‘Olive Kitteridge’ Director Talks Fisticuffs and Drinking at TCA Panel

Making an emotionally sprawling miniseries ain’t easy — but it’s nothing that a little boozing and brawling can’t fix, director admits

Filming an ambitious adaptation of a lauded novel can be a trying experience. Creative direction can veer off-course. Creative differences can flare up.

But according to Lisa Cholodenko, director of HBO’s upcoming miniseries “Olive Kitteridge” — based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-winning novel — it’s nothing that a little bit of sparring and booze can’t overcome.

Also read: Dave Grohl Takes Dig at ‘Song Contests’ During HBO’s ‘Sonic Highways’ Panel

Discussing the miniseries — which stars Frances McDormand as the title character and Richard Jenkins as her husband Henry — at the Television Critics Association at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Thursday, Cholodenko admitted that making a project of such sprawling emotional dimensions can be trying, and that cast and crew would occasionally butt heads as a result. But she also revealed that they developed a tried-and-true method of dealing with it.

Sometimes it’s really funny, and then it would just shape-shift on you [and get] incredibly heartbreaking and traumatic — I kind of call this a traumedy, in a way,” Cholodenko recalled. “Sometimes there was a little fisticuffs, but Fran’s very good at it, so we just went in the back of the bar, had a few rounds and then we went back to work. And I think it worked out pretty well.”

Also read: Steven Soderbergh Came to Cinemax ‘To Be the Big Kid at a Small School’

Despite the far-ranging emotional reach of the project — which premieres in the fall — McDormand noted that, at its heart, the miniseries is an ultimately relatable tale of a complicated union.

“All you have to do is look to your left and your right. It’s really the story of a marriage, and it’s a very familiar one,” McDormand said.

There is one aspect of McDormand’s character, however, that she can’t see herself replicating.

Also read: ‘Getting On’ Creators Credit HBO Go for Staying on the Air

“I will never shoot myself in the head,” the actress said, when asked about her character’s tumultuous emotional journey. “There’s enough people in my life that need me enough that I won’t feel like she did, that there was nothing left for her to do.”