During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Freeman talked about how lovely it is to be able to fully realize something he had a hand in creating, how much they planned ahead for Season 2, the surprise turns his career has taken, whether they’d like to do a third season, and what he’s learned from doing this show. He also talked about the possibility of more Sherlock, returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Black Panther 2, and whether he’d like to work with Edgar Wright again.
Collider: When I last spoke to you, prior to the debut of the first season, you told me that the show started with you dreaming the first scene of the first episode, fully formed. I’m curious, was that the only scene for the show that came from a dream, or did you dream any other scenes?
MARTIN FREEMAN: Unfortunately, no, my dreaming didn’t do the rest of the two series. That was the only scene that was dreamed, unfortunately. It would be quite handy, if you could dream the whole season. That’d be good. I should definitely write all of my dreams down, as soon as I wake up,
You had an idea that you were able to develop into a show, and now that show has living and breathing characters and a whole world that they populate. How does it feel to be able to realize something, in that way? What’s it like to then build on that and add to it, and do a second season and dig even deeper?
FREEMAN: It’s lovely. It’s really lovely. Obviously, you do that in the collaboration of excellent people who can do things that you can’t do. The first thing to do is tell some smart people about your dream and share it. It’s felt fantastic. We were very pleased with the first season, but then one of the first things we did was actually get together and see how we could make it better, and to see the things that we liked and the things that we thought needed improving. Well, not necessarily improving, but just other directions that we could push. We’re always quite self-critical of it. We go through the scripts with a fine tooth comb, all of us. It feels really lovely. It sounds like such a ridiculously fluky thing to say, “I had a dream, and now it’s a TV show.” It was a bit more than that. It does feel like someone just sprinkled fairy dust on that portion of my life, for sure. It’s lovely to be fronting a show and to be part of a show that you’re proud of. It’s always the hope that you’ll be proud of your show, so the fact that people responded to it is really good.
Had you always thought about more than one season, or was that something that came later? Was this the vision for Season 2, from the beginning?
FREEMAN: We did always plan ahead, and we planned that there would be a time jump and that it would move on several years from the first season. Specifics, not really. Things that we talked about in creative meetings, with myself, Simon Blackwell and Chris Addison, was some of the stuff that is happening in this second season. This was four and a half years ago, at our sushi and therapy meetings that we would have. But then, the other writers have added their take on things and their specifics, as well. Everyone who writes on it as a parent. We have a new writer this year, a woman called Rebecca Callard, who’s written a couple of episodes, and she’s bought a great, fresh voice to it, as well. She’s done two episodes that I think are really strong. So, partly, it’s mapped out to a certain extent, but then obviously, it’s enlarged and filled in by the writers themselves.
What’s it like to return to quiet TV comedy, after doing so many big, loud projects?
FREEMAN: It’s lovely. Really, what I’ve always wanted, even before I knew I wanted it, but now that I’ve got it, I’m extremely grateful for it, is the choice to do lots of different things, regardless of genre, regardless of setting, and regardless of character. I love doing things that surprise me and I love getting scripts that surprise me and make me think, “Oh, I didn’t know I wanted to do that, but now I do.” I didn’t think, 10 years ago, that I’d be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A few years before that, I didn’t think I would have ended up being Dr. Watson. All of this stuff is very surprising, really, and I suppose it’s surprising that I get to exec produce and co-create a comedy show, but I suppose less surprising because I actually did it. It didn’t just land at my door. I was part of the whole thing. But the things that land at your door are really lovely. I’m enjoying now taking more of a creative team role in things, as well. I’m enjoying having a vote. I’m enjoying having a say in who the heads of department are, what the casting is, and who the directors are. I love all of that. You wanna have as much input as you can. Not all of the time. Sometimes it’s just very nice to turn up. Most of the time, I do just turn up and try to do a good job, but whenever possible, if I can steer something, then that’s nice.
This season, we get to see the kids both really starting to figure out who they are, how they navigate through all of life’s choices and possibilities, and also test how far they can push the limits of their parents. What did you most enjoy about getting to explore the relationship that your character has with his kids and those different dynamics between them?
