Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver Talk The Riches
The con-artist couple are back for this hit F/X series
Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver play the two heads of the Malloy family of con artists who transform themselves into The Riches. The second season of this dark F/X drama is premiering on March 18 at 10 PM ET. I was lucky enough to be in on a hilarious conference call with this pair of actors, and they had plenty to say about the new season and the show as a whole. Here are the highlights of that call.
I'm wondering what you would say about what did doing just seven episodes mean to the season? What did it mean to the storytelling?
Eddie Izzard: Well, obviously, it's seven episodes because of the strike. I think the writers were obviously aware of this beforehand, and so we built a sort of cliffhanger halfway through the season. So it really didn't hurt us in any way. I think they're seven very strong episodes. The first season, if you watched it all the way through the tone does move around somewhat. The second season, we just sort of knew where we were going, we locked down, we got on the railway lines, and we just went full steam ahead. So I think it makes it like a tighter punch, and we're coming out now. It's a great time to come out, because there's a lot of stuff normally out on television, not all of it is back on television. So we're very happy to come out, do seven, and give it a big smack in the face.
Minnie Driver: Yes, I agree with that. It's true. Everybody got hammered by the strike. And whilst we all support the writers, I would have loved to have done a full season. I don't think the show suffered. I think it's going to leave the audience wanting more, which is a really good way to end a season at all, and the addition of Jared Harris to our cast I think has added a kind of weight and a danger that's really fantastic.
Do you think a viewer could start the second season without having seen any of the first season?
Minnie Driver: I honestly think that condensed trailer that you get at the beginning of any new season is enough to fill you in on where you're at. And really, if you just read a blurb that says, "A couple of con artists and their kids trying to steal the American dream, move into a rich neighborhood in Louisiana," you're kind of good to go. I mean, I think that's what's wonderful about our show is that you can explain it really quickly, it's high concept, and the characters are very immediate. And certainly, we pick up literally 15 seconds after where we left off at the end of season one, so you're coming straight in, in a really dramatic place. I don't know, I think people will just jump on.
Eddie, you were talking about the tone of last season kind of jumping around. How would you place the tone this season and how did you find that tone?
Eddie Izzard: I think the tone is more locked down. We went through this tone in last season. I think we ended up at the end of the season with this tone. It's somewhat darker. Some of the episodes in the first season were slightly funnier, and they're not, the funny comes out at very dry and bizarre circumstances in this season. It's a drama with some quirky things going on in it. It's just very sure and it's dark and compelling, and it's a train ride. So, yes, I loved that, and I think Minnie did as well. We liked where it was going the second season.
Minnie Driver Yes.
Eddie Izzard: We're keen to go on through the ninth season.
It seems like there's a cliffhanger at the end of or during every episode. I mean, at every moment, it looks like they're about to be found out. I mean, it seems like it's just frantic that way, that they're about to be discovered.
Minnie Driver: We're serializing the show more this season and I think engaging and keeping an audience in a different way. And you really do, do that by there being a cliffhanger at the end of every episode. The noose is definitely tightening. That's what this whole second season is about. If it's a bad scene, we get away with it in the first season. Now, the more successful we get, the more desperate and dangerous it becomes. The truth, or what that means to each of us, is really at the center of this whole season, and it does lead to a dramatic ending at the end of every show.
Even though this is going to be a seven episode season, are there any notions of doing a quick turnaround and launching into a third season well ahead of schedule?
Eddie Izzard: That's an FX kind of question really.
Minnie Driver: Yes.
Eddie Izzard: The network have their decisions based upon, they talk to the Oracle in Greece, and ...
Minnie Driver: Turkey, ...
Eddie Izzard: Yes.
Minnie Driver: We might get picked up, we might not.
Eddie Izzard: John Landgraf is very passionate about this, and so we're very happy to be at FX. But they've obviously got things to bear in mind, but from our point of view we're going on.
Minnie Driver: Abso-bloody-lutely. I mean, if it were just up to us and Dmitry Lipkin we'd be working every day of the year.
