They are women, hear them 'Roar' in darkly comic Apple TV+ anthology series

  • Issa Rae starts to feel pretty uncomfortable in the first episode of "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15, on Apple TV+.

    Issa Rae starts to feel pretty uncomfortable in the first episode of "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15, on Apple TV+. Courtesy of Apple TV+

 
By George Dickie
Gracenote
Posted4/15/2022 6:00 AM

The title may be "Roar," but a more accurate description of Apple TV+'s upcoming anthology series might be "struggle." That's because the darkly comedic eight-episode series from "GLOW" creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive that premieres Friday, April 15, relates tales of women grappling with some sort of dilemma, be it related to motherhood, the past, expectations or commercialization, thoughtfully told in humorous, surreal and downright bizarre fashion.

Based on the collection of short stories by Cecelia Ahern, it features smart writing and a talented cast led by Nicole Kidman (who is also an executive producer), Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever and former "GLOW" co-stars Betty Gilpin and Alison Brie. The series was shot mainly around Los Angeles (save for Kidman's Australia-set story), and each episode took about 10 days to film.

 
Nicole Kidman stars in Apple TV+'s "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15.
Nicole Kidman stars in Apple TV+'s "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15. - Courtesy of Apple TV+

The short gig was a selling point for the cast, who Mensch praises for being game to play on the show's experimental playground.

"It felt like we were in some strange laboratory," Mensch says, "like each (episode) was its own experiment and people were excited to figure it out as a performer, as a cinematographer, as a writer, as a director. Like everybody got to come and ask some kind of very fun craft questions, which was like, 'How the heck am I going to eat a photograph?' 'How am I going to stay emotionally honest while acting across from a desk?' Like they all had a gauntlet, and I think that really spoke to the performers who said yes and wanted to come play."

The opening episode, "The Woman Who Disappeared," stars Rae as a writer who finds herself literally becoming invisible to those around her when her watershed novel about racism is co-opted by a production company to be made into a video game.

For this, Flahive credits writer Janine Nabers with taking Ahern's story about aging and taking it in a different direction.

Griffin Matthews and Issa Rae star in "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15, on Apple TV+.
Griffin Matthews and Issa Rae star in "Roar," premiering Friday, April 15, on Apple TV+. - Courtesy of Apple TV+
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"What really excited us," Flahive says, "was watching Janine take on kind of the commodification of Black artists in the wake of Black Lives Matter. ... But what felt kind of new and fresh here was this idea of how it feels to be both successful in your field but still not actually seen or heard, and taking that feeling and literalizing it."

Even more surreal is "The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf," which casts Gilpin as a former model who lives on a wall in her rich husband's office so she can serve as his round-the-clock muse.

"It's actually a pretty universal story," Flahive says, "about getting stuck in places and stuck in certain marriages or in certain expectations about yourself, and then breaking them and then experiencing freedom and then having to decide what kind of future you want for yourself."

"It was one of stickiest visuals from the book," she continues, "which was like, 'How the heck would we film a woman living on a shelf? Like, I don't even know how to do that.' Which felt like a really great cinematic experiment."

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