JETT is Cinemax’s newest crime drama. A fun and fast-paced, noir series that centers on Daisy “Jett” Kowalski (played by Carla Gugino) as she tries to balance her criminal and personal life. JETT was created, written, directed, and executive produced by Sebastian Gutierrez. We here at Black Nerd Problems had a chance to sit and talk with him, before the series premiere on June 14.
Black Nerd Problems: As a stylized heist series, JETT sort of hearkens back to some of your early works, like Judas Kiss and Hotel Noir. What was the inspiration to go back to the genre with JETT?
Sebastian Gutierrez: That’s a really good question. You know, push comes to shove, if you put a gun to my head (or not a gun to my head) and ask “what do you like writing about?” I always wanna write Elmore Leonard inspired, noir-ish, banter-y, caper, heist-y type stuff. Noir is definitely my favorite genre so I always gravitate towards that. And by noir, I don’t mean Bojangles and people smoking cigarettes. I mean drama, like you and I talking right now. Then stakes get really high and then there’s melodrama and then the only way to solve the problem is with a gun in the hand. It’s not necessarily really dark. JETT is playful even though the violence has consequences.
BNP: So Carla Gugino is one of your long-term collaborators. Did you have her in mind when you developing the series?
Sebastian: Yes. Basically, this came from a life time of reading crime novels and then sort of looking around the landscape and feeling, “this is a good time for female characters.” And American film doesn’t have too many female anti-heroes still. They aren’t the standard. Guys can do whatever they want, but woman aren’t allowed that. They have to be the Lady Macbeth manipulator or socially awkward to be badass or morally ambiguous. I thought it would be cool to have a character that Lee Marvin would play, but have it played by Carla and have her be stoic and practical and action-oriented.
BNP: Having seen the first episodes of JETT, I noticed that it plays a lot with nonlinear narratives and time. How do you manage all of the moving parts of such a complicated story?
Sebastian: I think that’s built into the genre, as I was saying. What I like about noir so much is that it’s both pulpy and existential in equal parts, kind of like good comic books by the way. Kinda like the most American of American things. In noir, the present is the only thing that exists, but the past keeps crashing into it and the future doesn’t really exist because the thing that the characters think they did that will take them to easy street is usually not the thing they’re doing. It’s a really extemporaneous and going back and forth and how you reveal information, it’s how I find a key, built-in narrative device to this kind of story. It’s really fun because you get to control when you get to reveal the information. It’s one of my favorite things about say, Elmore Leonard novels, is that you’ll be reading this chapter and then the next chapter will start “remember when Sebastian and Mikkel met” and it’s really cool to have this moment where “I don’t want to go over to there yet” and you can just jump to the exciting scene and get rid of the boring moments. It’s my favorite type of story telling.
BNP: Are there any particular challenges to writing and directing the series?
Sebastian: I mean, many, many challenges. But this is what I’ve been lucky or stubborn enough to do during my so-called career that everything I’ve done, I’ve written. And because what I like doing the most is directing, I always felt like at least have to have the script ready. Someone is going to give me money and I want to have a project ready. Writing is my first love, but once I get to making the movie, I’m purely the director. You’re dealing with the script, it doesn’t matter who wrote it. You’re just dealing with the talent and what the writer gave. Sometimes, you’ll look at the script and be like “the writer #$%&ed us” and then you get to the editing and look at the footage and go “the director #$%&ed us” and it turns out it was you. Basically, I’m putting out fires all days long and I’m happy to work with these circumstances that don’t happen perfectly and be working at 2AM on the laptop.
BNP: Last question. What should audiences expect when they turn into the premiere on June 14th?
Sebastian: They’re in for a ride that is playful, complex, and female-driven and sexy, but violent with a new sort of female anti-hero. That’s what they’re going to get.
BNP: Having watched the first few episodes, I can definitely confirm that.
Sebastian: Excellent. Well, tell your friends and your enemies to watch JETT.
JETT premieres on June 14th on Cinemax.