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Gregg Araki on How David Lynch Inspired His Sexy Starz Show ‘Now Apocalypse’

The acclaimed indie director told IndieWire how his experience as a TV director on "Riverdale" and "13 Reasons Why" prepared him for making his own show.

Now Apocalypse

“Now Apocalypse”

Katrina Marcinowski

The way in which TV and film have blended together in recent years means that director Gregg Araki, whose career beginnings predate this site, but only just barely, has remained a fixture of fascination for us. Araki admitted to IndieWire he’s “been making movies for decades. I’m an old veteran in the indie world,” he was excited to bring his point-of-view to television for the Starz series “Now Apocalypse,” a lush, sexy, and at times unsettling look at life in Los Angeles for the beautiful and ambitious.

While “Now Apocalypse” is all about those hoping to make it in the entertainment industry, Araki’s initial inspiration came from a very different place: David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” “To do a show that’s so ground-breaking and artistic and unusual and just its totally own thing — I remember watching ‘Twin Peaks’ on TV when it was on and just being like ‘You can do this on TV?’ Because you couldn’t before that.”

“Ever since, I’ve wanted a TV show,” he continued. To prepare, he put in some hours. Specifically, he directed 11 episodes of other peoples’ shows, from a wide range of genres, including “American Crime,” “Red Oaks,” “Riverdale,” and “13 Reasons Why.”

And what he learned was, “I don’t know if I can run a show unless it was something that I absolutely loved and was my all-time favorite show. If somebody just said, ‘Can you run this show?’ I’d be like, ah, I’m not ready. It’s just too much work.”

But then, he started thinking about his life in Los Angeles, and the young people who also reside in the city. “There’s a lot of stories you get living in L.A. and so it just kind of came from that. Seeing showrunners and the insane amount of work it is — they never sleep. This show, if I didn’t love it so much, I don’t think I could’ve done it. Because it almost killed me, like literally a solid year and there was no end in sight.”

He had also recently met writer Karley Sciortino and star Avan Jogia, and “it sort of opened up this whole world of what the show was gonna be. I literally called Karley and said, ‘I’m working on this little spec script; do you want to do it with me?’ She’s all, ‘Sure, yeah whatever.’ So we just wrote it and really had no idea what was gonna happen to it. I showed it to Greg Jacobs, who had worked on ‘Red Oaks,’ and he just flipped over it and showed it to [Steven] Soderbergh.”

Very quickly after that, the show came together, with Araki leaning both into what he’d learned about television, as well as his pre-defined aesthetic, as enabled by his team. “Almost everyone on my crew — the DP, the production designer, costume designer — they’ve worked on movies of mine, so it’s kind of my dream team,” he said. “Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is in these 10 hours. I’ve just pulled everything into it. So I told my DP, crank it up to 11 — if it’s too much, we’ll knock it down. I just wanted everything to sort of push the envelope.”

This means an emphasis on sexuality which isn’t out of line with Starz’s general practices, or Araki’s own house style. “My films have always been very interested in sex and sexuality. … In those moments of intimacy, you get to know a character and secrets about a character, and you get a view of somebody that nobody else knows,” he said. “Everybody has their public face that they put on. People who’ve had sex with you know you in a completely different way, and as a director, that’s what influenced me.”

While it hasn’t yet been greenlit, Araki is developing a second season of “Now Apocalypse.” “The thing about the show is…the possibilities are infinite. I want to create a universe of the show where it wasn’t limited, where almost anything could happen. We specifically designed this show so this universe has this other element to it, this sort of surreal Lynch-ian kind of crazy shit,” he said. “The story it can tell is just, as we’re getting into Season 2, it can kind of grow in a lot of places that make it creatively super exciting. I get almost unlimited possibilities.”

“Now Apocalypse” airs Sundays on Starz.

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