Based on Meg Wolitzer’s best-selling 2013 novel, The Interestings, Amazon’s new pilot centers on a group of friends who meet at camp as teenagers, and follows them through the decades while long-held secrets, failure, and jealousy threaten their bond. Executive producers Richard Levine and Lyn Greene — who themselves met at 13 and have been writing partners for 23 years — recently spoke with EW about bringing the story from page to screen.
Stretching a finite novel across (ideally) multiple years of a show has required planning. “We’ve already earmarked certain major events in the book to happen in a subsequent season,” says executive producer Richard Levine, noting that the pilot already departs from the novel by bringing Goodman Wolf (Matt Barr) back to the country. “There will be a lot of creative license taken in terms of teasing things out, creating new events in their lives,” he adds.
Jules Jacobson (Lauren Ambrose) is both the group’s anchor and the true focus of the series, so, “No trigger could be pulled [on other roles] before we knew who our leading lady was,” says executive producer Lyn Greene.
Six Feet Under alum Ambrose turned out to be perfect for this complex role. “There’s some narcissistic issues the character has to deal with,” Greene says. “It’s very hard to find someone you won’t hate. [Ambrose] is sympathetic because she’s so relatable, and coming from an authentic place.”
Once Jules was cast, they had to cast an Ash Wolf (Jessica Paré) who didn’t just align with Wolitzer’s descriptions, but also provided the right contrast to Ambrose — wonderfully kind, but still otherworldly and enviable. “It’s like Jackie Onassis,” Levine says. “[Paré]’s got a class, she’s got an elegance, she’s got a warmth. You can really understand how Jules would want to be like her.”
Input on the characters’ attractive (and laughable) ‘70s and ‘90s clothing came from far and wide: “Everybody thinks they remember how they dressed back then!” Greene laughs. Costume designer David Robinson made sure the clothing wasn’t just time period caricature, and really reflected each person’s situation. “David was very conscious of the financial restriction the character’s operating under, the creative agenda that the character [had] when picking clothes to wear,” Levine says. “I particularly like, in the ‘90s, when [Jules] goes into the liquor store wearing that ratty, fun coat, and bumps into Cathy, very coiffed. What they’re wearing tells an entire story.”
Ethan Figman (David Krumholtz) has earned fame and fortune over the years with his Simpsons-esque cartoon, Figland — which Levine and Greene actually had an animator design for the show. “In some ways, developing Figland is like having two shows to develop,” Greene says. “If we’re fortunate enough [to get The Interestings picked up to series], it will be a lot of fun to develop [Figland] as a show, and give Ethan an outlet to comment on his life and what’s going on.”
Adds Levine: “In terms of lampooning the cultural and political climate [of the ‘90s], I think we’ll have a good time doing that.”