One of the joys of episodic anthologies in the modern TV era is the chance to experience unpredictable team-ups between seemingly random big-name talents. For new streaming service Quibi, the horror series 50 States of Fright is the way to go. The first three episodes, for example, was directed and co-written by series executive producer Sam Raimi, and co-stars Vikings vet Travis Fimmel and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan. And according to Raimi, it was quite a great experience that went by all too quickly.
Speaking with CinemaBlend and other press for a conference call promoting 50 States of Fright, Sam Raimi talked about how he got involved with the anthology, whose location-based episodes are specifically themed around different states' historical myths and ghost stories. I asked the Evil Dead and Spider-Man director about working with Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan on the three-episode segment for Michigan, "The Golden Arm." In Raimi's words:
I had met Travis in a story meeting on another project, and I was so impressed with him. He had such great ideas. This is like two years ago, and I thought, 'I'm gonna try to work with this guy.' Every scene we were talking about, he's expanding, he's getting into the character, what they really think and feel. He's got such a real take on every moment that we're describing, that he would be a great collaborator. At the time, I was only a producer on this project – it's a project that was never made. But I thought, one day I want to work with him as a director, because he's so intelligent and communicative.
Sam Raimi has worked with a lot of noteworthy leads over his many years in the film business, and Travis Fimmel does seem like a natural fit. Outside of his feature film future, Fimmel will next be seen on the small screen in Ridley Scott's upcoming HBO Max sci-fi series Raised By Wolves, so he's clearly a draw for genre filmmakers.
Here, Sam Raimi followed up with what inspired him to link up with Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan.
As far as Rachel Brosnahan, I love her on that show, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She's brilliant on it. I know a lot of it is the writing and the directing, but it's also powered by her incredibly realistic and fun, lively performance. So when I heard she was available, I asked if she'd do the role, and she said yes, and Travis said yes, also. And they really hit it off well on set.
For "The Golden Arm," which is a story that fans of folklore are likely familiar with, Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan play a happily married couple whose lives are irreversibly rattled when Brosnahan's Heather gets into a horrifying accident. Although actually, the events that happen long after the accident are the ones that become the most horrifying.
While traditional film shoots take several months, and standard hour-long TV productions go longer than a week, the filming process for Quibi shows is extremely shortened, due to all episodes being shorter than ten minutes. (One scene alone in Mrs. Maisel took three days.) Regardless, Sam Raimi said it was an extremely positive collaboration, both for him as a director and for Fimmel and Brosnahan themselves. In his words:
They were very respectful of one another, and both great contributors to the moments, making them very real on set. I went to the script, I remember, on the first day with them, and they each had suggestions about, 'Let's add this... Hey, I don't need to say all of that. I can perform the rest of it just on set.' Or 'I'd rather say it like this.' They personalized the roles in a great way, and really contributed as collaborators on the script. I wish we had more time together, because the whole thing was shot in a handful of days. But we really got to form a very close relationship, and left there wanting to work together again.
"The Golden Arm" is full of Sam Raimi's directorial flourishes, such as sweeping camera shots and massive blood spatter, and it's great to hear that Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan not only dug into the material, but also agreeably brought their own additions to the script co-written by Raimi and his brother Ivan. Since they technically had less screen time than they would have had in a network TV episode, the actors were smart to try and maximize their impact. Here's hoping that collaboration leads to more projects in the future.
Both Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan are best known to TV fans from playing roles from the past, as Vikings' Ragnar and the titular Mrs. Maisel, respectively. (Brosnahan also starred in WGN America's Manhattan prior.) So it was interesting to see them both get a chance to co-star in a series that dropped them in a completely different era.
In that respect, Sam Raimi also talked about the similarities between Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan's roles in 50 States of Fright and in their other projects.
I've seen and really loved a number of episodes of Travis on Vikings. I've guess with all their combined experience, they've...I mean, they played lovers in this show, and I know that they both have played [lovers] in their previous roles. Travis certainly played a very powerful character. Maybe I hadn't seen him play a man who was frightened, you know? I hadn't seen that aspect of him before. Actually, in Vikings, I have. I wish I could say these were new roles for them, but I think I've seen aspects of these parts in other things that they have played. But for me they were very original, and it was just a wonderful working relationship with them, and it was original to me.
Travis Fimmel has surely taken part in some Vikings scenes in which he had to play fearful, but he's on a completely different level of freaked out in 50 States of Fright. So Sam Raimi can absolutely take comfort in knowing that.
50 States of Fright is currently available to stream on Quibi right now, with all three of the "Golden Arm" installments up now. Quibi's 90-day free trial definitely makes the effort to sign up worth it, if names like Travis Fimmel and Rachel Brosnahan don't do it alone.