Red Band Society executive producer Rina Mimoun has a vision. A decade or two from now, she hopes that the audience who tuned into her short-lived Fox series about the residents and workers of a hospital pediatric ward will remember it with the same fondness she holds for a one-season wonder from her own youth: Claire Danes’ seminal 1994 drama My So-Called Life.
“To me, that is one of the greatest television shows. My So-Called Life is something that I always refer to, it’s something I always think about, but in the scheme of things, it was just this very short blip,” Mimoun explains. “I think Red Band has that same kind of appeal, or I hope it does. I could not be more proud of it. So despite it ending after 13 episodes, I’m happy. I hope everyone gets their DVD.”
Saturday’s two-part finale ended on a positive note: Kara successfully underwent heart transplant surgery, her body accepting the healthy ticker of her Ocean Park Hospital romance Hunter (but not before the two shared a mystic “trip” to Paris while she was under anesthesia and he prepared to head to the afterlife). Jordi’s grandmother and Dr. McAndrew rebooted their tense relationship — and convinced the troubled teen not to return to Mexico and to continue with a planned surgery. Emma and her mother had a major — albeit painful — breakthrough after a weekend of therapy. Leo agreed to take his spot in a clinical trial for his recurrent cancer — while also underscoring to his family and medical team that his general aura of positivity doesn’t make him a super hero. Dash broke things off with girlfriend Mae, knowing every minute they spent together as cystic fibrosis patients put both of their lives at risk. And our narrator Charlie got his release papers — then finally regained the ability to speak during a bon-voyage party on the roof with his fellow Red Band-ers.
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Below, Mimoun talks about the bows with which the show’s writing staff wrapped up these arcs and the compromises she had to make due to the network cutting back the show’s episode order from 22 to 13.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about the final moment of the series: The Red Band members on the roof of the hospital, singing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — with Charlie surprisingly joining in at the end. Where did that idea come from?
One thing that has been a constant on the show, right from the pilot, is the music — and feeling like it spanned so many generations. We had an amazing musical budget, quite frankly and truthfully, the biggest moment for me was in Episode 11, when we used the Peter Gabriel song (“Washing of the Water”). It was one of my bucket-list momets, — and, yes, I do have a musical bucket list for television.
So back to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” we thought it so spoke to the larger theme of the show. In a million years, I didn’t think we could really [afford] a Stones song, but then I called our music guy, and he was like, “it’s not too crazy.” And so then we wanted to build the scene around it. Sure, it’s not necessarily the most real moment in the world, but it was poetic — and since we were building to a moment where Charlie gets to finally speak, it had to be more than just “Hi, guys.” We wanted it to have a little bit of poetry to it, and it just felt like that song was the perfect way to do it.
TVLINE | On the same note of poetic, though maybe not entirely realistic, so much of the first hour of the finale focused on Kara under anesthesia and visiting the recently deceased Hunter in Charlie World — or halfway between life and heaven. Did you guys have any doubts in the writers’ room about sending those two on a trip to Paris for one final romantic interlude? I loved it, but if it hadn’t been done right, it could have been a disaster.
To be very honest, we had doubts about how it would appear from a production standpoint. You know, given you’re on a small budget for a TV show, you don’t have the Amélie money coming at you. You don’t have a million days to do it. So trying to recreate this place that is so other was… Let’s just say we were nervous about the execution — how it would look on your TVs. But we were never nervous about the story itself because it did feel so right, and we just could not end the Kara/Hunter saga in Episode 11 the way it ended. It just felt like they needed more.
TVLINE | Kara actually ended up becoming my favorite character by the finale.
Oh, good. I’m so glad. And it’s interesting, because, subconsciously, that’s the story you’ve actually been following from the pilot. When you rewind and you look at the pilot, that’s the only story being told in the pilot that has a beginning, middle, and an end, you know? You’re coming into this hospital from Kara’s point of view. Every other character, you didn’t really get a sense of where their journeys began. We met them right in the middle of it. I think that’s why the audience really connected to Kara.
TVLINE | We spoke before the winter finale about the Emma/Kara relationship, but I’d like to touch on it a little more. I loved how the complexities of their friendship and rivalry paralleled their own difficult relationships with their mothers — and how they really had forged a genuine bond by the end of the series. Was that a goal of yours from Episode 1 — to mine the Kara-Emma dynamic — or did it happen organically based on how the actors connected, etc.?
We had such an amazing staff and a really phenomenally force of female nature in our writers room — Gina Fattore, Jeannine Renshaw and Anna Fricke. And so, for all of us, it was a goal to tell stories about young women and their friendships, and making their characters not always about just being the love interest or the girlfriend. We also didn’t want every conversation between two women always having to be about a guy, either.
That’s something I strive to do in every show that I’m on. We do it in a totally different way on Mistresses, but ultimately, it’s just capturing women’s voices. We talk about a lot of things — and it’s not just boys. And for this show especially, these two young women had really complicated relationships with their mothers, and it affected them and it changed them and it’s the thing that ultimately brought them together and made them realize how they needed each other and how they could be there for each other.
