Actor-producer John Leguizamo (center) stars in writer-director-producer Aram Rappaport’s sci-fi political mystery thriller mini-series, ‘The Green Veil.’

Learning from the pain caused by the oppression of minorities and women in America’s history is one of the best ways to combat the resurging of injustices in present society. The persecution of these groups in modern culture can be stopped in part by reflecting on the way they fought back against the mistreatment they endured during the 1950s, a major element that drives the plot of the new sci-fi-political mini-series, ‘The Green Veil.’

Reuniting with his frequent collaborator, John Leguizamo, who stars in and produced the mystery thriller, Aram Rappaport created, wrote, directed and produced the period-set, but equally timely, eight-episode thriller. ‘The Green Veil’ first connected with contemporary viewers when it had its World Premiere earlier this month during the NOW Showcase A (Narrative Episodic) section of the Tribeca Festival.

‘The Green Veil’ is a scripted anthology show about oppression in America. The story follows Gordon Rogers (Leguizamo), a federal agent working tirelessly to complete a secretive mission while holding his fracturing family, which includes his wife, Mabel (Hani Furstenberg) and their teenage daughter, Abbie (Isabelle Poloner), together in picture perfect post-World War II suburbia.

Rappaport generously took the time during the Tribeca Festival to talk about scribing, helming and producing ‘The Green Veil’ during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that he and Leguizamo decided to make the drama together because they wanted to make a project together that focuses on universal oppression, and overarching social shifts in the U.S., in the post-World War II era of the 1950s. The New York-based Rappaport also shared that he’s honored that the mini-series had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Festival, especially since it’s now evolving into more of a creator’s festival than a just a film festival.

The conversation began with Rappaport explaining what inspired him to create, and pen the episodes for, ‘The Green Veil.’ “John Leguizamo, who stars on the show, is a frequent collaborator, and good friend, of mine. Our most recent project prior to this one was ‘Latin History for Morons;’ I directed and produced the Netflix version for him.

“I had always really wanted to place some sort of project around universal oppression in the ’50s, and find a way to execute that. So I began toying with a few different ideas about the ’50s,” the filmmaker shared.

“During that time, there was a post-World War II social shift in the U.S., in terms of how people really felt, from the wives who were working while their husbands were off at war. Then their husbands came home, and they suddenly became housewives again,” Rappaport pointed out.

“There was also (a societal shift in ideas about) land appropriation and immigration. So there were really interesting themes there that mirror modern issues, but in vastly different capacities,” the writer also noted. “So that was my impetus in wanting to create something like this.”

Rappaport continued, “Then in talking to John about it, while he was doing ‘Latin History,’ it became clear that he had never really played a role in that world of being a Latin immigrant. In the show, his character is a self-hating man who loathes his past. He really wants to be a true American patriot.

“That was something that he and I identified very early on. We talked about basing this story on true-to-life narratives, with one being these UFO invasions that happened in the South, and another being land appropriation, which is going on, and had been going on for a very long time,” the filmmaker shared.

“We wondered, what if we tied those things together and make this linchpin John’s character, who’s this self-hating, Latin FBI patriot who spearheads the whole thing. We then started to unravel the story from there,” Rappaport also divulged.

“We had the ability to push the envelope because John and I had this level of trust in working together. He had never played a role like this, and I had never written a role like this, before. But in collaboration, it was something that felt really layered, and is a role that I felt that he would be the only one to pull off,” the scribe added.

Rappaport then delved into why he also decided to direct the thriller, and how writing its episodes influenced his helming style on the set. “It was an interesting format because it’s an anthology on oppression in the U.S. This is Season 1, but it’s independent, so we went and produced it without a network. So it felt more like an indie film than a television show,” he revealed.

“We ended up really block shooting eight episodes, so we shot 250, 300 pages back-to-back. This was at the height of the pandemic; I think we started about six months in, so it was when (Hollywood) had just started using the COVID protocols. So I think everyone felt very connected in that way,” the filmmaker shared.

“We were in this small little bubble, and going out to shoot this show. No one had really been shooting for the last six to eight months, so I think everyone was very uncomfortable, which also felt was very interesting,” Rappaport admitted.

“No one had been challenged in this way. Some people had never played characters like this before,” the director continued.

“So from a directorial perspective, it was really interesting because I think what we wrote was very different than what we ultimately brought to fruition, just purely because of circumstance. We had to work through a lot of things, as do a lot of productions,” Rappaport noted.

“What was interesting about that is that it directly played into this narrative about oppression; it really put these people and families together, and said ‘You can’t leave and do anything.’ There was longing on all sides of the camera for a better life,” the filmmaker added.

Further speaking about collaborating with Leguizamo on both sides of the camera, Rappaport then further delved into what their working relationship was like throughout the production. “To me, John’s the best actor in the world. There’s no one in the planet who I feel has the ability to commit with such ferocity to his craft as John,” he said.

“While working with him on ‘Latin History,’ I learned that he won’t bring a show to Broadway until he’s done 300 performances prior to that. He tweaks it and tweaks it. I would go to a comedy club in Kansas and watch it and then go to the Dominic Republic and Berkley and watch it. It would change,” the helmer continued.

“It would then bring it to Broadway, and he would still be making changes to make it better,” Rappaport also revealed. “With some people, when they get to Broadway, they think, this is it; the reviews came out, and I’m coasting.

