As a writer and co-executive producer on Showtime’s hugely successful Weeds, Stephen Falk is part of the team that’s holding the secret of who shot Nancy Botwin close to the vest. But I had a chance to talk with him about the possible suspects, which Botwin needs therapy the most, and his new NBC pilot with Dane Cook and Jeffrey Tambor, Next Caller.
When did you hear you were going to have a season 8 and was it expected?
We pretty much knew… there were some details to work out. Netflix and other new models complicate deals these days. We have a studio (Lions Gate) and a network (Showtime) and they just sort of had to work out the new technology and who gets a cut of that. As a show goes on longer and longer, who pays for it changes. So it just had to be re-worked out. But we were pretty confident we’d have a season eight.
Do you guys know how much longer you want Weeds to go for?
No… I think the possibility that this is our last season is there. But we never know.
True. But I hope it’s not. Weeds is one of those rare shows that constantly reminds you why you have loved it from season 1, day 1.
I think that ever since we burned down Agrestic at the end of season 3 we kind of ventured to keep ourselves and the audience interested. And I feel like for every viewer who says ‘oh I miss Agrestic I wish we were still there,’ we have strong ratings to back up that we have five more viewers saying ‘I’m actually glad they left.’ Even if they don’t know they think that. Because I do believe that if we were still in Agrestic, in season 8, our ratings would be really shitty and we’d have nothing to write about.
Did you know, while you guys wrote it, who exactly was in the bushes shooting at Nancy, or has this possibly changed based on what people have been guessing?
Have you seen the promos that Showtime runs saying who hates Nancy and could it be –
Yea. It’s Snoop Dogg.
I think he loves her, I don’t think he’d hurt her.
I agree. I don’t know why they put him in, but it’s funny.
Can you say if the person in the bushes is in that promo or no?
I didn’t stop to slow it down (and see all the people.) The promos are a very separate Showtime thing. They don’t necessary get our input on them. That’s their thing. I don’t know if they put this person in. Maybe. I can just say “maybe,” sorry.
There’s lots of theories. Is it possible the person in the bushes wasn’t shooting at Nancy?
That lunch was full of people who’ve done people wrong over the seven seasons.
Nancy has a lot of enemies. They all do.
I think so. Maybe not Stevie so much, but the twins may have some enemies…
Oh God, they must. Now, I know you had an alternate ending for season 7, had it been the Weeds series finale. Can you say what it was, or might you still use it?
Yea… that could come up later… we were playing with the idea that they were all dead and have come together at some sport of Prom like on Lost, but we decided against that. (Laughs.) We can’t really give away our ultimate end point.
People did not like that Lost ending very much.
I was fine with it. … I think I’m a lot more forgiving with shows now that I work in television and I realize how hard it is to please the audience. It’s like when I read a novel – I don’t get mad at every chapter if it’s not exactly what I want. If I’m board, I’m on board. And I let it take me for a ride. I trust the storytellers to treat us with respect, and treat the characters with respect. Beyond that, it’s up to them, and I’m just along for the ride. And I hope our viewers feel the same way.
How many scripts do you write per season?
I write two or three a year.
How hard is it to come up with an episode title?
That’s a fun thing the writer gets to do. I don’t find it hard, I find it really kind of fun. Last season my two episode titles were really kind of pretentious. “Qualitative Spacial Reasoning” and … I should know, I was nominated for a Writer’s Guild with it… but I can’t remember what it was called. (Editor’s Note: “Object Impermanence.”)
Are the title card openers still fun, or are they becoming a chore? Cougar Town does something similar now, but Weeds goes the extra mile with theirs.
It’s much like the title, its a creative and fun thing the writers get to do for their episode. But I will say that this season we’re doing something different. People are going to be excited about it. This will be a lot of fun, I promise.
Which Botwin needs therapy the most?
I think Nancy would be immune to it… I think she’s beyond therapy. I think Silas is pretty well-adjusted. I think Andy… if we found it fun to write therapy scenes I think he’d probably would be going a lot. He’s a big talker. And he’s certainly got some issues regarding his relationship with Nancy to work out. But I think Shane could probably use it the most. You know, he killed someone. I think he’s probably got some feelings on that. Even if he’s not aware of them, they’re somewhere.
Is it possible Shane has some kind of a serious personality disorder?
I don’t think he has bipolar or borderline personality or anything like that. I think… for the kind of crazy person he is, he’s pretty well-adjusted. He didn’t just kill someone at random. He killed Pilar to protect himself and his Mom. If you look back even on season 1 episode 1, he was a weird little kid. I think losing a father at that age probably did something to him. And growing up with such a domineering Mother is probably the stuff for therapy. But I wouldn’t assign him a personality disorder. I just think he’s a weirdo who became a little weirder with the way he was raised. I also think he’s pretty resourceful and he’ll be successful with whatever he does.
