Miniseries, limited series, whatever you want to call the currently popular genre — Frances McDormand thinks the form is great for women. “A 90-minute time frame is not long enough to tell a good female story,” she said at HBO’s TCA panel today for her 4-part series Olive Kitteridge, which will premiere in November. “That’s why longform storytelling has become so great” for female actors, writers and filmmakers.
McDormand — joined on the panel by director Lisa Cholodenko, co-star Richard Jenkins and writer/EP Jane Anderson, who wrote the script based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel — was explaining how she came to bring the project to HBO. She said a friend gave her the novel about six years ago and “I loved it, [but] I don’t read novels looking for things to be made into movies.” The friend said, “But you want to play that part.” McDormand argued that the story was too long and complex for a feature-length movie. “Yeah, but you want to play that part,” the friend insisted. Eventually, the actress optioned the book and took it to HBO.
Writer Anderson calls the story of Olive, who suffers from depression, a “traumedy.” And she called the decision to make such a quiet, intimate story a brave one for HBO where “they make these large, giant pieces of television where they have a lot of killing and f***ing — oh, maybe you can’t put that in your stories.”
Naturally, McDormand, who won a Best Actress Oscar for the Coen brothers’ 1996 film Fargo, was asked her thoughts about the FX series inspired by the movie that grabbed 18 Emmy nominations today, including best miniseries. “I’ll take a question, but I will not do the accent,” McDormand joked. “I haven’t seen it, and I have nothing to do with it. The people involved in the original film are not involved, except politely.” She said she hadn’t seen the miniseries because “well, I’ve been kind of busy. I get all my information from the press — and I read it in paper form,” a comment that sparked a round of applause from the assembled journalists.