Public Appearances from 2023
What will Catherine and Peter risk to preserve the crown? 👑 The Emmy Award-winning series returns for Season 3 on May 12, only on Hulu.
ABOUT THE GREAT
EMMY® NOMINATED The Great is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. A fictionalized, fun and anachronistic story of an idealistic, romantic young girl, who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter. Hoping for love and sunshine, she finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court onside. A very modern story about the past which encompasses the many roles she played over her lifetime as lover, teacher, ruler, friend, and fighter. Incorporating historical facts occasionally, the series stars Elle Fanning as Catherine, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan, Sebastian de Souza, Bayo Gbadamosi and Belinda Bromilow.
Hulu has announced that Season 3 of “The Great” will drop all 10 episodes on May 12, and revealed a first-look image.
In the third season, Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) try to salvage their marriage after Catherine imprisoned his friends and almost had him murdered. Peter must also deal with visions of his dead father (Jason Isaacs) as Catherine spreads her word across borders and must compromise to create progress as a political leader.
Tony McNamara created, wrote and executive produced “The Great,” along with executive producers Fanning, Hoult, Marian Macgowan, Mark Winemaker, Echo Lake’s Brittany Kahan Ward, Doug Mankoff and Andrew Spaulding, Thruline’s Ron West and Josh Kesselman. Civic Center Media produced the series in association with MRC Television.
Awards Circuit Podcast: Also in this episode, ‘Pachinko’ showrunner Soo Hugh hopes that Japan audiences eventually catch up to her Apple TV+ show.
Elle Fanning is Hulu’s MVP this year, in contention via both her edgy comedy series “The Great” and the dark limited series “The Girl From Plainville.” Not only does she star in both she also serves as an executive producer on the two projects.
“Hulu comments on my Instagram photos all the time,” she says. “And it’s always a boost from Hulu. They’re like, ‘Yes, Queen! You’re doing great!” It’s like, thanks, Hulu! Whoever’s running that, they’re really giving me a boost in the morning when I check my comments.”
That affirmation is appreciated by Fanning as she heads to London soon to shoot Season 3 of “The Great.” Last year, she kept a grueling schedule in which she filmed “The Girl From Plainville” just days after wrapping Season 2 of “The Great.”
“It was a complete 180,” she says. Fanning spoke to Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast about both shows, and in particular what it took to research the story behind “The Girl From Plainville” and depict her character in an honest way. Also in this episode, we chat with “Pachinko” creator and showrunner Soo Hugh about the origins behind her Apple TV+ show, and what’s next. Listen below!
In “The Girl From Plainville,” Fanning plays Michelle Carter, the teen who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to end his life. It’s indeed a marked contrast to playing a rebel Catherine the Great in Hulu’s wild “The Great.” And at first, given the salacious nature of how the story of Carter and Roy was covered in the media, Fanning wasn’t so sure she was interested in the role.
“I was tentative to honestly sign on to the project,” she says. “I think this is a story that can really easily be sensationalized and romanticized to do a TV show. I was like, gosh, that is not the story that I want to tell, especially knowing that these families are alive, and a young man’s life was lost. And I really talked to everyone involved a lot of times before saying yes. And ultimately, I also was able to be a producer on the show, which of course, adds more of a responsibility. But I felt like having a part of that control could contribute to telling the story in a thoughtful way.
“Michelle, they portrayed her as his Black Widow manipulator. And then, Conrad was also portrayed really one dimensionally. So I think all of us wanted to dive into that and also in the world of technology,” she adds. “This is the first generation of seeing what the results of growing up with technology can do. I think it’s so intriguing and honestly, really scary.”
As for Hugh, Apple TV+’s epic drama “Pachinko” is based on a novel by Min Jin Lee about the history and plight of ethnic Korean inhabitants of Japan, through the lens of Sunja, a fish merchant born in Korea during Japanese colonial rule. She is forced to immigrate to Japan after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. The series is about the multi-generation impact of this story, shown in the 1920s/1930s when Sunja (Min-ha Kim) is a young woman, followed by the late 1980s when she’s an elderly woman (Yuh-jung Youn) looking back on her life.
“The research component of the show took roughly a year,” Hugh says. “And one of the reasons why was because the show spans about over 80 years. And once you decide to cross cut time periods, I didn’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Oh, I’ll learn about that Season 2.’ Because all the characters have lived through all 80 years, I had to really break down the entire history from the get go from Season 1. And so talking to consultants and historians who were experts, food historians, costume historians. We had historians on everything from, like media historians, on what were people watching in the 1980s [on] Japanese television. Because I feel like for me, my bullshit radar goes off when you’re doing a period show. I really want to be immersed in it and fall into it and make it as visceral as possible. So really, those details help.”
