EMMYS: 'The Killing's Veena Sud

Veena Sud last year moved from the cancelled CBS series Cold Case to executive producer and writer of AMC’s hot new crime drama The Killing.  Based on the hit Danish series Forbrydelsen, this brooding drama set in the Pacific Northwest spends its first season on a single case as Mireille Enos plays a detective trying to solve the murder of a young girl. Sud talks to Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman about her lifelong fascination with crime:

DEADLINE: There’s a lot of critical acclaim for this freshman show.  Why do you think it cut through the clutter?
SUD: I think it’s because we’ve taken a genre and expanded it and built on what we know: the procedural. The way I like to describe The Killing is a character drama wrapped up in the conceit of a cop show. To the audience’s credit, I think they are deeply interested in complex characters like Sarah Linden (Enos), a very complex, dark, really interesting female lead of the kind we haven’t seen in a long time. Refreshing, isn’t it?

DEADLINE: In Cold Case, your lead character also had a dark and lonely side.
SUD: To the credit of Meredith Stiehm, who created the show, she was always challenging us as writers to push the envelope. Especially on network, the character of Lilly Rush was very different from what we had seen before; she certainly didn’t show up in miniskirts, she dressed like a cop in a suit and pants.

DEADLINE: Could you have sold The Killing to one of the Big Three networks?
SUD: I think AMC allows for characters that clearly don’t have to fit a stereotype, and that’s the strength of cable. We get characters like Sarah Linden and Don Draper and Tony Soprano — people you don’t have to instantly like and smile at when you see them. From the very beginning we were all making the same show. Maybe people are going to be really uncomfortable with death, but that’s more of a reason to talk about it.

DEADLINE: Are we past discussing the challenge of being a female showrunner on a police drama?
SUD: There are a lot of women who are running cop shows now, there’s Carol Mendelsohn and Ann Donahue and myself, and there was Meredith on Cold Case. I don’t know if we’re past it: it’s always worth talking about in an industry that is still predominantly male. But I think that since there have been women who broke ground for all of us, ultimately it is the job. Can you do it or can you not?  If you can, then you stay. If you can’t, then you go. Nobody’s in this job because anyone is trying to hit a quota.

DEADLINE: Is there a difference stylistically in the shows that are run by women?
SUD: The female leads are very human and very real and very flawed, yet are good cops. Maybe that’s the difference: women are interested in creating real female leads.

DEADLINE: Can you speak a little bit about your own fascination with the dark side?
SUD: I’ve always been kind of drawn to the extremities of human nature. I wrote my first screenplay when I was 16. The initial idea was a friendship between two prostitutes, and I spent time with a vice squad guy in Cincinnati who brought me to a brothel and gave me the rundown on how street prostitution works. Now, before I write anything, before I create any assumption in my mind about what it’s like to be in that world, I go out there first. I’m very drawn to darkness and light, very drawn to cop drama, because there are very few places besides war and murder and a homicide investigation where you see the extremes of human nature — the darkest crevices and cracks in what people do to one another. And as cynical and jaded as many have become, you see the heroic nature of cops, who put aside a lot of their own personal concerns and their families to speak for the dead, which is a sacred thing. Over time there is this thing in them that is very powerful and interesting and provocative to me.

DEADLINE: Did you ever want to be a cop?
SUD: If I had multiple lives, I’d like to do many things, including being a homicide investigator. I’m not brave enough to chase people and draw down on them. Having spent time with that, it can be an incredibly terrifying job. I went on a ride-along about a year  ago with a bunch of guys who had huge rifles with them and vests on, and they said: ‘We’ll leave you in the car. But if they start shooting, what you need to do is get out of the car and crawl behind the wheel. And be sure not to get under the car because bullets skip and you’ll get shot. But if you hide behind the wheel, then the wheel will stop the bullets.’ And I realized it was too late to go home. It’s easier to be a writer, I think — to watch and observe and walk away when things get too scary.

DEADLINE: What are some of your favorite TV shows?
SUD: Well, I was a huge fan of Oz, Homicide, The Wire, The Shield, Prime Suspect.  And there’s 30 Rock, which I’m a huge fan of. Intervention is my guilty pleasure.

