Category Archives: Hindustan Times

Interview: David Harbour #Stranger Things #HT48Hours #TV #QnA

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Open Magazine. An edited version of the piece can be found here:

In a summer littered with film disappointments, the pop culture zeitgeist that’s captured the attention of every kind of audience is an unassuming sci-fi-meets-horror-meets-family adventure Netflix series, Stranger Things. The show, about a 12-year-old who goes missing in a small town of Indiana, is a throwback to the iconic films of the ‘80s like E.T., Close Encounters of a Third Kind and Stand by Me.

Actor David Harbour, who has worked with iconic directors from Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain to Sam Mendes in Revolutionary Road  and writers like Aaron Sorkin in The Newsroom, plays the lead on the show opposite Winona Ryder, as police chief, Jim Hopper, who must uncover the strange going-ons.  In an exclusive Skype interview, he gives us a lowdown on the phenomenon that the show has become.

So are you aware of the incredible response to Stranger Things from India?
(Smiles) Yeah! One of the things that’s so amazing is that Stranger Things feels to me like a very American show, you know. It’s set in Indiana, a small town in the Midwest, but the fact that Indian people are moved by it, are touched by it, is very, very gratifying. It means we have something universal that connects us all. I love that.

What was the idea that the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, have for your character, Chief Jim Hopper?
We talked a lot about the skeletons in his closet. This guy has been through a lot of pain because his daughter died, and he’s channeled that into his ferocity of this search for Will. Like, he couldn’t save his daughter, so he’s going to punch his way into saving this kid. And it is so gratifying to be able to play this kind of a leading man role, because you don’t necessarily like him at first, you know? He’s kind of a jerk to children, he drinks, he smokes, he makes fun of Joyce (Winona Ryder) and her kid. And then, instead of making the villainous choice, he gets to go make the heroic choice.

The Duffer Brothers really let me take the reins on this. They’re just really great (chuckles). And they’re children! They were born in the ‘80s, when I was like 10 or 12, so they didn’t know about it as well as I do, and yet, I really think they captured it so perfectly.

The show had so many great homages to the ‘80s. Did you guys look at any ‘80s characters for reference points to Chief Hopper too?
Yeah, I mean, we talked about Han Solo (chuckles), and we talked about Indiana Jones! It’s funny… the hat wasn’t in the script. But I wanted to have an iconic hat that Hopper’s grandfather would have and who’d have passed down to him. And now it does mirror Indiana Jones. We also talked about this swashbuckling guy, who was dark, angry and messed up, and doesn’t know if he loves someone or has that self-awareness… like Han Solo. So yeah, they were big influences, and so was the character of Chief Brody from Jaws, who has this fear of sharks and the water, and then has to go and confront that. In the same way, Hopper has a fear of children dying on him, and he has to go confront that.

The show is like the ultimate tribute to Steven Spielberg. Were you also influenced by him when you were a kid?
My initial love of movies did come from Spielberg. I mean, there was such an earnestness of purpose, where it’s like, ‘movie magic’. You know, movies used to just be magical. Spielberg’s movies were magical. And I feel like we’ve, kind of, gotten a little bit away from it in movies now, it’s kind of become a little bit cynical. And I feel like Stranger Things has that magic quality to it.

Did you relate to any of the kids in the show? What do you remember from that time that you could use in the show?
I guess I was mainly like Finn. You know, I never got to sit at the popular kids’ lunch table, but I, sort of, had my band of geeky friends too, and I was like the leader of that, and would galvanize them (smiles). You know, one of the things we captured so well in the series, I think, is that it was a simpler time back then. It was less technology, nobody had cellphones, so you could kind of get lost in the woods. Like, now-a-days, I feel, like, every kid has a cellphone and so you text with your mom if there’s a monster running after you (chuckles).

What’s interesting is that Winona Ryder was a teen icon in the ‘80s. Did you ever bring that up when you were working with her on the show?
Yeah, I tried not to bring that up initially, because I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable (laughs). I was such a huge fan! I had such a crush on her for years and year. I was like 17 years old, when I saw her in Heather, and I used to think she’s so beautiful! And she’s still so beautiful and such a good actress too. And she’s just such a strong woman yet so vulnerable. So yeah, by the end, once she got to know me and she knew I wasn’t a very weird person, I got to geek out with her and tell her (laughs again).