“Pachinko” has been conceived as a four-season story, with Season 2 shooting early next year. Season 1 wasn’t able to shoot in Japan due to COVID issues, but Hugh hopes to get there for the next shoot.
“Japan is a crucial part of this production,” she says. “So we really would I’m very eager to get in there. And nervous, because we’re going in with the best intentions.”
But “Pachinko” has not yet resonated in Japan, likely due to the nature of the story shining a spotlight on the the country’s destructive occupation of Korea.
“Japan really was the great unknown,” she says. “Were they going to watch the show? Are they going to boycott the show? I think the reality was ended up being somewhere in the middle. Apple TV+ launched in Asia recently. And so I think Japan is definitely still catching up to the platform. But I have to believe, knowing the intentions that went behind what we did in Season one, and going forward, that a Japanese audience will find this show. And I have to believe that they will see that this show is not about casting heroes and villains. But at the same time, it’s not going to blink, it’s not going to turn away from what really happened. And I hope that the integrity of the storytelling is the thing that convinces people that we’re worth watching in Japan.”
The former child star, who is now 24 and garnering career-best notices for her work on a Hulu comedy series and limited series, reflects on growing up in the industry alongside Dakota, when she took ownership of her career and what led her to projects on the small screen.
Elle Fanning is a gifted actress who is already a widely respected veteran at the age of just 24. She is the younger of two sisters — Dakota is four years older — who both made tremendous impressions as child performers en route to impressive careers as young adults, with no major personal bumps along the way. Of her work on the big screen, she is perhaps best known for 2010’s Somewhere and 2017’s The Beguiled, both directed by Sofia Coppola. But she has also starred in films big and small under the direction of, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, J.J. Abrams, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, David Fincher, Cameron Crowe, Sally Potter, Jay Roach, Mike Mills, Nicolas Winding Refn, John Cameron Mitchell, Tony Scott, Terry George, Ben Affleck and Woody Allen.
This year, Fanning played substantial parts on and executive produced two TV programs, both for Hulu, and both of which could bring her Emmy nominations to go with four prior Critics Choice Award noms, two Golden Globe Award noms, one Spirit Award nom and one SAG Award nom. The first is The Great, a comedy series on which she portrays Catherine the Great, who arrived at the Russian court of Emperor Peter III with a twinkly eyed vision of life as his wife, mother of his heir and reformer of an empire, only to get a rude awakening. And the second is The Girl From Plainville, a limited series on which she portrays Michelle Carter, a high school student in Massachusetts who encouraged her own boyfriend to kill himself, and then, after he did so in 2014, wound up on trial for involuntary manslaughter.
During a recent episode of THR’s Awards Chatter podcast, Fanning reflected on all of the above and more. You can listen to the full conversation or read excerpts of it below.
Where you were born and raised, what did your folks do for living?
I was born in Decatur, Georgia. My mom played tennis in college. My dad was a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals. And my mom’s dad was a quarterback in the NFL for the Eagles. Everyone was very sports-affiliated.
When you were still a baby, your family left the South and moved to L.A. What brought that about?
Basically, my sister was put in a lot of activities. My mom wanted her to find her thing. She tried out soccer, she played the violin for a bit, and one of the activities was this play camp. My sister was five, and she has a photographic memory, so she could memorize all of the lines and was just kind of this wonder child. They told my mom that she might do good at commercials, or print, or get a movie, who knows, so you should go to New York or L.A. My aunt, my mom’s sister, already lived in L.A., so my mom was like, “We can go visit your aunt and see how this works.” So my mom and my sister went to L.A., my dad and I stayed in Georgia, and my sister ended up getting 10 commercials in a week. My mom called my dad and was like, “We’re not coming back to Georgia for a while.” And so I flew out to L.A. and we never went back.
How did you wind up alongside your sister in your first movie, I Am Sam, in 2001?
I would come to the set a lot because my mom had to take care of both of us, so Jessie Nelson, the director, knew me. I was 2, I think, and they needed a little girl for a flashback scene. They’re like, “Oh, let’s just use Elle! Is that OK?” And my mom was like, “Fine. She obviously looks like Dakota.” So they put me in a little costume and I had to swing on a swing with Sean Penn and sleep in the grass. That was my big debut.
You and Dakota both, of course, continued to appear in larger parts over the next few years. Let’s just pause for a moment to note: Neither of you ever took an acting lesson?
No, we didn’t do any formal training or anything like that, so basically our whole learning experience was working with big actors and directors, on the spot.
A young woman, Michelle Carter stands trial for her boyfriend’s suicide. Watch the premiere of The Girl from Plainville on March 29, 2022, only on Hulu.