ORDINARY JOE Bosses on Crafting Three Very Different—Yet Connected—Worlds - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

ORDINARY JOE Bosses on Crafting Three Very Different—Yet Connected—Worlds

September 20, 2021 by  

ORDINARY JOE season 1 preview

ORDINARY JOE — Pictured: “Ordinary Joe” Key Art — (Photo by: NBC Entertainment)

NBC’s ORDINARY JOE is hoping viewers fall in love with Joe (James Wolk). And Joe (Wolk). And Joe (Wolk).

The new drama explores how making what seems like a simple decision could lead someone down a drastically altered life path. The consequences range from unexpected career choices (rock star, nurse, and police officer) to very different family dynamics (married with a kid, married and trying to start a family, and single).

Throughout it all, albeit occasionally in different roles, Joe has a few constants: his best friend, Eric Payne (Charlie Barnett); friend-turned-maybe-more Jenny Banks (Elizabeth Lail); and an intriguing stranger, Amy Kindelan (Natalie Martinez).

“From the writing standpoint, it’s hard, because we have to really make sure we’re telling the most efficient version of the story—but with the most character and emotion and humor and whatever else we could put in there,” co-creator Russel Friend explains. “So it sort of forces us to tell—even if it’s a complicated story—an efficient [tale]. [Find] the simplest way possible and distill it down. So that’s a big challenge: telling these complicated stories in a truncated way, but making sure it doesn’t feel truncated.”

Adds co-creator Garrett Lerner: “I bring a certain math nerdiness to the writer nerdiness, and so I’m just like, ‘We have 42 minutes—that’s 14 per story. So even though this story deserves 26 minutes, how do we tell it in 14 and compress?’”

For the writers, the discovery that they would be focusing on each Joe equally was something they only realized when they got into the thick of crafting the story.

“Several months ago, we would have said yes there will be ones that focused on one Joe,” Lerner acknowledges. “But as we proceeded down these paths, they all kept our interest pretty equally. And the concept of this show suggested that each of these stories are equally worthy to the others. So it’s been pretty evenly balanced all the way through the season.”

To that end, the writers are, in many ways, crafting three shows in one.

“We do go storyline by storyline [in breaking episodes],” Lerner says. “And we do it in three different colors, as the show visually does…We treat them as individual stories, and try to tell the best story, we can and then we look at the three and we go, ‘How can we put these together?’”

With credits on HOUSE, GLEE, HOME BEFORE DARK, and more under their belt, it’s proven to be a unique challenge for a duo. “That’s just, as a piece of storytelling, [something] we’ve never had to do before on another show—how does this come together and inform each other and contrast?’” Lerner says. “That’s kind of the most fun step, I’d say, in the process: finding those contrasting moments. Sometimes it’s just a line of dialogue. Sometimes one scene will end in a question that gets answered in a whole other world in the first line of the next scene. There’s a lot of fun in the transitioning.”

And with versions of Joe existing in the law enforcement and medical worlds, “I feel like our years on various shows have helped us a lot,” Friend admits. “Like, obviously, we were on HOUSE, which is a medical show. We’ve been on a few cop shows over the years. We have a medical tech and and a retired New York City police officer who are helping us out and read the scripts.”

“Our hope is that all the medical and police stuff is accurate, but we’re hoping that it doesn’t have to be too huge and overwhelm the plot of the show,” he continues. “[We want to] get enough of that stuff, but it’s really about how if Cop Joe is working on a case, how that is going to reflect on his character. Same with Nurse Joe: if he has a patient…similar to what we did in HOUSE, thematically, the medical story would reflect back on the characters.”

But for Music Joe, a new kind of assistance is needed.

“Sam Hollander and Josh Edmondson, our songwriters, are legitimate rock songwriters who’ve written for Train and Fall Out Boy and everyone you’ve ever heard of,” Lerner says. “And can tell us if we’re off in left field when we write that or give us great ideas. They actually walk in those worlds and help us get it right.”

Though the cast joked during their Television Critics Association panel about the possibility of a musical episode, it actually isn’t that out of the realm of possibility for the show. “All of the Joes went to Syracuse and majored in music, and…the mom is a music teacher, and so they’re all very musical,” Lerner teases. “So occasionally we’ll have, as we did in the pilot, Cop Joe singing in the bar, but he’ll be singing cover songs. And Nurse Joe sings at home with his wife and son. But then occasionally [we’ll hear] Music Joe and that’ll be an original. Maybe by the end of the season, we could almost make an album!”

ORDINARY JOE, Series Premiere, Monday, September 20, 10/9c, NBC


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