Creators Behind FX Series ‘The Patient’ Explain How the Show Explores Jewish Trauma, Themes of Intolerance
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, the two creators behind the new FX limited series “The Patient,” talked in a new interview about how their psychological thriller addresses a father-son conflict that stems out of their differences in Judaism and trauma as it relates to the Holocaust.
In the series “The Patient,” which premiered on Hulu on Tuesday, actor Steve Carell plays a Jewish psychologist named Dr. Alan Strauss who is kidnapped and held as a chained prisoner by one of his patients, a serial killer named Sam, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Sam wants to stop his killing spree and needs the help of the doctor in order to overcome his homicidal urges.
While alone in captivity Alan is forced to also work through his own repressed issues, including his estrangement from his religious son — whose conversation to Orthodox Judaism alienated him from his family —the recent death of his wife, who was a cantor, and Alan’s repeated nightmares of the Holocaust.
“For us, we had this idea of a serial killer kidnapping a therapist, and we thought that was good, and then we started trying to flesh out the characters, and one of the things we thought of was, let’s make this guy Jewish and let’s give him a wife who’s a cantor … let’s give him a kid who’s orthodox who he’s having trouble with,” Weisberg, who with Fields were also the executive producers of the widely popular television show “The Americans,” told The Daily Beast in an interview on Wednesday.
“And the whole thing started to just expand and have a richness and fullness and a relationship to our own personal lives too,” he added. “We recognized pretty quickly was going to be very, very rich to explore, and add a level of depth to it that is part of what makes good drama.”
Fields added about the show, “there’s the big themes of intolerance and then there are the small micro ones in this family and within the different threads of Judaism. But really, that’s all stuff— appropriately for a show that’s about therapy— that bubbled up subconsciously through our process. Then we’d talk about, be surprised by it, and navigate through the characters and their journey, and that increasingly became the story.”
Fields and Weisberg also explained that the Holocaust references in the show came later on in the creative process as they tried to flesh out details about the storyline and Carrell’s character arch. Fields said, “it came late because it came out of the story and character process for us, and what felt true to what we think would be triggered in this character’s mind … just blossomed out of what was happening to him, and what we thought he would start to consider.”
Filming scenes of Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps for the show were especially surreal for the two visionaries, Weisberg noted.
“For both of us, [it was] one of the weirdest days of our lives,” he told The Daily Beast. “Because there are all these guys in prison clothes at craft services, just walking around. It was surreal. Also being inside that set, which was realistic, was pretty moving, disturbing and odd. It was a strange day.”
The two-episode premiere of “The Patient” — created, executive produced and written by Fields and Weisberg — is now streaming on Hulu. The 10-episode limited series is produced by FX Productions.