For Maya Erskine and Francesca Sloane, It Started with a Fart

In Entertainment
June 03, 2024

On June 6, the 2024 IndieWire Honors ceremony will celebrate 13 creators and stars responsible for some of the most stellar work of the TV season. Curated and selected by IndieWire’s editorial team, the event is a new edition of previous IndieWire Honors ceremonies, this time focused entirely on television. We’re showcasing their work with new interviews leading up to the Los Angeles celebration.

Ahead, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” star Maya Erskine tells IndieWire about working with Breakthrough Award winner Francesca Sloane on the Prime Video series.

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Working with Francesca Sloane is easy, invigorating, inspiring, and fun. Like working with your best friend who is smarter than you but never makes you feel like you’re anything less. She always created a safe space for everyone on set. If anyone had an issue, she was there, ready to solve the problem on small or large scales, all while prepping the next block, rewriting episodes, and breastfeeding her newborn. I feel like I‘m only able to describe a fraction of what she was doing because a lot of the work was invisible — meaning she was making sure everything ran smoothly without all the issues being dealt with known. Things always slip through the cracks, but I always felt safe that the show was going to be made with acute detail and vision and that none of that would be spared because she cared and wanted to make it good. It’s all you could hope for in a showrunner.

She wanted this to be as much for me as it was for her and Donald. I felt so encouraged in the beginning to have a voice and be a part of the team. She wanted to make sure that we were diving deep with these characters and that we were doing something different with it, and not for the sake of being different but just challenging ourselves with this project. One specific conversation that made it clear we were both on the same page was when she brought up a scene where Donald’s character would fart in front of me for the first time — talking about moments in relationships that we all go through — and I asked her if it could be my character that does the farting. We both realized then that we were kindred spirits, ready to take this project on together.

She helped my performance immensely by writing great scripts. Most of the work is done for me because the writing was already so detailed and nuanced and had so much depth to it. She was always available to discuss choices and to rework scenes if for whatever reason they weren’t working. She also believed in me so strongly that it gave me confidence to play her Jane.

Fran is a true collaborator and visionary. It’s such a rare combination of someone who wants the best idea no matter where it comes from, yet when passionate about certain choices, goes for it. She trusts the people that she hires, actors, directors etc., so if they have a question or issue, she takes it in seriously. There’s no ego to her work. She doesn’t hold onto something because it came from her so you can trust that when she is fighting for a choice, there’s a reason. She is wholly unafraid of material that could potentially piss people off. And she has such a unique point of view that her choices can scare you at first, which is a good thing.

She’s authentic, brilliant, and a really good person. I’m lucky I get to work with her.

Read Francesca Sloane’s IndieWire Honors profile.

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