  1. Great interview with a terrific show runner and awesome writer. Veena makes super solid television and has a bright future. If she’s the future of the tele biz, then I have unbounded hope and will sleep easier at night. Go, Veena, go!

    And way to go Deadline beating the mainstream news outlets on this series of interviews with industry movers and shakers.

    1. Did you even watch this show? What a waste of time to get no resolution? They’ll solve the investigation maybe next year? Why would the audience wait for another year? Viewers had to have a lot of patience with this show and for that patience they were rewarded with…nothing. I’m not going to even care a year from now. Good luck finding much of an audience for Season 2.

      1. Yeah, last night was definately a “What the F*&^” ending. Amazing how many people get to die for that girl once the finger is pointed at them. Still, I am hooked for next year.

    1. If you’ve seen the original Danish series Forbrydelsen, then you’ll know how different the two are after the first couple of episodes. I’d say it’s an adaptation rather than a remake. The episode “Missing” was never part of the Danish storyline and was one of the best television episodes I’ve seen in years.

      1. The “Missing” episode was actually part of Mad Men, season four. It was called “The Suitcase” there.

      2. As I said, overall I like this series, but the Danish one is infinitely better.

        Best thing about the U.S. version is the two leads. Some of the other casting is suspect.

  2. Missed opportunity in not asking her about the critical backlash The Killing quickly faced as people complained about the show moving at too slow a pace with poor red herring plots.

    1. It wasn’t just the slow pacing. It was that show was filled with cliches that you would expect from crime drama on broadcast TV. It was the inconsistencies and false lead that led to nowhere. Waiting until episode 11 to start character development on the show two leads. Seriously this show is on cable and on AMC and barely does average quality work. I am sure that If they keep Veena Sud as showrunner this show will never reach its great potential. This show took away a some acclaim from the AMC brand. There are so many show that deserves a renewal way more. (Terriers, Rubicon, The Chicago Code, Caprica,)

    2. I agree. It seems like a pretty obvious thing to talk about, unless these interviews are just meant to be fluff pieces.

  3. Congrats Veena, you just further buried serials by failing to reveal the killer in one season. Way to take advantage of viewers.

  4. Huzzah Veena. You’ve created amazing characters for The Killing and they are infectious to watch. I don’t really care if a man or woman makes the show, but if it’s as awesome as The Killing, then you’ve got me in your backpocket for good.

    1. It’s a remake. Almost all the characters were already in the original. Their development was partly changed in the remake, and apparently not for the better.

      Can I read a little self-righteousness in Sud’s interview? Like Lily Rush being the first woman cop not to wear a miniskirt (sure, sure…)? Or Sarah Linden being Don Draper or Tony Soprano, disregarding the fact that the other two have a huge deal of charisma?

    2. Really? Character development is what you want to say about this show? Other than the two leads we know nothing nor care about anyone. This started out with a great borrowed idea and made nothing of it.

  5. you know, I forgave a lot of the crap this show was dishing out in the hopes that by the end, it would all make sense and then all the red herrings, etc., could then be forgiven. Instead, we got a 13-episode circle jerk. Kudos to the actors for great performances. Sad to say I think a lot of people will give Season 2 a pass. I no longer give a shit who killed Rosie Larsen.

    1. I’m with you man. After dealing with all the nonsense we’ve seen in this first season that has nothing to do with finding out who the murderer is, and then to get an ending to the season like that? Well, this show can just BITE ME.

    2. Completely agree! The finale was a joke and basically summed up what the whole series was – a big waste of time!!! Thankfully, Season 4 of Breaking Bad starts in a few weeks and I can watch a worthwhile show that doesn’t waste time on melodramatic scenes that don’t move the narrative forward and has actors who don’t overact!

    3. I agree and does a Season 3 renewal mean this dreck will be dragged out again? Was nothing learned from Twin Peaks (a much superior show)?