“But his craft is so much about intention, purpose and what he’s trying to say with his material that at all costs, he’ll continue to make it better and better, both on the page and in his performance,” the filmmaker also shared.

“John’s someone who has pushed me to squeeze every ounce of creativity out of myself and into a project. Basically, as a produce on this, he said, ‘Is there anything we can do better? Can we cut this? People already like this scene, but maybe they’ll like it more if we do one more thing,'” Rappaport continued.

“That’s how it was on set; he tapped into this character, who he had never played before. So to watch him embrace that was amazing,” the director also divulged. “This character has immense layers, and for him to be able to access and focus on that was amazing. Every take was better.

“Through the post-production process, he’s still working as a writer, and he really understands the story. There isn’t anyone better, or more humble, to go on a journey with. I think he’s drastically underrated as an actor, just purely based on what I’ve seen him do in the past year,” Rappaport admitted.

“The range that he has is amazing, and I think that stems from the stage. It’s incredible to watch,” the filmmaker further gushed about Leguizamo. “He anchored the tone on set for everyone else.”

Besides Leguizamo, Rappaport also enjoyed casting the supporting actors on the thriller. “We had Avy Kaufman, a New York casting director, cast the show. I’ve worked with a couple of times before, and John also worked with her on his directorial debut that he had done about a year earlier (on the 2020 drama, ‘Critical Thinking’).

“So I approached her and said, ‘John’s going to play this role. Tonally, we want it to be something very specific. Can you help us do it?,'” the helmer shared. “She really helped us.

“I think for the daughter, we saw a few hundred girls. We ultimately landed on Isabelle Poloner, and this is her first project. Between her and Hani Furstenberg, who played the wife, as well as John Ortiz and Irene Bedard, who played the Native American couple, there was a really interesting dynamic between the cast,” Rappaport also shared.

“Casting the show was also interesting because we started the process during the pandemic. So we weren’t able to meet anyone in person, as everything was done over Zoom. We then did table reads over Zoom, and we thought, this works somehow; we could actually be a family. So there was camaraderie there, and we were excited to see that it was going to work to some degree,” the filmmaker added.

Once the supporting actors were cast on ‘The Green Veil,’ Rappaport enjoyed the experience of working with them to build their characters’ arcs throughout the entire season. He admitted that while “It was great, it was also tumultuous because we were shooting these eight episodes in a block fashion. So when we were at the crop circle, we shot every scene there for all eight episodes. We then left there and never went back. We then spent two weeks at the house, shooting every scene there for all eight episodes.

“It was tumultuous because a lot of the time, the actors didn’t know where they were in the narrative. When you’re going from scene one, when you have no idea what’s happening in the story, to episode seven, when the character’s evolved, and there are a lot of things that changed in the narrative, it’s really tough,” the director admitted.

“It’s difficult to do seven dinner scenes in a row that all take place in different moments in time. So we played into that, and it worked somehow. Would I do it again? Maybe not,” Rappaport admitted with a laugh.

“But it was a total necessity, and everyone welcomed the challenge. In this circumstance, in the middle of the pandemic, on this budget and being independent, everyone knew we were part of a special family, and we were going to stick it out together and make it work,” the filmmaker added.

Further speaking of securing and shooting at the locations, Rappaport noted that even though the story takes place in the 1950s in and around Mystic, Connecticut, “we shot most of it in Upstate New York, in Hudson Valley. New York has a great tax credit, and John has a house up there, so it was all very convenient for us to shoot up there.

“The Hudson Valley Film Commission was incredibly open with us, in terms of resources. They helped us find everything from local ’50s cars to locations and facades that feel like they fit the mold,” the helmer shared.

“There’s also a huge nature, land appropriation and assimilation component in the ’50s to the story, so we worked with the Mohegan tribe to showcase those story elements from the Native perspective. The Mohegans were primarily based in Connecticut, so we tried to mirror the look and feel of that in New York,” Rappaport continued.

“So we were able to find some really great exterior locations, on the sides of mountains, in New Paltz. It’s a sweeping look and feel, purely because we had a great team that really searched the state to find the right look,” the filmmaker added.

After shooting the show on location in Upstate New York, Rappaport embraced the fact that the project had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Festival in New York City. “I’m local to New York, so I think for us, being a part of Tribeca was a no-brainer. As a TV series, you don’t inherently think that you should be at a film festival, but for us, this was sort of an experiment.

“We went out and created an eight-episode mini-series without a network, just out of necessity. We had John, who’s very passionate about the character, so we just had to go do it. Also, to just pitch this as an idea to a network would have been more difficult than pitching it with all of the episodes already shot,” the director noted.

“But I think now, coming to understand how Tribeca is now positioned as more of a creator’s festival than a film festival, really helped us, not to negate the film portion. We’re really excited about Tribeca has its pulse on the creator’s mentality in general, whether it’s video games, experimental, television or online episodic; no matter the format, they’ve really embraced a lot of really cool creators. So for us to be accepted, especially as local creators, is really exciting,” Rappaport concluded.

Summary
Photo ofAram Rappaport
Name
Aram Rappaport
Website
Job Title
Writer-director-producer of the sci-fi-political-mystery-thriller mini-series, 'The Green Veil'

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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