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Hulu CATCH-22 Q&A w/ Cast George Clooney, Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chander + Episode Guide + Photos

Maj Canton - May 17, 2019




On May 17, 2019 Hulu premiered all six episodes of the highly entertaining and thought-provoking limited series CATCH-22. Based on Joseph Heller’s seminal novel of the same name, CATCH-22 is the story of the incomparable, artful dodger, Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), a US Air Force bombardier in World War II who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy, but rather his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men, must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to avoid his military assignments, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule which specifies that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers which are real and immediate is the process of a rational mind; a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but a request to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity and therefore makes him ineligible to be relieved from duty. Filmed on location in Sardinia Italy and Rome.


The cast for the limited series includes Christopher Abbott (Yossarian), Kyle Chandler (Colonel Cathcart), George Clooney (Scheisskopf), Hugh Laurie (Major de Coverley), Giancarlo Giannini (Marcello), Daniel David Stewart (Milo), Rafi Gavron (Aarfy), Austin Stowell (Nately), Graham Patrick Martin (Orr), Gerran Howell (Kid Sampson), Jon Rudnitsky (McWatt), Kevin J. O'Connor (Korn), Pico Alexander (Clevinger), Tessa Ferrer (Nurse Duckett), Lewis Pullman (Major Major), Josh Bolt (Dunbar), Jay Paulson (Chaplain), Julie Ann Emery (Marion) and Grant Heslov (Doc Daneeka).




This February 2019 TV Tango attended the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, where Hulu presented a panel that included Cast, Executive Producers, Writers and Directors -- George Clooney Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Grant Heslov, Luke Davies and Ellen Kuras. Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and readability) from that panel.


Cast, writers and producers of CATCH-22 at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour in February 2019 at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena.

Left to right: Grant Heslov, George Clooney, Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Ellen Kuras and Luke Davies



George Clooney at TCA

Question: George, can you talk about the first time you read "Catch-22" and the impact it made on you?

George Clooney: I think a lot of us of a certain age, that was one of the books they gave you in high school that you were supposed to read. This is considered one of the great American novels of all time. I loved the style of writing which was different than the kind of writing we had read. But I was pretty young, and so I just liked the character, and I thought it was fun. I reread it when we were sent the scripts to do and I hadn't read it in a long time. So it was really fun and exciting to go back and read and understand why this book lasted and stands the test of time. It was fun.

Question: What drew you to producing and directing this project?

George Clooney: We were sent the first three scripts, Grant and I, and they said, "Do you want to do "Catch-22?" And we said, "No, we don't want to do Catch-22. It seems ridiculous. It's a beloved novel. We don't want to get into the middle of all that." And we read these first three scripts and I said, "Well, if the next three are anything like that." And we read the next three, and then we called up everybody at Paramount first and just said, "Where do we sign up?" We just loved the scripts. I think David and Luke did an amazing job with unspooling these characters because, when you do a movie, as you know, you don't have enough time to really get to know the characters, and that's why you do this as a television show. You get to spend time with the characters like the book does. And they just figured out a way to interpret it in a way that we didn't think was really possible.

Question: Are you going to be directing more TV now?

George Clooney: I don't care about the medium. I really don't. I just care about the quality of the work, and the things that we're able to do. And television's doing some really amazing things. We have a Watergate piece that we're working on right now. We just want to work, you know, I mean, Grant, you want to work, don't you?

Grant Heslov: I want to take it a little more easy but he wants to work all the time.

Screenwriter Luke Davies at TCA

Question: What about "Catch-22" is relevant to today?

Luke Davies: In a very broad sense, it's just a beautiful and hilarious novel about the relationship between war and insanity, and capitalism and bureaucracy that I also read when I was sixteen. In a specific sense, I think we all wake up every morning these days in this kind of shared global anxiety condition, and this novel is a beautiful distillation of a prophetic distillation of that anxiety condition. This is like the origin story of that anxiety condition. And I loved it ever since I was sixteen, and suddenly there was this thought of what if I found a way of cracking the code of that novel, and unraveling it, finding out what the chronology is, and seeing what it's shape would be in television. What we basically did was unfold the chronology so that all our characters could have actual emotional journeys from beginning to end.

