Christoph Waltz on ‘The Consultant’ & Making The Transition from Film to TV
Feb 25, 2023
In Prime Video’s series, The Consultant, Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz makes the transition to his first American television series as Regus Patoff, a mysterious and fearsome character. Best known for his Oscar-winning performances in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Waltz is a standout when it comes to slow-simmering, almost giddy, villainous roles. Coupled with a script penned by Tony Basgallop, the creator of M. Night Shyamalan’s hit Apple TV+ series, Servant, this new show is sure to waves this month for the streaming service.
In The Consultant, when the CEO of one of the largest game studios in Los Angles meets an untimely end, a consultant, Regus Patoff (Waltz), is sent in to observe the staff. Uptight and unforgiving, Regus is a fire-at-will “Suit” who hardly has to look for a reason to let go of the staff. Co-workers Craig, played by Nat Wolff (The Stand), and Elaine, played by Brittany O’Grady (The White Lotus), think there may be something more sinister at play with this bizarre new consultant when they begin digging into his past.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Before The Consultant premiered on Prime Video, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Christoph Waltz and writer, Tony Basgallop, about the series. During their interview, Waltz and Basgallop discuss the actor’s transition from film to television, Basgallop’s writing process, Regus’ mysterious backstory, and the show’s format should there be a second season. Waltz also shares with us how working with one director compares to multiple, from Matt Shakman (WandaVision) to Karyn Kusama (Yellowjackets), how he prepares for emotional scenes, and how shedding a character is like smoking cigarettes. You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full transcript below.
Image via Prime Video
COLLIDER: Christoph, I have to start with an individual question for you. I was a big fan of [Alita: Battle Angel] and every time we write about it there’s a lot of interest, still, with people wanting to see more in that story. I’m curious if you get that from a lot of people as well?
CHRISTOPH WALTZ: I do, I do, and I appreciate that you’re pushing it along a little bit.
I thought that Robert [Rodriguez] did a great job with it, I actually really would like to see more in that world.
WALTZ: Me too, yeah.
Jumping into why I get to talk to the two of you guys. Christoph, you don’t do a lot of TV. In fact, this might be the first TV show in America that you’ve done. So what was it about this project that said, “I want to sign on and I want to play this role.”?
WALTZ: First of all, the times and landscapes change, and television has taken on another, and different, role in society than it had three years ago, five years ago. So there’s that aspect, and then there’s the aspect of if you really categorically deny that you could also work in television, you may not work at all. But all of that is secondary, tertiary. Primarily, it’s the fact that you go to people’s living rooms, you go to visit people’s homes with television, whereas in the movies you ask people to come to you.
So, it’s a completely different approach, a different dynamic, which requires different stories, which I really haven’t seen that much – not that I watch a lot of television, but you know. Not that there’s nothing worthwhile watching, but in this case, it is something that I thought, “It would be really, really intriguing to visit people in their houses with that story, playing that character.” So things came together from different sides.
First of all, I like the pilot because that’s all I read in the beginning, but then I like the people that I started talking to, you know, Tony and Matt [Shakman], and the two real producers. They were all pulling along in the same direction, so resistance was superfluous. I ended up with them, and I’m happy to say I am grateful for not finding enough reasons not to do it.
Tony, an individual question for you. As the writer of all eight episodes, I’m so curious how you figured out where and when you wanted to reveal information in the series because as the audience is watching, you’re trying to figure out what exactly is going on here.
TONY BASGALLOP: That’s the job of the writer, though, is, when you write the pilot, you throw these balls in the air, and then you know you’re going to have to perform tricks and land them all successfully. So yeah, I work quite loosely in that respect. Personally, I love the blank page ahead of me. I love to know where I’m going to end up, but not necessarily know how I’m going to get there. So, you know, information is revealed that strengthens each episode, and so sometimes you may have 25 things in your head that you want to do, but you can only actually do 10 of them because that’s what supports the episode.
So, it’s finding the right things and making sure you know what the format is. Plus, I’ve done a lot of TV. I’ve, over the years, 25 plus years of doing this, I kind of got a sense of when information needs to drop and when you need to hold things back. It just feels, yeah, it feels quite natural.
