Undone, a new series coming to Amazon, follows Alma (Rosa Salazar), a woman whose relationship with time changes after she survives a near-fatal car accident. It was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy. During San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Screen Rant had the opportunity to speak with the three about the show.
Hey guys! This is Joe Deckelmeier with Screen Rant. I am here with the creators of Undone and Rosa Salazar, Raphael Bob-Waksburg and Kate Purdy. How are you guys?
Rosa Salazar: I’m so good. How are you? It’s nice to see you again.
It’s great seeing you, too. I am excellent. You know what? I didn’t get a chance to see the first two episodes yesterday at the panel.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: What a treat you have to look forward to.
I know. Because we saw the trailer, and I was stunned.
Rosa Salazar: It’s better for you. Because you’re going to want to binge every episode after you see the first two, and you’re not going to be able to.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Yeah, you’re not going to be able to just watch two and then stop. I feel bad for the people who already saw the first two.
Rosa Salazar: Yeah, let’s all apologize to them right now.
I want to talk about the visual look, because the first immediate thing that came to my head was A Scanner Darkly. Rotoscoping is the technology, right?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: That’s right.
Talk to me a little bit about why the concept of this started with rotoscoping.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Sure. We actually have some people who worked on A Scanner Darkly, and Invader Zim and Waking Life. Kate and I were talking about the idea or the show; it’s a show about a woman who it disaffected with life and wants to believe that there’s something more. And then suddenly is presented with this idea that maybe there is something more, and that something more is terrifying and exciting and uncomfortable and seductive all at once.
But we wanted to make sure that we grounded the show in the real world; that it felt like this is a real woman with real relationships making these choices that she makes. Not just, “I’m Dorothy, and I live in Kansas. I can’t wait to go over the rainbow. And then all of a sudden, I do!” Or even like The Matrix – this idea of, “All of a sudden, the world is so much bigger, and I am all on this. I’ve chosen the correct pill and here I go.” We wanted the choice to be more difficult than that, so we wanted to spend time with the character in the real world and feel like this was a real character.
The idea of rotoscoping animation felt like a great way to do that. It feels realer than most animated shows. But then also, because it’s animated, when the freaky stuff starts happening it doesn’t feel like, “Okay, here come the special effects.” It feels like an outgrowth of the reality we’ve already established.
Rosa, for you as an actress, what was it about the script that really made you connect with the project?
Rosa Salazar: Well, the writing is superb. It’s beautiful.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Thank you.
Rosa Salazar: It’s so beautiful. There were times where… I have a best friend that I’ve literally put myself on tape with every single time I have a self-tape. And any time I get a script, I read it with this friend. We read the scripts together, and there were moments we’d have to stop because it was so affecting.
They’re highly emotional scripts. They come from a very real, deep place. And at the same time, the jokes are very funny, it’s very punchy, but they’re born out of that same place. So they feel very authentic, both moments of grief and moments of joy and moments of hilarity. It’s just that the script is so wonderful.
I got to read the script in a funny way, actually. I went in on a Sunday, which is not normal, to put myself on tape for a separate show with Linda Lamontagne, who’s the casting director. She’s brilliant. I put myself on tape, and I was like, “How was that?” And she went, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then she opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out Undone. Like, “This is really why I called you here. I’m not supposed to be showing you this, but...” I’m getting you fired right now. “This is why I brought you here.”
But this is why she’s so good. She had this feeling, and she acted on it. She said, “I think this is meant to be.” And she watched me read it as I sat on her couch, every single page, and then she said, “Okay, just read the first –”
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: “Are you liking it? Do you like it yet?”
Rosa Salazar: “How do you feel? How do you feel?”
Kate Purdy: “What’d you laugh at?”
Rosa Salazar: Well, you know how she does her emails, where she talks out loud each email. That’s the way she read it, like, “Oh, this guy. Dear Greg...” I’m like, “Could you [be quieter]?”
