David Weil on ‘Solos’: A story about yearning for human connection

Morgan Freeman and Dan Stevens in Solos   | Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris

The futuristic anthology, Solos, features seven actors telling their stories. Speaking from Los Angeles, creator, David Weil says, “I have always wanted to create a series that transported me to the time when I first fell in love with stories and storytellers. The finest storytellers that I know were members of my family. My grandmother would tell me stories around her kitchen table over a bowl of chicken soup. My older brothers told me terrifying ghost stories when we went hiking and camping up in the mountains as young children.”

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Weil, who also created the alternate history show, Hunters, wanted to transport an audience to that feeling. “I was fascinated with the idea of an actor in a room telling a singular story, and the possibilities that that one story can hold for an audience. I wrote this piece last May when we were at the height of the pandemic in the United States. It is a story about yearning for human connection.”

Longing and loneliness

Anne Hathaway as Leah in Solos

Anne Hathaway as Leah in Solos   | Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris

Not having seen his family in 10 months, Weil longed to be back with them. “I saw elements of my mother in Peg (Helen Mirrren), and my father and brother in Tom (Anthony Mackie), which was a love letter to connection and an affirmation of humanity.

Solos, Weil says is about solitude. “It is also about the antidote. We can counteract isolation and loneliness through love and human connection. Each of these characters are alone in different ways and within these stories, each of them seeks a connection. Whether that means understanding, a hug like in the Morgan Freeman-Dan Stevens episode, justice for a wrong, or whether it is truth for Sasha, who is trying to understand if the smart home, played by Jack Quaid, is out to get her or help her.”

There is always hope

Weil hopes the series speaks to the isolation and loneliness encountered in the past year and a half. “I hope the audience feels it is okay to feel that way. The characters go through similar trials and tribulations. In seeing a character journey through those feelings, and try to come out the other side, not only justifies the feelings people have, but also shows that there is hope, light at the end of the tunnel.”

Solitude, at times, feels like a choice, Weil says, while loneliness is a yearning. The audience should feel as if the actor were speaking directly to them, Weil comments. “They should feel that they are in a room with Helen Mirren, or Anthony Mackie hearing their story. I love creating that relationship between audience and performer.” Not wishing to play favourites, Weil says, “Tom is the first piece I wrote, and that will always have a special place for me.”

Best serves the tale

Antony Mackie as Tom in Solos

Antony Mackie as Tom in Solos   | Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris

Talking of the half hour length of each episode, Weil says, “A monologue is such a unique form of storytelling. I always think, what is the length that best serves my stories, whether it is a film, a series or a limited series? I start writing, and I see where it takes me. For Solos, they ended around 30 to 40 pages, so it became half-hour episodes.”

The ensemble cast which includes Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were excited about the challenge of the camera on them for 30 minutes, according to Weil. “Anthony Mackie trained at The Juilliard School in New York. He was so excited about this. He saw his role—playing Tom and a robot Tom, without VFX or action sequences as a challenge.”

Singular take

Helen Mirren as Peg in Solos

Helen Mirren as Peg in Solos   | Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris

The title, Weil says refers to each of the episodes that are solos in an opera or theatre. “It is one performer, performing a singular piece. There is another meaning too, which is why there is an ‘S’ at the end of the title. These characters are alone, but they are also together in shared solitude. They are connected and the Morgan Freeman-Dan Stevens episode speaks to that loose connection.”

Directing was wonderful and a gigantic challenge, Weil says. “Since each episode was focussed on one actor, without cutting away to different scenes, we needed to create dynamism within each of these performances so that an audience is enthralled. For the Sasha episode, I was quite dynamic with the camera. We had lots of different compositions, angles, lenses and styles. For Peg, that Sam Taylor-Johnson directed, the camera was delicate. It was almost a ballet between Helen Mirren and the camera. Each piece demanded a different visual language and style, and the directing process was exhausting and thrilling.”

Time after time

Weil says there was a clear timeline to the month, for each episode. “The reason I didn't want to assign a year, to each episode is because these are futuristic tales. I want the audience to feel a connection to them. I want it to be timeless; as if this can happen at any point in the future, whether it is five minutes in the future or 50 years.”

For all its meditation on the human condition, Solos has an underlying thread of humour. “Humour is a necessary antidote. There is a great deal of horror and humour in our lives, as well as hopes, dreams, fears, ills and sadness. I wanted each piece to feel effortlessly human and incredibly real. Humour often is a great relief. It is the yin to the yang of introspection.”

Shooting in the pandemic

David Weil

David Weil  

It was incredibly difficult to shoot during the pandemic, Weil admits. “Part of the design of this series, was that we could do so safely with one actor in one location. Not only was this series informed by the feelings, emotions and fears that so many of us had at the time and continue to, I also designed the production to accommodate these actors and the crew, so that we could be safe on set.

The second season of Hunters is going into production soon. “I am finishing the final script. It has been exciting to go from a series with one actor in each episode to a series with dozens of actors and huge set pieces.”

It was easy to make the switch, Weil says. “It is like flexing different creative muscles. Solos allowed me to distil a story down to its bare essence. Both Hunters and Solos are unique, bold forms of storytelling. They may not be for everybody but I think the people who see the innovation and the emotion behind each of them will respond to them.”

Solos is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 11:09:19 PM |

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