  6. There’s no way in hell this show is getting an Emmy nomination, except for maybe an acting one.

    1. You’re wrong. They can still bring a few trophies in the best writing for comedy category.

  7. Who exactly is going to nominate this third rate series for an Emmy? All the critical acclaim was for the pilot episode. There has been a steady critical backlash against the series since it’s mid-point. The reaction from esteemed television critics and the fan community towards tonight’s season finale has been VERY negative.

    Frankly, the ratings for this show are going to dive off the cliff for season 2. You can’t launch a successful second season with this much ill will behind your series from both critics and “fans”.

    It’s almost a joke how hard AMC has been pushing this series for awards consideration. The Walking Dead has it’s share of problems but it was never got as out of hand as The Killing and played itself as broad entertainment, so one could be more forgiving.

    AMC has a slew of awful sounding reality shows on the horizon. How and why did such a respected channel just suddenly decide to flush itself down the toilet?

  8. Pam Veasey is also a female showrunner on a police drama. All do excellent work, great article!

  9. this woman should be barred from even watching television, let alone writing for it, after the debacle that was series one of the killing

  10. The show isn’t perfect, but Mireille Enos is brilliant even when the show isn’t. Joel Kinneman too. The characters are great even when the plot isn’t so, but I enjoyed the show thoroughly even when some didn’t.

  11. she sounds awfully full of herself for someone whose show has taken a creative and critical nosedive.

  12. Hear hear! They might as well call the show Red Herring During Hour because that’s what it felt like. Sooner or later the audience is going to give up and just not care anymore.

  13. She kept us hard for 13 episodes and then walked just before completion. Bullshit ending last night, i loved the show and cannot believe it was all just a giant tease. That being said, this will just be another example of a woman shitting all over me and me coming back for more, i’ll probably watch season 2.

    1. Did you just liken your upset over the season finale with a woman being a “giant tease” and “shitting all over” you? WOW. Do you always blame your disdain for season-enders on the showrunner’s gender? I’ll take a wild guess and say ‘no.’ But you should know this is a place where adults have a thoughtful discussion about the best series on television. Not the Hustler message boards. You obviously got confused. So move on back over there. Your balls will thank you. And so will we.

  14. I really liked this show and the cliffhanger was like whoaaa and also something that pissed me off…Vera blew it at the end.For a show with glacial movement and attention to detail plus red herrings for days to not give the audience feeling cheated at the ending is very close to television malpractice…Does Vera really think everyones coming back for season two??? Not Me

  15. I guess time will tell if last night’s cliff-hanger season finale will work for or against The Killing’s second season ratings. I personally loved it. It harkened me back to the 80’s when EVERY top rated serial drama had a season’s end cliff-hanger. When every thing is wrapped up tightly at the end of the season, it really doesn’t make me wish the summer away so I can see the next season like we did with shows a few decades ago. Especially in cop dramas where everything is wrapped up tight by the end of each episode, much less the end of the season.

    Let’s no forget that some of the biggest selling book series/movie franchises of the last decade kept people wanting more because of lingering questions about the main plot. I think it’s smart of Sud to try and apply this concept back to TV serials.

    1. you can have a cliff-hanger, but you also need to have completion to a story. there were plenty of other opportunities for cliff-hangers but she chose to not deliver on the promise of the premise: the show follows a murder per season. she’s lost me for season two.

      1. I understand what you’re saying, but as viewers, we’re all making a lot of assumptions about the information we were given in the last five minutes of the show. Maybe the right killer was arrested, but evidence was manufactured in order to speed up the arrest or to make sure an arrest happened? If so, who’s behind that? Did Holder realize he was providing manufactured evidence, and if so, why would he risk jail to do it? I obviously don’t know the answer to any of the questions I’ve posed, but will tune in next season for the possibility of answers.

        Having said that, I won’t tune in a third season to find out who killed Rosie Larsen. In my opinion, Sud will have to definitively answer these questions fairly quickly into the second season and develop plot twists based on other things to get true longevity out the series. As already stated, I’m not turned off, or tuning out, because of the way the first season ended because I liked it. It was something different for a change. However, Sud can’t expect to drag this out for several seasons. Am willing to see what she does with the story.

