It’s official: Amazon has ordered an entire season of I Love Dick, the Jill Soloway produced and directed dramedy that delves into marriage, love, obsession, and celebrity via a female point of view. Transparent co-star Kathryn Hahn is Chris, whose POV (and marriage) is rocked by the titular intellectual (played by Kevin Bacon), whom she and her husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) meet when they temporarily move to Marfa, Texas.
Bacon, who will also star in and executive-produce an upcoming TV series reboot of Tremors, recently talked to Yahoo TV about why he signed on for the pilot (based on the cult classic book of the same title), the things he hopes to explore as he takes his character into the series, how he can identify with Dick’s mixed feelings about the idea of being a celebrity, and why he’s excited about working with a new director — his wife, Kyra Sedgwick — on his next project.
Yahoo TV: What drew you to this project for your return to TV?
Kevin Bacon: I loved the script and am crazy about Transparent and [I Love Dick and Transparent creator] Jill [Soloway]. We’d never worked together, but I just really loved her work and had read stuff about her and seen her speak about her processes. We had a Skype session, and I felt like we connected, and [co-star Kathryn] Hahn is just on fire. It was a no-brainer, I thought.
The pilot, at least, is quite different from Chris Kraus’s book. Were you a fan of the book?
I read the book after I signed on, by way of research. There’s very little actually about Dick in the book, and because, as you said, the pilot is so different, I felt like this is a bit of an open book in terms of the creation of who he is. I think that Jill had discovered Marfa, Texas, and [artist] Donald Judd, so I started thinking about him and went to Marfa. I started to construct some kind of a backstory, and we shared backstories. We started to hone in on a guy.
How much of a hand have you had in creating the character?
Jill created him, but she is also a very, very collaborative person, very open to ideas. It was amazing. Myself, and Sarah Gubbins, the head writer, and Jill had a backstory meeting. I don’t really know where the show is going to go. I know she has really strong ideas, but I think she plays it pretty close to the vest in terms of where the show is going to go. I think because she wants to put this writers’ room together of these incredibly brilliant women and give them an opportunity to really go wherever they want.
When you think about the show, it really has a million possibilities in terms of where it’s going to go. There’s not one plot. I know this for a fact because it’s a hard show to pitch. When I was doing it, I was like, “Well, I don’t know how to describe it.” Even to this day, it’s not something you can really sum up in one line very well. I said to Jill, “I don’t need to know where the character is going, but I do need to know where he’s been, so let’s talk about that,” and we did. I did some writing on it, and they did some writing on it. It’s amazing how it, in a lot of ways, lined up. Then spending the time in Marfa, making Marfa a real important piece of the story … it just fell into place.
I’ll give you an example. I have to be careful what I say, because I mentioned just in passing that one of the few special skills I have is being able to ride a horse, and it’s something that I never get to do onscreen. The next draft of the script I was writing, that horse is in there.
That was something you had put on your résumé?
Right, exactly. I was joking that my résumé, if I had a résumé, would not have a lot of special skills on it. I can’t speak French, and I can’t tap dance, whatever.
That sounds like an opportunity for you. If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to try, mention it and you may end up doing it onscreen.
[Laughing] Yeah, I may, and I love that. They’re open to that.
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Given that, as you said, you don’t know a lot about the direction a series would take, do you feel like you already have enough of a grasp on him that you could start immediately?
Absolutely. I know him really well. I could shoot a scene tomorrow. You know what part of that is? Part of that is that I don’t go into a pilot and say, “Well, you know, it’s just a pilot. I don’t really need to do the heavy lifting. I don’t need to do the big work.” I have to know exactly everything that I can possibly know about him. What is exciting is that in the course of a series, hopefully you get to see him in different situations and new situations. You get to explore different sides of things, and the onion skin is peeled back, but, yes, I’m ready.
The title of the show … obviously people are having fun with it. I think it’s appropriate for the more subtly playful nature of the pilot, but it is also bringing out a 12-year-old’s sense of humor in otherwise mature people. Are you finding that to be true?
