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Damages Report: Televisionary Talks to Rose Byrne and Executive Producer Daniel Zelman About Season Four

I'm already getting excited about the fourth season of serpentine legal thriller Damages, which moves from FX to DirecTV next year, following a landmark deal that brought the series back from the brink of cancellation and guaranteed a fourth and fifth season.

Quite a lot has changed since I spoke to creators Daniel Zelman, Glenn Kessler, and Todd A. Kessler for my Season Three postmortem over at The Daily Beast, not least of which is that surprising (and very welcome) two-season pickup and the series' move to the satcaster's The 101 Network.

At last night's Sony Pictures Television party at the Beverly Hilton's Bar 210, I caught up with executive producer/co-creator Daniel Zelman and series lead (and Emmy Award nominee) Rose Byrne to discuss Season Four of Damages, why things always come back to the dock outside Patty's beach house, where we might find Ellen Parsons, whether we'll see Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) again, why Ellen seems to have forgiven Patty for trying to kill her and much more.

What follows is a Q&A-style transcript of my conversation with Zelman and Byrne (sporting her natural Aussie accent) amid last night's revelry, held at the end of a full day of FX sessions at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.

Televisionary: Congratulations to both of you on the pickup of Seasons Four and Five of Damages. What was your initial reaction after became clear that the deal between Sony Pictures Television and DirecTV would take?

Daniel Zelman: Well, to be honest, I was a little bit shocked. It's always such a longshot when these things happen. For a show to be moved from network to network is such a rare thing, as you know. But at the same time, we knew it was a possibility for a long time so we were very pleased that we would have the opportunity to tell more stories and write more for Rose... and Glenn.

[Byrne laughs.]

Televisionary: And Glenn too, of course. Ellen Parsons is an amazing character and you've done an incredible amount of work with her over the past three seasons and it seemed like she had finally made a decision about her future at the end of last season. Now that you're committed to two more seasons as Ellen, where are you hoping that KZK can take the character? Here's your chance to tell Daniel.

Rose Byrne: [Laughs.] My initial feeling was that they had wrapped all the stories up [at the end of Season Three], so I was wondering what's going to happen and what they would do next. But they were all so relaxed about that! [Laughs.] It was not any worry for them at all.

But I'm excited. I love working with Glenn. She always raises the bar in every scene and she's so much fun to work with. I've really grown to love being on a series. There's something very intimate about it. It's like a family. I'm a big television-watcher myself so I love being part of that world. [As for Ellen], I think they're up for the challenge.

Zelman: She's leaving it in our hands.

Byrne: [Laughs.] I have no ideas! No ideas!

Televisionary: Can you give us any hints then about where you might take Ellen in Season Four?

Byrne [to Zelman]: What are you going to do? Have you thought about it yet?

Zelman: We've thought about it. As soon as we got the news, we started to get into the season. It's so hard with our show to give things away as the surprises are so much a part of it. The best I can say is that Patty and Ellen are a part of each other's lives for better or for worse, but their history will always come back. Wherever they go together, they will never outrun their pasts.

For us, that's what's interesting about their relationship: it's developed its own mythology. There are certain things that have happened between the two women...

Televisionary: I know whenever any one tries to kill me, I keep them in my life. You want to keep them close.

[Byrne laughs.]

Zelman: We get that question a lot. All we can say is that that will never go away and that the past is always present in their relationship. We will continue to explore that theme.

Televisionary: In Season Three, we saw an amazing transformation in that relationship, in that we saw Ellen go off to the D.A.'s office and try to live a life that was separate from Patty Hewes before she gets pulled back into Patty's orbit. You've been the student in that relationship, you've been the adversary, but in Season Three, it seemed like we reached a plateau of friendship or equality between them.

Byrne: Absolutely. She needs her help by the end and she needs someone on her side. Ellen chooses to help her for her own reasons. That final scene on the dock, it certainly felt like they were equals by the end.

Televisionary: It always comes back to that dock, though. There have been some amazing showdowns over the years at the dock at Patty's beach house.

Zelman: The dock is a symbol for something and, when I figure it out, I'll tell you what it is.

[Byrne and I laugh.]

Zelman: Sometimes things just happen. We found that location and it just has taken on a meaning of its own and a life of its own within the show. There is a certain gravity to the dock. Before every season begins, we always know what scene is going to take place at the dock. I'm sure we'll be back at the dock for one reason or another.

Televisionary: We've seen throughout the seasons that people tend to come and go and return, even when they're dead. Is there any chance that Tate Donovan could show up in some form as Tom Shayes next season?

Zelman: There's a very good chance that Tate will be back. There's a very good chance.

Byrne: Really? Oh, I'm excited about that!

Zelman: Yes, there's a very good chance. We love him and we love the character and we love the person. He really is part of the soul of the show; there's no question of that. We always want to bring the soul of the show back to the show if at all possible. Same goes for Zeljko Ivanek [who plays Ray Fiske]. He always tends to come back and it's not always the plan going in but there's a gravity he has when he comes back.

In terms of Patty of Ellen's relationship, a lot of people have asked us last season, how does Ellen get past the fact that she tried to kill her. In our minds, part of how Ellen takes control of that and lives with that is by saying, I'm going to move past and I'm going to have control over Patty precisely because I'm not going to show her that I'm affected by it. There's a certain amount of denial that comes into that as well. Listen to this, Rose. [Laughs.]

