same insidious smile that bodes ill, though it is a come on that all is fine. The characters are sinister and scary. For his part Billy Bob as Billy McBride takes all in his stride in his wry, ironic manner which heightens the humor.
Nevertheless, the series is darkly ironic and is filled with menacing, atmospheric shadows and weird tensions due to Trilling’s superb direction and the choices he makes convey the malevolent severity of the water crisis and the billionaire family that is behind it.
Nina Arianda who plays the humorous, wacky Patty Solis-Papagian shared the backdrop of a scene when she blows a tire and is waiting for Triple A to come and repair it. She and Trilling decided to include what happens in the scene that took place realistically. A bee flew in and was harassing her. Other spontaneous occurrences happened as they always do on shoots. Arianda and Trilling came up with a few more of which we’ll look for during the series season.
GOLIATH opens on October 4th on Amazon Prime. Don’t miss it. For my review of the first two episodes of the series, go to this link: https://caroleditosti.com/2019/09/15/tribeca-tv-festival-continues-its-2019-series-reveal-goliath-starring-billy-bob-thornton-nina-arianda-dennis-quaid/
Tribeca TV Festival Continues its 2019 Series Reveal: ‘GOLIATH’ Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Dennis Quaid
The premise of the TV series GOLIATH about Billy McBride, a former high powered lawyer who built his own successful law firm then crashed and burned into drinking and depression after an attack of conscience, cannot help but be alluring in the time of Trumpism. GOLIATH created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro stars the superb Billy Bob Thornton (the first season out he won a Golden Globe) as the “David” who stands against various Goliaths (one each season) defending the “little guy” against money, class privilege, corporatism and impossible odds.
Sporting a fine cast with Nina Arianda as the wacky DUI lawyer Patty Solis-Papagian, Tanya Raymonde as Brittany Gold and Diana Hopper as Denise McBride, Billy’s daughter, each season has been sprinkled with veteran greats like William Hurt and guest actors like Maria Bello, Molly Parker (season 1) and Ana de la Reguera and Mark Duplass (season 2). With a heady selection of actors in the cast of Season 3 (Dennis Quaid, Amy Brenneman, Griffin Dunne, Beau Bridges, Graham Greene, Shamier Anderson, Illeana Douglas) it is clear that the series, which is edgy, darkly ironic, humorously wry and loaded with suspense and intrigue, has made its mark for Amazon Studios. This year the television web series opens on Amazon 4th October.
I had the opportunity to screen the first two episodes of GOLIATH and catch the Q and A with director Lawrence Trilling and principal members of the cast Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda and others who discussed the journey of this powerful, well-written, dynamically acted and excellently directed GOLIATH. This season’s focus is gravely current and its urgency is not to be underestimated.
The background subject is water, the foreground is corruption, corporate hegemony, power politics, money. Trilling and the writers chose an ongoing crisis that has global implications and reflects the current nightmares coming out of the White House with themes beautifully threaded by smiling, affable characters like billionaire Wade Blackwood (Dennis Quaid is a joy to watch) and his eerie, possibly insane and brother-lusting sister Diana Blackwood (Amy Brenneman). The Blackwoods are billionaire owners of a corporate, industrial sized farm.
The setting of this season is the present. Though the California drought has been declared at an end, its aftershocks have multiplied for one of the richest areas of California in the agricultural Central Valley whose massive land area is sinking because there has not been enough water to supplant what was lost. In an attempt to recover, area landowners dig deeper and deeper wells to draw out the water. This overpumping damages land sustainability and adds arsenic to the water supply.
These effects threaten homeowners and farmers alike as rivaling needs for clean, available water increase and power struggles manifest over who gets the water and how much of it should be allotted. The focus of this season’s series is doubly prescient given the full frontal attack by Trumpism and the Federalist Society’s conservative push to relax/eliminate environmental protections. Clean air, clean water and clean soil as precious resources are under siege. Homeowners and little farms run up against powerful politically tied-in globally-minded corporate farmers whose billion dollar industry supplies fruits, nuts, vegetables to this nation and world-wide markets. Which stakeholder is more important? Can billionaires sit back and share water or is the “greed is good” attitude the only sustainable policy?
Enter legal genius and astute investigator Billy McBride. Billy is called in by long-time friends who own a small vineyard. When the Bennets are forced to confront a weird, horrific accident, Billy’s services are paramount. The incident they confront is irrevocably tied-in to the water supply in the Central Valley.
The opening scenes of Episode 1 are mysterious and foreboding as Trilling establishes the conflict with atmospheric lighting design and cinematography that builds to an intense climax of the tragic event that kicks off the plot. As a coda Trilling’s grand use of the natural landscape to full effect in night and day scenes that vie with sometime sterile interiors provide an interesting contrast of living and non-living elements and heighten the accuracy of what is currently happening to the farmers, homeowners ranchers in the Central Valley. Replete with supernatural, spiritual symbols are zany characters who menace and smile with insidious intent (Quaid, Amy Brenneman, Graham Greene, Shamier Anderson) but they are only pursing what’s in the best interests of the country and their workers. So, is that a problem?
The stakes are high. Billy’s life is endangered on this wild ride down a diminishing river that eventually will run dry due to a scorched-earth policy which has no vindicators, no redeemers. Whose policy is it and can they be held accountable? Who are these people that Billy, Patty and his friends and assistants are up against? Clearly, Billy must piece together the intricacies of the Bennet’s case then step back and consider the best way to litigate if he ever makes it to a courtroom.
This promises to be a terrific Season #3 of a creatively dramatized and near flawlessly executed story for our time. October 4th is the opening. Watch it for your edification and pleasure. The performances are spot-on great.