6 Questions with Critics’ Choice Nominee Hugo Blick (“THE HONORABLE WOMAN”)
From a Peabody Award to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Golden Globe, THE HONORABLE WOMAN ranks among one of SundanceTV’s most celebrated miniseries. Writer and director Hugo Blick shared with us his inspiration for the series as well as how he came up with the final twist.
Q: THE HONORABLE WOMAN happened to air just as things were heating up again in the region in real life. What did that feel like?
A: The Isreali/Palestinian conflict is like a peat fire; it may seem to go away but never really does. The story I looked to tell was a human one, about the costs of the conflict to individuals on both sides. During the horrific events last summer, suffered by both sides, I can only hope that our story in some way helped to place the complexity and cost into a human, emotional context to help an audience connect to a conflict that otherwise might feel distant and remote.
Q: Nessa Stein is incredibly complex. Are there real life women who inspired her?
A: My wife! You don’t have to try and save the world but anyone, man or woman, who turns to face adversity when others might not and who doesn’t look to blame anyone else for its existence is always an inspiration.
Q: Maggie Gyllenhaal spoke about complicated, unorthodox roles for women at the Golden Globes. Is writing those kinds of characters a priority for you?
A: Yes. In the thriller genre in which this story is placed, most women are usually portrayed as wives, mothers, prostitutes or dead! And all of them merely architypes. I hoped to explore a thriller from a complex female perspective: real women, real strengths, real weaknesses. When Maggie’s character is in a foot chase at one point it’s no accident that at its end the first thing she does is vomit because that’s what happens when you try to sprint a mile and you’re terrified and you’re still wearing high heels!
Q: The big reveal at the end of the series is the best kind of twist. Did you start with Atika’s secret or did it arrive as you wrote?
A: I only set pen to paper finally when I have figured out the last lines of all the significant characters—so yes I started out with the secret in mind. Perhaps the ultimate question at the end of the story is which of these two women is the true honorable woman of the title.
Q: Did you hope to convey any political message in THE HONORABLE WOMAN?
A: Yes. With an immutable recognition of her right to exist, to me Israel’s close geographic national security lies in the construction of a functioning state along its immediate border. In my mind a failed state of Palestinian territories is a far greater threat to Israel because such a condition only foments violent extremism. A functioning, recognized, democratic Palestinian state could and should act as a beacon in an otherwise tumultuous region—not least because such a state will have the eyes of the world upon it and will be required to conduct itself according to the statutes of its construction.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene from the series?
A: In the final episode when Nessa and Atika meet in Nessa’s prison. To my eyes it has such a raw truth to it; when two such strong women finally reveal themselves to be at such polar opposites of a conflict and yet strangely within the intimacy of the exchange it’s possible to still see a shared love for each other. It was an extraordinary scene to witness as a director—mostly because that was all I had to do. It was shot in very few takes on a farm in the middle of the desert—if you listen closely you can hear the farm animals.