        1. @G: 100% with you on this, and am a fan of Sud (loved Cold Case, too)But… here and on the message board on imdbpro we appear to be in the minority. Not really sure why the vicious backlash..and also, WHY if all the haters, here, were so down on the show–why were they watching each week??! Sure the show wasn’t perfect-there were some loose ends (i found it nearly impossible to buy that the teacher’s very pregnant wife would not recognize Rosie’s father when he sees her at the vending machine–wouldn’t his photos have been all over tv when he nearly beat her husband to a pulp?) That whole storyline — the aftermath of the teacher’s beating–got sort of dumped..but hey, it’s just the first season.. As to the end, itself..I think that the actual killer IS caught but they didn’t have the evidence to arrest him. It’s my opinion that Holder doctored the photo–perhaps on his own, or in cahoots with whoever is in the car w/him– Anyway,most people seem to have had the expectation that the show would feature one killing per season, and be closed-ended..All the procedurals on tv have made it tougher to do serialized shows..people have no patience. I wasn’t aware that is what was promised.and if you think about it in ‘real time,’ it’s just under two weeks-and how many high profile murders are solved that quickly? Whatever, the response to the ending definitely seems mostly negative..which is too bad, I liked it.!
          I will be back for more…

      2. It’s Danish cousin didn’t reveal the killer until episode 20 (although it was in the first season).

      3. Agreed. And unlike, say, Twin Peaks, there was only ONE storyline all season long. Not resolving it satisfactorily leaves the viewers with no sense of satisfaction for an entire season.

    2. Here, here! However, I do think Veena made one cardinal error: she didn’t tell her (primarily) American audience everything! I mean, how could she be so indecent as to not spell things out for everyone? How could she POSSIBLY not spoon-feed us? The gall! We’re so used to our “Emmy-deserving” shows, such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and even that camp-tastic piece of sludge True Blood, telling us everything and anything we need to know within seconds of revealing a potentially interesting plot point, that we can’t STAND the idea of not always knowing everything that’s going on. I can’t believe someone would have the tenacity to do something so appalling. #sarcasm

      1. Finally! Thank You! Great post!
        It’s amazing how many people consider themselves “smart” tv watchers, yet when they are shown something different and not “spoon fed” the answers they can’t handle it. I am sure that AMC will not be bothered by losing you few mindless audience members to Blue Bloods. See ya!

        1. oh please. this show spoonfeeds us plenty: red herrings, misdirection, withheld information and poor storytelling. this show only portrays itself as smart and challenging when it’s complete hogwash.

          although i’m happy to grant anyone the appeal of enos, kinneman and sexton in their respective roles.

      2. “I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit. Find an ending, but don’t cheat, and don’t you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you’ll be fine.”

        I wish I had been wowed.

      3. Oh please. I’m all for ambiguity. But week 12 Holder is surprised (while ALONE) that Richmond is Orpheus and then week 13 he’s setting Richmond up to take the fall? WTF? So is his character lying to himself? Great. And the evidence that is being used to frame Richmond could be felled by a first-year law school student in court. Right. So then it’s all about Richmond not winning the election, which affects Holder how? Does he have a grudge because of one of Richmond’s basketball success stories turned him on the meth? Hm. Now I’m intrigued. I guess I’ll come back in nine months to see if I’m right. Or I could get on with my life.

      4. No character development, no resolution to the mystery teased out all season…how exactly did Veena deliver anything dramatically satisfying?

    3. Its just not the fact that she left us hanging on the cliff till next season—but she teased us along for 13 shows that absolutely gave no answers—to anything—no evidence provided–clues not solved -simply nothing—just red herrings all over the place that proved to nothing.

  16. All these negative comments about the show being a ‘cocktease’ or whatever really just make me want to give up…on this industry, on any hopes I have of interesting and intelligent projects finding success in the future. From the the latent misogyny of the comments, to the implied lack of understanding of serialized structure, to the seeming allergic response to having to engage with the content intellectually or emotionally…Really, if you were all looking for some bana CSI-like ending to a plot, why watch a show like The Killing in the first place? Stick with fucking CSI, as that’s clearly more suitable for the level of critical thinking you’re all capable of achieving. You inbreds really don’t understand the concept of a season ending cliffhanger? Have any of you actually ever SEEN a tv show before? Viewers can’t all really be this stupid, can they?

