Julia Roberts spoke about her upcoming Amazon Prime Video series Homecoming at the Prime Video Presents in London on Tuesday.
The Notting Hill and My Best Friend’s Wedding star will headline the series from the creator of Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail, and is based on a star-studded podcast of the same name.
Here’s all we found out about her leading television debut…
The series strives to maintain the podcast’s sense of imagination
Homecoming is based on the hit podcast of the same name, which was one of the first fictional podcasts to feature famous voices – including David Schwimmer, Michael Cera and Amy Sedaris.
A fictional serial noir, it revolves around a former caseworker, Heidi Bergman (played by Roberts in the upcoming series), at a secret government facility that attempts to extract information from veterans.
Now working as a waitress, Heidi struggles to remember what happened at the facility, and indeed why her memory appears to have been wiped.
Roberts said she is a fan of the podcast and hopes the show will maintain the same sense of imagination.
“I heard the podcast and loved it because it harkened back to listening to a story together on the radio or on books out loud and you’re imagining everything… that is where the inspiration as artists starts.
“I was really attracted to that and when Sam (Esmail, the showrunner) called me – we seem like different people but we are kind of the same but my hair is much longer – and we were like 20-year friends,” Roberts said.
Showrunner Sam Esmail added that he hopes to maintain the emotive sound effects and nuances the original podcast evoked.
“I’m a sound nerd. It’s incredibly important, sometimes it’s more important than the visuals. There is something subliminal about the sound [in Homecoming] there is something that you can sneak in and that adds to the tone that can be unsettling or heartwarming but there is just a nuance that you can take with sound that will really get under your skin a lot more,” Esmail said.
Julia Roberts plays ‘two characters’
Roberts said she will play ‘two characters’ in the series, presumedly as the Heidi during the flashback veteran facility scenes and then as the present day Heidi struggling to remember her past and living with her mother (played by Sissy Spacek).
“There is an elasticity of both versions in the mind of this character. It is never like she has a set ‘I’m going to do the right thing’ or ‘I’m going to do the wrong thing’ so I had to stay really flexible and not make these rock solid determinations because the information she is getting is a constant flux.
“So I mean honestly the brainpower that it took me to get to the end of the show was a lot!” Roberts elaborated.
She says she worked with ‘relentless effort’ on the project
“TV is not for the faint of heart!” she admitted. Indeed this will be Roberts first leading role in a television series, for which she said she’s worked incredibly hard on.
And working on a series of course comes with many more lines than are typically required to learn in a movie – which Roberts said took some getting used to.
“I have a lot less time to cook in my house and do laundry! In the evenings instead of me making dinner and the kids doing their homework, I’m doing my homework and they’re doing their homework.
“They may finish their homework and somehow I’m still doing my homework! So in that regard it was kind of a 24 hour a day job. There are just pages and pages every day! Even my husband said ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen you work so hard in your life!’ and but it was a joy it was not labour at all.
“Even though it was relentless effort it really never was labour,” she explained.
It will have a movie feel, and reunite Roberts with a beloved movie co-star
However, Roberts says Esmail made a concerted effort to make sure the filming process of the series was as close to that of a film as possible.
“I can’t say that I’ve worked in television because Sam made an effort on my behalf to shoot it as a movie would be,” she said.
In addition to her co-stars Bobby Cannavale and Sissy Spacek, Homecoming will also reunite Roberts with her My Best Friend Wedding co-star Dermot Mulroney. Mulroney will play Anthony, Heidi’s boyfriend.
Esmail said this reunion was a deliberate choice of his.
“I am a huge My Best Friend’s Wedding fan, it’s my favourite romantic comedy, and I wanted to bring them back together,” he said.
There will be a second series
Both Roberts and Esmail confirmed that there will be a second series at the Prime Video Presents event. Indeed, the podcast ran for two seasons between 2016-2017.
Esmail made another My Best Friend’s Wedding reference as he joked how the second series could play out.
“Rupert Everett comes in at the end and he’s in the back of the church!” he said.
Series one of Homecoming will be available to stream on Amazon Prime from November 2nd.