Interviews With Holden Miller & Daniel C. Connolly For NIGHT SKY

The new Amazon Prime series Night Sky, has a unique and intriguing premise. An elderly couple Franklin (J.K. Simmons) and Irene York (Sissy Spacek) have a secret. In their background, buried under the shed, is a passage that leads to a strange planet. The two don’t know what it is or how it got there, but like many of the mysteries hidden within this new science fiction show, there’s a lot to uncover.

I was able to speak with writer/creator Holden Miller and producer/writer Daniel C. Connolly about the origins of the series, its stars, and what makes this show a special experience:

This interview has been edited for clarity. 

This is Kristy Strouse with Film Inquiry: I’m really enjoying the show. So, where did this wild idea of Night Sky come from? 

Holden Miller: You know, it was not as if it wasn’t a situation where I was out walking one night and you know, saw my neighbor sneaking into his shed and thought what’s going on down there, I can’t say that there was necessarily an aha moment like that. But the pilot is a script that I wrote really just as a passion project in my personal time, a little over five years ago. And it came at a time when I was seeing a lot of my grandparents and spending a lot of time with them. And they were getting into their mid-80s, at that point, over 60 years of marriage, and really just observing them, their experience with time and aging, and with each other through all of that. And it really made me want to tell this story that’s about characters who are very, very different from them, but I think are grappling with a lot of the same things that they experienced.

It made me think of aging and mortality and enduring love and the larger questions of life, you know? What are we doing here? What does it all add up to? What does it mean to spend,  to share these experiences with another person? How do we prepare for the end? And they felt like really, really huge questions that perhaps needed huge concepts to dive into them fully. I think that was where the science fiction aspect of the show came from, as a way to add that sense of grandeur and wonder. The fantasy, adventure, and depth that the themes of the show kind of required.

I love that. You actually touched on a few things here that I was going to bring up because I really appreciate the intimate, personal element on par with this larger, science-fiction scope. So, it was really more of a personal project for you? 

Holden Miller: It was but you know, I guess to me, perhaps the line isn’t so stark is that in the sense that, you know, a lot of these things that are being dealt with in the show, the massiveness of them are the same questions that we deal with also on that scale, you know, I mean, we are all on this rock hurtling through space, kind of trying to figure out why that is. And I think that that’s, you know, this is kind of a science fictional concept in itself in a way. And so I think that it was definitely always a story that had that fantastical and wonderment element to it. And I think that the sort of trappings of sci-fi are the ways just the ways that it found its way onto the screen, I would say.

Interviews the Holden Miller & Daniel C. Connolly for NIGHT SKY
source: Amazon Prime

Yeah, and I love that. I think that’s a pretty fun spot, perfect answer. And Daniel, as producer and writer, what was your experience getting involved with the show?

Daniel C. Connolly: Well, yeah, I came in from the Legendary side, I was just there as a writer. And I’ve worked for them before. And they brought this idea up to me in a way that was along the lines of, we have a new young writer who’s written something that we think is really kind of unique. And, when I heard the description of it, something about it, I found it very intriguing. And then when I read the script, I knew within five or 10 pages, that there was a quality and an opportunity to sort of creating a show that had incredibly humanistic storytelling and characters that an audience would invest in emotionally and find that easy to do. But there’s also obviously this massive concept that’s introduced in the first 10 minutes. And to have those two things coexist seamlessly is so rare. So I thought that there was a pathway to sort of package the project and bring it out to the market and get people interested if we could because if we were able to make it, I thought we could end up with something that was quite unique and might break through the clutter of the streaming marketplace. And hopefully, we’ve done that.

Yeah, I think it’s definitely very unique and special. And I think it’s also inspiring to see this from a younger, newer writer. I think a lot of people starting out will too. You both wrote episodes, what was the collaboration like there?

Daniel C. Connolly: Yeah, it was really a collaboration from the beginning. You know, I think we both respect each other and consider ourselves equals and I think I’m credited on four episodes. But, you know, in our world, we rewrite each other and respectfully, and we just, once you kind of dial in the voice of the show, generally it’s hard, but once you dial it in, I think there’s an understanding of like, a give and take, and we tend to work together on this. And it’s been pretty seamless.

What a dream cast, especially for your first work Holden, did you have J.K. [Simmons] and Sissy [Spacek] in mind for the leads?

Daniel C. Connolly: I think, you know, it’s so rare in your career to have an actor in mind for something as you’re developing it, and then to have them say yes, it’s a dream come true. And then on the J.K. side, he’s just an iconic, great character actor that we’ve always loved, and a midwesterner! And it was just like when he, I think, knowing that Sissy had said yes, he felt that this was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. And it is a thrill to have those two people show up one day and turn the camera on and have them say the words that you were writing. It’s something I hope everyone gets a chance to have happen to them. It was a dream come true.

Interviews the Holden Miller & Daniel C. Connolly for NIGHT SKY
source: Amazon Prime

I think that they’re perfect. And they have a great rapport, their relationship seems, honestly very genuine. So I think that’s very important how this comes across. What are you hoping that viewers will kind of take away from Night Sky?

Holden Miller: I mean, we certainly want them to be entertained by it and have a good time and talk about what’s going to happen next. But you know, as much if not more than that, we want them to remember their experience spending time with these characters and want to come back for more not just to know what happens next. But just because they forged a connection with what they’ve seen on screen, and hopefully been able to relate it to something in their real life. And, you know, the questions that we’re grappling with in the show are so large that I wouldn’t say that we, on an existential level, I wouldn’t say that we feel capable of providing the clearest answers to them. But I think we want to engage with the questions in a deep and real way that hopefully allows people to continue to just think about them themselves. Yeah, I would also say that as important as it is, for people to ask those bigger questions. And to ponder them, as we all do. Often the answers are right in our own home. And I think that’s probably a central theme of the show.

Absolutely, there’s a very personal element, a very humanistic one, but then there’s also a very large, grandeur side as well, it very feels very existential. Do you already have ideas of where this story could go past season 1 or are you just kind of enjoying this moment?

Holden Miller: You know, we, we had such an amazing time writing and then making the show and we were so lucky with the crew of cast and crew and collaborators that we were able to put together that, you know, we would absolutely love to be able to continue telling the story, we have more to tell. You know, we’re always thinking about it. And, and so we’re hoping that we’re given the opportunity to continue, continue making Night Sky.

And who knows, maybe more people will be checking their sheds after this, like, just in case.

Holden Miller: [laughs] Yeah.

One can wish! Unfortunately, that’s all the time I have thank you both again for talking to me! I hope you guys have a great rest of your day and congratulations again on the show!

Holden Miller: Thank you Kristy.

Daniel C. Connolly: Thanks so much, Kristy. Nice to meet you!

We want to thank Holden Miller and Daniel C. Connolly for taking the time to speak with us. 

Night Sky premieres on Amazon Prime on May 20th. 

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