Image via Prime Video
How much did you guys talk about the backstory of Regus? Because there’s information that won’t be told to the audience, but maybe you wanted to figure it all out as an actor.
WALTZ: I do know what you mean. I don’t see the real relevance, and I also don’t see the necessity to disclose that. Part of the intrigue and the allure is that you’re being kept in the dark about the backstory. I love that moment in the story when they finally find where he’s going home to. You know, I love that moment, and that’s, in a way, a little bit [of] a metaphor or analog to the thing with the backstory.
Obviously, when you go into pitch, and you’re trying to get the series off the ground, everyone is always looking for multiple seasons, “Can you tell more in a story?” So when you were pitching it, did you pitch it as something that could go on for more than one season? Or was this designed as a one-season type show?
BASGALLOP: No, I mean, we pitched it very much as this can go on and on, but we were very clear to say that it’s not just a continuation. These are chapters. You know, each season should reflect something in itself and stand for something in itself and have its own ending in a sense. What I didn’t want to do is just, “Let’s get to the end of every season and have a huge cliffhanger, and then we’ll figure out what it is, how we can solve it later in the next season if we’re lucky enough.” It very much wasn’t that approach.
I think, with someone of Christoph’s caliber, we had to reassure him that, “Look, seasons are whole things. Each one you should look at as a novel in itself.” You know, maybe we’ll do a trilogy. Maybe one is enough. Maybe two will be right. I think if the materials are there then we’ll continue. We don’t have that same pressure of 10, 20 years ago, of like “You need 20 episodes a year, you gotta run for five years.” It’s just not the marketplace anymore. We don’t have to pitch things in that way.
WALTZ: You know, maybe the so-called industry is changing, and maybe it’s changing to the better. Have you ever considered that?
Image via Prime Video
I think that there are many shows that go on for far too long. I would be okay with series that are just one season or two. Like Andor is going to be two seasons.
WALTZ: As long as there’s story it should be told, or it can be told rather.
Absolutely. Christoph, because this is your first time with American television like this, what was it like for you working with different directors every week? Was it something that you enjoyed?
WALTZ: Well, I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but I can’t say that I was averse to it either, you know? Apparently, it’s the nature of the thing and yes, I would have preferred to have one continuous hand at it. On the other hand, there’s a great advantage to shift angles, to alter your point of view, to have a new touch, a new wind blow through the thing. So, you know, I can’t say that I only see disadvantages. I understand, from the production point of view, the necessity do it. Yet, it is what it is, and I met fabulous, fabulous people. So advantages abound.
Tony, the series is eight episodes so far. You know, the first season, the series. How did you decide on that number? Was it ever going to possibly be six, or 10? How did it get worked out?
BASGALLOP: I’m not sure we ever worked it out at all. I don’t think I ever went in there and said, “This is Episode 1, this is Episode 2,” you know? There wasn’t that clear a plan. I think Prime Video [is] in the business of making eight episodes for a lot of things they do, and that was their suggestion, and it seemed to fit what we were doing. Once we sold it, we only had one script written. So it was a question of, if they’d said, “We want 10,” then I would have built towards 10, but the fact that we had an order for eight meant, “Well that’s a good chunk. We can build towards eight episodes.”
Image via Prime Video
I’m a big fan of your work, and I’m curious, when you are – hypothetically – filming a big scene on a Monday, something emotional or something that you know is going to take a little bit out of you, how early on are you preparing for something like that? Is it over the weekend, is it weeks in advance? Could you tell me a little bit about your process?
WALTZ: There’s no regularity to it. It’s whatever the scene requires, and something that may look terribly demanding, may not even be so difficult to pull off. Other things that look completely irrelevant to the shine of the show, may be immensely taxing. So, what you see is not necessarily what’s going on to make it happen.
Is it easy for you to let go of a character?
WALTZ: Yeah, yeah, you just don’t do it. You know, it’s like smoking. Smoking was easy to quit. When I smoked, someone said, “You have to stop.” It made sense to me, so I stopped smoking. You just don’t smoke, that’s how you stop smoking, and the same thing with characters, you just don’t do it.
The Consultant is now streaming Prime Video.
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