FREEMAN: From playing that character point of view, it’s nice to see Paul and Ally, as parents, negotiating. They’re definitely their own people now. Luke and Ava are little people. They were obviously little people in series one, but they are more fully formed now. Now, they’re 10 and 13. I like the different ways it can go. Luke is now a vegan. At one point, Ava finds a path through something and has a little discovery of some road that she might wanna go down, as well. Not that there’s much to negotiate with veganism. Paul is like, “Okay, you’re a vegan. Fine, whatever.” It’s just different when you’re older, and of course, it’s different when actors are older because you can do more stuff with them. You can do three or four pages of dialogue. Both of the actors, Alex [Eastwood] and Eve [Prenelle], did really well with that stuff. Daisy [Haggard] and I rehearsed with them for a couple of days and it was clear, early on, that they were gonna be absolutely up to scratch, as far as throwing a few pages at them. I’ve worked with adults who are less good at learning and remembering lines. These two were really diligent and they were really on it. That, also, is quite useful. The first series was great with the kids. George [Wakeman] and Jayda [Eyles], who played them in the first series, were absolutely delightful and they were good too, but obviously, it’s just less realistic to ask them to do some of the things that someone who’s five years older can do.
I love that we also get to see your character going through therapy this season and not being satisfied with any of his therapists. What do you think he thinks he needs in a therapist?
FREEMAN: He knows he needs to control his temper, and he’s right. But I think probably what he needs is someone who never, ever, ever says any therapy speak. He’s so cynical about anything that sounds like it was made by a committee or sounds to faux academic. I just think he’s very suspicious of that, as are a lot of people and rightly so. I don’t mean being suspicious of any therapy, but being suspicious of a certain way of speaking that maybe obfuscates rather than makes things clearer, and has its own little vocabulary and language that feels quite self-satisfied. Paul is too angry to be self-satisfied. I think he would rather fight his own demons on his own then be with someone who’s gonna mouth a lot of platitudes. Clearly, I don’t think that’s all therapy is, and I don’t even think Paul thinks that’s all therapy is, but he’s incapable of sitting still while someone takes his life apart who doesn’t even really know him. To be honest, we don’t see enough of his therapy sessions to know because none of them last long enough. We see a very quick range of three therapists, all of whom are probably quite good, but it’s not for him.
We recently spoke to Benedict Cumberbatch, and when we asked him for a Sherlock update and whether that chapter feels like it’s been closed or whether you still hold out hope for more, he said that because of how busy you all still are, that it might be more likely to do one movie, as opposed to another season. Do you think that’s more likely if, if it happens?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I think it is possible. It might be more likely, yeah. I think we’ve all left it so that it’s not a full stop, it’s just a big ellipsis or a big pause. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to say, “Oh, it’s a full stop.” I’m not sure. To be honest, I’m a big believer in not going past your sell by date, in anything, really. Don’t outstay your welcome. So, I suppose we would have to see if we have outstayed our welcome, when the time comes, and whether people have moved on to something else. So, I don’t know. I really liked doing it. I’m very proud of the show. It’s one of the best written things I’ve done. It’s one of the best directed things I’ve done. I really enjoy doing it, but I don’t know. It’s been awhile now. It’s four years since a new one was on. So, yeah, maybe the more likely thing is a one-off.
You mentioned being a part of the crazy world of the MCU. Have you spoken with anyone about returning for Black Panther 2? And could you have imagined a world where you could be doing that without Chadwick Boseman?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I am doing the second Black Panther. I’m going to be speaking to Ryan Coogler soon about what shape that’s going to look like. I have no idea about the script. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Just before Chadwick died, if my memory serves correctly, the script had gone in. They had the script and they were working on the script, and then Chadwick died and sort of immediately thought, “Oh, okay, I could see a world where there’s no Black Panther then, because how can you do a Black Panther without Black Panther?” So, I still don’t know what that’s going to look like. And no, obviously, before Chad died, the idea of doing it without him would have been a stupid idea. It would have been crazy. It was very shocking, and still is very, very strange, that he is not here. So, I’m as curious as you are to see what that will look like and I find out quite soon. All I know is that I’m in it.
Well, that’s a good first step.
FREEMAN: Yeah, I’ll take it. I do like playing Everett Ross. I think he’s fun to play. But I have literally no idea, what it’s going to look like.
You’ve had a friendship and working relationship with Edgar Wright. Have you guys talked about working together again? Is that something you’d like to do?
