Created by Academy Award winner Cameron Crowe and executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Winnie Holzman, the Showtime series Roadies is an insider’s look at the reckless, romantic and funny lives of a committed group of individuals that work backstage and behind the scenes to put on the show while touring the United States for a successful arena-level band. They are the unsung heroes who live for the music, often at the expense of their own personal and family lives, and who become each other’s de facto family, as they devote all of their time to making sure the band gets on stage. The series stars Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots, Rafe Spall, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Peter Cambor, Colson Baker (a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly) and Finesse Mitchell.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer/writer Winnie Holzman talked about her desire to work with Cameron Crowe, getting a crash course in this world, spending some time on the road with Pearl Jam, where the heart of the show comes from, what kind of person it takes to be a roadie, and where things could go in future seasons.
Collider: You’ve said that this was a world that you weren’t particularly familiar with, so what was the appeal of this show for you?
WINNIE HOLZMAN: I knew that Cameron [Crowe] was going to write the pilot, and he wasn’t going to write a dark shoot-em-up thriller about the CIA. I was pretty sure of that. In my life, it’s always been about who I’m going to collaborate with. Less important to me is what the subject is. In a funny way, that’s almost the more superficial aspect. I also knew how much I connect to Cameron’s work, and I’ve always wanted to work with him, in some way. This was a very special opportunity. I just didn’t know how to say no. I don’t think I could have said no.
Did you have a crash course on this world, before production?
HOLZMAN: Yeah, and anyone who has a crash course, I feel like I barely know anything. But at the same time, I have people around me who can correct me, help me and guide me. Cameron is chief among them, but there are others. We’ve had amazing consultants who have come in and really taught us a lot and really been willing to share what life is like. It’s been really helpful. I couldn’t have done it without the consultants, and I couldn’t have done it without Cameron. What I am doing is bringing what I do, which is relationships and people. When you work with someone under these circumstances, you can’t escape. It’s a lot of people’s definition of hell, I would guess, or heaven, depending on where you’re at. It’s not easy. The hardness of it, and also the devotion of it and the selflessness of it all, are things I can relate to. As a writer who has collaborated on projects, you give your life over to that project.
Did you get to spend time with any bands, prior to diving into this show?
HOLZMAN: Cameron set up a little trip for me, so I was able to do a little bit of traveling on a bus for one night, and it was with the Pearl Jam tour. This is embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t really know anything about Pearl Jam. Of course, I knew who they were, but I had never really sampled them. But man, being at that concert was so intense. The joy and the rapture and the happiness on the faces of the fans is something I’ll never forget. I was really close to people, and just seeing what the band meant to people was so touching. That was such a cool feeling and just beautiful to witness.
Where is the heart of this show coming from and who we’ll be following this season?
HOLZMAN: It’s coming from Cameron. It’s his love of the road and the people that put on the concert and make it all people. This is his love letter to them, and him paying respect to them. We’ll be following a real ensemble, but in some ways, Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots) is the center. She’s our window into the world. In some ways, she’s got the most she’s going to have to learn. But, they’re all important. They’re all little heroes to us. To us, they’re each the hero of their own little story.
This kind of a job really keeps you away from your family.
HOLZMAN: Yes, and in a way they’re running from something or escaping something.
What kind of a person does it take to be willing to do that?
HOLZMAN: That’s part of what we’re exploring. I don’t think there’s an answer to it. In a funny way, I think the answer will be our season, and it may never be answered because there may be no way to answer it. But it’s definitely something I think about, all the time, and want to explore, as best I can. There’s an aspect of me that can relate to it, even though it hasn’t been my life. I’m certainly a real homebody. But the truth is that I understand that desire to, in a way, go join the circus. That’s what got me out of Long Island and into show business. I was like, “I’m just going to have an adventure. I want to be a person that isn’t surrounded by their mail and their cat.” I think there’s a fantasy element for almost all of us in that. I don’t think all of us are going to do that, but all of us think about that. I’m a little Jewish girl from Long Island, but when I listened to Tina Turner, I pictured myself in a mini-dress, dancing like Tina Turner. It’s inevitable.
Because this show focuses on the roadies, the band is in the background more. Will we get to know the band and who they are, as well?
HOLZMAN: Yes, you genuinely get to know them a little more. We just always try to keep the roadies center stage. We’re putting the spotlight on the people who have been in the shadows.
How much will we see these people’s outside lives?
HOLZMAN: I think you’ll get glimpses, but it’s really mainly their life on the road. I think there will be little tiny snippets of understanding that we’ll get about their lives, and some more than others. You’re definitely going to learn more about Bill’s past and his life.
Are you thinking ahead to future seasons? Would this group of people stay with this band for multiple tours?
HOLZMAN: I think that will be up to Cameron and the conversations we have with Showtime, but we feel very elastic about it. We feel like we could stay with this band and continue. You could have it that a lot of these roadies end up on another tour. You could have it that they end up in another tour. I think it would be fun to mix it up. I can picture playing it out so many different ways, and I think that’s part of the fun of this show. You could keep this core group of roadies together, but you could have various things happen.
Roadies airs on Sunday nights on Showtime