So what can you tell us about season 2? The show’s not been officially renewed so far and fans are dying to hear of the confirmation.
Umm, I do know that they want to continue to use the same characters, should we come back. And I know that they want it to feel like a sequel, as opposed to like a continuation, like how Star Wars was its own thing and Empire Strikes back was its own thing too? (Smiles) So we may not have the yellow scrolling text at the beginning but we may pick up later and reveal to you in some way what things have happened in the interim. And I feel like that sequel quality is also a very ‘80s thing, just like the show.

David Harbour’s Notable Filmography:
Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes (2016)
David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016)
The Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things (2016)
Scott Cooper’s Black Mass (2015)
Sam Shaw’s Manhattan (2014)
Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer (2014)
Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (2012)
David Ayer’s End of Watch (2012)
Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet (2011)
Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road (2008)
Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace (2008)
Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005)


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Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This interview first appeared in HT 48 Hours on August 18, 2016.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.



Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor HT 48 HOURS.


This past weekend, Hollywood’s much-awaited ‘summer season’, a magical time when tentpole movies obliterate the box office, dawned on fans worldwide, as easily the most anticipated film of the year, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (crash) landed in theaters. It may well be that in the battle between two of the biggest comic superheroes of all time, it is the audience that lost. But there is good news in that the next three months have some epic entertainment lined up for movie buffs, and the wounds inflicted by Zack Snyder and gang will get several chances to heal. Here’s a look at the five most awaited event films of the next quarter:

The Jungle Book (April 15) – Jon Favreau serves us nostalgia on a platter with a live action version of the classic cartoon from all our childhoods. With an all-star cast starring the voices of Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Idris Elba as Shere Khan, this is an unmissable ride back in time.

Captain America: Civil War (May 5) – The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) Batman/Superman battle may’ve turned out a damp squib, but all eyes are on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) fight between its own superheroes, Iron Man and Captain America. This one is bigger and badder as it’s a ‘war’ between two factions, with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and others on the Cap’s side and Black Widow, Ant-Man and more on Tony Stark’s. With the all new Spider-Man joining the fun, trusted directors Anthony and Joe Russo may have a winner on their hands.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27) – If Warner Bros brought a battle and Disney’s bringing war, Fox has an entire apocalypse on its hands with X-Men’s latest multi-starrer juggernaut. Familiar mutants Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) come together with fresh blood in young Jean Grey, Cyclops and more to fight the ‘immortal and invincible’ Apocalypse (Oscar Issacs), who’s helped, but obviously, by Magneto (Michael Fassbender). If trailers are anything to go by, this one’s sure to rain fire at the box office.

Warcraft (June 10) – June will bring to screens another fantasy epic but this time the universe isn’t out of a comic book but based on the exceedingly popular video game series of the same name, Warcraft. Humans will battle orcs in this battle of two worlds set in the middle ages. Vikings’ star Travis Fimmel and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes antagonist Toby Kebbell star but the most exciting talent in the film is director Duncan Jones, who has proved his sci-fi mettle twice with the brilliant Moon and Source Code.

Finding Dory (June 17) – Thirteen years after endearing itself to all and sundry, Pixar follows up one of the most loved animation films of all time, Finding Nemo, with what promises to be an even more heartwarming sequel, Finding Dory. The movie centers on the amnesiac Dory (Ellen Degenres) as she set sets out to find her family, accompanied this time by Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) in what should be the beautiful, big family adventure tale of the year.

Honourable mentions go out to two un-blockbusters that may have you talking long after summer’s over. There’s Everybody Wants Some (releasing March 30), Richard Linklater’s ‘spiritual sequel’ to his cult hit Dazed and Confused that expectedly opened to raving reviews at the SxSw Festival in early March.  And then there’s Iron Man 3 director Shane Black’s return to the noir comedy genre he pretty much invented with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with a droolworthy cast to boot in The Nice Guys (releasing May 20) starring Russel Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer.


