One of the central themes of Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel The Power is how, sometimes, systems have to be completely rebooted in order for them to work the way they’re supposed to.
Similarly, when Raelle Tucker joined Prime Video’s adaptation of the book a few years ago, the sci-fi series’ entire first season had already been shot… yet was nowhere near ready for public consumption. Tucker’s arrival as showrunner equaled a reset.
“It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, because there was so much work I respected, and I didn’t want to go in and throw out the baby with the bath water or toss anything that we couldn’t use,” says Tucker, whose TV resumé includes True Blood, Supernatural, The Returned and Jessica Jones.
The Power, which will begin streaming its sixth episode this Friday, takes place in a world where girls suddenly, startlingly develop the ability to deliver electric shocks with their bodies — and the entire world tries to correct for the change in potentially dangerous ways. TVLine recently chatted with Tucker about the show’s relevance in current society, as well as the intensive work it took to shape the series into what’s streaming now.
TVLINE | I got really angry, watching these episodes and thinking about the way women are regarded in the world. The show is as much an allegory for the present day as it is for 20 years ago, 200 years ago.
[Smiles ruefully] Yeah.
TVLINE | Let’s talk a bit about it. Obviously you don’t want a feminist screed, “Men are terrible” thing. But at the same time, the state of the world is so depressing if you’re female.
I’m so grateful that the show makes you angry. Like, that’s a gift to me. I think that we need that level of awareness and intensity of feeling. How else are we ever going to shift or change anything unless we collectively hold hands and get pissed about it? So, f–k yeah! Get mad! [Laughs] I’m totally down with it. I’ve been married to a man, I’ve been with him for 18 years. I love him, he’s a great human being. Some of my favorite collaborators are men. There are amazing human beings in the world who are men. It doesn’t change the reality that we’re still talking about women having ownership over their own bodies and not being able to walk through the world and feel safe. These are just facts.
TVLINE | I was struck by Margot and Jos’ conversation in Episode 5, when they’re smoking on the deck. Jos talks about all the ways that she doesn’t have to worry about her safety, now that she knows she can defend herself if a man tries to hurt her — which made me think of that Twitter thread that was going around a few years ago, at the height of the #MeToo movement. You’ve brought up MeToo in the past, when it felt like we were on the cusp of something.
TVLINE | And now?
I’m an optimist fundamentally. I really am. And I feel like steps were taken with MeToo, and now we’re dealing with the backlash — and we want to be the backlash to the backlash. [Laughs]
These steps are so real. There is a heightened awareness. There’s a discussion. I mean, when I became a television writer 20 years ago, I was in rooms entirely full of dudes who would just openly talk about my body and make jokes. And to be honest with you, I was so used to that s–t in my 20s that I just thought it was funny, too, and I was laughing along and joking with them… It took me years before I started to feel how much I’d been faking and pretending and like acting, and how uncomfortable I truly was — not because guys were talking about my body, which, whatever. It was because I wasn’t allowed to be a real partner on any of those shows, right? And that has changed, and this is just my corner of the world. So, I can speak to it with optimism…
This show could never have been made 10 years ago. They wouldn’t have made it. No way would they have given the budget that they gave to this show, and the time. It’s an indication of progress, and I’m going to hold onto that and believe that we are very incrementally moving forward. We just have to hold hands and drag each other along the way.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about your experience as showrunner on this show, which did not play out like it normally does. When did you come on? What had already been done?
It’s an incredibly unusual situation. I came on about a year-and-a-half ago, and they had filmed 10 episodes of the show at that point.
TVLINE | Wow.
I think they had had several people sort of acting as showrunners, but there hadn’t been a real figurehead showrunner with experience who was leading it at that point. They got through cutting a version of all 10 episodes. They tested, I believe, some of it, and the collective decision between [production company] Sister [Pictures] and Amazon [Studios] was there was so much that they didn’t shoot because of COVID. Also, with a project of this level of ambition, all these multi-stranded stories, trying to connect them and interweave them, a book with this much of a fan base and this level of urgency [and] importance, it felt like there were significant pieces missing, from a story perspective. They needed somebody to come in and really define what those were, and what I did was come in and I took apart all 10 episodes. I took the story pieces and I moved them to different episodes, and it was like laying out a massive puzzle on the floor of the entire show and just saying, “There’s incredible actors in this. There’s an incredible premise here.” It looked unbelievably beautiful. It was shot beautifully. What was missing in a lot of it was connective tissue, like really clear arcing for characters.
