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Feed the Beast Q&A — Clyde Phillips (Executive Producer & Showrunner)

Clyde Phillips, writer and executive producer for AMC’s Feed the Beast, talks about the evolution of Dion and Tommy’s friendship, revealing the Tooth Fairy’s secret, and TJ’s shocking realization.

Q: Season 1 ends with a bang – literally! What did you want that shot of TJ sandwiched between Tommy and Dion to represent?

A: I wanted to show that, after everything they’ve done that is arguably questionable, there are consequences lurking out there. Despite all of their best intentions, they still have enemies. The actors came to me and said, “Who did this?! Who loosened the pipe?” They didn’t even know, and I wasn’t going to tell them.

In the middle of the explosion, there is desperation from both Tommy and Dion to get to TJ to save him as embers and beams are falling. The description [in the script] was “years of unconditional love between them.” I love the finale because it ties so many bows and unties so many bows at the same time.

Q: What was it like writing that emotional scene where TJ speaks, realizing that his mother’s death wasn’t his fault.

A: TJ saw a car peeling out from the art show at school, and that finally triggers his scrambled memory of what happened to his mother that he witnessed. He had been thinking non-linearly and now he’s thinking in order. When he creates a flipbook out of the pages he’s been drawing all season, we see what actually happened the day Rie got hit by a car. Two things come to light for TJ: One, it wasn’t an accident. That car purposely hit his mother. And two, it wasn’t his fault. This is the thing that poor TJ has been carrying. He thought it was his fault all this time because he had called for her and she stepped off the curb, but that car was going to hit her anyway. That burden has been lifted. He yells out just as Tommy is about to open the sliding windows into the kitchen and expose himself to the explosion. Because TJ yelled, he pulled Tommy away and saved his father’s life.

Q: You wrote the Feed the Beast Series Premiere and co-wrote the Season Finale. Did the season end up where you thought it was going to?

A: There was a lot of story to tell. We ended our first season where the [original] Danish series [Bankerot] ended their second season, except for the fact that our restaurant was up and running and theirs wasn’t yet. We had intended for the DNA testing to go farther between Tommy and TJ, but we realized we were getting a little bit off the main story, so we pulled back a little bit on that. Sometimes you have an idea of where you’re going and then you realize that perhaps plot is taking over character. You want character to always be what matters most.

Q: Speaking of character, how do you think Dion and Tommy’s relationship evolves (for better or for worse) over the course of the season?

A: Tommy and Dion’s relationship ultimately is heading towards a place of truth and that’s a difficult place to be. It’s also a great fountain for stories to bubble up from. They have some difficult times ahead and they’re going to have to deal with them.

Q: There have been some shocking reveals over the course of the season: Dion and Rie’s tryst, Pilar’s lie about her husband, Marisa’s pregnancy… Which one were you most excited about?

A: I think the secret I was most excited to reveal is the fact that the Tooth Fairy is gay and in love with Dion. That propels so much story and nobody saw that coming. It’s the kind of story that goes backwards and forwards at the same time while it lives in the present, meaning that a lot of things have happened before we started this show that had to do with the Tooth Fairy’s infatuation. The Tooth Fairy was born into the wrong family. He’s basically born into the Corleone family when he should’ve been born into a loving, understanding, progressive and open family. He’s trapped and that comes out in rage and, in some cases, sadism.

Q: Is his infatuation the reason he’s gone easy on Dion or is there something else at play?

A: It is why he’s gone easy on Dion. He’s used many excuses to his father, like how he can’t collect money from a dead man; and he doesn’t want to pull a tooth from the face of a man he’s in love with, so he breaks his little finger instead. It’s also why he acts out on other people.

Q: Talk about Giordano’s ultimate demise at the hands of the Tooth Fairy in Episode 9; Patrick had plenty of opportunities to kill Giordano before that point. What was it that pushed him over the edge, so to speak?

A: The Tooth Fairy learned that Giordano was planning to kill him and he wasn’t going to let that happen. Also, what pushed him over the edge was his father saying to him that he had some defect of character. He does what he’s supposed to do – which in a mob sense is to get the police off their back – except he does it in a theatrical way and leaves the body to be found. So, he can’t even do that right because he’s not a criminal at heart.

Q: Pilar and the Tooth Fairy have one of the show’s most honest friendships. What do they see in each other?

A: Each of them finds in the other someone to talk to. The Tooth Fairy is very lonely. He really has no peers, and he’s held with contempt by his father, much like Tommy is held with contempt by his father. Pilar comes as this innocent tabula rasa, this blank slate who’s optimistic, hopeful, cheery and — with him — honest. Pilar doesn’t tell the truth, but he’s the only one she’s honest with. She’s living one of the biggest lies of all. She does not have a dead husband and went to that grief group to meet a man – and things went exactly as she hoped. Sometimes things going exactly as you hope is not what’s best for you. She’s going to have to tell Tommy the truth sooner or later.

Q: What was it like crafting a story where the characters’ lives are so interconnected without them realizing it?

A: It’s a great challenge, but there’s also great fun in doing that. We had a blast in the writing room working through these stories. It lends itself to a sense of surprise, acceptable coincidences and inevitability. That’s wonderful stuff to write.

Read an interview with Michael Rispoli, who plays Detective Giordano.

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