Byrne: She's very pathological! I don't think she's very healthy. It's not a healthy thing to do, is it?

Zelman: So it might be that Ellen's behavior last season is something she can hold together for a while but not forever. Her anger and resentment about that always threatens to bubble up. The question is what will she do, especially now that she has all of Patty's skills at the ready?

Televisionary: Well, we've all seen Ellen's shotgun fantasy dreams.

Zelman: Yes! Also Wes [Timothy Olyphant] taught her how to shoot. She knows how to shoot.

Byrne: She does. She's got a lot of skills, Ellen. And she's just as duplicitous as Patty, really.

Televisionary: Where might we find Ellen in a career sense when we pick up with her again? Have you decided that yet?

Zelman: We actually have decided that. Well, we have a very strong idea about that, but we always like to improvise, so that could change. I just don't want to give it away because tuning into the first episode, there's always that question of where we will find these characters. Are they going to be together? Is Ellen going to be living in the same country? It's part of the fabric of the show. Where did she go after she left the dock and didn't get an answer to her question?

Byrne: She didn't get an answer.

Televisionary: Well, she sort of got an answer by not getting an answer.

Byrne: I guess that's the answer.

Televisionary: When do you go back into production? And is there a launch date yet?

Zelman: January. [As for the launch date], that is still being figured out.

Season Four of Damages will air next year on DirecTV's 101 Network.


abbytaz said…
Jace, you rock!
I loved your exclusive interview here. What a joy to finally read Daniel and Rose's personal opinion of the renewal. They seem happy and excited of the future stories told and Patty and Ellen's working relationship.

I always felt the final scene at the dock as moment of reflection for Patty whether it was regret, perspective, or pain. The beach house is her personal sanctuary of calmness and she shares it with Tom and Ellen. She's let's her guard down in those scenes with them.
I am also excited for the new season next year. Just need to justify switching from cable to DirecTV. Financial quandry...

Thank you again for the Q&A.
Lucy said…
So excited that Damages will be back and this interview is icing on the cake! Thanks for all of the love you give this great show!
rockauteur said…
Can't wait for the next two seasons!!! It's gonna be too long of a wait!
Danielle said…
Thanks very much for the interview!

Whenever I read Rose's comments about the relationship between Patty and Ellen, she usually paints it in a more antagonistic, b/w light than some of the scenes in season three seem to suggest. When, for instance, Alex Benjamin phones Ellen to tell her that Patty has just hired her, Ellen's teary reaction makes it clear she does indeed have an emotional connection to Patty, as opposed to one comprised entirely of power games. Ellen seems to want Patty to "court" her with expensive handbags and invites to dinner parties (albeit, imaginary ones) not just because she relishes having the upper hand in their bizarre tug-of-war, but because she wants Patty to WANT her (not just "need" her). And when Ellen presents evidence to Patty (the information about Carol Tobin and, later, Lester Wiggins) she doesn't look like someone who is solely interested in helping Tom retrieve his money. To me, Ellen's barely contained smiles of glee make her seem more like a child handing over a straight-A report card to a mommy she wishes very much to impress.

I may be way off base with my reactions to the characters, but, on Patty's part, I see strong affection for Ellen. Not only does she respect and admire the young woman for enduring all that has been heaped upon her, she seems to be in a very emotionally vulnerable, humbled place when confronted with the fact that her heinous act (similar to the one that haunts her dreams throughout the entire season) has apparently been forgiven.
Mark said…
Thanks for the interview. I can′t wait for more Damages! It is such a great series! Everyone that I recommended it to watch also loves it.
Anonymous said…
Rose Byrne needs to stop spending so much time obsessing over designer fashion and posing for lame GQ photos and start making smarter choices in her acting and in her career. There's no way in hell she's going to win an Emmy this year with the HORRIBLE episode she submitted. I always thought she seemed rather bright, but her boring interview statements (she's been repeating the same worn out phrases -- "Glenn Close raises the bar" -- for three years now) and the fact that she chose the 1st episode of the 3rd season to send Emmy voters make her look pretty clueless and priority-challenged. Look at Claire Danes and her amazing performance in "Temple Grandin." She and Rose are the same age. Rose should be aiming for high-quality projects, not summer "comedies" filled with ass and dick jokes. She's sabotaging herself and it's a shame.
mick said…
Man, the wait for Season Four is going to feel like an eternity! Patty Hewes is like a drug to me.
JanieJones said…
Thank you for the interview, Jace!

I look forward to S4. I do not have DirecTV; however a good friend of mine does so I suppose I will be watching it there. My husband and I are very happy with our cable provider.

I'm very interested to see how KZK constructs the next two seasons.
Anonymous said…
Although I think S3 was not as well written as S1 and S2, I am a big fan and am happy to find that Damages will be back for a S4 and S5. This was an interesting interview.

Two concerns: if you must have DirectTV to watch this, the show will have a smaller audience than on FX! And, I hope the writers are careful with the Patty/Ellen relationship; You can easily strain credulity with these two given their past encounters. People do not generally find it easy to voluntarily work with someone who has tried to kill them.

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