EXCLUSIVE: How Judd Apatow Has Cultivated Success on TV

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EXCLUSIVE: How Judd Apatow Has Cultivated Success on TV

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When it comes to Girls,
Apatow likens his role to a “cog in the machine” that belongs to Dunham and
executive producer Jenni Konner. His responsibility is largely quality control,
while writing episodes once or twice a season. “I can be very helpful at key
moments, but, you know, the weight isn’t on me,” Apatow says, noting that he’s
not on set dealing with any of the day-to-day production. Nor has he had any
interest in helming the show, crediting repeat directors Dunham, Jesse Peretz
and Richard Shepard for “doing such a beautiful job that I couldn’t have been
less needed,” he says, adding: “I thought, I
can only hurt this
.”

Meanwhile, Apatow is more hands-on with Love, which he co-created with Rust and Lesley Arfin, and Crashing. On the latter series, about a Christian man who is
cheated on by his wife, forcing him to reevaluate his priorities as he tries to
make it as a standup comedian in New York City, the filmmaker not only pushed
Holmes to co-write every episode of the first season, Apatow also jumped in to
direct the pilot because it’s a world he understands. “I have a sense of how to
work with a lot of comedians as actors,” he says. “I can help create a style
that will allow for a sensibility that reveals these comedians’ inner lives. On
that project I thought, It’s essential
that I design this
.”

“Judd opened the actors up to the improv while keeping an
eye on the believability and emotional truth of the scene,” Holmes says of
Apatow’s direction. And as for being pushed to co-write every episode, Holmes
says it helped create a consistent voice. “I think that’s certainly true for Girls, and now for Crashing.”

MORE: Judd Apatow Talks Watching Wife Leslie Mann Film Love Scenes

The two first met on Holmes’ podcast, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, in 2012. Apatow was promoting
the first season of Girls, a show
that Holmes has cited as having an influence on Crashing. The two have since become friends, with Apatow heavily
involved in building the foundation for Holmes’ debut TV series. “Judd was
literally involved in every line on every page as well as even smaller details
like wardrobe and locations — even the font we used for the show went through
him,” Holmes says. “It’s crazy to think someone as busy as Judd found the time to
vote on which belt my character should wear, but somehow he did and I’m very
grateful!”

On Love, Apatow is
very much training Rust, who wrote and co-produced Pee-wee’s Big Holiday for Netflix and was a story editor on Arrested Development, to run a show. In
addition to writing, Rust also plays Gus Cruikshank, one-half of the show’s
central romance opposite Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs). “You’re trying to
figure out how much he can write and still act,” Apatow says of Rust, who he
dubs “the Lena” of the Netflix series.

For Rust’s part, he credits Apatow with creating an
environment where feelings are invited into the process. “That’s the thing I
like the most,” he says of their working relationship, adding: “I so
desperately want to be liked that it can keep you from being honest. If Judd
wasn’t guiding us, [Love] could
easily become a six-hour commercial for why you should think I’m a nice guy.”

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