George Clooney: From the very beginning, from the moment we read the screenplay we thought we're going to get to explore one of the great characters in literature which is Yossarian, and the interesting thing is it requires us, an audience, to be able to like and trust a character who does some pretty despicable things along the way, and part of that actually came down to casting. We knew we had to cast somebody that you could root for even when he did really rotten things.

George Clooney (right) in CATCH-22

Question: How did you navigate the extreme comedy and extreme brutality of "Catch-22"?

George Clooney: You have to take a swing and hope that you hit the ball along the way, and sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. We felt like this one, there’s no way you can do this half-assed, right? You got to go for it. If you read the characters, if you read the script, you can’t subtly yell at people along the way, and you can’t subtly kill these people. It’s a pretty gruesome business, war is, and so there’s a morbid comedy to it as well.

Grant Heslov: As the episodes go on, too, you hit on a great point that the sort of difference between horror and hilarity becomes even more pronounced. The horror becomes even bigger and, hopefully, we think it gets funnier as well. So it was something that we all talked about as we moved along trying to keep the tone real. That was sort of the arena, keep it real and that way we can hit both sides.

Question: What was it like playing the fine line between very funny and very serious?

Christopher Abbott: It was interesting to research what a bombardier did in World War II, what it felt like to be in that nose cone, which is kind of a universe in itself. It’s encased in glass, and you feel it’s a very vulnerable place to be in on a plane, and one of the more interesting things that I thought or terrifying things about it is that if something happened or if something went down or if the plane was going down, the only way in and out of this place, in this nose cone, was through a very, very narrow tunnel. So not only do you have the danger of possibly being shot down, then you had to fend for your own life by crawling through a very claustrophobic space to then, hopefully, be at a place where you can live. So it was kind of eye-opening to feel how dangerous it was and how vulnerable it was to be up there, and I understood the fear, the pure fear that Yossarian had in the story. It’s just about getting to the truth of it. Just commit and be truthful in these moments. It’s already beautifully written and the tone was set from the beginning. So I think if you’re just honest and you’re truthful in it, it does it on its own and as a personal taste, I think things are funny when they’re done very seriously. So if you commit to the fear and the scariness of it, the situation is it winds up being funny on top of that. I think that just adds to the hilarity.


Question: Did the fact that a modern audience probably hasn’t read "Catch-22" change how you treated the material?

Luke Davies: The loyalty was just to revisiting the novel and seeing what in the first place -- I spent nine months in a room just trying to work out what happened in the novel in order, and so the first task was just to work out the events. And the second thing was to try and write it with a truth and loyalty to the source material, but to allow both, as Grant and George were saying, the darkness and the hilarity to stand on their own. We really hope that we’ve retained the kaleidoscopic madness of the novel; but, no, the show really flows through Yossarian’s perspective. The world is in chaos around him. The novel does do that, too, but the novel jumps all over the place and spends a lot of time on other characters at different times. But there’s barely a single scene in the entire six hours in which Chris is not either in it or very close by implicitly.

Question: Are you concerned about people having a negative reaction to the material because so many people are used to glorifying World War II?

George Clooney: Army people are the first people who like these stories, because you’re also making fun of the higher-ups. It’s more about the bureaucratization of military and war, I think what Heller was doing originally, because he was writing in response to Korea, not to World War II, and it was taken up by the Vietnam generation as it became an antiwar book. But that wasn’t what it was designed to do. It was really to make fun of all of the red tape and the bureaucracy of war and the ridiculousness of it. And so I think that that still plays. Listen, it’s just insane, it’s always insane, and it’s incredibly complex, and all of us spend our days and nights thinking and worrying about those situations. I think this story is just reflecting on the insanity of it, and I think we will always as a group, wonder about the insanity of war. There was a clarity in World War II that has been lacking in some of the other exchanges we’ve had over the years.