Speaking of, what’s up with Shane and the Police Academy?
We’ll be playing that out in season 8. We found this actor, Michael Harney who plays Detective Ouellette who is sort of serving as a mentor/father figure for him. We just fell in love with him. He’s from Deadwood. He’s a pretty special, amazing actor. And that’s a relationship we’d like to keep alive.
What character were you most interested in writing for season 8?
Last season I was really interested in bringing back Heylia (Tonye Patano) and I got to for an episode I wrote. That was super fun and super satisfying. I think she’s a blast. I also love writing Andy. The actor, Justin Kirk, can kind of do anything. So, for me, he’s the most fun to write for. He’s a really special actor.
To pull back to an issue that will probably always bother him… when did you guys decide Silas had a different Dad than he thought?
I think that was always a possibility in the back of our brains. But we had not necessarily decided it. But if you look at him… (laughs.) He’s different. He’s the blonde sheep in the family. And I think it made a lot of sense.
Will Michelle Trachtenberg, Emma, be back for season 8?
As of now, I don’t think so. As we’ve shown, we never rule out anyone. We’re not completely done writing this season.
What can you tease us about season 8?
Spoilers. Oh, gosh. Let me think. Well, I do think that we’re gonna follow through with the shooting. The bullet… was shot. And probably will not miss whoever it was intended for. I can give that. And I think if you read between the lines when I was talking about the opening, I believe that’s a little spoiler for what we might be dong differently. I think there will be romance for many of the characters. I think Nancy sister’s, Jill Price-Gray, we can look forward to a lot of her.
I love how it’s never just “Jill.”
For you personally, do you have thing for Nancy and Andy? As a writer, do you hope you guys might go there?
I think that they’re inextricably linked. Whether or not … well, let me ask you. Would you want to see them together, romantically?
I do… but I think it would not work. She’s so controlling and he’s such a little puppy… he might get squashed. I like them better with their holding pattern.
Yea, I think we feel the same way. We don’t necessarily think that it’d be satisfying for viewers to see them together. I’m not sure shes’ great for him. (Laughs.) I’m not sure I’d be a shipper of Andy and Nancy.
No, I wouldn’t recommend Nancy to be on The Bachelorette. All the guys would end up dead.
Yea, there’s that. Her vagina’s poison. There’s a long history of men befalling bad ends when she sleeps with them. I wouldn’t want that to happen to Andy.
No, he’s innocent. He must be protected.
Can you talk a bit about your new show, Next Caller?
It’s a pilot that I wrote for NBC. Every year they buy a bunch of scripts and they look at them all around the New Year and decide how many of them they wanna make. Mine was one of the 13 chosen out of 92 that they bought. And.. yea. It happened to coincide with the hiatus for Weeds, so I was able to do both. So I got to executive produce and make a pilot for NBC that I just turned in last week.
It takes place in a satellite radio station much like Sirius XM in New York. And it concerns a talk show relationship on a call in show, specifically on one of the channels. There’s a been-there-done-that talk show host and they bring in a very chipper NPR type host from Colorado to be his sidekick and he’s not happy about that. So, the show concerns their relationship and the other people at the station.
We made a really nice pilot. It came out really well. I’m very proud of it. In the next two weeks NBC will decide what they wanna put on the air, and hopefully we’ll be on it.
The cast looks great. Hopefully that has some sway.
I have hopes. But when you’re a writer in this town you get used to disappointing. There’s always a “no” at the end of everything. Even if you get something on the air you eventually get canceled. I’m very well versed in rejection. All you can do is do the best work possible and realize there’s a lot of other factors that go into success or not.
It seems like you’re also very well versed in thriving under pressure. Especially with what you do with Public School.
Yea, my background is in performing. So I’m not necessarily someone who gets stage fright. I do thrive under pressure, I need deadlines and I like to cram my plate with a lot of things and know that I’ll figure it out. I generally have been lucky enough to do so.
We do Public School shows once a month at a venue in L.A. It’s seven storytellers all set around a theme. It’s a really fun evening, and anyone in L.A. should come see it. It’s PublicSchoolShow.com. The next show is May 8th at 9 o’clock.
Those flyers are amazing. Do different people draw them?
It’s different people. A lot of them are drawn by the creator of the evening Natasha Vargas Cooper. But sometimes we have outside people. I think we have someone from Yo Gabba Gabba doing one this month. They’re always really creative and cool.
We hope that Next Caller get green lit on NBC! And we can’t wait for Weeds.
Find Stephen Falk:
- passionately arguing about eating Combos in the bathtub on Twitter
- taking high-quality photos for Flickr with surprisingly appropriate titles like “pumpkinteeth”
- posting helpful venn diagrams on his Tumblr
- spinning yarns at M Bar for the monthly storytelling group called Public School
Weeds photo courtesy of Showtime. Other photos courtesy of StephenFalk.com and PublicSchoolShow.com