Perpetual Grace Panel ATX Festival 2019

Interview: ‘Perpetual Grace, LTD’ Showrunners on How They Crafted the Unique Series

ATX Television Festival, Interviews, Perpetual Grace LTD

Last week at the ATX Television Festival, we had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable interview with the Perpetual Grace, LTD showrunners Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris.

Conrad and Terris discussed the uniqueness of Perpetual Grace, LTD, the purpose behind the rhymic dialogue, and so much more.

Heed the Theme Song and Dancing Astronaut

When discussing how the series manages to balance shifts and tone and, for instance, have a character disappear in a puff of smoke at the end of Perpetual Grace, LTD Season 1 Episode 2, “Orphan Comb Death Fight,” Conrad credited the dancing astronaut and the credit sequence.

The credit sequence, according to Conrad, is telling “the audience that this isn’t exactly life on earth.”

“All that credit sequence is saying is don’t worry about anything. It’s not going to make sense. Just feel it, and it will be okay,” Conrad elaborated.

Perpetual Grace LTD Season 1 Episode 102: Empazando Manana
Perpetual Grace LTD Season 1 Episode 102: Empazando Manana

Conrad revealed that the song that plays in the title sequence, Comet, was written for the show, and it is essentially saying, “if we could just hold it together, we can take the power of the future and we can be better.”

Also, if you are obsessed with the magic act that Paul does at the end of Perpetual Grace, LTD Season 1 Episode 2, “Orphan Comb Death Fight,” like I am, I’ve got something just for you!

Conrad teased that Paul “explains the trick later, in Episode 6…he explains how he does it. So, it’s magic, but it’s not magic. He has a technique, and so he explores that technique.”

The Rhythmic Dialogue

Shortly into Perpetual Grace, LTD Season 1 Episode 1, “Eleven,” it’s hard not to notice that there’s a unique way that people speak. It’s a bit melodic.

As for how this style of speech is conveyed to the actors in a script, Conrad said, “it’s rhythm, generally speaking, and some odd punctuation. There are a couple of little tricks. I do, I think they’re called ellipses, the three dots. Those are in there a lot. There’s dashes a lot.”

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“Never an exclamation point,” Terris chimed in.

Perpetual Grace Panel ATX Festival 2019
Photo Courtesy of Dominick Dusseault/ATX Festival

“The actors that I find I work within multiples have a real sense of the rhythm of the dialogue. Luis is wonderful at it. Ben’s wonderful at it,” Conrad stated.

From there, Conrad referenced Perpetual Grace, LTD Season 1 Episode 2, “Orphan Comb Death Fight,” which he described as “sort of the Louis Ben show.”

“It’s like they’re trading solos. And they’re both equally good at it. They have distinct delivery systems, but they hit the rhythm identically,” Conrad commented.

This style of dialogue is not done to simply create a unique feel or sound to the show. “There’s a purpose to it, and the purpose is to create tension,” Conrad stated. 

Perpetual Grace LTD Season 1 Episode 102: Orphan Comb Death Fight
Photo Courtesy of EPIX

Conrad’s style of writing “is to supposed to convey that there’s tension existing in this relationship,” and Conrad noted that he “pay[s] attention to what is the tensest way, to communicate tension through dialogue, so it’s not just dialogue, even though we get studio notes that say ‘there’s too much dialogue.’ Well, it’s not dialogue. It’s the story. It’s the characters.”

The Art of Breaking 

Similar to Conrad and Terris’ Amazon series Patriot, Perpetual Grace, LTD features characters in impossible situations, and we are treated to slowly watching them break under the pressure. Conrad said that that aspect of watching characters break down “is sort of elemental in our way of approaching that genre.”

He stated that Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 film starring Al Pacino, is “a model” for him and Terris.

“There are two films that if you put one on top of the other, that’s what we’re trying to do all the time,” Conrad continued. “One is Dog Day Afternoon, the other is the Disney Robin Hood from 1973 with the beautiful songs and the narrator. Those two things fused are all we’re ever trying to do.”

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Perpetual Grace Panel ATX Festival 2019
Photo Courtesy of Dominick Dusseault/ATX Festival

Dog Day Afternoon, according to Conrad, is “not a heist movie at all” because “he’s not going to succeed. Nevertheless, you can’t take your eyes off of him. I think the tension in Dog Day Afternoon is ‘what is going to break him?’”

“The promise of the audience is ‘you will stay tuned to see what that might be,'” Conrad noted. “It’s how Patriot works, and I think it’s the same engineering of Perpetual Grace, LTD.”

Why the Series is Unique

As for the series itself, there’s really nothing like it on TV, which is not something most shows can say.

“TV is a whole new ballgame,” Conrad said. “If you are the beneficiaries of The Sopranos and The Wire and Deadwood, and Boardwalk Empire, if those are the shows that you absorbed as a filmmaker, what do you now? You can’t repeat them, and you can’t be less than them. You can’t have lower expectations or lesser goals than those shows, you must rise, try to rise, to the occasion that they created for you.”

When asked how Conrad and Terris got Ben Kingself to do TV, Conrad said, “the answer is, we didn’t. The Sopranos did. Deadwood did. We owe those shows an awful lot.”

Perpetual Grace Panel ATX Festival 2019
Photo Courtesy of Dominick Dusseault/ATX Festival

Perpetual Grace, LTD is “a ten-hour film,” as Terris described it. “We purposely structured this, we really wanted you to view this as a 10-hour movie,” he continued.

While it may be difficult to plot out a ten-hour movie, Conrad recalled some advice he received as a young writer that has benefited him greatly:

“There are very few elemental things about writing because you should have to rule-less, generally speaking, but one was don’t write past your ending, and the other was to know your ending before you start.”

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“We do that with the season; we do that with the series. We know the end of the series. We know the end of the season, and we know the end of each episode before we start,” Conrad noted.

Are you enjoying Perpetual Grace, LTD so far? What are your thoughts on the interview? Leave them in the comments below!

Perpetual Grace, LTD airs Sundays at 10/9c on EPIX.

Check out all of our coverage of the ATX Television Festival right here. There is a lot more to come!

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Allison Nichols

Allison is in a love affair with television that doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. Slightly damaged fictional characters are her weakness. She loves to spend her free time curled up with a cat and a show to binge-watch on Netflix. Currently, she's obsessed with From Dusk Till Dawn, Wynonna Earp, and she'll never be over her Gilmore Girl's obsession. In addition to Tell-Tale TV, Allison also writes for TVFanatic. Follow her on Twitter: @AllisonBlairN

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