Heels Creator and Showrunner on Making a Wrestling Show Everyone Can Enjoy - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Heels Creator and Showrunner on Making a Wrestling Show Everyone Can Enjoy

From creator/executive producer Michael Waldron (Loki creator and head writer), the Starz drama series Heels follows brothers and small-town pro wrestling rivals Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) and Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig). In the ring, there are very clearly defined roles of the good guy, also known as the face, and the bad guy, or the heel, but as the two battle over their late father’s legacy, they realize that the lines are far more blurry in their own lives.

During this virtual interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Waldron and Mike O’Malley (who is the showrunner and an executive producer on the series, along with playing Charlie Gully, the owner and impresario of Florida Wrestling Dystopia) talked about making a wrestling show that everyone can enjoy and connect to, learning from each other while making this show together, the challenge of finding time to explore so many interesting characters, and how far ahead they’ve thought about the story they’re telling.

Collider: First of all, thank you for making a show about wrestling that even I, as someone who only knows the absolute bare minimum, can enjoy.

MIKE O’MALLEY: I love that! That’s the best news that we can hear.

I feel like genre doesn’t matter, if you tell a great story with great characters and a full world, so thank you.

O’MALLEY: You getting the word out about that, so people aren’t just terrified and think, “This show isn’t for me,” is the most important thing.

RELATED: Stephen Amell & Alexander Ludwig on 'Heels' and Making a Love Letter to Professional Wrestling

Michael, you currently seem like the guy with the golden touch. You’ve gone from assistant on Community to the head writer on Loki, a writer on the Doctor Strange sequel, you’re doing a Star Wars project, and you’ve created this show. What most blows your mind, from where you started out to now?

WALDRON: Well, yeah, I’m very, very fortunate. I’m having to do all of my interviews over Zoom, so it doesn’t feel real. I still feel like I’m just in college. You hit it big during COVID and that’s how it’s gonna be. No. What blows my mind is the people I get to collaborate with. That might sound like hot air bullshit, but it’s true. That’s the dream come true for me. I’m still relatively young and new in my career, and I’m getting to work with people with so much experience, and so everything for me, I’m still learning, whether that’s working with Sam Raimi on Doctor Strange, or Mike’s a great example of that on Heels. He came on as the showrunner on Heels, when we brought it back to life while I was mid-way through the whole Loki process, and I learned a lot from him. It was great to suddenly have a new friend who’d been a showrunner before and who had his own wealth of experience. That helped me. I just feel fortunate with the folks that I get to collaborate with because it makes me look better and it actually makes me better.

Mike, you you’ve been amassing producing and writing credits, but you’re primarily known to audiences as an actor and you’re still acting in this show. What made you want to run the show and what are you enjoying about being a showrunner that you don’t get from acting?

O’MALLEY: As you can see from Michael’s answer, he’s a very generous guy who’s had just a meteoric and deserving rise to success because he works really, really hard. There’s a lot of Jack Spade in Michael Waldron, but none of the bad qualities. He works really, really hard and he really, really cares. Yes, I have been doing this for a long time and I’m like everyone else, when one job ends, I don’t know what the next job is. I started out writing plays. I wanted something to do with the creative energy that I had, and the idea that when you’re an actor, all you have is your face, and have your ability, but it’s not necessarily enough to carry your artistic pursuits, so what am I gonna do with my time? I love this business and I love storytelling, so when my kids were younger, I started to take on and try to do more producing and writing, on Shameless and with creating a show for Starz (Survivor’s Remorse). And so, when this opportunity came up, I was just amazed at the writing of the world that Michael had done.

Every day that you’re an actor, you’re waiting for your agent to call and say, “I read this script. It’s gonna be great.” And then, you read it and you wanna be a part of it. It’s no different when you’re a writer or a showrunner. One of the reasons I got involved in this is because I knew that we had a really well-rounded world that was already created, and I had enough confidence in my ability to produce it, if we found the right cast, and we had great directors, with Pete Segal and Jessica Lowrey. The hardest thing is the script. If you have that, and you have the support of a network and studio and great actors, then now it’s fun. Now, it’s a charge to make it. And then, once I was the showrunner, I knew that I could cast myself.

How far ahead are you guys thinking? Have you developed a second season? Are there things that you’re learning from doing a first season that could help make a second season easier?

O’MALLEY: I just wanna say that Michael has already figured out five years. What scares me is that then we have to actually start typing those up. But he knows.

WALDRON: This show has lived in my head since 2013, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about where it might go with what we’ve teed up in this first season. We’ve launched what I think is an exciting adventure, in its own way. That’s the great thing about doing a show set in the world of wrestling. It’s a far-reaching world populated with a lot of different, crazy characters and with a batshit crazy history and mythology to keep pulling from. So, we’re never gonna be wanting for source material, so to speak. It’s a rich world. There’s a little more meat on the bone.

O’MALLEY: One of the things we set up is, as a little bit of success comes their way, how do people operate when they feel like that success is coming? That’s what we’re set up for, in the second season. There are people who are emotionally intertwined with one another and don’t like how they’re being treated, and maybe you have or all of us have worked at jobs where, even though they might’ve been compensating us with money and benefits, it wasn’t the right thing because emotionally it wasn’t the right thing. I think that’s where we can continue to go at, with the wrestling world.

I do think that these guys and the story that we’re telling about the men and women of this place, are just like the band where, if their song is heard on the radio, it will take off. Michael and I are perfect examples of two guys – he growing up in Georgia and I grew up in New Hampshire – who wanted to be in this business. People were like, “What?!” And then, you go do it and you keep grinding and suddenly you get an opportunity to tell stories that the whole world gets to see. That’s these guys and what these men and women at the DWL are capable of, if they just get the exposure.

How challenging is it to have so many great supporting characters and not enough time to delve into all of them, as deep as I would imagine you want to? Are you already coming up with spinoff ideas?

O’MALLEY: That is a fantastic question. I’ll answer it from an actor’s perspective and as a writer, and Michael can say as a showrunner because he’s had a lot of experience doing that on Loki and with this show. This happens in the story of Heels. It’s exactly what happens in every TV show. Rooster is saying, “I just wanna push. I just wanna get a chance for the title fight.” Some actors, when they open a script, are like, “Hey, man, I get the next four weeks off. Great. They’ve still gotta pay me the same amount of money.” But that’s not most actors. They wanna be front and center. They wanna have emotional material. Yes, they’re getting paid, but what they wanna do is they wanna be seen, they wanna be recognized, they wanna work, so they want more. It’s a very perceptive question. I was just working on the series Snowpiercer, where there’s 25 speaking characters in a 40-minute show. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. That’s literally mouths to feed with lines and you have to be thinking about that, all the time. Michael did a very good job this year, in giving everyone material. Next year, knock on wood, if we come back, that is foremost in our minds. How do you give enough material to everyone?

Especially with the women. I love the women on this show and I want to see so much more of them.

O’MALLEY: Not to tip anything, but it’s not going where you think. There’s so much talking and doing that I think you’re gonna be surprised, given what the idea of this show is. That’s the situation that Michael has set up in this show that I think is surprising and great . . . Mary McCormack, Alison Luff, Alice Barrett and Kelli Berglund have, when I say monologues, I mean pages of talking. They get a lot more to do. That’s what I think is surprising and interesting about how Michael set up this world and how we deliver it.

Heels airs on Sunday nights on Starz.



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