Alan Yang Of 'Master Of None' Brings New Series 'Forever' To Amazon

Sep 14, 2018
Originally published on September 14, 2018 5:48 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Sometimes in the fourth or fifth year of a relationship people fall into a rut or get into an argument about something that in hindsight is kind of small. Well, that dynamic is at the core of a new show called "Forever" premiering today on Amazon. It was co-created by writer and director Alan Yang, who won an Emmy for the Netflix show "Master Of None." NPR's Andrew Limbong asked Yang how to make a relationship work - on screen, at least.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: The sky looks a little sad, and it's kind of cold on a beach along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen are working out this exchange between their characters.

MAYA RUDOLPH: You always say flush out. It's flesh out. You add flesh to something to make it more full. Flush out doesn't make sense. You sound like an idiot.

FRED ARMISEN: Flesh. Flesh. Fleshed out. Fleshed it out. The committee fleshed out the proposal. Either could work.

ALAN YANG: Let's do one more and say...

LIMBONG: That's Alan Yang directing the episode. He and other writers toss out lines and suggestions.

YANG: And then make sure to say, committee fleshed out the proposal. OK, yes, I see what you're saying.

ARMISEN: Flesh. Fleshed. Fleshed it out. I fleshed it out. The committee fleshed out the proposal. OK, yes, I see what you're saying.

RUDOLPH: Great. I'm glad we got that settled.

YANG: Cut.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Unintelligible).

YANG: Got it.

LIMBONG: I can't tell you anything about the plot of "Forever" without spoiling it, but you're getting a pretty good sense of the theme.

YANG: You know, we have all of these highfalutin ideas about soulmates and true love and passion and all those things. But a lot of being in a relationship that lasts a long time is the smallest [expletive] possible. And can you get through that stuff with that other person? Like, do we leave glasses in the sink, or do we put them away? You know, stuff like that will really (laughter) determine...

MATT HUBBARD: Yeah, or also the small jokes, stories.

LIMBONG: That second voice is Matt Hubbard, also an Emmy-winning writer for "30 Rock" and co-creator of "Forever." He's the married one of the two.

HUBBARD: Things you do with your spouse - I think we both believe that conflict from marriage can arise from that but also strength.

LIMBONG: In a follow-up interview, Alan Yang, who's never been in a relationship longer than three or four years, says they wanted to staff their writers' room with married people so they could share their stories.

YANG: Conflicts and arguments that felt real, that felt grounded, that felt genuine and earned.

LIMBONG: Like Yang's first movie, 2014's "Date And Switch." It's about a teenage boy who comes out to his best friend and is based off a real-life event. But Yang gained most of his writing chops on the NBC sitcom "Parks And Recreation" where he says co-creators Greg Daniels and Mike Schur taught him that no matter how funny, any scene, line or shot has to be true to the character.

MIKE SCHUR: Alan really locked into that I think. He - like, that made sense to him in some fundamental way.

LIMBONG: Mike Schur, co-creator of "Parks And Recreation" and the guy who hired Yang. Schur says that Yang's attitude fit the central tenet of the show.

SCHUR: He's relentlessly positive about the world and about what people are capable of and how bright the future is and how every day is better than yesterday. I mean, it's very infectious and somehow not annoying.

LIMBONG: Yang was a writer throughout the show's run, including the episode where the main character, the relentlessly positive Leslie Knope, gets married.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PARKS AND RECREATION")

AMY POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) Oh, my God. We're getting married tonight. This is really great.

ADAM SCOTT: (As Ben Wyatt) Yeah.

POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) You're either in or you're out, buddy.

SCOTT: (As Ben Wyatt) I - it was my idea. I'm totally in.

POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope, laughter).

LIMBONG: Alan Yang's positivity goes beyond what's on screen. Yang's parents came to the States from Taiwan. And when he and I spoke, it happened to be the same weekend a certain movie about insanely wealthy Asians was coming out. And when I asked about it, he gave a response that's been practiced, locked and loaded.

YANG: It is just the beginning. We should celebrate. We now have - what is it? - two Asian-centric movies in 25 years. And how many movies do we have about dogs? You know, (laughter) there's a hundred movies about dogs. There's heroic dogs. There's villainous dogs. Yeah, there's six Air Bud movies where a dog plays sports. I mean, there's...

LIMBONG: Dogs get to live. Dogs gets to die. Dogs get to be in movies without being asked questions about what this means for canine diversity in a human-dominated industry. Issues of race and identity and species aren't central to "Forever." But they will be in Yang's next project, and he'll continue to mine relationships for conflict.

Are your folks still together?

YANG: They are not. And that will be addressed in my upcoming film (laughter).

LIMBONG: As optimistic as Yang might be, he's clear-eyed that most relationships don't last forever. And that can be good, too. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE'S "ALLA LUCE DEL GIORNO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.