In a time of general loss of human connection during a pandemic, Amazon’s second season of the series Modern Love (premiering Friday, Aug. 13 on Amazon Prime Video) is back with a star-studded cast, including Minnie Driver, Kit Harington, Garrett Hedlund, Lucy Boynton, Gbenga Akinnagbe and Anna Paquin, who lead us through eight half-hour episodes exploring love in different forms.
With a topic that's so connected to all human beings, Garrett Hedlund, who stars in an episode of Modern Love alongside Paquin, has a simple lesson for anyone looking for some love life advice.
“Just enjoy,” Hedlund told Yahoo Canada.
In the actor’s episode, titled “In the Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses,” Hedlund is a former U.S. marine who likes all aspects of his life to fall within a set plan. After a meeting at a therapist’s office, Hedlund’s character ends up developing a relationship with a housewife (Paquin), whose husband had been having an affair with Hedlund's wife.
Paquin’s character, who has a child with her ex-husband, helps to make Hedlund’s character realize that not everything in life can go according to plan.
Hedlund revealed that he actually relates to Paquin’s character, more than his own, in his real life, even now that he’s a father, after Emma Roberts gave birth to their son Rhodes at the end of last year.
“I've really been busted a lot on being the opposite, of not having a plan and sort of flying by the seat of my pants,” Hedlund said.
'Takes anybody in pain or despair out of their heartbreak'
Just like the first season, each story in Modern Love is based on The New York Times column of the same name. Showrunner John Carney revealed that he loved the essay Hedlund’s episode is based on and was happy that director John Crowley responded to it.
Carney also identified that the story was a bit of a “risk," with elements of deeper issues, particularly with Hedlund’s character, wrapped into this love story.
“I think I read that episode for season one and I thought about doing it myself, and I couldn't find that personal connection, and I didn't know how to treat it,” Carney told Yahoo Canada. “It's a bit heavier and a bit darker.”
“There was that element of PTSD in it and a deeper trouble than is in a romantic column normally, but it was done through the eyes of a romantic encounter. Not that it makes light of his scenario and their connection, but it's a way of telling a story without the story being too big in the room.”
Hedlund is a huge fan of the first season of Modern Love and revealed that every episode of the original season “made [him] smile” or “broke [his] heart in a wonderful way.”
“I watched the first season and I was absolutely in love with it,” Hedlund said.
“It was my favourite thing I watched over COVID, I couldn't wait to be a part of it, I couldn't wait to be a part of a lovely story that sort of takes anybody in pain or despair out of their heartbreak for a moment or two.”
Hedlund said that he hopes that people who watch the episode feel like they could have watched this story for another hour, or longer, and that is certainly the case with this episode and the whole anthology.
What makes a great 'Modern Love' story?
That brings to question what makes one essay a better candidate for the series than another.
Carney revealed that in terms of finding an essay from the The New York Times column that's good choice for the series, for him personally, he looks for two things: a personal connection with the story and four or five “great lines of dialogue."
“If they're not in the original source essay, I tend to pass over them,” Carney explained. “Even though there might be one or two things that I really like in that, I feel like that's better...in the column than it necessarily will be on TV.”
“Often I'll break my heart trying to write an essay that I loved for TV and it just doesn't work.”
In terms of the process for other writers and directors of the show, the advice has been to find the essay that they feel a “personal affection” to when they read the story.
“It's better sometimes if me and the producers of the show, and Amazon, don't quite get it, because then it makes the writer, director work to get us to figure out what they're seeing and we're missing,” Carney explained.
“They were written in this personal way, so they have to be sort of filmed in that way as well, I think.”
With a successful first season under his belt, Carney identified that the concept of the series lends itself to being adaptable, with the only real set component being the 30 minute time per episode. He said that basing the series on these real stories, written by real people, creates a more “interactive” experience.
“It should listen to people and it can listen in a way that regular TV shows can’t, and we'd be foolish, I think, to miss that opportunity...to be a little bit more open to being a show that people want,” he said.
One example of that flexibility and responsiveness of the format is an episode centred around two people, played by Kit Harington and Lucy Boynton, who meet on a train in Ireland, from Galway to Dublin. They establish a connection but instead of exchanging contact information, they agree to meet at the train station two weeks later, but the COVID-19 lockdown stunts their plans.
“I think that, that essay was quite late to the table,...it was a tiny love story, it was just a paragraph,” Carney revealed. “The reason that it appealed to me is, it felt crazy not to listen to what was going on.”
“Once I connected with that story and thought there was some fun to be had in the idea of a missed connection because of COVID, that was a way of doing a kind of a COVID story without the pandemic overshadowing it, or making it seem like a bunch of producers sat down and said, ‘Well, we need to pandemic episode.’”
While the timing of this series certainly works in its favour, cutting through some of the doom and gloom of the pandemic news cycle, each episode is crafted in a way that just simply reminds you of the power of a great story, making Modern Love a series that everyone can connect to.