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'Modern Love' Creator on Tackling Bipolar Disorder & Adapting the Column

The anthology from John Carney explores 'eight groovy little romantic letters'


Courtesy : TV Fanatic

It is not often than a column is adapted into a subject of a film - okay, it is quite often. We have seen several instances of some articles, columns inspiring subjects of films and many works out well too.

Modern Love, the longtime New York Times column has been adapted on the small screen by John Carney into eight episodes of 30 minutes each. An anthology of sorts, the show is available on Amazon. 

"I used to read the column because I couldn't concentrate on anything else — when you're making a film it's hard to read about anything important in the world, no gloomy headlines," the Sing Street and Once director tells The Hollywood Reporter. "'Modern Love' was the perfect espresso in the morning — a quick, five-minute read."

When the idea of doing an anthology series based on the column was presented to him, Carney says he thought it "could be my short-filmmaker calling card, and I could make eight groovy little romantic love letters to living now." Star-studded love letters as it were, like Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, John Slattery, Cristin Milioti, Julia Garner, Andy Garcia, Brandon Victor Dixon and Andrew Scott (i.e. Fleabag's "Hot Priest") are all involved in the show.  

In choosing the eight featured stories — which span a diversity of ages, races, sexual orientations and classes — Carney, who wrote and directed most of the episodes, looked through the "Modern Love" collection for columns that brought out an emotional response in him and his fellow writers. 

"All I really thought to myself was, 'pick ones that you feel connected to; try to avoid the ones you think are cute or maybe I could make a conventional TV show out of them — pick the ones that spoke to you because of something your mother once said to you or because of a theme that happened to you,'" Carney says. "Personally, two of the stories for me are about having babies, which we had just done for the first time and that was very fresh in my life." 

The original writers of the columns, who were paid for the use of their stories, were not involved in the creative process so as not to "get bogged down in memoir or biography," but were shown the final episodes to make sure they approved.

For one episode in particular, titled "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am," the focus is more serious, with Hathaway as a woman with bipolar disorder struggling to date, sometimes at her highest high and singing in the grocery store, and hours later too depressed to get out of bed. The episode features full-fledged musical numbers, and Carney reveals the star was his first choice for "the song-and-dance, Judy Garland approach to things, and yet be a brilliant actor."

"When I first read that column, I feel like the character really spoke to me in terms of on a Tuesday I can wake up and feel like I'm in my own TV show and everyone else is just extras and life is glorious, and then Wednesday is like, 'This again, really? I have to get out of bed?' I'm not saying for a second that I'm bipolar, but I can very much identify with the way that she chose to tell that story," Carney says. "One day I feel like I can do everything and there's nothing I couldn't do, and the next day I don't get out of bed or don't feel like getting out of bed, and I feel deflated and defeated and self conscious and ugly and talentless and the next day I'm okay again. I'm not sure how many people feel that way in real life, but I certainly feel that way." 

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