WARNING: Get Shorty season one spoilers
In 1995, Get Shorty opened in theaters and became another hit for John Travolta. The Pulp Fiction actor played a too-cool-for-school Miami mobster who heads to Los Angeles to collect a debt and ends up turning into a Hollywood mover and shaker.
It’s 22 years later and Elmore Leonard’s novel has now inspired an EPIX television show. At the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour earlier this year, star Chris O’Dowd dropped a great analogy on the crowd when he described the difference between the film and the series.
The way I like to think about it is that we’re both obviously using the same original material with the book, but it’s like visiting a bar at a different time of the week. So the movie’s kind of like going to a bar on a Saturday night when everybody’s looking well. And we kind of visit the bar at 3 a.m. on a Thursday, when the floor is kind of sticky. You’re fighting with your girlfriend. And the bar bill’s about to arrive and you can’t afford to pay it. That’s essentially how it feels to me.
The quirky universe the TV show plays in starts out in the deserts of Nevada before road tripping back and forth to LA. This version features O’Dowd as mobster Miles Daly, Ray Romano as low budget movie producer Rick Moreweather and Lidia Porto, who plays the awesomely scary Amara, the hardened head of a crime ring.
Get Shorty also stars Megan Stevenson as a high-powered executive who’s blackmailed into making a dreaded period drama (the horror!), a project that comes with some serious baggage. Miles and his partner-in-crime Louis (Sean Bridgers) stole the script from an aspiring screenwriter. Don’t worry, that guy won’t complain. He’s dead now. So’s his girlfriend who was thisclose to outing the minor mobster’s theft. Lots of bodies pile up in this comedy-drama combo.
Stevenson arrived at Get Shorty by way of San Diego, where she grew up. After high school, she moved in with her sister in New York City to A) go to college; and B) pursue acting. Back then, she already knew acting would be her future.
“It was very much me feeling like I wanna have a college experience but I already know what I want to do, and I know I need to either be in New York or LA for that,” explains Stevenson. “So I’m just gonna move there now ’cause I don’t wanna waste time.”
And she didn’t. In college, she proceeded to work hard to make her dream happen including taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. “I had been studying acting at night, ’cause I went to regular school at Fordham [University] during the day and then I started going to studios and doing improv in New York at night and on the weekends,” she reveals.
When she graduated, she took the next logical steps in her quest to become a working actress. “I basically started the whole get a headshot and then I started putting myself out there trying to meet as many agents as I could,” Stevenson says. “And then I started auditioning, so it very much was like I got myself into the business world of it when I graduated. ‘Cause I hadn’t been doing any of that while I was in school.”
Over the course of her acting career, she’s guest starred in shows like 30 Rock, Californication, Bones and Franklin & Bash. But it’s her three-season gig on a mockumentary series called Review that helped pave the way for her role as April Quinn on Get Shorty.
“The casting director [for Get Shorty] had cast me in the Comedy Central show that I did. She obviously knew me and I came in and I was reading a very different role. So when I walked in the door, she was like, wait a minute. She gave me the April side and I completely learned it out in the lobby and then I did that and met with the producers and had the chemistry read the next day. It was a crazy, crazy fast experience. But essentially I owe a lot of the credit to Rachel Tenner, who was the casting director.”
April Quinn is formidable yet flawed. Stevenson’s analysis of her character: “[Her] biggest strengths are, she’s a go-getter and she doesn’t take any bulls–t from anyone and then just knows how to put herself in a man’s word and get out on top. Her biggest flaws are, she’s a little too career-oriented. She’s been so zoned in on her career and that world. It is so demanding of your life, that her whole life/work balance is not exactly a well-rounded balance.”
Initially it looked like April and Miles were going to get along fabulously. There was chemistry there, a little spark that could have easily turned into something more. Their relationship took a bit of a dark turn, however. Blackmail does tend to kill any sort of romantic vibe. It’s a hazard of the mob game.
“I loved [their] dynamic. A lot of that is also you don’t really know what you’re gonna get. You can have chemistry on screen that’s kind of surprising to everyone.”
April may be reticent when it comes to working with Miles but, in real life, Stevenson lists many reasons she loves working with O’Dowd. “He’s a very giving actor. He makes you better in every scene that you work with him” she raves. “He’s funny. He’s hysterical off screen. He tells a lot of great stories from his past and he’s good to kid around and have fun. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. He’s a really good presence on set.”
She’s just as enthusiastic when she talks about Romano. “He is similar to Chris in that they both have funny stories and they’re charismatic men. Ray is so humble and sweet and really not what you’d expect him to be.”
“He’s just a normal man and he’s a great person to work with,” Stevenson continues. “I remember my first scene for the pilot episode, it was his first scene as well, we were both new on set that day. It was our first day and he was just as nervous as I was and it was really surprising to me but also really calmed me down, because he’s been doing this for so many years. I wouldn’t have thought he would have been nervous. So he’s just a really sweet human.”
There’s an unexpected gem of a scene in episode six which features April’s first interaction with Amara. Their moment was brief but fierce and it has Stevenson hoping for more quality time between these two characters. It’s entirely a possibility now that Epix has renewed Get Shorty for a second season.
“They’re both businesswomen and April has no idea who Amara is, so she couldn’t care less. To her, she’s expecting the deal that’s happening in the conference room, so April’s going to take care of that because she’s the [studio’s] top dog. Amara handles it very well when April speaks to her that way, because I don’t think she’s had a woman who has met her at her level before. So I like it, I enjoyed it, I think it’s an interesting relationship and, who knows, I’m sure something more will happen with them in season two. ”
Stevenson really appreciates the female presence on Get Shorty. April and Amara are forces of nature. There’s also Miles’ estranged wife, Katie (Lucy Walters), who’s proved very crafty when it comes to protecting her relationship with her husband and, finally, there’s Rick’s excellent assistant, Gladys (Sarah Stiles), who’s invaluable to the movie-making process.
“I think [the women are] equal to the men, in their own unique ways,” she says. “They’re all very strong women that are fighting, either for themselves or for their children or to better their careers or to make money in the market. They’re strong, dynamic women who are really just ballbusters and going for it and won’t let any man take them down. They’re right up there. I think they stand out, each of them.”
With the first season winding down, it is probably wise to expect the unexpected. “Something’s going to happen that one would think April would be very excited about and would relieve all of her burdens in a lot of ways,” Stevenson teases. “She’ll be in for a surprise with what the show does every episode. It gets crazy in ways you’re not going to expect.”
Get Shorty airs Sundays on Epix at 10 ET/PT.
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