Interview: ‘Weeds’ Supervising Producer & Writer Stephen Falk

Posted on June 27, 2011

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Showtime’s Weeds is always finding new ways to reinvent itself and tonight’s season seven premiere is no exception.  Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) turned herself in to the authorities during last season’s finale and tonight’s premiere episode, titled “Bags,” reveals that she has spent time in prison as a consequence to her drug dealing actions.

Stephen Falk (photo credit: Stephen Falk)

Tonight, the series picks up three years from where last season ended, with Nancy being released from prison and her family making their way back home to the United States. Supervising producer and writer Stephen Falk gives ShaneSSaunders.com an exclusive look at the season ahead.

SaundersWeeds usually starts its season premieres almost instantaneously from where the previous finale wrapped up, yet season seven picks up three years after season six’s finale. What was the genesis of coming up with this rather big time-jump?

Stephen Falk: I think we always like to try new things, and yes, most of our seasons have ended with big cliff-hangers — Nancy with multiple guns pointed at her, Nancy burning down Agrestic, Nancy telling Esteban she’s pregnant to save her life, Shane killing Pilar — so we thought we’d mix it up. Also, we didn’t want to tell a season of jail stories, nor did we want to make the whole “turned herself in” thing just go away, because that would be cheap storytelling. So a time jump seemed to make the most sense. It allowed us to find Nancy and the boys deep into their new lives, which is fun. Also, having a baby on a show is a pain in the ass production-wise so a bonus was that Stevie could grow up a few years.

SaundersIn last season’s finale Nancy turned herself into law enforcement ensuring the safety of her family. Did the writers know from the start last season it would be the year Nancy finally gets caught?

Falk: I think you could look at it like she got caught, but really it was a chess move on her part. She saw the possibility of her sacrificing herself to save Shane (Alexander Gould) as a potential last resort move and pulled the trigger once her past (Esteban and Guillermo) caught up with her. We tend to find the end of the season first when we come back to work on a new season, and then work backwards. So it was a logical, and, we thought, exciting end-point for the season and planned the season to be all marching slowly, inevitably, but hopefully not obviously, towards that final act of sacrifice and really self-preservation.

Saunders: This season has some really fantastic casting; Martin Short, Aidan Quinn, and Jennifer Jason Leigh returning as Nancy’s sister. Without giving too much away, how does Leigh’s Jill come into the picture this season? Last we saw of her she didn’t seem to be doing too well.

Falk: I think it’s safe to say that Jill and Nancy as sisters have a very complicated past and there is lots of unfinished business between them. Jill features prominently through this whole season as having been called on to do Nancy a giant favor… the end result of that favor being perhaps not exactly what Nancy wanted from her sister. As to the last time we saw her, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal of Jill Price-Grey is pretty fantastic and when we are blessed enough to have her around, we tend to write towards her endless gifts as an actress. Anyone who is related to Nancy has to be a little eccentric, so we like showing those weirder sides of Jill when we can. Jill is probably secretly a pretty twisted puppy.

Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds (photo: Showtime)

Saunders: The family business of selling pot seems to have been put a bit into the background for the past two seasons, and this season the show finally puts that premise of the show back into the foreground. Is selling marijuana the only way Nancy believes she can make a substantial income for her family?

Falk: Nancy is a danger junkie, knows the drug world, and cannot function in a regular work environment due to multiple personality quirks, so I think drug-dealing is just about all she’s truly happy doing, whether she’s good at it necessarily, or ultimately not so much.

SaundersKevin Nealon is back, as are Justin Kirk, Alexander Gould, and Hunter Parrish. Was it difficult to include Doug this season where it feels organic? I remember last season when I heard the news Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) would not be returning due to the fact that it wouldn’t seem logical enough to bring her along on the road trip that occurred over much of last season…

Falk: Kevin Nealon is a genius and is the heart of the stoner side of our show. He’s also — after having lost Dana and his kids, as well as his job and city-counsel-ship — literally nothing if not, at this point, an honorary member of the Botwins. Hopefully in the last few years we’ve melded Doug enough to the family that those questions of “Why is Doug here?” are mostly forgotten. Doug is a Botwin now, for all intents and purposes.

Saunders: Some say this is possibly Weeds‘ last season. Have the writers constructed a season finale that could pull-off as a series finale?

Falk: We’ve basically constructed two endings, one that could serve as a season ender, and one as a series ender. Our creator and boss, executive producer Jenji Kohan, doesn’t have a deal in place for an eighth season yet, nor do we have an order from Showtime for an eighth season, so until those things both happen, we can’t count on being back. Though I think I can speak for the whole staff that I hope we do come back. This is the best job in town and we love our characters and still think there is lots of good storytelling to be done with them.

Saunders: You’ve been working on a pilot throughout the Weeds hiatuses. How is that coming along?

Falk: Yeah, Jenji and I wrote a musicial half-hour pilot called Timing, which we sold to Showtime. It came out really well and we love it. We had a regime change at Showtime during that period, so we just have to hope that current Showtime-head David Nevins loves it as much as we do and puts it on the air.

Weeds premieres tonight on Showtime at 10p.m. You can follow Stephen Falk on Twitter: @stephenfalk. Also, be sure to check back tonight for my reviews of both the Weeds and The Big C premieres.

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Posted in: journalism