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Ben Stiller doesn't know how many people are watching 'Severance': 'It's really weird'

Severance is exactly the type of great show designed to be loved by critics, viewers and award voters. Both parties must have missed. It's a trend that happens every year, with star-studded cerebral series making the "Best of the Year" list before disappearing into Too Much TV's overcrowded ether. But it didn't happen. As Severance nears the final stages of competing for the Emmys, her sci-fi thriller as a freshman emerges as her one of the most discussed shows of the year.

Of his 52 Emmy nominations for Apple TV+, — streaming his service record — Severance was responsible for his 14 of them. increase. These nominations include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Adam Scott), Outstanding Supporting Actor (John Turturro and Christopher Walken), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette), Outstanding It included headliners for major awards, including Best Screenplay, Outstanding Directing, and more. Even its own nominations are making history. The Outstanding Drama nomination is the first time Apple TV+ has been nominated for the prestigious award, and Scott's Best Actor nomination is the first for an actor.

This admiration may be well-deserved, but it is also surprising for him, one of the biggest names at its heart. Ahead of the Emmy Awards, executive producer and director Ben Stiller shared what it's like to observe the success of his show, what the term means in the age of streaming, and We spoke to the decider about the weird thrills that await us in Season 2.

Decider: Severance has been a critical hit, and it seems to be getting a lot of attention too. Were you surprised at how well received it was?

Ben Stiller: Always. (Laughs) I mean, when you make something, you don't know how it will turn out. We all knew the tone of the show and what it was all about. When you're building something, you have to fully commit to it. And I didn't know how people would react. I just hope people get it.

I think everyone worked really hard for a long time. But it doesn't even make a difference. Because I think people are always working on something. They put their heart and soul into it, and sometimes they don't get it. Anyway, I am very lucky that it was accepted. There are also so many things that people have been able to find out because of the great mystery of who is watching what in streaming. They don't really tell you So it was really good.

Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, and John Turturro in Severance
Photo: Apple TV+

To grasp, but do not understand.

Yeah, but it's weird that you didn't say it. They give you some ideas. But it's not like the ratings or the box office or anything like that. It's like a relative graph or chart. The fun thing was going to [San Diego] Comic-Con and having a house full of panels and meeting all the people there. That was the first time I felt like, 'Oh, this is really... there are people who are really watching this so that people can connect.'

I know that until that point, Apple had not released viewership statistics. Did they give any idea how the show was going?

No, it's difficult. They won't give you numbers. Really weird. So, like I said, you get graphs and charts like peaks and valleys. But you don't know what the baseline is. Based on 100 people, or based on 200 million people, I think. I do not understand. They basically say, "Yeah, this is working." you are trying to interpret what they are saying. But they are easy. I think that's how all streamers do it. how do you find out I wonder how you found out.

Ah, the press release. And that's a lot of wild guesswork on our part. Like what people are talking about on Twitter. Google Trends Highlights.

Yeah, yeah, I think that's an indication of where the debate is going and what people are talking about. And that's what made me feel really lucky about the show. Maybe also how people approach our work and the timing we came out with in terms of those questions. The fact that it was in conversation was just culturally and really fun to participate in.

Adam Scott in Severance
Photo: Apple TV+

You brought up your Comic-Con appearance. During a panel, showrunner Dan Erickson said the previous version of the series wasmore "acid trippy." can you talk

Perhaps Dan should tell you what it looks like. [Laughter] I think what he's saying is that there were some weird things going on there just for the sake of being weird. It's been a long time since the first draft. I haven't read the first draft he sent us. Literally he is over 5 years old. For me, I remember there are probably some oddities that are hard to reconcile with reality. But his tone of conversation was very peculiar, and I knew that the people who work at this place had ideas grounded in reality. This place has some rules, the world has rules, and I think it was important for me as a person to have some sort of relationship and be like, 'Oh, this is it. I could imagine myself in this situation. I may have set it back a bit, but I don't remember. I know he's talking about pants running around, topless his pants. I think my instinct has always been to bring it back down to earth a little bit. And hopefully it still maintains that weirdness.

With your extensive comedy background, I'm sure you have an instinct that you've developed over the years. It's a way to push the limits without breaking things.

Sometimes I take chances and go as far as I think I can. Honestly, I think it's kind of common sense. You say, "OK, well, what we're talking about is the reality of this place." What if they lock the place if you go to work. Are you saying it's magic? Are you saying it's not? The fun thing about the show is that there's room to really wonder about it. Because [Erickson] had an idea of ​​what it really was in terms of Irving [John Turturro]'s dream ideas, the Chier cult ideas, and how deep they were. Go with it. It was fun to keep those questions open.

Secondly, if you have actors that are really invested and credible, that's also one of the most important things. You cast really great actors who, as part of their process, have to question the reality of the show and figure out for themselves how to make it happen. So throughout the process of creating a show, from rewriting to pre-production to rehearsals to filming, these questions are constantly being raised by everyone. And to Dan's credit, he has the answers to all of them. But it was a process of adjustment at times.

Patricia Arquette in Severance
Photo: Apple TV+

I think season 2 will move to a more abstract "acid" mosquito. Trippy directions for lack of a better word.

I honestly think it's balanced. Part of the fun of the show is something you don't quite understand, wondering what it is, what it means, and what the heck it is. And for me it's great to do as long as there is logic behind it. Then figure out a way to get that to the audience in a way that doesn't give too much away too quickly, and it's satisfying. It's a balancing act. Season 2 has some really fun and weird stuff. But always through the basic story of these characters, the lens of these real people in this situation. That's what I learned making the first season. I saw it when it came out for audiences... This is a show about this family, these characters, these people. So no matter how strange the environment they are in, you want to relate to them as human beings. Hopefully a combination of that, but definitely some weird stuff.

Does he keep current conversations about the workplace and his work-life balance as he works on Season 2? How much do you think this next season will reflect the current conversation on the subject?

We all exist in our current reality, so Dan is very sensitive to it and aware of the chords it strikes in terms of his relationship with the workplace. I think. That's one of the interesting things about the show. There are a few different things going on in it, one of which is work culture. The theme is the idea of ​​working for a company and what incentives are given to employees that may or may not be related to their actual importance. What were you doing or what made you feel, what was your life commitment that you put into the company. That dynamic played out in the first season, and then, in a way, it was the kids who started to understand what the real world was and how it relates to their relationship with their bosses and who they are. These innies.All of these questions should be part of the show. The state of the workplace today. So it's just a matter of keeping the reality of the show in its own world for us. But for the show to work, it has to reflect our own reality in some way. I think Dan really recognizes that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.