Writer and director of Apple TV+'s Servant, M. Night Shyamalan, talks about collaborating with his daughter, Ishana Night Shyamalan, who directed two episodes of the hit series.
- My name is Leanne Grayson, and I come from Wisconsin. I hope that you'll consider me--
Do you have him?
- --as a responsible and moral guardian for your son.
They've taken Jericho.
ETHAN ALTER: "Servant" season two is, obviously, kind of a family affair because your daughter directed several episodes, which is great. What was it like working with her from behind the camera?
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: You know, she is an amazing person. Hopefully one day you'll meet her. Just everyone loves her. Super elegant person. And she's fierce. So I knew she could handle this situation. She's been trained her whole life for this.
And every single thing she's written, every single thing we look at, every single thing we analyze, every painting, everything we ever look at. Every movie, all that stuff. So she's a very different person and storyteller. But I was excited, and I knew the time was right. And I thought that episode three was the right episode for her, and she nailed it.
ETHAN ALTER: What was your favorite shot that she did in that episode?
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Oh, she did such great work in that episode. But in the flashbacks, she gets off the bed. She's not supposed to get off the bed. She's pregnant, and she gets out of bed. And the camera goes up and over her shoulder as she puts her feet down.
When she shot-- when she showed me the dailies, I was like, whoa, that's a great shot. Because I wasn't there to see that, so I was like, that's good. That's really good.
ETHAN ALTER: The seal of approval. [LAUGHING]
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Yes, exactly.
ETHAN ALTER: The other thing that's interesting this season, we learn more about the cult that you sort of introduced in season one. And obviously we had an interesting year with real-life cults in the case of NXIVM, which was sort of-- through "The Vow" and "Seduction" and things like that, people got really invested in that story.
Did you follow that story? Were you interested as that story unfolded?
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: No, it didn't have any impact on our piece. We had kind of talked about this cult aspect of it at the end of season one. It came in the late, late part of our discovery of season one, of how we were gonna move it. I had an idea of where I wanted to go at the end of the show, but this was a wonderful way, the path.
And as soon as it came up, I was like, that's it. That's it. We're definitely doing it. You know, they're very scary. You know, and you get to do that kind of invasion of a home feeling over and over and over again with the cult.
ETHAN ALTER: Are you in general attracted to stories about real-life cults? Is that something that you were interested in? Because you deal with faith--
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Oh, yeah.
ETHAN ALTER: --a lot in your films.
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I got obsessed with reading about Manson and reading about the trials. I just find it endlessly fascinating, all of those things. Jim Jones, all of that stuff. And what is it that ties those things together? How does that work? How do they believe so much? How does one person get others to believe that much?
ETHAN ALTER: And when I think of your movies, "The Village" is probably one of the closest where I feel like you get into the mindset of a cult. Like, these people who--
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Yes.
ETHAN ALTER: --form their own society away from the rest of the world.
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: But, yeah, I mean, a lot of people now talk obviously about "The Village," given everything that's been happening. And the idea of what we believe in, whether it's a family or a person, I guess that's something I guess, like, that's repeated over and over and over.
You know, do you believe that there are aliens out there? Do you believe there's ghosts? Do we believe there's comic-- that real-life people are comic book heroes? Whatever it is. You know, belief systems are, I guess, what I traffic in a lot.
ETHAN ALTER: Well, maybe you and your daughter could team up on a NXIVM, inside NXIVM movie. We'll get the real story with the two of you.
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: [LAUGHING] Don't get her going on it. I'm sure she'll be like-- she'll get obsessed by it. [LAUGHING]