What’s funny is, in no other universe would they have ever met, would they have ever been friends. But because of the situation, the Kara-Emma relationship was even more powerful than the Emma-Leo love story that had a lot of parallels. This boy would never meet this girl in school because he’s so popular, and she’s so shy. But I was more personally fascinated by the alpha female and the shy girl — and that relationship that would never be in high school, either. It’s very much like Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you know, if we’re bringing it all back to The Breakfast Club. That, to me, was more interesting than Emilio and Ally, and so I had the same feeling on Red Band, and I thought that Ciara [Bravo] and Zoe [Levin] were just great together.
TVLINE | Emma’s storyline in the finale — the family weekend of therapy with her parents regarding her anorexia — was pretty intense. And you had a very short amount of time to achieve that emotional impact — considering your episode order got cut short at 13. Was that daunting for you?
It was. Again, that was unfortunately the product of when we were conceiving the storyline, we brought her mom in in Episode 10 — thinking that we were going to be doing more episodes. If I’m being totally honest, in a perfect world, it’s not the finale story that I would’ve wanted to tell for Emma. I would’ve wanted to move one beat beyond it, but [since we had limited time], it was so important to wrap up the situation with her family. It superseded what would’ve been a more traditional season finale for that character.
So, by the time we found out [about the episode order being cut to 13]… I know the Emma and Leo relationship is really important, and it’s sort of the promise of the show. But, oh my God, she got into this horrible fight with her mother, and she’s back in the hospital, and we have to solve that. We just can’t leave Emma and her mom hating each other. So, again, that particular storyline would not necessarily have been my ideal season finale, but I’m glad we told it. And I just loved watching Ciara perform that. She earned that ending.
TVLINE | Was there one storyline or one scene that it pained you to not be able to have because of the shortened season?
I would have enjoyed playing out the arc of Dash and Mae. I would’ve really liked to see where that went because I did feel like Dash’s character got shortchanged somewhat. Because one of my favorite, favorite stories of the season was when Dash did the spray painting of the mural with Kara; I thought you just found out something totally new about this guy, and it was the first time I realized, “God, we have not peeled this onion at all.” So Mae was going to be a way into a deeper exploration of Dash’s character, which is something I was wanting to do. That’s a regret.
TVLINE | One thing that really surprised me was that Episode 12 — the first hour of the finale — found our protagonist Leo almost completely silent.
Charlie [Rowe] was not happy. He called me like, “I have one word in Episode 12.” And I was like, “I know, but it’s going to be really powerful. Your silence is very emotional.”
People who like the show and people who are critical of the show, in both instances, we got feedback of “Oh, this doesn’t seem realistic,” and it was hard. That was always the struggle of the show. So when we got down to Leo and his cancer returning, as we were trying to break the story, none of us could think of a single thing he would realistically say or do. If that happens to you, all any of us could think of is that you would shut down. It felt like a powerful choice for the hero of the show — the guy who has always been the one bucking everybody up — to simply not have it in him to do that anymore. So his silence, in Episode 12, did give us a better way to tell the Superman story in 13. Had he been talking it out and having all of his conversations with his friends in [the hour prior], that felt false. But I didn’t want to see him be angry and railing. He’s such a present actor, and it was really emotional to just watch him in that fetal position, because I think that was true. I think that’s certainly how I would feel.
TVLINE | Were you pleased with Leo essentially shedding this “superhero” role in the finale? He remains committed to fighting and going into this clinical trial, but he also wants to be seen in a different light, not always having to be the perfect inspirational story.
Yes, and while we didn’t use the song, the story came out Five For Fighting’s “Superman”: I can’t stand to fly. I’m not that naïve. I’m only a man in a silly red sheet. It’s a great song, and we just kept thinking that was Leo’s anthem. It was a little bit subtle to try to create, because, obviously, we wanted him to fight. But we did feel like it was important for him to say, “I need to be let off the hook, and I can’t be your champion anymore. I can’t make this easier for you, mom, or easier for you, Dr. Dave Annable.” [Laughs] I have to be me in all of this, and I thought [Charlie Rowe] did a really nice job in that moment.
TVLINE | I was almost taken aback when his mother asked Dr. McAndrew about fulfilling Leo’s Make-A-Wish request. I felt like it really underscored the life-and-death aspect that was so easy to forget while you’re watching this young, handsome kid in a love triangle all season.
Exactly, it had been there the whole time, and you just forgot about it. But it was the one thing we knew were going to do from the very beginning: There had been a lot of debate when I first came onto the show about where was Leo in his remission, and how is this going to go? We knew his cancer needed to come back — because it’s part of the drama that these people really go through, but we didn’t want to do it until we were at the end because, again, it gave us the opportunity to say, “if and when the show was returning, you could certainly bring Leo back.”