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The common theme uniting Hulu day before the press corps Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour was the importance of telling personal stories.
Hulu’s day started with an impassioned speech from Joey King encouraging Gen Z to learn about the Holocaust via We Were the Lucky Ones, with Jon Bon Jovi getting personal about his career and return from vocal cord surgery in Thank You, Goodnight, through Onyx Collective’s How to Die Alone with Natasha Rothwell explaining the differences she feels between being lonely and being alone and the morning sessions concluding with Candice Carty-Williams explaining how she adapted her deeply personal book.
Here are the highlights:
We Were the Lucky Ones
Based on author and co-exec producer Georgia Hunter’s true story of her Jewish family from the book of the same name, the limited series stars Joey King and Logan Lerman in the true story of a family separated at the start of World War II that was determined to survive — and to reunite. King said depicting chapters in parts of history like the Holocaust is increasingly important. “My generation, Gen Z, doesn’t really know or care about the Holocaust,” she said to open the day. “It’s important to share with my generation — and generations to come — the sadness that has happened throughout history.” King and Lerman, who are both Jewish, noted the show — which launches March 28 — explores what happens when hate goes unchecked. “You can learn from the past and from this period of time,” said Lerman, who plays a version of author Hunter’s grandfather in Lucky Ones. King, though, said she would get emotional filming scenes and welcomed the sense of empathy that came with production. “It was helpful to feel that uncomfortability because this subject is very uncomfortable and it shouldn’t be comfortable to talk about it,” she noted. Showrunner Erica Lipez added that her work on Lucky Ones fundamentally altered who she is. “You might make something that has relevance, but you don’t want it to be timely in this way. It’s sad and devastating. Living alongside this family altered me fundamentally as a person,” she said.
Thank You, Goodnight
“This was not going to be a VH1 puff piece,” Jon Bon Jovi said of his upcoming four-part Hulu docuseries, debuting April 26 on Hulu. Exec produced by Gotham Chopra, the doc takes its name from the last phrase the rocker says after live performances and explores the “warts and all” of the band and its history. In one of the more brutally honest panels of press tours, Bon Jovi and team spoke about the doc that explores the band’s early days, break-ups and the rocker’s current return from vocal cord surgery. Tied to the band’s 40th anniversary, Bon Jovi said he wanted to make the doc to document not only his past but also his vision of the future. When work started on this a year ago, Bon Jovi said he wasn’t sure what his future was before finding a surgeon to repair his damaged vocal cords. “We faced something I didn’t expect with this vocal cord surgery. I’m doing well and sang for the first time in public [recently after nearly 20 months]. When we shot this, there was no definitive answer [about his future]. If I can’t go out and sing for two hours, four days a week, then it’s Thank You, Goodnight,” he told reporters. Chopra, who moves from the sports world to music with this, originally envisioned the six-hour doc as a retrospective complete with tons of archival footage and interviews with the group. “We were in year 39 and it wasn’t clear what was going to happen in year 40,” said the director, whom Bon Jovi said was his only choice to helm the doc. “There are moments of other guys’ truths that are in the film that I didn’t ask to be cut out,” Bon Jovi said, “because it’s not a puff piece and you have to accept that. … There were some punches in the nose that stung,” including from former band member Richie Sambora and the fact that the late Alec John Such wasn’t interviewed. “[Alec’s] passing was dramatic. It was the first time we faced mortality. One of us passed. It was one of the guys. These are all things that come with growing up in public. We dealt with our own issues internally.”
How to Die Alone
Insecure and The White Lotus favorite Rothwell created, writes and stars in the Onyx Collective-produced comedy (airing on Hulu in the fall) as she marks a turning point in her career as she moves from supporting to the lead character in her own story. “This was born out of vulnerability and wanting to explore the difference between loneliness and being alone,” she said of Alone. “I grew up on Disney princesses who had their problems solved when they met their significant other. Yet even in partnership you can still feel lonely. When I started working on this eight years ago, I wanted to write something that would put my loneliness on display and allow audiences to feel less alone.” Rothwell stars as Melissa, “a fat, Black, neurotic woman who has never been in love. After a comical brush with death, she refuses to settle for anything less than the life she wants, catapulting her on a journey to becoming ‘100 percent that bitch’ in real life by any means necessary,” Hulu says. Rothwell recruited Vera Santamaria (Hulu’s Pen15) to serve as co-showrunner on the series. “She was willing to be vulnerable … there were had questions asked about parts of your life you don’t want to display and she was willing to go there,” Santamaria said. Rothwell dubbed her time on HBO’s Insecure as “five years of graduate school” that she brought to Alone. “This is the most vulnerable piece of art I have ever created,” she admitted. “Being able to play someone who is the antagonist of the series and who is also our protagonist, I wanted audiences who are going through life, leveling up and changing, to see someone doing that too. It’s always a risk when you change, if others will allow that. If you stay who you were, it’s comfortable for them. If you reconcile who you are with who you want to be, that’s your own growth. This is the story of Mel bridging the gap of who she is and who she wants to be, and she’s hoping that her friends come along for the ride.” (Producers just finished editing; no footage has been released yet.)
Produced for Channel 4 in the U.K., Queenie (bowing June 7 with all eight episodes), the British drama co-produced by Onyx Collective, is based on the book by Candice Carty-Williams, who serves as creator and showrunner of the series. Carty-Williams said she turned to Succession creator Jesse Armstrong for advice in adapting her book after her agent set them up together. The author and showrunner quipped that she saw the irony of turning to a white man for help because there aren’t many Black female authors in the U.K. As for his advice, she said the Emmy winner told her to “make sure to write what you want to write.” The series follows Queenie, who seeks comfort in all the wrong places after a bad break-up, as she is forced to confront her past before she can rebuild. Dionne Brown stars as the title character, with Bellah playing her best friend Kyazike.