Then she said, “Just do the opening monologue on tape. We’ll just do it right now. Here, just move this table and we’ll do it right now.” And I loved that, so I left there feeling really invigorated. I’d read this beautiful script that was like, “Woah.” That really rocked my world.
Then I got to come in to talk to these two geniuses. That sounded sarcastic: “These geniuses.” Kate spoke of her own experience with mental illness and her own deep dive into her psyche. And Raphael, who you obviously know as the mind behind Bojack [Horseman], spoke to me about the process and the story and rotoscope. And they both told me about Hisko [Hulsing], who I was already a fan of because of Junkyard and because of Montage of Heck.
So I really felt connected to it in this beautiful, serendipitous, magical way. I thought, “This is magic.” Which is such a great way to approach a show which is essentially about magic.
This is a literal visual journey, it seems, that trailer at least shows. Was rotoscoping always the first choice that you guys wanted to go with, or were there any other options that you guys may have toyed with while developing this?
Kate Purdy: Really, story and character came first. And then we did wonder, “Well, this could be live-action, possibly.” We thought about that. And then we thought that if it’s live-action, when you do the more magical, time-bendy reality becoming more elasticized, you’re going to feel the difference.
But with animation, you have the luxury of stretching reality in a way that won’t feel like you’re breaking the tone or breaking the show. So we started talking about, “How can we do animation where we get that very grounded feeling?” And when we saw Hisko’s work from Montage of Heck and then Junkyard, we reached out to him because his style was so grounded and so real, so beautiful, so lush. And he was interested, which was a benefit to us. He suggested rotoscoping, because he had done a project with Tommy Pallotta, who had done A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. He had a great collaboration with him, and they said, “This way we can get all the micro-expressions.”
That’s the stuff that you lose in other animation, and we want to get all the beautiful performances from Rosa and the other actors and feel all this emotion. You can really feel Rosa’s performance just pierce through. I mean, that’s a testament to her as a performer, but also the medium captures all of it. Which is what we want to get. It ended up being a collaboration that benefitted the storytelling.
Rosa, you were no stranger to visually stunning projects. How did your previous work help you prepare for this?
Rosa Salazar: I think I’m finding out that this is something that I’m really good at. I think I’m finding out that this is what I’m meant to be doing. It did help. It helped me because when I did it – you’re referencing Alita, I’m sure – it taught me a really valuable lesson in leaving my body behind, in a way. I used my body as my instrument, but… I say this a lot, but I got to exist freely. I wasn’t bogged down by cumbersome special effects or latex makeup or hair, or even clothing. I got to exist solely for the emotional core of it. It was all I had. Yes, I’m using my body, and yes, you’re picking up my movements. And yes, I’m doing those [things], but it’s really this. I get to really, really exist emotion first. And I love that.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: I think what’s so great with Rosa as an actress is that I think she’s very good at summoning that emotion honestly, and in a place that feels very real and grounded and true and open.
One thing we talked about with Tommy when we were prepping this is that some actors, when they hear it’s going to be rotoscoping or mo-cap, they think, “I have to play it really big. Give them a lot of stuff to do to me.” And, in fact, the opposite is true. The more stripped-down and naked and real you can act, and the smaller your expressions, the animators can catch all that.
I think Rosa has just an incredibly wonderful, expressive face and is great at communicating so much with so little. So much is happening internally, and she knows how to show that to you. And I think our team of animators is really good at using what Rosa gave them and picking which lines to take and which lines to ignore on the face and communicating that to the audience in a beautiful way.
Rosa Salazar: I was shocked again, and I went through this process with Alita, as well. When I watched Undone, I was so shocked at how I didn’t know how some jokes would play. For instance, there is a drunken Truth or Dare moment in which Alma is sort of setting up her sister, in a way. And I didn’t know if that moment was going to land, because they kiss, and then it’s a shot on Alma over the shoulder, making this kind of “yup” expression. And it’s a hard expression to even convey to you with words, harder to convey with just a facial expression and a feeling. And I’m like, “Wow. If it’s this hard to convey and if it’s this complicated of a notion to explore emotionally and to show emotionally, how [can it be done]? I wonder if for this particular moment, is it going to [work]?”