… It was surgical. I went through and then myself and a couple other writers, among them Brent Peters, who also came forward, the produced the show, produced the reshoots with me. We did a massive rewrite. We wrote material for every single episode, turned it in from 10 to nine episodes, and we went and shot for three months in Vancouver. Along that way we also ended up recasting Number 1 on the call shoot. Toni Collette came to us with the new material.
Toni Collette and Josh Charles were new to the project. That scheduling conflict with Leslie Mann and Tim Robbins [who played Margo Cleary-Lopez and Daniel Dandon, respectively] also afforded us the ability to revisit all of that material and say, “This is one of the centerpieces of the show. We had the luxury of having shot it once. What do we want to do differently?” So we rewrote all of that material.
TVLINE | Wow.
Then I edited the whole thing back together again over the fall… A lot of things shifted when I came on board, but it’s such a tricky thing, because the reason I came on board is because the show was really great.
Like, I would never have done it, right? [Laughs] I didn’t need to come on to a show that I thought was not going to work at this stage, with this kind of stakes. So, I knew it was beautiful and it had all the potential in the world. It really did just need somebody to kind of orchestrate and diagnose what wasn’t working and get in there and preserve everything that was working so well.
TVLINE | What you just described sounds like a lot of work.
It was scary. More than anything I was afraid. I was so scared because I just didn’t want to f–k something up that I had a tremendous love for.
TVLINE | At one point in the season, Margot talks about how, as a woman in the public eye who wants to be taken seriously, she has to stay within a very tight set of emotional perimeters — and we see how that spills over into her home life, as well. She’s a politician, but that seems like it could apply to to any female in a professional setting.
Honestly I was just writing from my own personal experience. I don’t know anything about politics on the world stage. I’m not the person to speak to that. But I know enough to know what it feels like to be in a position where people need to trust you and respect you in historically a place where women have not had power.
So, you know, the line that Daniel Dandon says to Margot in his office in Episode 2 where he’s like, “You’ll learn not to keep your panties in a bunch,” that’s a direct quote from a showrunner who was speaking to me about me challenging the marketing campaign for a show that I was working on. He was just like, “You’ll learn, don’t get your panties in a bunch, honey,” …and he was a progressive, brilliant man who I respect, right?
It’s this old-school mentality that’s still very pervasive, even with these liberal, well-meaning dudes… It’s the cumulative effect of not being treated like a partner. And then something that I just deal with to this day as a woman in television is that I’m extremely passionate about what I do. I’ve been doing it a really long time, and I care about every second of everything that I put on screen.
So, when I get notes that I don’t like, or I don’t feel like people are taking the time to really respect the work, I can get really angry. I get really fired up, and I want to defend the work that I’m doing and the work that my team is doing. I have been told numerous times that made somebody uncomfortable.
I sat in rooms watching male showrunners early in my career scream belligerently at networking heads and slam the phone down over and over again, right? I’m not saying that’s good behavior. I’ve never done anything even close to that and I never will, but I am not allowed within my job to be upset for one second.
It is not allowed to be on my face that I’m pissed off by people’s lack of respect for my position and my knowledge. So, yeah, so many of these stories came from myself. They came from other writers in my writers’ room — all of our experiences, collectively, of really trying to be a good leader and to use whatever small power that we have benevolently but being in this position where we’re not at all ever allowed to let down our guard and just be human in a way that I just don’t know that my male counterparts experience at all.
I’m getting “Y: the last man” flashbacks
It;s like if Y the last man and Handmaid’s Tale had a baby.
Wow, she did all that work in post, all those reshoots, and the show is STILL this bad? Amazon must be really upset they threw so much good money after bad. Also makes me wonder how bad the show must have been initially.