With the sad news that season four of Mr. Robot will be its last, there’s a little happy news for Sam Esmail fans. He’s directed the new Amazon series Homecoming, and he got Julia Roberts to star in it.
Based on the podcast, creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg adapted Homecoming. Roberts plays a counselor for returning military vets, and her central relationship is with Walter Cruz (Stephan James). Shea Whigham, Dermot Mulroney, and Bobby Cannavale also star.
Homecoming season one premieres Friday, November 2, 2018 on Amazon, and here’s an excerpt from Roberts and Esmail’s interview with the Television Critics Association in support of the show.
How is Sam different from any other director you’ve worked with?
Julia Roberts: “You know, I’m fortunate that I’ve worked with a few directors that are full on genius-minded as Sam is. But I don’t think anybody can top his just daily enthusiasm. He’s just excited every day, just ready to go and smiling and ‘Good morning!’ He just loves it so much and that is really contagious. Even though we say we work four-hour days, there were some long days, long scenes. We had a lot of complicated things to do, Stephan and I together. Always happy though.”
How was Homecoming different or maybe even better than working in film?
Julia Roberts: “Well, this wasn’t that different than film just by virtue of the way that we shot it and having Sam helm all the episodes. So, we were all together in the way that you would be on a movie and we filmed, I don’t know the nomenclature for it, but we — what did we do?”
Sam Esmail: “Block shooting.”
Julia Roberts: “Yeah, that’s what we did.”
Sam Esmail: “But that is not to say this is a five-hour movie so don’t [write that]. There are episodes we embrace [the episodic format], there are chapters.”
Julia Roberts: “Yes, there are chapters. We have credits at the beginning and then credits at the end, over and over and over.”
Sam Esmail: “But production-wise it was like shooting a feature.”
Any chance you’d work with your husband on another project?
Julia Roberts: “We love working together. We’ve collaborated seven times. Nothing really but I love it personally. I don’t know how it is for him. You’d have to ask him, but I love it.”
How many takes did you do of the extended long single take?
Sam Esmail: “It was seven or eight. It wasn’t that many. It was like seven or eight.”
Julia Roberts: “Yeah. I mean it was weird. It was like the harder the task, the faster we accomplished things.”
Sam Esmail: “Yes.”
Julia Roberts: “It was very strange. And we were also very strangely happy all the time.”
Sam Esmail: “Yeah. We planned that out for one day and we got home by lunch.”
Julia Roberts: “Yeah. Well, the first week, we were going home 11:30 or something and then everybody was like, ‘Okay, we need to redo the schedule here.'”
Sam Esmail: “By breakfast, by brunch.”
Julia Roberts: “We can’t be four-hour days every day.”
So, what were some of the challenges that necessitated seven or eight takes?
Julia Roberts: “Likely me tripping at some point or another in my heels. I always had a lot of props. You could take my entire career and put it all together and I didn’t touch as many props as I did in this program on a daily basis.”
Sam Esmail: “I think it’s me. I think I like props, for some reason.”
Julia Roberts: “You like me with a lot of props, that’s for sure.”
Sam Esmail: “Yeah, I did give you a lot.”
You and Dermot have worked together twice before. What is it like the third time on Homecoming?
Julia Roberts: “This is our third time working together.”
Sam Esmail: “But this is the reunion, like because the second time you guys weren’t boyfriend-girlfriend.”
Julia Roberts: “Well, we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend the first time. We were best friends.”
Sam Esmail: “But there were love vibes.”
Julia Roberts: “And then he was my sister’s boyfriend in August Osage County.”
Sam Esmail: “Fiancé.”
Julia Roberts: “Fiancé, excuse me. And finally, my boyfriend. It only took 30 years.”
Sam Esmail: “I got you both together finally.”
Julia Roberts: “Yes, Sam takes all the credit. He was like, ‘Oh, I have a good idea about a pair. How about Julia and Dermot? I bet that would be a good match.'”
What’s your favorite memory of working with Dermot?
Julia Roberts: “My Best Friend’s Wedding was super fun and that’s really where we became best pals, so that has a place in my heart for sure.”
What does a season two for the show look like? Is it an anthology? Is Julia coming back for a second season or as a whole new part?
Julia Roberts: “I think we’re going to peel one onion at a time.”
Sam Esmail: “Yeah, yeah. I think we’re not going to talk about season two.”
You don’t want to think about a second season, in success?
Julia Roberts: “Well, because I feel like we just showed up at the party and you guys are saying, ‘So when you leave…?’ So, I just want everybody to anticipate this and not be looking down the road to something.”