Eddie Izzard: We think through the line, at the pilot I was getting that they wanted to toast season four. So we constantly think through this thing all the way to a future end. So whether anyone wants it or not, we're still here, we're going the full length.
Minnie, my question for you, I watched the four episodes that were sent to us for the second season, and I have to say your scenes with your parole officer and also with your war of conscience are really wonderful. I'm wondering if Dahlia is going to continue opening up and growing and kind of getting out of her closed off ways, or if we're going to see more of her trying to break out of this Traveller's mindset?
Minnie Driver: Well, I think it's like a Pandora's box, and probably with all of the characters, but from my point of view with Dahlia, yes, she's led by the truth, or her version of the truth, in this season and wanting to kind of cleanse herself of all of the deceit. She wants to be this new person, but I don't think she has any idea of who the old person is. So wanting to be somebody new presents a huge challenge, and it's very interesting and very kind of psychologically challenging to follow her down this rabbit hole. But she definitely continues to expand, like all the characters, in sometimes an incredibly destructive way and sometimes she blossoms. It's wild. It's very cool.
Eddie, your scenes especially with Hugh Panetta and Gregg Henry are hilarious. I was wondering how many takes it took to get the mojo scene, when you were trying to explain your theory on the mojo?
Eddie Izzard: That actually wasn't too many takes, that just seemed to lock in, and that's only three or four takes. It's quite a fine thing because there's an element of my thing where I can go up and both make things up in a second, which maybe is useful in The Riches. A lot of it isn't, because it's too weird and surreal, and that one seemed to be an interesting scene where I could just sort of just go off slightly on a tangent and I seemed to reach some things which sort of fit without sounding too bizarro. So, yes, it's great working with Gregg. Gregg just gives so much out of scenes that you're not expecting it from him. He just comes back like a train. So it's great working with him.
I really love the relationship between Wayne and Dahlia, and I was wondering how it's all going to evolve in season two?
Eddie Izzard: Yes. Well at the moment it's heading towards a sort of train wreck, and we won't wreck the train. I've always thought that their ambition is similar, because they're quite different people, but they've got this ambition thing. They kind of want it all and in different ways. And I think that's going to keep them together, and there's a love that's underneath it. They're both lost children as well, so that ...
Minnie Driver: Yes, yes very much. They've been so much a unit and suddenly they're getting a taste of what it is to be, to exist separate from this nucleus. And whilst that's obviously an integral part of being a human being, it is definitely what they discover about each other stuff to tear them apart. So it's kind of interesting. It's like they're choosing the individual over the whole in this season. They're choosing to kind of explore their own territory and believe that they are right, you know. What's that great thing about, I think it was my mom who said that great thing, she's like, 'In a relationship, what do you want to do, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?'
Eddie Izzard: I think we're trying to be right.
Minnie Driver: And we're trying to be right, exactly.
How did you create that relationship between Wayne and Dahlia? Did you guys know each other before or how did that work out?
Eddie Izzard: We went to a laboratory and we worked for many months.
Minnie Driver: On a formula.
Eddie Izzard: On a formula, yes. No, chemistry just sort of exists or not. I think there are distinct elements of Minnie in Dahlia, and distinct elements of me in Wayne, and so it's probably two people just coming together and ...
Minnie Driver: We're just really sure of our corners, you know. When Ed is really sure, and we'll talk about it beforehand, like where's he coming from and where's Dahlia coming from. As long as everyone's really clear about what line they're holding, because then you just put them in the ring and see what happens. But as actors, we sort of try and get clear about it, don't we, beforehand, and then just go at it and see what happens.
Eddie Izzard: And we will fight our corners like crazy.
Minnie Driver: Yes. We both passionately believe that our characters are right.
It seems that Dale is becoming a part of their con, but how is this going to work out?
Eddie Izzard: It's a tricky question. When you're asking writing questions, it's a little tricky for us because we contribute as much as we can think or would like to, and the writers are happy with that. But the writers did actually, because of the writers strike, close down their minds.
Minnie Driver: They did. We couldn't ring them about nothing.
