Image source: Everett Collection

It’s hard to imagine a serial killer drama inducing food cravings, but oh well Steve Carell and Donal Gleeson add donuts or Vietnamese pho to the chocolate cake “Patient”, your mouth may begin to water. However, the table the couple is sitting at is not in a fancy establishment. There are no fancy cutlery and white tablecloths. Rather, Carell’s Dr. Alan Strauss is the shackled prisoner in the basement of his patient, Sam Fortner. You see, Sam kidnapped his therapist in an obviously misguided attempt to curb his homicidal tendencies. He just eats up Alan for now committing several crimes.

At the time when serial killer content seeming to dominate much of the pop culture zeitgeist, The Patient seeks to reveal both the psyche of a man who commits unthinkable crimes and the psyche of a man who struggles with his fears and frustrations while trying to put an end to a crime spree (all in the most dangerous of circumstances ).

But food—why all food? “We are always shy about talking about our intentions in terms of meaning. But when creating any characters … you want to have dimensions, and you want it to feel real. And part of what’s interesting about real people is that they have these particular passions,” Joel Fields tells POPSUGAR while discussing the hit FX series he created with his “the americans” creative partner Joe Weisberg.

Unlike many of television’s most vicious fictional antagonists, Sam is fully fleshed out: viewers quickly learn about his family dynamics, his obsession with Kenny Chesney, and his career as a labor inspector. “Which came first? The foodie or the labor inspector?” Weisberg teases.

“Sam Fortner didn’t jump into our heads fully formed,” Fields clarifies. “It took a lot of talking and trial and error and different things. But I don’t remember if it was first a gourmet and then a restaurant inspector, or first a restaurant inspector and then a gourmet. I think it’s because they were so taken with each other that it’s not like he became a food inspector because he was a picky guy and then he got into food. It’s clear he’s passionate about it and it was the right choice for him.”

The duo say they’ve sorted out a lot of ideas for Sam’s origin, focusing not only on finding the aforementioned dimension, but also avoiding “falling into all the cliché traps.” Weisberg explains, “A food inspector—I don’t remember ever seeing one on TV… We had to learn. We had to do some research on food inspectors. How long does it take to get revalidated – Many people have spent many hours researching this. Now I can tell you that it’s different in different counties.”

Admittedly, Weisberg and Fields were looking forward to, but were unable to conduct, due to COVID-19 restrictions, a study of Sam’s day job: eating. “There was one instance where we actually sent our script coordinator to get a very specific complex Vietnamese meal, which he then photographed for us and talked about, and then he had to eat because of COVID and Zoom,” — with Fields says with a laugh. “It was painful, but we were very happy for him.”

Weisberg says that overall, the show’s writers hope that Sam’s penchant for the kitchen (which has been lovingly created for the screen by some real, talented chefs) will add some depth to the character and allow viewers to “connect” with someone who, at first glance, seems inappropriate. . He tells POPSUGAR, “Anything we can do to get him out of the trope of, as he puts it, the robot, is good for us. So I think it’s really meant to be a point of connection.”

“For example, you get people who are passionate about horses, and part of the cool thing is that they’re all very different people in their other lives, but then they end up in the same place and they have a shared passion,” he adds. Fields. “You can say that about anything. And it’s very human.”

Joe Weisberg, Steve Carell, Donal Gleeson, Joel Fields at FX's premiere

Image source: Getty

Food also helps Alan connect with the “outside world” during his forced incarceration, Fields notes. In fact, it’s the only point at which he has contact with reality other than what Sam forced him to do. And Alan’s own story is in a way connected to food. His strained relationship with his son Ezra (Andrew Leeds) due to the latter’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism is shown through flashbacks, including minor interactions such as Ezra’s family keeping kosher.

“We wanted to explore both the specifics of Orthodox religion and the specifics of Reform Judaism and how much of an aspiration that is, and how even what on the outside may seem like small differences within the religion can be a rift within families,” Fields said. talks about painting a picture, once again, with the kitchen. “Kosher food seemed like a great expression of that in this family, because that choice and how it’s made has become so important to them.”

With seven of 10 episodes of The Patient now airing, fans have just a few weeks left until Alan and Sam’s story comes to a close. The positive reception of the show was, in particular, due to the nuances of the actors’ performances. Weisberg and Fields say it helps that Karel was who they thought Alan was when they started writing. “He’s the first actor we came up with for this role, and I can’t imagine anyone else bringing this character to life,” Fields tells POPSUGAR.

Finding his Sam was a little more difficult: Weisberg admits that he “was hard to cast.” “It’s like the idea of ​​a serial killer who wants to get better and who you feel some sympathy for, but you can believe him as a serial killer. Man, it’s hard. Not only that, but because no one has done it, it’s hard to even know exactly what it looks like. So it wasn’t easy.”

The casting director recognized Star Wars alum Gleason’s “incredible talent” and “wide range,” says the Emmy winner. “When he came in and read it, it was literally from the first scene he did, you said, ‘That’s the guy.’ And that if you’re really, really, really lucky, it happens at a casting call. But when you have such a complex and strange role, it was really a lot of luck. I think there is a real world in which we may never have been able to cast that role.”

New episodes of The Patient air on Hulu on Tuesdays.