“This is a rallying cry that women, people of color, queer people, and their allies are all one big movement,” says Jill Soloway of the Women’s Marches that are set for Washington D.C, Park City and all over the country today after Friday’s Inauguration of Donald Trump. “The enemy is now clear and the enemy is now named,” the Transparent creator and multiple Emmy winner added.
A Sundance alum and the winner of the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award with her 2013 film Afternoon Delight, Soloway returns to the Robert Redford founded fest this year with the debut of her new Amazon series I Love Dick, which launches on the streaming service on May 12. As well as premiering on January 23 with the first three episodes of the Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon starring series based on Chris Kaus’ 1997 novel, Soloway will also be participating, as she has in past years, in a number of panels at Sundance.
Before arriving in Park City, Soloway spoke with me about where she will be marching on January 21, the role of the artist in the Trump Age and her long relationship with Sundance. The Topple founder also discussed overturning patriarchy and bringing more new voices into the mix, the Silicon Valley approach of Amazon and Netflix and what’s next for the award winning Transparent.
DEADLINE: You are back at Sundance with the premiere of I Love Dick, why did you want to launch it here this year?
SOLOWAY: Well I have so much love for Sundance. This is where I first brought my film and I feel like it’s a little bit like a victory lap of returning home to share my excitement but not having that awful fear of hoping somebody buys it.
DEADLINE: Are you going to be part of the Women’s March On Main on January 21?
SOLOWAY: I’m going to do to DC first. I was planning on marching at Sundance and then made a last minute decision to go to DC that I just couldn’t miss it.
When I look on Instagram and I see people talking about Millennial solidarity and I look at how the Women’s March is about everybody not just women, it’s so exciting for me. This is a rallying cry that women, people of color, queer people, and their allies are all one big movement. So I could not be more excited actually about how it all ties together. The enemy is now clear and the enemy is now named.
DEADLINE: And how does that play out of the next fours years of Donald Trump’s Presidency?
SOLOWAY: It’s becoming a really great insistence that we all just keep making our voices heard. Art flourishes in a repressive regime and I love the idea of thinking about everyone in this country and what stories appeal to them. I’m sort of with Van Jones on that one. It pushes me to be even more explosive and inclusive and dreaming about the sizes and kinds of audiences that we can connect with.
DEADLINE: So how have the election results expressed themselves in your work already?
SOLOWAY: You know the election happened while we were shooting I Love Dick, and I think I Love Dick was originally about a woman who was attempting to find her artistic voice within the context of a patriarchal man and a patriarchal town. I think before the election we were kind of framing it in our minds like here’s a sort of whimsical outlier, this woman and her unabashed wildness about taking down the patriarchy is a kind of outsider perspective.
Then of course when the election happened we all went like she doesn’t need to be polite. She doesn’t need to be coy. This isn’t whimsical. She can be absolutely bombastic in her insistence that her voice is being kept from her. She can just be like nasty. She can be a nasty woman. She can be loud. She can be proud and by saying the patriarchy is trying to stop her from expressing herself and in our case we kind of renamed the patriarchy Dick. We’re always reminding people that the word Dick and patriarchy are interchangeable. We just felt like go bigger, go wilder, go crazier, have at it.
DEADLINE: Is that partially why you wanted to debut the show at Sundance?
SOLOWAY: Well, to have the safety and the comfort of the Amazon brand and now knowing what Amazon means both in television and movies, it’s like god what a five-year journey for me and Sundance is a big part of that. To be able to show Dick and to have Kevin Bacon in it and Kathryn Hahn and these great movie stars headlining this new show. I feel so, so lucky. I actually feel like my plan is to come to Sundance and just have a great time the whole time.
DEADLINE: Transparent made its low key debut at Sundance a few years back when television didn’t have much of a presence at the festival, but now there’s a lot of TV here and much of it in the indie spirit that birthed Sundance. Besides the obvious marketing platform side of it, why do you think the Era of Peak TV has found a home at Sundance?
SOLOWAY: Actually Kevin Bacon said this to me on the phone the other day after he watched all the episodes of Dick. He says this is the kind of work that made me want to be a film actor. When I watch this stuff I think of Cassavetes and Altman.
The stuff we’re doing feels like we have a kind of freedom that people used to have in the seventies when people were just kind of experimenting and art making as their headline. I do think a lot of it’s kind of getting jumbled together and to me the way that Amazon is re-inventing everything has allowed me the sort of creative freedom that harkens back to the early days of independent filmmaking.
DEADLINE: How is it different from when you first showed the Transparent pilot at Sundance in 2014?
SOLOWAY: That was before they were showing television and they put us in New Frontiers, which was kind of like interesting things from the Internet. We played the Transparent pilot in this cute little room, this weird room and we didn’t even know what Transparent was. We were playing it with web series and I don’t think we even understood what Amazon was up to and certainly Amazon wasn’t even there as a sponsor yet. You know? They were just kind of almost a secret from ourselves
DEADLINE: Speaking of secrets, can you give us a sense of where things are at with Transparent?
SOLOWAY: (laughs) We’re writing Season 4 right now. We’re getting ready to start shooting and can’t wait to direct the first episode. We have all kinds of great stuff and great guest stars and huge insane family trips I probably can’t talk about just yet. We’re challenging ourselves to keep pushing the Pfeffermans further and further towards growing up and getting it wrong.
DEADLINE: With that and your second series about to launch on Amazon, how have your roles changed on Transparent and as a creator, director, showrunner and writer?
SOLOWAY: Honestly, I feel almost less like a showrunner and more like I’m like a studio head or something. I still direct. I still write. I still go to the writers’ room but I’m focusing more on taking the things I’ve learned and attempting to share it with all the people I work with so that everybody can speak the same language and to replicate our tone. Helping people who have been other-ized getting access to their artistic voices as a means of political power. I don’t really want to be about my voice. I really want it to be about so much more power than one perfect TV show.
DEADLINE: Is that part of the platform Amazon provides you?
SOLOWAY: Well, practically for me you want a lot of creative freedom from Amazon. But, I think, when you look at places like Amazon and Netflix, part of it is the way they use Silicon Valley thinking. They’re approaching television with the psychology of a start-up. And so, think about Lady Dynamite on Netflix for example or Fleabag on Amazon. These are shows that wouldn’t pass the sniff test of ten male executives and they don’t need to because of the way that these companies are using that kind of start-up thinking creatively about creativity – and I like that.
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