HBO’s “Big Love” was created during a moment of boredom during a cross country drive for the two EP’s and showrunners, Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer.
Olsen shared the genesis of the HBO series at the recent TCA’s last week.
“It was a car, a speeding car heading away from a disastrous family Christmas in Nebraska, back to New York City where things were safe and we liked out lives. On day two of the drive, just crossing out of West Virginia and Pennsylvania turnpike, Will and I were just pitching ideas around, and I literally said, ‘Hey, what about a story about Polygamy?’
Scheffer confirmed the premise epiphany that his partner Olsen piped up with. “I said ‘That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life. No one is going to watch that.”
The two hashed the viability of the show and pondered the best plan of attack to pitch HBO the idea.
Scheffer conceded that Olsen’s research and persistence paid off. “He’s a great researcher and started to feed me books about something I don’t think we really knew a lot about at that time, at all, and it was just intriguing because it was much more complicated than just sort of a knee-jerk response that most of us have to the kind of …ick factor that we talked about.”
Olsen defended his idea as being larger than the kernel of Polygamy at the center of the drama. “From the very get-go, from that very moment, crossing out of West Virginia into Pennsylvania, what Will didn’t appreciate was it’s not about polygamy, it’s not about the salacious aspect of it; it’s not about the notoriety of it or ripped from the headlines. Although, the ripped from the headlines does give us some story fire from time to time. But it’s always about family. It’s always about marriage.
The HBO series, which launches its third season tonight, has been a long time coming. Nearly 16 months have passed between the last season and the upcoming third year, which debuts Sunday at 10 on HBO.
The writers’ strike held up production and in Texas officials raided an FLDS polygamist compound, putting polygamy and its child bride victims back in the news.
The time period between the end of Season 2 and the new season was a mixed bag of blessings, according to Olsen and Scheffer.
The premise of “Big Love” is a hit or miss for many viewers, myself included. The story revolves around Bill Paxton (as Bill Henrickson) who has three wives and three sets of kids from each woman.
“Big Love” is awash in pious family values chatter coming from the mouths of essentially rotating “sister-wives” – and all are okay with their betrothed doing the business with another.
Bill Henrickson, Paxton’s character, was described by the actor at the TCA panel as “a guy who grew up on a fundamentalist compound. By age 14, he was thrown out and he was a lost boy. I don’t think my character know what he is even capable of.”
Paxton added: “After three seasons of acting in this series, to me it feels like the root system of this tree are still spreading out. I feel like there’s a lot of places we’ve got to go yet and there is a lot of back story to be explored, but I like they way they’re (Olsen and Scheffer) are doing it.”
Henrickson is portrayed as an earner, a home-repair store owner in Utah. His wives are all stunners: First wife (some think most loved) Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), damaged goods from a whacked-out polygamy family background; and childlike Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) who is the most needy of the three women.
The internal home drama is kept to a manageable level because Henrickson makes a lot of money and can house his harem separately and pay all the light bills. His biggest problem is spreading his emotional support and being present to three different women satisfactorily.
Polygamy is presented in a palatable way by the show’s creators, yet the illegal practice, despite the HBO high gloss makeover, is a big problem in American society thanks to the ultra orthodox Mormon underground from which it sprung.
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