In their latest FX series, crafted by “The Americans” masterminds Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, the decision was made to depict one of the main characters as Jewish, with Steve Carell ultimately taking on the role despite not being Jewish.
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Facing increased scrutiny over casting choices in film and TV projects, the producers addressed their personal reasoning for this decision during a virtual panel for “The Patient” at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday.
Weisberg explained, “When we came up with the original idea, the character wasn’t initially Jewish. And then you start, as you always do, looking for ways to add specificity and depth. We came up with that idea pretty quickly, and it allowed us to tap into things from our own lives. It added certain dimensions, and it became a lot more enjoyable to write in a certain way after that. That was our primary motivation. Regarding casting Steve, who is not Jewish, our perspective as television writers has always been that we’re in a realm where people are portraying characters who are different from themselves. That’s what everyone does all the time. That’s our main outlook on it. However, we acknowledge that some people feel differently about it, and that is also fine. But that’s where we were coming from.”
Characterized by FX as “a psychological thriller,” “The Patient” unfolds the story of therapist Alan Strauss (played by Carell), who finds himself captive to a patient named Sam Fortner (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Sam, who discloses his identity as a serial killer, demands the therapist’s assistance in restraining his homicidal urges.
Fields added, “The Jewish themes are very personal and important to each of us. My dad was a rabbi, so I grew up in that world. Joe grew up with a Jewish family as well. So we were able to tap into something very personal for us. Ultimately, I think a significant part of our belief as storytellers is that we’re trying to amplify our common humanity. Steve does this brilliantly in his role, and Domhnall does it brilliantly in his. We hope that’s ultimately what people take away from the specific elements in the show.”
Fields and Weisberg serve as executive producers of “The Patient,” alongside Carell, Caroline Moore, Victor Hsu, and Chris Long, who also directs. The 10-episode limited series, produced by FX Productions, premieres its first two episodes on Hulu on August 30.