Eddie Izzard: No, we couldn't ring them. They didn't want to think about it. They just had to do it to be strong with the WGA. So we don't know, and I would be very interested to know.
Minnie Driver: I really do. I think that Dale is such an interesting and amazing character, and they've written him right into the heart of suddenly this ... pack that he has with Wayne. I don't have really anything to do with them this season, which has made me sad, because I love working with Todd Stashwick. I really love working with him, but I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of him.
What's the most challenging part of portraying these characters for you both?
Eddie Izzard: For me, I think there's a technical thing, I'm still catching up on dealing with all this stuff that's around me, these cameras, trying to push them back in your mind so that you're sitting in the moment and not worrying, and you have to not worry about all these 100-150 people standing around you wanting you to do this right. Having done so much time on stage, I just ignore everything else, and then suddenly there's all this stuff, and that is probably my most challenging thing is learning to just push that back, ignore, and be in the moment, and just relax and get on with it.
Minnie Driver: I think I just get so emotionally wound up by this character, by where she's coming from, where she's so high octane, 99% of the time. It can become super inflammatory -you know she's just a huge character and I definitely get exhausted, but also get very over emotional, which is a challenge. You kind of exhaust yourself and exhaust the people around you as well. So I think that's probably the hardest part of playing Dahlia.
A theme early on this season seems to me that everyone has their price, and in the ... they end up returning to Edenfall for their $13 million dollars in Hugh's deal. Is that their price, and what do you think that says about the characters?
Eddie Izzard: I think it's Wayne's price. At $13 million, you could actually say a bazillion million, it's just more than he's ever fathomed.
Minnie Driver: We had a lot of discussions about this, didn't we ... I mean, we all come back, but there is clearly Cal doesn't want to come back. I don't really want to go back at all. Wayne wants to go back, and this is our first fatal flaw, in a way. It's like this is the first time that we've shown ourselves to be, I don't know... like it's the first chink in the armor to me, not the killing of the people in the first ...
Eddie Izzard: We never really meant to kill any of these people. But I do think ...
Minnie Driver: You see him, you see that Wayne, something is different in Wayne, like you see this slight ...
Eddie Izzard: The end justifies the means. I think he really feels that if we get just this, there's only one chance of getting this and this is it. And maybe in the future it will turn out, though it isn't the only chance, but at this point I think this is the only chance and he's willing to burn the family to get it. With an idea that after he's got it, he'll put the family back together.
Minnie Driver: But it's a really Machiavellian idea, it's the first time you've seen again Wayne operating outside of the unit. He's doing something for the good of the family, but it's not a familial decision. It's something that he's decided. I think that is a huge turning point. I think it says a lot that we go along with it. It says a lot about Wayne, but it's really to me the first moment. It's setting up the season, because you're basically going to see that spiritual and moral compunction unit come under even more fire, or you're going to see kind of the true expression of who these people are I think this season, and I think it begins with that $13 million.
Minnie, you've done so many successful movies, how do you like working in television versus ... screen, is it faster or is it-?
M. Driver: It's much faster, yes, my God, it is much, much faster. In a movie, you're lucky if you shoot a page a day, and we're shooting like eight pages a day. It's a very fast pace. I just love this character. I don't really care too much about the medium, I just want to really do good work, and she's the best part I've ever had. So I kind of set myself to whatever's going to accommodate me getting to act in the best that I can, and I love it. I absolutely love having a regular paycheck. I love going to work everyday. I love knowing when I can plan a vacation for the first time in my entire adult life.
I was wondering with the shortened season with the strike, ... talks about for the third season like maybe doing a bit of a longer season, like maybe a 19 episode season or something along those lines?
Eddie Izzard" I'm not sure about Minnie, but I'm up for that. As I said to everyone else, it doesn't matter when we do the next six. It just matters that we do 91. So, yes, if it turns out to be 19, if there's a break in the middle, whatever, we want to do this and we love doing it, and it takes a lot out of us, but it's the right time and right place to do it. It takes so long to get this right in this place with the tramlines lining up and everything that we want to do this and put it down so it becomes a piece that sticks around.