American television has always worked hand-in-glove with Hollywood to ensure that it reserves its best content for the fall, so it’s both at a safe distance to and from the big bad summer season. But these rules were never of any consequence to HBO that prides itself in being the Home Box Office, and over the last couple of years, it has been joined by streaming media like Netflix and Amazon that are best known for creating their own rules. So some quality entertainment’s lined up in the next quarter on our screens from both these worlds:

Game of Thrones (Star World Premiere, April 26) – Is Jon Snow dead? Is Jon Snow Alive? Is Jon Snow Ghost? Is Jon Snow a ghost? Is Jon Snow a White Walker? These questions and many more, like the meaning of the cryptic teaser trailer where the faces of the dead and the not-so-much creepily come together in one foreshadow-y image, will finally be answered when the world’s most talked and downloaded show premieres in April.

Silicon Valley (Star World Premiere, April 27) – If you thought war was only a feat that the brave and able bodied took part in, the funniest geeks on television are all set to prove you wrong in the third season of the aptly-titled silicon valley comedy.  Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) along with his squad of awkwards will take on the suits who fired him from the CEO position of his own start-up. Cue ROFLMAO humour.

The Americans (Star World Premiere, April) – If you don’t know why this show is featured on the top five most-awaited shows of the next three months, then you’ve missed out watching one of the top five shows of the last three years. A spy show set during the cold war in America  is easily – and consistently – one of the best written TV dramas, also starring one of our own, Rahul Khanna. If you need more reasons to watch it, google Indo-Russian actress, Annet Mahendru. You’re welcome.

Marseille (Netflix, May 5) – The one freshman show to look forward to in the coming quarter is, but obviously, a Netflix Show. After showing the world what it can do with a foreign-language series in last year’s outstanding Narcos, an achievement in original programming, Netflix debuts an original French-language series, Marseille, a political thriller about power and corruption in France, starring French superstar Gerard Depardieu. A French House of Cards? You can bet on it.

Orange is the New Black (Netflix, June 17) – The Emmy Awards may not have been able to decide whether Orange is the New Black should be awarded as the Best Drama or the Best Comedy over the last few years, but that only proves that no matter which way you categorise it, multi-award winning Orange is the New Black is a must-watch. The series that, along with House of Cards, first showed the world that Netflix ‘TV’ is here to stay, is back for its fourth season, and continues to promise badass entertainment.

As English-language channels in India haven’t announced its programming beyond April, it can’t be said whether some of May and June’s international premieres will screen in India, but two shows are worth keeping an eye out for. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe of Jerry Maguire fame is making his TV debut with Roadies (premiering June 26), starring Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and many others in a show about a touring rock band’s rock-crew that may redeem the term ‘Roadies’ for Indian audiences. And then, of course, there’s season two of Manoj N. Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines (premiering May 25) anthology, season one of which was the most success Shyamalan has seen in over a decade, and this one stars our very own Nimrat Kaur!


Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
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Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This interview first appeared in HT 48 Hours in April 2016.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.


Note:  This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) in December 2014 for HT Brunch. Another version of the interview was published in January 2015 in The Sunday Guardian and can be read here:

‘You don’t need to see the Friends turning 50!’

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary year of FRIENDS, the creators of the cult show, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, come together for their first-ever India interview to reminisce about the phenomenon and the legacy of their show, and why there won’t be a movie

I have to start by asking you the question that you’re asked the most because it is that important to all of us fans.
Marta Kauffman (MK): The answer is no (laughs). You don’t even have to finish the question. No, there’s not going to be a movie, for so many reasons. We talked about it a long time ago and said that it’s not something we’ll ever do.
David Crane (DC): Our feeling is that when the series ended, we managed to end it just right. We put a bow on it. You don’t need to see the Friends turning 50. It was a perfect time in everybody’s life, and the other thing is that it lives on so much in reruns, syndication and DVDs, it’s not like people aren’t getting enough FRIENDS!

When you look at the legacy of the show and seeing the cultural impact FRIENDS has had, what do you think you guys did so right at the time?
MK: I think part of it was that it was the right show at the right time. We definitely tried making a show that had heart, or have a certain sense of, “I’ve been there”, or “I know these people”. We didn’t want it to be just gags.
DC: I think what we were really willing to have were scenes that ultimately weren’t funny, where you just felt for these guys. I mean, if you look at the pilot, at it breaks for commercial in the middle of the show, the scene is just Ross and Rachel each looking out the window at the rain. There’s no joke, there’s no story point, it’s just us saying care about these two people.
MK: We had said in the beginning that we just wanted to write a show that we would watch, and one that would make us laugh too. (Chuckles) There’s  no reasonable explanation to why it took off the way it did.

