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Cameron Crowe on new TV series, Roadies, J.J. Abrams, Axl Rose

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Katie Yu/Showtime

Almost Famous writer-director Cameron Crowe is going behind the music again — this time with the summer Showtime series, Roadiesstarring Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, and Imogen Poots as the support staff for a touring rock band. We got a backstage pass and asked Crowe what to expect from his upcoming hour-long comedy. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In Almost Famous, you shined a spotlight on a kid coming of age on the road, following around a rising band. Now you’re shining the spotlight on the people who shine the spotlights on the band. What intrigued you about that side of the business?

CAMERON CROWE: I hadn’t seen their stories told…. I always used to see these pictures — or when we’d film something — where Elton John would come down the hallway of the Forum on his way to the stage, and some poor [stagehand] would be moving a cart, and he’d see the camera and Elton coming and he’d be like [mimics someone trying to get out of frame]. The camera would just move past him, and I was like, No — let’s do the show where the camera’s on this guy that’s against the wall. Let Elton John go. We want to know his world. That’s kind of the show.

How long have you had the idea for Roadies?

It happened about eight years ago. J.J. [Abrams, an executive producer alongside My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman and Crowe] and I both came up at the same time working with Jim Brooks, so we became friends. And then one time we just started pitching. He said, “I went to this show, and I looked up, and I saw this girl on a rigging tower, and I just wondered, “What is her world like?” And I was like, “Well, I’ll tell you what her world is like,” and we started talking and he’s like, “You know, this is your show.” I said, “Wow, okay.” We never see the band, we never hear the band. It’s about the people. It’s about that girl and those people that disappear when the lights go down.”

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What kinds of stories can audiences expect week in and week out?

Each city [of the tour] is an episode. The show is about the crew, and it’s the family and the circus that exists behind the curtain that we don’t get to see. Their whole world ends when they’re able to put the band on stage, and begins again when the band comes off stage. The hour and 15 minutes when the band is on stage — that’s the only thing that’s off-limits in the show.

Through all your years of reporting on bands, what’s the best roadie story you’ve heard?

I heard some roadies talking about how something had to be “yellow-jacketed” and I [asked] “What is yellow-jacketing?” They said, “There was a guy that worked with Guns N’ Roses, and there was a show and Axl Rose needed a yellow jacket that he’d left in England before he would perform. So a roadie was given the job to get on a plane as fast as possible, go to London, find Axl Rose’s yellow jacket, and come back so he could play the show.” The best part about that story is not that somebody had to go get a yellow jacket for Axl Rose, but that it became such lore among other roadies that it became a verb — to yellow-jacket.

Do you see yourself weaving a version of that yellow-jacket story into the show?

Oh, yeah. We have a yellow-jacketing situation. Or two. Or three.