Minnie Driver: For a TV show to be successful, to be well reviewed, to have actors who kind of dig each other and keep getting more interesting, to have great writers, to have a studio or a network that's behind you, it's like lightning in a bottle. I mean, it's so rare that you, and it does happen once in awhile that wonderful stuff ends up on the trash heap, and I don't understand how Freaks and Geeks how they didn't carry on. And you really feel like no one is safe, because I sometimes feel it doesn't matter how good you are you might not stay on the air, but I feel like we will keep going and if they said to us that we want you guys to do 19, I don't think that there's anyone that would go, 'No, I don't want to do that,' because everyone who's in the show is so behind it.
I was also wondering like what did you guys do like during the strike to kind of fill the time, fill the void?
Eddie Izzard: We did knitting.
Minnie Driver: Crosswords.
Eddie Izzard: Yes, we just sat around the campfire. We all went to the travel camp ...
Minnie Driver: We just sat around and played songs.
Eddie Izzard: Minnie can gig and I could gig.
Minnie Driver: Yes.
Eddie Izzard: And then just generally hanging around loitering with intent.
Minnie Driver: Exactly. Ed was doing his standup all over the world. I was doing my music ...
Eddie Izzard: I went to the city where I was born, which was happily my first time in 45 years.
What is Jarred Harris' beef with Wayne? Can you divulge that?
Minnie Driver: What is his beef with Wayne?
Eddie Izzard: He stole my pencil a long time ago. We don't know.
Minnie Driver: We don't know, do we?
Eddie Izzard: This hasn't been nailed, but this is out of my head and how I have the back story written in my head, is that they were the firmest of friends. They were as tight as could be. They're almost brothers, and it went very, very bad for some reason. I don't know quite what it is. But that's what I think and that's why I think it's so bad, because they were very, very close.
Minnie Driver: I like that.
Eddie Izzard: It's weird when we're inside and people say, 'What happens next,' and we're going ...
Minnie Driver: Tell them, 'We don't know.'
Eddie Izzard: And the writers go, 'We don't know.' And it's quite amazing, it's like getting in a car and you know and just going, 'Oh we don't know what's around the corner.'
Minnie Driver: Yes, or if you're going to crash.
Do you ever have people coming up to you who might recognize you from the show who might be in this line of business, who might be Travellers and say, 'Hey, you know, you're doing it right,' or 'Hey, you might think about doing this, this way?'
Eddie Izzard: Well, I've interacted once, but they just took a photograph of me, and ...
Minnie Driver: I've been yelled at in e-mail.
Eddie Izzard: Really?
Minnie Driver: Portraying. Yes, portraying, actually on MySpace. I have a music MySpace page, and I've gotten some e-mails from purported Travellers saying that we're doing such a huge disservice portraying them as con people, and I literally couldn't help writing back to them, 'But you are.'
Eddie Izzard: It's like saying there are a number of Italian people in the Mafia, and Italian-Americans, the number of Italian-Americans who are completely legitimate are probably the majority. We're just portraying one family who happen to be Travellers. And it's just because there's not a lot of media about Travellers, everyone's thinking well, this is all about everyone.
Minnie Driver: And the media that there has been has been about that woman and the kid and of thievery ...
Eddie Izzard: So, you know, the Mafia doesn't mean that all Italian-Americans are in the Mafia, you just ...
For season three, do each of you have like maybe a dream actor that you'd like to see cast?
Eddie Izzard: I want Sean Connery to play a role.
Minnie Driver Yes, fantastic.
Eddie Izzard: Yes, but he's quite keen on decent money. Our money is kind of we'll pay you in breadsticks.
Minnie Driver: I want Helen Mirren. I want Helen Mirren to be my half sister. Oh, God, I'd do anything to work with her.
Eddie Izzard: We're just going to go for a massive star casting and have everyone turn us down. It's just because we do pay in breadsticks and M&M's.
Minnie Driver: We pay in Eddie's one-liners.
Season 2 of The Riches premieres on Tuesday, March 18 at 10 PM ET on the F/X network.