"It's always hard to sell an unusual idea." Even Matthew Weiner, creator of those icons of the last golden age of television that are the series Mad Men and its protagonist, Don Draper, cost him to sell Amazon Prime Video executives his idea for The Romanoffs, the anthology that premieres Friday the video platform. "You ask people for a big budget for something that you can not compare to anything else. Black Mirror It was very useful to explain the genre, but it's a totally different series. Yes I think they calculated that there was less risk being me, or at least had an opportunity not to bother, "says the scriptwriter, who this time is also director of the eight chapters that make up this fiction, in an interview in London with a media group, including EL PAÍS.
The idea was simple: independent episodes linked together only by the fact that some of their protagonists believe themselves descendants of the Romanovs, the dynasty that occupied the throne of Russia between 1613 and 1917. But their execution does not seem so simple: Weiner wanted that is global, record in different countries (eight), with different languages (seven), with long-duration chapters (between 70 and 90 minutes) and a cast that combines familiar faces like Aaron Eckhart, Isabelle Huppert, Corey Stoll, Amanda Peet , Christina Hendricks or John Slattery, among many others, with lesser-known interpreters.
Amazon, which in 2016 signed Weiner for 70 million dollars (some 60.6 million euros), unseating six other channels competing for their services, granted everything, including a budget of more than 50 million dollars for the eight episodes, according to Variety. Not even that the producer of Harvey Weinstein was initially behind the fiction - now all traces have disappeared - or the accusations of sexual harassment against Weiner himself raised by Kater Gordon, one of the writers of Mad Men, they have been able to do it. It will even be released as Weiner wants: with a chapter every week (except for the double premiere) to give time to assimilate and taste them.
"I've always been fascinated by the Romanovs, Russia was an important part of life in the United States in the seventies and eighties, almost as much as it is now, they were as villainous as they were interesting," says Weiner. "But what really interested me was the concept of survival together with the fate they share of violence, wealth and power, producing a tremendous fascination for anyone who is interested in identity," adds the producer, whose family on the mother's side to leave Russia after the Revolution of 1917. "But they did not belong to royalty," he clarifies.
Although the chapters are not related to each other and, says its creator, can be seen in any order, some elements link them, as internal winks for the most attentive viewers and related characters. "I also wanted credit titles to appear every week to remind you of what they have in common: blood, the concept of a refugee, that common past ..."
Although the duration of the chapters and the format of The Romanoffs would allow to refer to his deliveries almost like movies, Weiner, firm defender of the serial format and of television, resists: "I have my objections with that, because I believe that television is great, it is a huge part of my life, always I was forbidden to watch TV as a child, so now I never get tired of watching it People sometimes say 'it's like a movie' as if it were a superior thing I do not care about the format What can I say is that we recorded in the style of a series, we made 70 pages in three weeks, and for that you need to plan it as television and work at that speed ". Even so, it is a much longer time than that available in other series: for example, Mad Men It meant seven days of work per episode. Advantages of being Matthew Weiner.
One of Matthew Weiner's obsessions was to have enough time to take care of "the visual part of the narration, which is often sacrificed on television because it's expensive, it's more expensive than talking, but I'm not going to record in Paris and do not to feel the spectator who is in Paris, in Hong Kong we were 10 days in total, we recorded for four days, and definitely could not have done it anywhere else. " In each country where they were filming, they had specialized personnel to search for local actors. "In Romania we need many Russians, and there they are not welcome, it was an interesting place for this."