FREEMAN: I love Edgar. I would certainly like to. We see each other once in awhile and have contact once in awhile. I’m very friendly with him, without being a close confidant of his. I’m very fond of him. I really enjoy working with him and I think he enjoys working with me, but we’ve not talked specifically about working together. He’s very good, though, and he’s a real laugh. He’s very serious with his job and he’s very good at his job, but he’s also very silly and I like silly people.
Do you have plans for a third season of Breeders? Are you hoping to still continue telling this story for a bit?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I think we’re open to that. If we’re allowed to tell a third season then I think I can say we would love to, yes.
Have you given serious thought about what that could be?
FREEMAN: Yes, we’re thinking about that, definitely. Simon Blackwell, our chief writer and showrunner, who has a bigger writing brain than me, is thinking seriously about stuff. At some point, we’re all gonna convene and talk it through, and say what we would like to see in a third series, if we get to do one. Nothing is certain yet, you won’t be surprised to hear in this very uncertain world. If and when it is more certain, I look forward to seeing what kind of show series three will be.
I’m just grateful that things are still filming and people have figured out how to do that because there was a stretch of time where I wondered if people would ever get back on set again.
FREEMAN: Yeah, me too. I certainly thought that. It was two-fold with Black Panther. Chadwick died and I thought, “How do you do that without Chadwick?” The pandemic was happening, and with world being in the state that it was and America being in the state that it was with the pandemic, I thought, “Well, maybe we’ll just never do that.” I heard they had a script, so I thought, “Okay, so maybe we’re gonna do it.” And then, Chadwick died and I thought, “Well, how can we do it?” So, it’s nice that we’re doing it and I know it will be done with all taste. I trust that team to do it, in a tasteful way.
One of the things I love about the humor on this show is that quite often, some of the more shocking things that are said are done so in an almost throwaway type of way, where you just say it as if it’s perfectly fine and normal. Are there times on this show where you ever worry whether you’ll actually get away with something that you’re saying, or that you worry whether you’ll actually be able to pull it off?
FREEMAN: Not now, no. Not really. I don’t think so. Not on the second season. Maybe a little bit on the first season, but then that was part of the reason we wanted to do it. It wasn’t purely a show where a man swears at his children. You couldn’t do that for 10 episodes. But that part of it was a big deal for me, certainly, and I know for Chris and Simon, as well, the co-creators. We’re all dads and we know that is part of family life, as much as loving and laughing and kissing and cuddling is. People shout at each other and people lose their temper with each other. Losing your temper with people, in a real way, is a really nice challenge that I was always well up for. Can you do that in a way that’s still funny and you still root for the person who’s doing the shouting and swearing? Can you still root for this person when they’re saying things to their children that you definitely shouldn’t say, according to any manual, but an awful lot of people do anyway?
I know it to be true that an awful lot of people scream at their kids and they always have. The difference is that our grandparents would have pretended that they didn’t, even though everyone knew they did, and a lot worse. It’s great that we don’t do the a lot worse stuff now. We do that a lot less. And I’m not advocating that people should scream at their kids. It’s just a fact. How can you not, at some point, get your will severely tested, if you’re spending a lot of time with a tiny child, or even not a tiny child? So, I don’t I was really that worried about what we would get away with. I knew, just from doing bits of market research with friends and stuff, that people really wanted that because it’s true. It’s also a way for the audience to go, “Oh, good, it’s not just me. I said that terrible thing to my daughter the other day, but it’s not just me.” There is redemption in that. We can make light of it, and it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person or a terrible parents. Otherwise, I don’t think it does, or else I’m buggered.
What have you learned from the experience of being so involved and so invested in a project, from its conception? Are there things that were unexpected or that surprised you about doing a project that fully?
FREEMAN: It made me even more respectful of my profession. It made me even more respectful of the audition process that actors go through. What we put ourselves through makes you feel vulnerable and naked, going on tape, nowadays especially, to be judged by a panel of people. It reminded me of the necessary humility you need when you are making a judgment about somebody, and about why someone might be right for this but not right for that, or why someone is “better” for this part than somebody else, but you have to make those decisions because 43 people can’t play one part. It’s a good reminder about people putting themselves on the line. I’m saying this in context with my industry. We’re not going down in the mines or fighting a war, but in my industry, there are still things that would scare most people and one of them is pretending to be somebody else while a lot of people judge you. That was a good reminder for me because I’ve not done that much auditioning recently. It reminded me of what that cost is.
Breeders airs on Monday nights on FX, and is available to stream at FX on Hulu.
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