Creator-Executive Producer Farhad Safinia of "Boss." (Frederick M. Brown, Getty…)
Screenwriter and producer Farhad Safinia is best known for his collaboration with Mel Gibson in writing "Apocalypto." However, Safinia rerouted from film to TV when he created "Boss," which begins its second season on Starz on Friday. Starring Kelsey Grammer as Mayor Tom Kane, the drama series peers into the scandalous world of Chicago politics and tests how far Mayor Kane will go to conceal the effects of his degenerative neurological disorder.
Was it always your ambition to write movies or was TV on your radar as well?
As a kid, you don't think that there is a large difference between TV and film. When I got older, I left film school and came to Los Angeles with the aim of trying to find some work. I ended up working on "Apocalypto," a film, which would have been practically impossible to make into a TV show. There was just too much attention to detail.... I don't think that "Boss" could have been told in film format. "Boss" needs the episodic element that television possesses. The difference between TV and film goes back to the type of story that you want to tell.'
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"Boss" is your first time as a show runner. What elements of the job did you find the hardest?
Before I started working on the show, I spoke to another TV show runner who runs a very popular and successful television show. He said to me, "You are going to have the most difficult year of your life." He was absolutely right — this job is literally the most demanding job in Hollywood. Writing, comparing, producing and editing — this combination of things is extraordinarily demanding. Not to mention, you have to build things from scratch as well as determine whether certain characters and ideas will be recurring or not.
Was there anything that you learned in Season 1 that caused you to make changes in Season 2?
I am hugely proud of Season 1, but Season 2 has to be different. Unlike great shows like "Sopranos" or"The Wire,"where we are given a glimpse into a world that goes on forever, every season of "Boss" has to be different because the main character is different — he is getting sicker and sicker. This is the whole point of the show; it is incapable of containing the same world and each season has to reflect that.
Do you feel pressure to escalate sex and violence on "Boss" because of the graphic levels reached on other quality cable shows?
Yes, there is an enormous pressure to be the most graphic in order to get attention. However, in terms of our show, it goes back to the original premise and influences: Plays like "Hamlet" are tragedies. If you read these kinds of plays you will be surprised and shocked at just how violent they are. Hamlet kills the father of his girlfriend, people are poisoned, there are eye-gougings — it goes on and on. These plays are sexy and violent, and real. That is what we are going for. If you really look at the world around us, politics constantly has a stream of sex scandals and violence. It would be naive to think these behaviors do not occur in our time, and our show very much reflects this real world of politics.