Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams star in FX limited series
Director-choreographer Bob Fosse and dancer-actress Gwen Verdon fueled some of Broadway’s biggest hits, but they also shared challenges in life and love … and all that jazz.
Premiering Tuesday, April 9, the FX series “Fosse/Verdon” casts Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and multiple Oscar nominee Michelle Williams in the title roles. They’re also among the executive producers – as are “Hamilton” Tony Award winners Thomas Kail, who directed most of the drama’s eight episodes, and Lin-Manuel Miranda – with Margaret Qualley (“The Leftovers”) playing actress-dancer Ann Reinking, Norbert Leo Butz as writer Paddy Chayefsky, Evan Handler as theater impresario Hal Prince, and Nate Corddry and Aya Cash (“You’re the Worst”) as playwright Neil Simon and his wife Joan.
Represented as well (and played mainly by Blake Baumgartner) is Fosse and Verdon’s daughter Nicole, also one of the executive producers. Though the Roy Scheider-starring 1979 movie “All That Jazz” was inspired by her sometimes mercurial father (who co-wrote and directed it), she maintains Fosse “never claimed it to be autobiographical. It’s sort of a whitewashed, romanticized version of his life. I think this (series) goes much more deeply into what was really going on in his relationships with Gwen and all of the people in his life.”
Rockwell describes Bob Fosse, who directed such shows as “Chicago” and “Pippin,” as having been “a very complex guy, I think that there was maybe a little bit of narcissism, but also, I think he was a very kind man and a very charming man. Gwen was obviously his muse — and Ben Vereen was one of his muses, and Ann Reinking.”
Fosse also directed Verdon in the musical “Sweet Charity,” and Williams reflects, “The thing I have kept hearing over and over again was that (Verdon) was like the sunshine in the room. The way that I’ve come to think of her is as someone who was always trying their hardest and occasionally was backed up against a wall, and things weren’t in her control anymore. But as much as she possibly could, from what Nicole and other people have shared with me, she was constantly trying to rise above and be her best self at all times.”
Kail assesses Fosse and Verdon as “maybe the most crystallized example of that kind of collaboration. They found each other, and as he started to accelerate, she had to find a different way to grapple with something that I think is very human: Who are you when you can’t do the thing that defined you? The dancer dies twice. They die when they stop dancing, and they die when they die, and that felt really rich for us to explore.”