I stood up early on — I think we were at a production meeting or something in Marfa — and I said, “You know, the show’s called I Love Dick. I think that everyone should make as many jokes about that title as they possibly can. Nothing is off limits as far as I’m concerned.”
It’s also, maybe, appropriate on another level because there are obviously many connotations to that word and the idea of it. In the dinner scene in the pilot, Dick is certainly very blunt, very harsh with his opinions to Hahn’s character. Do you think he’s just being honest, or is he being purposefully provocative with her, to encourage her, to push her, to push her buttons? What is his motivation there?
I think there’s a lot of stuff going on. I think he believes what he’s saying, and I think that if we just put the word dick aside … I wouldn’t be interested in just playing an a**hole for a few years. It’s just boring. You know what I mean? It’s not that interesting to me. If that’s who you saw in the pilot, and that’s all there was, you’d go, “Well, that’s that. He’s just going to be an a**hole, and then we’ll see what Chris goes through.” I don’t think Jill feels that way about him, and I certainly don’t feel that way about him. I think that he is a man that certainly has strong opinions. I do think he believes what he’s saying, but I also think that a lot of what is fueled by that, in that dinner scene, although I seem to be dismissive of her, I believe there’s a lot of sexual tension that’s going on, that already exists. To me, there’s as much electricity that is flowing around in a different way as there is in a fantasy. It’s just flowing in a different way. I think sometimes guys, maybe girls too, do that. They push people’s buttons when they dig them. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you yank on the pigtails of the girl in front of you in first grade. You don’t yank on her pigtails if you don’t like her.
How much does filming in Marfa add to the vibe of the drama? It looks like a unique place, a place that lends itself to telling unique stories.
Absolutely. Somebody said to me — let’s see if I can remember this quote — “People go there either to pull themselves together or to fall part.” It is a beautiful place. It’s breathtaking. We shot that scene up at the ranch, and it all had to happen at the crack of dawn. We had one of the most spectacular mornings of work and emotion and feeling, being in that spot. I can’t really explain it. I wish we would shoot the whole thing there. I’m not sure we can, but we did the whole pilot there.
That ranch looked amazing, like a place where you’d want to go with a couple of suitcases full of books and not leave for a long time.
Yeah. I was only able to spend one night there, but it was exactly that. There was a broken-down guitar, and I sat on the porch and played. It was something else.
Dick uses the phrase “post-idea.” What does he mean by that? Is he sort of winking at this reputation he has as an intellectual, this guy that people look up to?
I think he is at this kind of crossroads and is struggling with whatever he is doing in his life, whether it’s his work, his relationship to women, to sexuality, to family. I think he’s questioning everything that is going on in his life. I’m too old for a midlife crisis, but it’s that sort of concept. I think that’s really what he’s talking about. He is, in an intellectual world, a celebrity. Marfa is a small pond, but he’s a giant fish there. Part of what I like and am interested to explore in the series is this nature of celebrity, where people look to you, watch you. You live in this kind of bubble. If he drives to El Paso, he walks down the street and nobody knows who he is, but in that place, in Marfa, a three-hour drive away, he is a superstar. That’s something that I’ve lived with, just being a celebrity for so many years and living in a glass house or a bubble. It’s great in a lot of ways, but it also can get kind of strange. You can certainly get into this head of questioning whether or not you deserve any of it. I think that that’s part of what he’s saying, “I’m post-idea.”
In one of your next projects, the movie Story of a Girl, you’re going to be directed by your wife. What are you most looking forward to about being directed by Kyra Sedgwick?
You know what? I’ve been pushing her to direct for years. I really think she’s just going to be a great director. I can tell from the way that she analyzes scripts. I can tell from the way that she will walk onto a set and whisper something in my ear, on my set, while I’m acting. She’s just got a good eye. She worked for a long time on this particular piece of material. I have to say, to my credit, I’m the one that said, “Listen, I know you’ve been trying to get this off the ground with other people directing it, but forget it. You should direct it. You’re the one.” It’s a really great story. It was a really good book. The script is great. I’ve got a really fun part, and she’s putting a great cast together. I’m looking forward to it.
The I Love Dick pilot is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. The first season will premiere in 2017.