It all started on the set of a show set in 1901, and it’s all ending at a time when the 1980s have never been more popular.
“I recall us standing on the set early in Season 1 of ‘The Knick,’ and one of these stories somehow came up again,” Steven Soderbergh said, referencing how his first assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, would share memories about growing up as a tennis pro in New Jersey. “I said, ‘Dude, this is a series. You’ve got to memorialize these stories. This just sounds like a really interesting world to explore during the period you experienced it.'”
And they were off. Jacobs talked to Joe Gangemi, and the two co-created “Red Oaks,” a show loosely based on their lives. Focusing on a tennis pro named David (played by Craig Roberts) who wants to become a professional filmmaker, “Red Oaks” is set to end with its third and final season, which debuts October 20 on Amazon.
But the idea came up long before hits like “Stranger Things” and “This Is Us” helped make the ’80s hip again — or, as Soderbergh remembers, help make the decade cool for the first time.
“This obviously preceded what’s turned out to be a nostalgia wave for the ’80s that we’re in the middle of,” Soderbergh said. “It’s really funny to me because I don’t remember this period as having a huge influence on me.”
Soderbergh, who insisted throughout the panel he wasn’t born until 1989 and thus missed out on the decade’s appeal, said he was very proud of the series and its ending.
“I was thrilled we were given the opportunity to land it,” Soderbergh said. “I’m really happy we got to bring it full circle.”
David Gordon Green, who directed multiple episodes (including the upcoming series finale), said the ’80s were important to him as a filmmaker.
“I grew up in Dallas, TX, and [the ’80s] was when my awakening to pop culture, film, television, and music was really huge and very vivid in my life,” Green said. “I was a little younger, but I really identified with [David]. When I read the pilot Greg and Joe wrote, I felt like this was written for me to make. There’s both this naïveté and passion from an aspiring filmmaker who lives outside the system but has this creative voice. […]”
“We called it ‘Caddyshack’ meets ‘The Graduate,'” Jacobs said.
Painfully for fans in attendance, the past tense was used throughout the night, as the cast and creators — including Roberts, Paul Reiser, Richard Kind, Ennis Esmer, Alexandra Socha, Alexandra Turshen, Amy Hecklerling, Gangemi, Jacobs, Green, and Soderbergh — wrapped the six-episode final season a while back.
Though tight-lipped on plot developments, the creators did say that David and Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) will be living together in New York City (a development partially motivated by the actors moving in together during Season 2) and most of Season 3 will take place in the Big Apple instead of a New Jersey country club.
“We really take Misty to a painful moment,” Gangemi said. “The bromance between David and Wheeler gets tested in a big way. We went for it.”
“The first season of the show, it was very obvious what our affect on David was,” Kind said, describing his character (David’s father) and Reiser’s mentor figure. “Then in the second and third season, [it was] ‘To hell with David, I’m trying to navigate through life.’ In the third season, we don’t see each other very much. We only have two or three scenes together.”
Gangemi said Jacobs had already pitched him the final scene: “We even had the last line to help us navigate things, and it ended up being the last line of the series,” he said.
Roberts jumped in and added, “In real-life, I was pursuing directing. […] When we filmed the final scene– Oh, I can’t say what it is, can I? Well, you should watch that. It’s good.”
Watch the panel in its entirety below. “Red Oaks” Season 3 premieres October 20 on Amazon Prime.