Get Shorty was a hit movie in 1995, part of John Travolta’s post-Pulp Fiction comeback. He played Chili Palmer, a shylock who came to Hollywood to collect a debt from a producer (Gene Hackman) and fell in love with the movie business. The success of the movie inspired Elmore Leonard to write a sequel. Be Cool was also made into a movie starring Travolta.

On Epix, Get Shorty can get away with the same level of sex and violence as an HBO show. The original series does not adapt Leonard’s text. Instead, it is an original story that shares similar themes. Miles Daly (Chris O’Dowd) comes to Hollywood to collect from a screenwriter, then tries to produce the script, enlisting a has-been schlock producer (Ray Romano) to help.

Series creator Davey Holmes and executive producer/director Adam Arkin spoke with /Film about Get Shorty, which premiered last night on Epix.

Is today’s film business quite different than the industry 20 years ago when the book and movie were set?

Holmes: Yeah, and we made a decision. We thought about it and made the decision to make it contemporary, not period. Part of the challenge, in order to keep this material fresh and interesting is to not default to stereotypes of Hollywood. But we work in Hollywood so we have a lot of material to pull from. To try and find what makes it real in a way that’s interesting, there’s plenty of superficial people and stupidity in Hollywood but then there’s a lot of smart people and a lot of people who have more depth and quirks that are human as opposed to Hollywood stereotypes.

Even the idea that Romano plays a straight-to-video producer, that was only beginning in 1995.

Holmes: I don’t know what the status of that world is now, but certainly movies of the week are something that don’t really exist anymore. Direct to video, saying it’s direct to DVD, I don’t even know where that sits in the industry now. It works because it dates our producer. Romano’s character is already dated because if he’s direct to DVD, you’re like wow, do you even have a business model anymore? Are you streaming now?

Do you imagine Chili Palmer exists somewhere in your world?

Holmes: Yes, we even have at least once in the show, a car drive by the guard who’s checking people in the gate. You don’t see the guy in the car but he says, “Good morning, Mr. Palmer” as the car drives by. We believe that he’s somewhere in this world.

Arkin: Maybe he’s moving into politics.

Get Shorty Season 1 Episode 101

Sure, 20 years later he might’ve gotten out of the life. But he didn’t, because you leaned into that.

Holmes: He drove on the lot, or someone named Mr. Palmer drove on the lot.

So Mr. Lovejoy has come out.

Holmes: Back in whenever that was set.

How do you even approach writing original scripts in Elmore Leonard style?

Holmes: We really didn’t worry too much about that. I was so inspired by Leonard and so in love with the story, it didn’t really seem essential to me that the show and the scripts felt like they were written by him. I’m not sure that’s what he would insist on if he was around. Really, it just gave us inspiration as a place to start to create something that’s hopefully fresh and new, but owes debt to Leonard.

The idea that Miles took the six month separation from his wife literally to the day was somewhat Leonard.

Holmes: That’s a great example, but it’s really just a human thing. A big tough guy who has a vulnerability that he’s been counting the days, he’s been marking the days on his calendar, that’s something that Leonard did really well which is make these characters human.

As a director, is staging that dialogue very natural?

Arkin: It has been for me. It’s a byproduct of great writing that a way of staging it will reveal itself just in the process of honoring the words and the material and exploring what the actors’ instincts are around those. So as is the case any time I’ve gotten to work with great material, it makes that part of it much easier.

Get Shorty Season 1 Episode 101

Was the single take where the hit men are driving away as the guys run after them tough to stage?

Holmes: That was Allen Coulter. That was a lot of fun. We did not direct Goya [Robles], the actor, to kick the car and run up to the car. He just did that and we were ecstatic because it gave us a wonderful scene.

Are you basically writing the movie that Miles is pitching week by week also?

Holmes: Yeah, we would have to keep track as we came up with ideas for episodes because we end up backing ourselves into a corner. Not knowing where the movie in the show was going, we would write a couple scenes from it and then when we came to it later, we’d say, “All right, so what happened already in that movie? What were those characters’ names?” We’d have to fold that in.

Is there a Shorty somewhere in the story?

Holmes: At the end of episode one it’s revealed that Shorty is his daughter. He calls his daughter Shorty. He says, “Good night, Shorty.”

Will John Stamos have a cameo?

Holmes: I hope so. It didn’t work out this year, but I know he knows about it. We talked to him so moving forward there’s a possibility.

Does the Hollywood world or the gangster world account for more of the extreme sex and violence of this world?

Holmes: In terms of themes, I think they both share. It’s the collision of those two worlds so you can’t really point to one or the other. It’s smashing them up against each other.

Arkin: It’s the overlap of ruthlessness in both worlds.

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