There’s something about Peter Farrelly. The filmmaker, mostly known for feature comedies, is trying out a few new things this year.
Those shifts including separate moves into both television – where Farrelly and his brother Bob have rarely played – and dramatic film. At AT&T’s Audience Network, Farrelly is behind the upcoming comedy “Loudermilk,” starring Ron Livingston as a cranky recovering alcoholic.
But Farrelly’s move into TV doesn’t mean he’s turning his back on the big screen. “I’m actually doing a film in the fall with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali,” Farrelly told an audience at the ATX Television Festival, where “Loudermilk” was screening. “Green Book,” with Oscar winner Ali and Mortensen in the lead roles, is currently being prepped.
“It’s based on a thing that used to be called the ‘Negro Motorist’s Green Book,’ published from 1936 to 1966,” he said. “It was a book for African Americans on the road – where they could stay, where they could eat, where they could get gas.
“It’s a true story in 1962, where this Black concert pianist named Don Shirley had a tour of the south and he was afraid, as he should have been. So he went down to the Copacabana and hired the toughest bouncer, played by Viggo Mortensen, to drive him. It’s these two guys on the road for three months touring the South and all the shit they run into. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, “Loudermilk” finally gave Farrelly a reason to come to television after purposely avoiding the medium for many years. Farrelly said he never entertained the notion of TV because until recently, he believed most of it was crap. “There would be one good show every 10 years,” he said.
But as mid-range films get squeezed out of the marketplace, add Farrelly to the list of filmmakers finally ready to admit that TV offers a lot more options. “We’re able to do something you can do in TV now that you couldn’t do 15 years ago, have a really full story and many twists and turns,” he said. “So I wanted to do something like that; when I read this character I went, that’s the character I want to do it with.”
Unlike some filmmakers who prefer to categorize their episodic TV work as “one long movie,” Farrelly is fine with “Loudermilk” being considered and consumed on an episode-by-episode basis.
“The way we wanted it to be was, if you never watch it and you turn on episode 6 you should be able to enjoy that,” he said. “It’s not a soap opera. On the other end if you watch the whole thing, there’s a whole different story that you’re going to get thats way better. But you can watch one episode at a time out of order and you’re going to enjoy it. Each episode has a beginning middle and end.”
Livingston’s Sam Loudermilk runs a support group but manages to anger just about everyone he meets. Will Sasso plays Ben, his best friend and AA sponsor. The show was created by writer Bobby Mort (“The Colbert Report”).
“This is a dark comedy but we wanted to be true to what addiction is,” Farrelly said. “What we didn’t want it to do was turn into ‘In Treatment,’ where it’s devastating every episode.”
As for his overall TV experience, Farrelly said “it’s been like a dream,” particularly working with AT&T Audience.
“The one reason I didn’t want to do TV is that there are so many voices, so many people, so many executives, you couldn’t do much,” he said. “These guys read the pilot and said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do 10 episodes.’ We didn’t have to go off and make a pilot, they gave us the green light to make 10 episodes and they left us alone.
“I remember the first time we got notes from them I was shocked – there were like 50 notes and I said, ‘OK, it starts here,’ but they were good notes. The the notes we disagreed with we just said we disagreed and never heard back again. It’s been a pleasure.”
“Loudermilk” premieres Oct. 17 on Audience Network, which is available via DirecTV or AT&T Uverse.