Kyle Chandler in CATCH-22

Question: Kyle, what was it like to memorize those long harangues that your character gets to deliver?

Kyle Chandler: It was not too difficult memorizing the material because if you read these really long speeches, they’re written so well. There's a rhythm to it. So, I enjoyed it. I really did. I was terrified the first few days, and I think I showed it, and some of the other guys were, like, oh, I'm glad you're scared, too, because we are too. And I was shaking in my boots because I've got this big piece of material. But it was an enjoyable shoot. The whole thing was enjoyable, and the material made it very, very easy.


Question: Were the planes real or CGI?

Grant Heslov: We had two real planes that we flew over from the United States. They’re B-52’s. These planes were in great shape. The pilots and mechanics all flew together.

George Clooney: It was pretty wild. We shot all the footage from it because one of them came from Los Angeles. And they can go about five hours in the air and they don't have heating so they're wearing parkas and they've got oxygen masks. And they flew, because you can’t fly over the whole ocean. They had to fly up past Greenland and bounce back all the way, seven stops to get there. When they showed up, we were all standing on the tarmac cheering.

Christopher Abbott: Yeah, I mean obviously I didn't actually fly in them because that would be extremely dangerous. But even just to ride it at about one mile an hour down a runway was scary enough. Again what I talked about before about being in that nose cone, a vulnerable place. It gets really hot. It’s glass and it’s sunny. So it adds heat to the whole situation. It’s very small. It’s claustrophobic. You're reminded not how basic it is, but you feel like you're driving an old Chevy in a weird way. It’s not as computerized as you would think it is. It’s very mechanical. Everything’s very tangible and beautiful also.

Luke Davies: I had to do a B-25 rewrite after the first draft because I wrote all these scenes inside the planes with an idea of the space. And then I went in a flight in one of them I was completely wrong. The space is so intensely claustrophobic. I had all the spatial relationships between the different crew members wrong. I was just making it up in the first draft. So in the second draft I had to rewrite a lot of stuff to fit the actual geography of the planes.

Ellen Kuras: And the sound was overwhelming. That was one of the things we had to build into the performances, was the fact that the vibration and sound was just so overwhelming when you were in the place.

George Clooney in CATCH-22

Question: How do you feel when you put on the costume and you look in the mirror and you’re in uniform?

George Clooney: You feel an incredible sense of responsibility to generations, particularly that generation considered the greatest generation. I will say that as an actor in general with the exception of the bat suit, any time you put on a costume it does help you get into character considerably. I was sad there weren’t nipples. But I've done dozens of shows and films where I've worn a military uniform. And when you put it on there is of course a sense of pride but also a great sense of responsibility always along the way.


If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by Hulu, this episode guide includes general episode descriptions and specific plot details.

Episode 1: Yossarian and his friends train to be flyers in California before being shipped to an Army Air Force base on the Italian island of Pianosa. Nineteen perilous missions later, Yossarian’s only hope is to meet the mission quota of twenty-five and be sent home before he’s shot down. But a new Colonel (Cathcart) takes command and immediately raises the mission quota. Yossarian realizes he has to get himself grounded or sent home by any means necessary.

Episode 2: Yossarian enlists his friends help to get him sent home. Meanwhile Milo Minderbinder, recently appointed mess officer, sees the war in a different light: as an opportunity for profit. The men spend a weekend of R&R in the newly liberated city of Rome. On a seemingly easy mission, Clevingers plane disappears behind a cloud and is never seen again. The men are briefed about their next mission, Bologna, and it looks to be a bad one.

Episode 3: Yossarian needlessly expends energy to avoid a feared mission; disaster catches up with him, when he least expects it.

Episode 4: On a surreal trip, Yossarian begins to realize the magnitude and influence of Milo’s business empire.

Episode 5: Reeling from one violent tragedy, Yossarian encounters incomprehensible darkness in Rome, and is faced with an impossible choice.

Episode 6: Alive and intact, Yossarian is thwarted by an old adversary. Confronted by a devastating loss, he undergoes a transformation.