Like many of you, a ton of us here are Roadmap are huge fans of HBO's Succession. So naturally, when we heard there was a Succession spec script making waves we geeked out!
The spec script titled "The Seventh Fucking Seal" hails from writers Jimmy Blackmon & Jamie Hovis who captured the atmosphere and buzzwords of our current Covid climate and explore it through the lens of the Roy family.
We chatted with the writing duo to hear from them how the spec came about. Check out our interview with them below as well as a link to the script for your reading pleasure.
Tell us a bit about your writing backgrounds.
JIMMY: We’re both in our late twenties, and have both been writing pretty non-stop since we were teenagers. I’ve been working on spec scripts and pilots for a long time, always with a goal of ending up in a TV writers’ room. I studied Film and TV at Boston University, and worked in production in New York for a few years, before moving out to Los Angeles last March to more aggressively pursue this line of work. During the day (and only very occasionally at night) I’m the Showrunner’s Assistant on NBC’s Manifest.
JAMIE: I studied playwriting at Emerson College. I’m a fiction writer and a playwright and am the Editor-in-Chief of a literary journal, The Cantabrigian Magazine, here in Boston, where I live. I’ve mostly been writing short fiction the last couple of years, but have tried my hand at writing for TV on my own, and have always enjoyed when Jimmy comes to me with his scripts and outlines, looking to bounce ideas.
JIMMY: Jamie has one of the smartest editorial brains I know, so I shamelessly use him as a constant sounding board.
We saw on Twitter one of you was a season one PA on the show. Had you always considered writing a spec episode?
JIMMY: That was me. I worked in the New York City production office of Succession, way back in the summer and fall of 2017. I was laid off when production moved to New Mexico and Wales, and they no longer needed a full-functioning office in New York. So, when it started airing on HBO, I kind of put off watching for a while, because it just reminded me of losing my job.
JAMIE: Whereas I started watching it immediately, so I could brag to my friends about having a friend who worked on it. I kept texting Jimmy that he couldn’t sleep on what was the best show on TV.
JIMMY: And when I finally watched, I, of course, realized what an idiot I was to hold out on it. And the New Mexico and UK episodes are some of the very best, so…I’m glad I got fired! But to address the question: I was always a bit daunted by the idea of even attempting to spec Succession, not just because of how good it is, but because of the level of research and knowledge of shop-talk required to realistically write these characters and this world. It felt like I’d need an MBA to even start outlining.
How did the idea for this originally bubble up?
JAMIE: Jimmy had this tweet last week — right as the country was starting to grapple with the severity of the pandemic — that was essentially a fake logline for a COVID-19 episode of Succession. I don’t know, where did you get the idea?
JIMMY: I sort of just off-handedly tweeted it out, not thinking too hard about it. But then I kept imagining more details about this fictional episode, and, realizing I had more free time than ever, while quarantined in my apartment, thought “why not just write the thing?”
JAMIE: Jimmy asked if I wanted to collaborate, and also facing the prospect of weeks stuck in my apartment, I immediately agreed. I think I texted back “hell yeah.” So we fired up Google Hangouts and got to work.
What makes Succession the right show for these times?
JIMMY: I don’t know if there is any right show for these times. This moment has such insanely far-reaching implications that I think it’s impossible to know right now how we will grapple with and talk about it over the next few months and years. But one thing that Jamie and I both identified about Succession is its ability to comment on the current moment, without being explicitly about the real world.
JAMIE: Succession was already a perfect companion piece for the Trump era because it’s this very specific ultra-dark brand of satire that is so, so funny without diminishing the true monstrosity of the people it’s satirizing. In the last few weeks, we have seen in this country the extremes of humanity – incredible sacrifice and communion between people, but also the banal incompetence and greed of some of the people in power – which is Succession’s sweet spot.
Did you feel a lot of pressure to get it done quickly?
JIMMY: Absolutely. We wanted it to capture a very specific moment at the start of this pandemic, essentially the week or so between Trump’s Oval Office address and the days when shelter-in-place orders went out in the big cities. So much is happening so quickly right now, that if we had taken a more leisurely pace and put this out next month, I think we would all be in a very different place by then. We wanted to write about the moment while it was happening.
JAMIE: And it’s nice to have a captive audience. Nobody has an excuse not to read this right now. Except for doctors.
JIMMY: Please don’t bother doctors with our script.
Was it purely for fun or to seek representation?
JIMMY: I’m definitely seeking representation! Please!
JAMIE: It started out as just a fun thing to work on to kill some time with a friend. Pretty quickly though we both realized it was a project we were taking pretty seriously. We’re just excited that fans of the show are responding positively – it was my understanding that posting things you worked hard on online only gets you roasted.
JIMMY: I will also say, we’re already talking about working on another script together. One small silver lining of having every social and professional interaction on video chat for the last few weeks has been learning that it’s actually pretty easy to collaborate with someone who lives three thousand miles away.
How did the two of you meet?
JAMIE: We met through a mutual friend. I forced my way into their trick-or-treating group in fifth grade, and we’ve been doing goofs and spoofs ever since.
JIMMY: Weirdly quickly we become creative collaborators – whatever that means when you’re eleven years old. We used to walk around at recess doing Monty Python routines, then in eighth grade, we started a public access show together, in our hometown of Olympia, Washington. And then in college, we had a podcast.
JAMIE: Yeah, we’ve known each other for a while.
JIMMY: But it’s been a long time since we worked on a big project together, so it’s been a really nice homecoming.