❁ “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
At a moment when the discussion of cable dramas revolves largely around “difficult men,” one aspect of Manhattan I’m most proud of is that our show features so many strong women — both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Women were crucial to the success of the Manhattan Project, in a whole variety of ways, and we’ve really tried to reflect that in the makeup of our cast & crew. I checked, and all but one of our scripts for the first season pass the Bechdel Test. If we’re lucky enough to earn a season two, we’ll get that figure up to 100%, so help me God.
Chief among the amazing women in our sprawling ensemble cast is Olivia Williams as Liza Winter. Liza is brilliant (she holds a PhD in botany), funny, forceful, moral, and, yes, occasionally difficult — though I know firsthand that that word doesn’t sound as positive when it’s describing a woman… How about we call her “complicated”?
Sam and I have loved Olivia ever since Rushmore, and we were gobsmacked by her performance as a mercurial ex-British-First-Lady in The Ghost Writer. As soon as Sam wrote the first draft of the first episode of Manhattan (many years ago!), we looked at each other and said: “Liza is Olivia.” And as the script underwent revision after revision, it was her fierce intelligence, wit, and humanity that helped shape the character Liza became. We never could picture another actor in the role. The day Olivia signed on, after a brief but intense courtship on Sam’s part, was in some ways the most surreal day in this yearlong process of watching a dream come to life.
This photo was taken by our set photographer, Greg Peters, while we were filming a big Liza scene for episode 12. It’s one of my favorite scenes of the season — certainly one that I feel most proud of having written. And Olivia is so good in it that I found I had to stop myself from applauding after nearly every take. (Turns out directors don’t like you to do that.) I’d tell you more, but… spoilers. Stay tuned!
Olivia Williams (and John Benjamin Hickey) | Manhattan TCAs
Happy Birthday, Olivia! (26 July 1968)
Manhattan will premiere tomorrow, July 27th, on WGN America at 9/8 PM. She will also be on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on July 28th at 12.37 AM
ensembles d’anxiété! Je suppose!
It will be live in a few minutes!