    1. keon gatwick
      I dont care for rude attitude of us (inbreds) you call us who dont agree with your oppinion,on the show—do you have some connection to the show.Is that why you are so defensive to everyones observant oppinion.
      This show ends with no answers not one.No value.

  17. Banal CSI-like ending*, my apologies. I was posting my comment from my phone while dropping a batch, which I guess goes to show the level to which I’m concerned with intellectual merit of any of these ‘criticisms’.

  18. Last night was not a cliff-hanger, as the show flew off the cliff weeks ago. Veena Sud — what an obnoxious, arrogant lightweight. Does she actually think she’s created a character who could wash Tony Soprano’s underwear? Or even be interesting enough to serve Don Draper a mid-morning Old Fashion? Get over yourself. First, you’re nowhere near as talented as you think you are, and, second, despite being handed such a rare opportunity (i.e., showrunner for this kind of show on this particular network), you failed miserably at creating anything of enduring dramatic value. Complexity? Refreshing paradigm-busting character development? Subversion of genre? If you really think you’ve even approximated those things with THE KILLING, sorry, but you may suffer from some level of serious self-delusion.

    I’ll leave the more in-depth incineration of this series to TV critics like Alan Sepinwall and Maureen Ryan, who, in their respective reviews of last night’s finale, completely eviscerated this pretentious, plodding, dramatically unsatisfying show. What perhaps galls me the most about all of this, however, is how Sud preens about in interviews, blowing gas at length about her show’s superiority. No, hon, the truth is that you ultimately produced an empty, insulting, stupid series that masquerades itself as serious and something of depth. There’s nothing there. So-called resolution to the central dramatic question of the show or not, AMC ended up renewing a lame series not so much because of its actual quality, but because it didn’t want to take a critical and financial bath on yet another failed drama. You can justify it all you want with the 2 million viewers, but we’ll see how many of those same eyeballs are glued to the set next season. And, no, Veena, we’re not dropping out because we’re conditioned dolts who can’t tolerate ambiguity and “complexity” and lack of tidy resolution. We’re dropping out because your show sucks.

    1. It was both original and good.

      Unfortunately, what was good was not original and what was original was not good.

  19. The best thing to emerge from this season-length endless tease of a watered-down “Twin Peaks” was the spot-on acting from Brent Sexton as Stan Larsen. I was so impressed with what he does with his eyes and breathing as he explored the quiet spaces within his grief…such a solid performance. Give him more work on a better series, please!

    1. Please. Twin Peaks was atmospheric, magical, character-rich, loopy, and infuriating.

      This was just one episode of CSI dragged out for 13 hours.

  20. Just hand her every award out there. Best show i have seen on TV ever. Better than film. Veena, you are a genius and your actors are the luckiest people in the biz. And of course the Big 4 Networks could never air a show like this because all they care about is money money money. Go AMC!!!!

  21. Enough with the Euro adaptations already. Do we even have a culture in this country, or are we just parasites of the rest of world?

  22. It’s hard to make a compelling drama play out over the course of a season. As The Killing proved, quirky characters run out of quirks, a plot can only be folded upon itself so many times and details are all too easily lost.

    Was that really the first time you had police search the area near where a girl’s body was found?

    How long was Rosie’s aunt cool with her niece hooking at the local Indian casino? She didn’t think that might be worth mentioning to someone?

    What’s up with the psycho Mark Cuban wannabe?

    Is it plausible that the man arrested for savagely beating a one time suspect in a local teen’s murder wouldn’t have been photographed by the local news (a la every person involved in the death of any telegenic young white girl anywhere) and thus immediately recognized by the victim’s spouse?

    Too many questions that I’m actually no longer interested in having answered?

    Kudos for AMC for trying something different but running procedurals is clearly a different breed of house cat than making a seasons worth of coherent television. At least I know I can focus on Game of Thrones next year. Now that was a season finale.

  23. I gave up on this show after the third eppy. What a waste. The best show on TV right now, bar none, is GAME OF THRONES.

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