When you first started writing the show at the pilot stage, what was your idea of the show? And how did it change for you through the seasons?
DC: The one line concept for the show was, ‘It’s that time in your life when your friends are your family.’ And that was, sort of, the guiding mantra of the show, throughout. No matter what we did, even if things evolved and changed, that was always the bottom line that we returned to.
MK: And we learnt some really interesting lessons, that you don’t learn at film or theatre school, where you are told that things have to be dramatized. But with these six, it was always better when they talked about things, then when we saw it actually happen. It became about the six, from, the initial stages, when Phoebe and Chandler were supposed to be more secondary. But then when we cast it, we were like, ‘Oh no no no no!’ they should all be equal. And the audience always wanted all six.

So how did the characters first come about? Which one is you?
MK: (laughs) I think I have elements of all three women in me. I do like shoes, I certainly have Monica’s tendency to be a bit neurotic and make sure that the cap is closed all the way, I do like to mother people, and I certainly have some of Phoebe’s out there notions of, you know, spirits and ghosts. David, you’re just like Joey! (laughs)
DC: Yeah, actually that’s the only person I’m nothing like: Joey. There’s a bit of me in Ross, there’s a bit of me in Chandler as well, but, you know, they were based more on people we know, than on ourselves.
MK: And then, when the actors came in and breathed life into it, they brought things to it that, you know, hadn’t even occurred to us. We, for example, didn’t know that Joey was going to be stupid, but he played it so funny that we took advantage of it.
DC: Yes, Monica in the original was not particularly neurotic, and, then, in the Thanksgiving episode of the first season, we made her kind of crazy, and she was hilarious! And we went, ‘Oh well, let’s do more of that!’ She was also supposed to be much tougher and sarcastic. But when we cast Courtney, she brought in so much warmth as an actress, it defined how the character was going to be.

How did the catchphrases and the mannerisms evolve? What’s the story behind ‘How you doin?’
DC: It certainly wasn’t designed. I do remember very early on, one of the actors came up to us and asked, ‘Am I gonna have a catchphrase?’ And that just horrified me! ‘No! No! No one’s gonna have catchphrases!’ That just felt like old fashioned TV. And yet, when you have a line and it gets a laugh, and you try doing it a second time and it gets a laugh, it sort of evolves.
MK: You know, we were in such good hands, there was never a sense of having to write a catchphrase or writing down to an actor’s ability. We just had to come up with the best stuff.
DC: But I do remember, Matthew had a specific way of delivery. We learnt very early on, that we should never underline a word for Matthew. Because when you underlined a word in a script that we wanted emphasised , he would take that as a challenge, and, invariably would emphasise some other word in the sentence!  Occasionally, we would underline a word we didn’t want to emphasise in the hope that maybe he will emphasize the word that we want (chuckles).

Did you set out thinking who would be the best match for whom, or did that write itself as the seasons went by?
MK: That completely evolved. Originally Joey and Monica getting together was in our pitch. But we did one episode about that and the chemistry wasn’t just quite right.
DC: Yeah, we knew, going into the pilot, that Ross is attracted to Rachel. But we had no idea that this was going to become the (chuckles) central theme of our lives for 10 years!
MK: (laughs along) One of the things we learnt was that they were more fun apart than they were together. The characters wanting something was better than them having it. But we knew they had to end up together. You know, truthfully, after you get a show started, it starts to tell you what it wants. You are no longer driving, the show is and the characters are. The Monica and Chandler thing, for example, when we did that, we thought that it was going to be a really fun moment, we didn’t realise it was going to be an arc that would last for the rest of the series, until we saw the audience reaction.

How difficult was it to write that last line and that closing moment of the show?
MK: It was emotionally very difficult, that ‘Oh My God, this is the last line’, but that season, everything was difficult, you know, from the last bagel you would eat at the table reading, everything felt so weighted because it was the last of something.
DC:  There definitely was a lot of pressure on that episode to make it as good as it can be. But you know what? We lived with that pressure every week for 10 years. And we loved every minute of it!


Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:

@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the interview? Think I’m awesome or really, really not? Leave your comments below 🙂
Note: This piece first appeared in HT Brunch in December 2014.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.