And it’s perfectly conveyed. It’s right there. It’s right there. You think sometimes that things might get lost, but it’s the exact opposite. Those moments are highlighted somehow.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: What’s wonderful, too – I don’t know, Kate, if you remember this, but – I feel like a lot of times in the edit, we’d be looking at scenes and feel like, “These guys are talking too much.” They’re so good, and the chemistry is there, that you can just give a look to your sister and we know what she’s thinking.
Rosa Salazar: It’s profound, yeah.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: We ended up taking out a lot of lines in the scenes, because we felt like, “Oh, they’re selling it and they know it.” And these relationships feel so lived-in, and the chemistry between the actors is so real, and we had faith that the animators would bring that out. And they really did.
You actually answered my next question. I also know that you guys shot a lot, right? The intensity of the shoots was, I think I read, 23 pages a day?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: That’s the number Rosa keeps pulling, I don’t know if that’s actually true.
Kate Purdy: It happened one day.
Rosa Salazar: It is true! It is true. It happened one day, but I don’t think we shot less than 10 pages a day.
Kate Purdy: Now that’s true.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Ten was kind of the standard.
Rosa Salazar: Which is absurd. It’s absurd. But one week, and I think it was our first week, was the most grueling week. And none of us really knew what level of endurance to bring to it yet. So we’re all just kind of like, “Uh…”
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Also you, Rosa, are in almost every scene of the series. There’s a handful of scenes that you’re not in, but generally every episode you’re in most of it.
Rosa Salazar: Yeah. So I’m like, “Alright, let’s do this thing, guys.” And we were doing a few things that Bob wasn’t going to be there for, for other episodes, because he was finishing up Saul. Better Call Saul on AMC.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: They know about Better Call Saul, you don’t need to pimp that show.
Rosa Salazar: He plays a disgraced lawyer, and Michael McKean’s in it –
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Stop. Stop! Stop it.
Rosa Salazar: But he wasn’t going to be there, so we did a few other extra things. And we did shoot 23 pages in a day one day, and it nearly broke my own reality. And I loved it.
That’s amazing. Rosa, you and I bonded over Alita. I have to ask: sequel?
Rosa Salazar: We did. It’s coming out September 9th, 2019. You didn’t even know that yet.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Surprise! They made a sequel.
Rosa Salazar: But this one took like three months to make. It was like bing bang boom.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Real cheap.
Rosa Salazar: I guess after the first one, it was like, “Go.” It’s a lot less green screen, a lot more handheld cinema verité.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: It’s a new director. He doesn’t technically have the rights to the Alita property.
Kate Purdy: He doesn’t!
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: He got a couple of his friends and VHS tapes.
Rosa Salazar: We’re gonna drop it on Youtube today, I think. Actually, I don’t know. But of course, yeah, sign me up.
I’d love to see it.
Rosa Salazar: I’d love to see it, too! But you know what? You have this. And this is really great.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: In the meantime, while you wait for Alita 2.
Rosa Salazar: And it’s gonna break your minds.
Yeah, I saw the trailer and I was really blown away. I can’t wait to see it. When’s it coming out on Amazon?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: We don’t know yet. Soon!
Rosa Salazar: It’s a secret! This Fall. It’s this Fall.
Kate Purdy: We’re not going to tell anyone. You have to catch it.
Rosa Salazar: *whispers* It’s September…
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Right around the Jewish High Holy days.
Rosa Salazar: Okay. Which one?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: I don’t know.
Well, thank you guys so much for stopping by Screen Rant. You guys are awesome.
More: Undone Teaser Trailer