Lifestyle Asia sat down in a roundtable interview with executive producers Anthony and Angela Russo who spoke about how characters drive the story of Prime Video’s Citadel and what to expect with the show’s international spin-offs.
Prime Video’s Citadel first season has finally concluded, bringing with it a lot of spectacle, intrigue, and some closure, though there are still things yet to be explored in its second season. Not only that, but the conclusion of this first season also gives way to the international spin-offs in Italy, Spain, India, and Mexico, the first due to be released being the Italian show titled Citadel: Diana.
In a roundtable interview, Lifestyle Asia was able to talk with Anthony and Angela Russo, two of the show’s executive producers, about how the show was developed and written, and the importance of a narrative shaped by the character.
Anthony and Angela Russo on how characters drive the story of Prime Video’s Citadel
What makes Citadel unique is that there are going to be a number of international spin-offs that are all connected to it. Story-wise, do you give those shows certain beats they have to hit or do they just have free rein to play in the universe?
Angela: It’s a little bit of a combination of the two. It’s truly a collaboration in that all of the lead creatives from every series are coming together and building off of this foundation that has been laid in the first series. It took some work on our end to create that foundation and identify what the guardrails are for the mythology. We wanted to give all of the partners that we’re working with clarity on what the history is but also give them poetic license to come back with ideas of their own, to interpret the story in a way that is unique to them in regards to who they are, where they come from, and their audiences in their particular region. When they came back with those ideas, that’s when the magic really began to happen because we were able to continue building ideas together. We also worked very closely with David Weil, who we call our “spymaster” and the showrunner of this first series. He really is the glue that helps to make sure that there is a coherence in this larger story. In these next chapters to come in Italy in India, the story can divert into very unexpected and interesting places.
There’s a good amount of spy tropes in the show but it also manages to keep a foot in reality. How did you manage that balance?
Anthony: There’s a reason we all love genres: there’s a familiarity to it and predictability in terms of what the world consists of, who the characters are, and how the drama unfolds. There’s something that’s fun about that. We can all participate in this storytelling in a more active way because of familiarity. But at the same time, genre becomes boring unless you’re also subverting the genre tropes and trying to find ways to step away from what those expectations are. A lot of times, we can look to reality in order to find ways to innovate upon certain things within the genre, and that could be on a character level or wider storytelling level in terms of what’s happening within the world. I think we use it as a guide on a character level most specifically. Really understanding their psychology, their emotions, what their wants and needs are, what their fears are, what their hopes are. Just thinking about it on a very specific character level allows us to find a way through the more familiar genre conventions in a way that can feel surprising and interesting, and also grounded and real.
How do you feel about the show’s success and what are you looking forward to in the second season?
Angela: The success of the show thus far has been absolutely thrilling for all of us. Our hope in embarking on this endeavour with Amazon and with our partners was that we would allow audiences from all over the world to come together and enjoy storytelling that truly is global. That’s something the streaming platform is well equipped to deliver because Amazon has been able to release it in over 200 countries where all of those people can come together to share the same experience in the same story and have a singular conversation. We’re seeing that happen just with this initial launch in the first chapter of our larger storytelling world, so we’re really excited for that journey to continue when the Italian series debuts next and everybody gets to dig in on the next chapter.
Anthony, along with your brother Joe, you’ve always been great at making characters shine, whether it’s in Avengers or Community. Was it easier now that there’s only Nadia and Mason in the centrepiece of Citadel?
Anthony: Well, I would say we still think the show is a large ensemble even though Nadia and Mason are leads. There are a lot of wonderful characters in the show that we think about in the same way that we thought about the characters in the other works that you’re citing. We’ve always been drawn to ensemble storytelling. We sometimes say it’s because we come from a big Italian-American family and that we’re used to the idea of having many players within a larger narrative. With ensembles, we never believe that there’s a relationship between screen time and value. Sometimes, characters can give a great thrill and experience even with very little screen time, so we try to make the most of every character within a story and every character within the ensemble. The one common thing between all the different work you’re talking about, from the comedies through Marvel, is that we’re very character-orientated in terms of how we approach storytelling. For us, it’s really an exploration of character and we structure the larger narrative around how we’re thinking about the character. The character is the jumping-off point for a narrative. citadel anthony russo prime video
All episodes of Citadel are now streaming on Prime Video.