Russo Brothers Tease “You Can’t Trust Anything That You See”

May 2, 2023

While promoting their new Prime Video series, Citadel, Joe and Anthony Russo sat down with Collider’s Steve Weintraub and answered some of our questions about this first-ever global franchise show. Having worked on action-packed blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame and Netflix’s The Gray Man, Amazon reached out with this unique opportunity “that would use creative teams throughout the world in an interconnected way, a collaborative way.” Anthony tells Weintraub, “it was our job to come up with a story that was worthy of that kind of format.”

Citadel is designed with the influence of “an old serial,” according to Joe, and relies on twisting the narrative with “propulsive” storytelling, cinema-quality action, and cliffhangers. Starring Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as the show’s lead spy operatives, the world’s security is at risk, and in a concise six episodes, Season 1 introduces audiences to this tale that will reach across the globe with both an Italian and Indian installment to follow.

In what starts out as a “traditional large-scale global spy thriller,” the Russo Brothers tell Weintraub their intention going into the series was to “subvert it, or add emotion to it, or surprise you by playing against your expectations.” They also discuss their plans for a Season 2 and beyond, working with the creatives across the world, and upcoming projects like their graphic novel adaptation, The Electric State, starring Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt.

The first two episodes of Citadel are available to stream now on Prime Video. Before getting sucked in, you can watch the interview in the video or read the full transcript below.

COLLIDER: I have seen the first three episodes and my only comment is FU for not giving me four through six because I would really like to see where this is all going.

ANTHONY RUSSO: They’re coming, they’re coming!

JOE RUSSO: I mean, it was designed that way, right? This is like an old serial where it’s really propulsive. The episodes are like 35 or 40 minutes, they play it very quickly, and then we try to hook you at the end.

Image via Prime Video

But that’s the problem, you have hooked me.

JOE: Good, it worked.

I have a million questions for the show, but I know I’m going to run out of time in two seconds. So, you are in post-production on the movie you’ve just shot, do you already know what you’re doing next?

JOE: No, we’re in that place where we’re developing several things and there’s a potential looming writers’ strike, there are things that could affect timeline, but we’re going to develop these different projects and then make a decision.

ANTHONY: Yeah, ask us this summer. I have a feeling this summer we’ll figure it out.

When will I see footage from The Electric State?

JOE: Oh, boy. I don’t know.

ANTHONY: Electric State is a very visual effect-heavy movie, so it’s slow one.

JOE: 90% of the characters are CG, so it’s gonna take a little time to bake it.

So basically in the summer of 2024 or beyond?

ANTHONY: Basically, yeah.

JOE: I think that’s probably a fair estimate.

Jumping into the show, one of the things that I really am looking forward to is that you’re doing different versions in other countries. You have one in India, you have one in Italy. With the American version, the first episode has movie-style action on a television show, will the other countries have that kind of amplification? You know what I mean? Where it’s big and propulsive?

JOE: Yes, I think that the ambition is large for all the shows, but we don’t want that to become the dominant driving factor behind the show. Somebody could come to us and pitch an idea that takes place in one room for seven episodes and it could be incredibly compelling. The opportunity from these regional shows is to shift tone, to shift scale, to go in directions that we’re not expecting so that they’re all just not a replicant of each other.

ANTHONY: The common theme is that it is all set in the spy world, right? There’s an element of spy thriller to all the shows, but we are very much trying to find the variety of ways we can explore that stylistically and narratively.

The first season is six episodes. Which of the six episodes are you most looking forward to audiences seeing?

JOE: I think that sixth episode. And what’s great about the show is that it was designed like an onion, you’re peeling back the layers of it. We use these twisting shots throughout the show to represent when the narrative is upside down, and that you can’t trust anything that you see, and I think it goes to a really powerful climax.

Image via Prime Video

Yeah, that’s what your lead actors said. They were like, “Episode 6,” which is why, of course, I haven’t seen it. I’m going to keep teasing you on this. Talk a little bit about the first episode, though, because I was very impressed. It is a movie-style action set piece on a TV show, and I know how hard those are to pull off. Why did you want the first episode to have an action set piece like that? And also talk about filming it.

JOE: Well, you wanna announce the show out of the gate, you want to grab the audience quickly, and that was always the intention with the show is that it would have a cinematic scale to it. And Amazon has been incredible about supporting the show and supplying the right resources, infrastructure to do that. And also, we like playing in genre, we don’t mince words in that regard. We grew up loving genre, and the way that we play in it is that we present it to you as you know it, and then we try to slowly subvert it, or add emotion to it, or surprise you by playing against your expectations. I think this show does that really well.

So the setup at the beginning is to make you feel like you’re in a traditional large-scale global spy thriller, and then as it unfolds, we twist the narrative on you and take you to places you’re not expecting.

Do you want to add anything?

ANTHONY: Look, again, part of it is just trying to up the ante with what’s possible outside of a theater, you know?

So you go in and you pitch with Amazon and you’re talking about the show. How much do they want to know – assuming everything is great, which they’re obviously investing a lot of money in this – “Do you have the plan already for Season 2, Season 3, where you’re going?” And how much is it like, “Well, you guys have a good track record.”?

ANTHONY: That that was one of the amazing things that, we have such a long relationship with [Jennifer Salke]. We have a very high level of trust with her, so she could call us with basically a business model of like, “Hey, Amazon has this global reach. We have amazing presence in so many markets around the world. Can you come up with a narrative that would use creative teams throughout the world in an interconnected way, a collaborative way?” That was it. She could throw that idea to us and it was our job to come up with a story that was worthy of that kind of format.

So that’s really been our process with Amazon from the beginning, is just coming to them with story. And while there is a really high concept, a clever concept, at work here, it’s like when we did the Marvel films, it’s the same thing. You’re learning as you go, you’re beating ideas as you go. So, for as much as we know about where things are going, we’re constantly reinventing where things can go at the same time.

JOE: Plus, Italy and India are in different timelines. You want to be available to how they may affect or change the show. We have loose ideas of where this is all going, but you have to stay organic and fluid.

Image via Prime Video

What is the status of a second season of Citadel?

JOE: Nothing confirmed yet, everything’s in the audience’s hands at this point. We’ll find out in 10 days or a week, or whatever it is from now.

I want to go back to the beginning of this interview when you said you had a few things you’re thinking about. Is it like two? Is it three? Are these projects you’ve been developing for a while?

ANTHONY: Yeah, I mean, here’s the thing, just like Electric State, we’re in a phase now where we are– When we started AGBO a few years ago, we went to work with [Christopher Markus] and [Stephen McFeely] doing a deep-dive on some original storytelling, and The Electric State was kind of part of that effort. It was a complicated story to figure out, it took a lot of years to figure it out. So what we’re dealing with right now is the stuff that we’ve invested a few years in, and we’ve been playing with for a while now. It’s generally more complicated, elaborate world-building and that takes time to develop. So that’s kind of what we’re playing with.

JOE: There’s some long-form stories that we’re working on as well. It’s nice to– we spent our career jumping around from comedy to drama, TV to film, and we like to surprise ourselves with what we do next. And there’s a couple of long-form ideas that could also make sense.

The first two episodes of Citadel are available on Prime Video, with subsequent episodes releasing weekly.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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