Chris O’Dowd on His Nick Hornby Series ‘State of the Union’ with Rosamund Pike

     February 12, 2019

One of the many things to world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was State of the Union. The ten episode series, written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, takes place in a British pub in the ten minutes before a married couple (played by Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike) goes into their therapy session across the street. Over the course of the series, we learn what drew them together, how they ended up in therapy, and if they will be able to work out their differences. As you might expect from a series written by Nick Hornby, the dialogue is quick and sharply worded and it allows both leads to each shine. I breezed through the series in one sitting and definitely recommend checking it out when it premieres on SundanceTV.

Shortly after seeing the series I sat down with Chris O’Dowd for an extended interview in the Collider studio at the Kia Supper Suite in Park City. During the wide-ranging interview he talked about how the series happened, the challenge of learning twelve pages of dialogue a night, what it was like working with Rosamund Pike, his drink of choice, and so much more. In addition, he revealed the real reason Guinness tastes better in Ireland and played “Get To Know Your Sundance Attendee” which includes a number of questions like what TV show they’d like to guest-star on, what’s their favorite fantasy or sci-fi movie, what film scared them as a kid, their first movie or TV show crush, if they prefer Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, what got them interested in the entertainment industry, and a lot of other fun stuff.


Image via Kia Motors

I’d also like to take a moment to give special thanks to our Collider Studio partner, the all new 2020 Kia Telluride, which was transporting filmmakers to our studio in celebration of the debut of the all new model, Kia’s first eight-passenger SUV that is several inches longer and wider than the brand’s award-winning Sorento.

Libations flowing at the Collider studio and parties were provided by LIFEWTR, Tequila Comisario, Sensi Tuscany Wines, Blue Moon Belgian White and Dragonfly Coffee Roasters. Food during the evening parties was provided by Greene St. Kitchen of Palms Casino Resort helmed by Chef Du Cuisine Lanny Chin. Brand partners also active during the day-part include mou, a luxury footwear and accessories line, and The Wild Immersion endorsed by Jane Goodall who was on-site with the world’s first ‘virtual reserve’.

Check out what he had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about, the synopsis, and some more info on the series from Exec Producers Hakan Kousetta and Jamie Laurenson of See-Saw Films

chris-odowd-interview-state-of-the-union-sundanceChris O’Dowd :

  • How the series is 10 episodes at 10 minutes each.
  • How did he get involved in the series?
  • Why Nick Hornby couldn’t be at the interview.
  • How did he memorize all the dialogue?
  • How each night he had to learn 12 pages a night.
  • How did they decide on the location?
  • What it was like working with Rosamund Pike?
  • What is his drink of choice?
  • How he used to work in a bar in Paris and talks Guinness.
  • Chris reveals why Guinness tastes better in Ireland.
  • Did he debate taking on State of the Union?
  • How does he like to work on set?
  • What TV show the group would like to guest star on?
  • Favorite sci-fi/fantasy film?
  • Favorite superhero movie?
  • What film scared him as a kid?
  • Anything he collects?
  • First movie or TV show crush?
  • What movie or TV show props he owns?
  • What’s the background photo on his phone?
  • What TV show has he watched all the way through, more than once?
  • This or That – Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • chris-odowd-rosamund-pike-state-of-the-union

    Image via Sundance

    This or That – Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad?

  • This or That – Han Solo or Indiana Jones?
  • Worst job he’s had? Shares a great story about playing the Easter bunny….
  • What’s coming up for him?
  • What got him interested in the entertainment industry (performance, show, movie etc)?

How the show came together:

“We had been talking to nick on and off about how to do a relationship show that could be about people and not their jobs – so often things have to be about worlds and precincts. Nick was inspired by the possibilities that the  short form shape offered to keep the characters and their emotional dilemmas to the fore.”

Landing that cast and overall team etc:

“It was relatively straightforward to pull the team together. The quality of Nick’s writing is undeniable and was a huge draw for each of Stephen, Rosamund and Chris. The cutting edge nature of the format was also intriguing and attractive to all of us – it really did feel like we were at the beginning of something. Short form has been around for a while, but this might be the first that has brought together such a high caliber creative team.”

chris-odowd-interview-state-of-the-unionOne other anecdote:

“I guess an interesting thing is the unexpected challenges of a short form piece – the demands on actors in what is essentially a two hander – meaning they had pages of dialogue to learn every night; and on Stephen as director who had to adapt to the rhythms of a piece that is quite unique. The result was that everyone found it much more challenging than they expected so, whilst the format is of itself simpler, making it was much more complex.”

Here’s the State of the Union synopsis via Sundance:

New to counseling, Tom and Louise meet in a pub before their weekly marital-therapy appointment to fortify themselves with drink and get their stories straight. These informal pub-based sessions slowly reveal the shape of their relationship, as long-running resentments fight for space next to newly discovered complications—all of which are equally fueled by their sharp wits, their bruised emotions, and white wine. With blame and guilt being thrown from both sides, an unexpected energy starts to reemerge in their partnership, revealing who they have become and potentially building bridges back to who they once were.


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