Interview: Marshall Herskovitz and Bitsie Tulloch

by | February 25, 2008 at 5:26 PM | General

022508-marshall.jpg

Quarterlife, the TV show about blogging and the terrible 20′s premieres tomorrow night on NBC and we absolutely can’t wait. Because we want to blog about it! We were more than thrilled to talk to TV visionary Marshall Herskovitz about his creation and Bitsie Tulloch on her role development.


If technology has changed the way young people, particularly artsy, lonely kids communicate

Marshall: Oh. That’s such an interesting question and I’m not sure I can even do it justice to be honest with you. I think we’re watching something happen in the culture right now and we don’t even know where it’s going to lead. You know, as you know Quarterlife is not just a show. It’s also a social network. And we already have a very sizable community on the social network of people who are artistic and who are creative. And I’ve been astonished at what I see on the forums on the Web site. And I – and the number of people who feel isolated in their lives, who have taken to this form of communication and are opening themselves up in ways that they never did before, and talking about things they’ve never talked about with anybody. There was a thread about someone saying that they have generalized anxiety disorder and they’ve never talked about it with anyone. And does anyone else have that, and other people chiming in. So I think yes, in some ways the internet has allowed people who feel alienated or isolated to reveal themselves in ways they couldn’t before.

Bitsie: You know, it’s funny because the cast as a whole – everybody – we’re all pretty much in our mid-20s which is nice. And I definitely think, you know, a few things about this generation in particular is that first of all, we seem to really define ourselves by our creativity in a way that other generations maybe didn’t – not because they couldn’t, but because they didn’t have access to this incredible, you know, far-reaching platform. And, you know, you’re – this is really – the show is about the internet but Quarterlife.com is a huge part of it. And it’s the first generation that grew up on the internet, when you think about it. I mean, I was a freshman in high school when I had my first email account, you know. Granted, people are using it now when they’re six years old but we’re really the first generation to have grown up with this as a huge, huge, you know, integral part of our lives. And the fact that your 20s in and of themselves are really transformative years, I think that – I know there is a lot to be said. And my character is a blogger and, you know, which I think is a really – it’s a fascinating form of self-expression, particularly in that you can control how you’re perceived by people and then how you’re – you can choose how to portray yourself. Whether or not it’s reality and there’s this strange sort of ambiguous thing that goes on a lot with the blogs, you know, particularly with my character where she’s – where Dylan is sort of simultaneously inviting people in while at the same time keeping them at a distance because at the end of the day, she’s still talking to a computer screen. She’s not talking to a living, breathing human being.


On the evolution of the show
Marshall: Yeah, oh yeah. This was something – by the way, maybe I should clarify it. This began its life as a television pilot for ABC. And we did a pilot for ABC called Quarterlife three years ago but we were not happy with how it turned out, and we felt that the problems with it were quite inherent and structural, and conceptual. And that the only thing to do was to start from scratch, which I did. I threw out the whole story, threw out all the characters, started from scratch. All I kept was the name. And it was in the midst of re-conceiving it and it started to be more and more a story about the internet that Ed and I decided that we shouldn’t even try to do it as a television show, that we should do it as an internet show. And we walked away from ABC at that time and started to do this on our own. So that’s kind of how this began. But this is – this came out of our wish – honestly, we found ourselves surrounded by a bunch of 25-year-olds in our lives. You know, I have kids in their 20s and all the people in the office were in their 20s. And, you know, we found ourselves everyday kind of fascinated by the problems and the issues, and the concerns of people that age. So because we’ve done this so many times before, you know, it naturally occurred to us that that might be a series.

On social networking
Marshall: It overwhelms me to be honest with you. In other words, there’s all these different versions of what people do and – no, I think – as a matter of fact, one of the reasons we wanted to create a social network was that I don’t really know how to navigate my way around Facebook and Myspace. They don’t really fit what I’m looking for as an artist and as a writer. And I felt it would be interesting to try to create a community that was more focused on artistic people, creative people, passionate people who really, really want to accomplish something in their lives, and want to get somewhere. And so the idea of creating community – again, I keep using these terms that cut deeper, that tries to deal with the authentic emotional experience of ones life. And the authentic artistic experience of trying to be better is something that I felt was missing out there and that’s what we’ve tried to do.

On how TV watching is going online
Marshall: Oh, this is such a – you know, you’re asking such an important question and I think nobody knows the answer. I can tell you my sort of half-assed theory about it which is that five years from now there’s going to be a continuum in America. And on one end of that continuum will be people who have a television with rabbit ears and, you know, just picks up broadcast. And if they have a computer it’s dial-up. And on the other end of the continuum will be the people with 60-inch screens that are doing their computing and their television watching on the same instrument. And television and the internet are going to have to somehow encompass that whole continuum. And they’re, you know, the question will be does the television template win out or does the internet template win out? Or do they just somehow, you know, combine in some weird way that we can’t even imagine yet? And I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that. I think certainly what we’re doing — which started out to be an internet-only show and now has this television component — is part of some, I think, hybrid process that will continue for the next few years where you’re going to see things that have a life, you know, in both sort of camps in some way. For us, our concern has been it’s fine to be on television. We love television. The problem we’ve had with television is that the business has changed so much and that the networks exert too much control over the producers. And the fact that we’re coming to NBC with complete creative control of our product and that we are delivering them completed episodes – they haven’t even seen the scripts. They don’t even know what the stories are about until they get the episodes. That’s never happened literally in the history of television. And so the ability to be on television in that way, for me, is thrilling and is great. And I’m very happy that Ben Silverman was willing to trust us in that way, and, you know, give us a chance to show that I believe that it’s – we’re much better off if the creative control stay with the creative members of the team.

On blogging
Bitsie: I don’t personally blog but, you know, as I said I do think it’s a – it’s definitely a fascinating form of self-expression. And when I booked the role, I went online for, you know, on and off for over a week kind of, you know, googling people’s blogs and watching blogs on YouTube, and logs and reading the written blog – I know it’s gets confusing with the log and the blog and everything. But just to sort of see how people utilize it as an art form or as a form of self-expression. But no, I personally do not.

Marshall: As for me, I can only refer to a wonderful piece in The New Yorker that Calvin Trillin once wrote where he talked about writing the third draft of a note to his daughter’s teacher that – about why she was absent and how the life of a writer is made miserable because any writing you do is still writing and therefore, you have to obsess over it.