HBO’s Run has been called “the best new show of 2020”
Seventeen years ago, college sweethearts Ruby and Billy made a pact: if either of them ever texted the word “RUN” and the other replied with the same, they would drop everything, board the first train after 5pm out of Grand Central Station, and travel across America together. But they’re about to discover that the reality of taking that leap may not be quite how they pictured it…
Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee Merritt Wever (Unbelievable, Godless, Nurse Jackie) stars as Ruby, opposite Berlin Shooting Star winner Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Ex Machina) as Billy. The cast also includes Emmy and Golden Globe winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), who’s also executive producer; Golden Globe nominee Archie Panjabi (HBO’s upcoming I Know This Much Is True, The Good Wife); Screen Actors Guild nominee Rich Sommer (Mad Men, Glow); and Sundance jury prize winner Tamara Podemski (Coroner).
I still can’t believe that I get to work with actors that extraordinary. They constantly surprise you.
HBO’s genre-defying rom-com thriller has an 83% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus praises its “sharp subversions of romcom clichés” and “Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson’s electrifying performances.”
Run is the brainchild of Vicky Jones, who was a writer on Killing Eve, directed the original stage production of Fleabag and went on to script edit that series, which won Best Comedy at both the 2019 Emmys and 2020 Golden Globes.
We asked Vicky about the romance of train trips and the appeal of running away.
Where did the idea for Run come from?
Me and Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] had this old joke where we’d whisper “Run!” to each other in any situation we wanted to escape from. I also wanted to write a romance about the little routines that develop between couples, the beautiful details and minutiae of relationships behind closed doors.
So we had this idea of this couple coming back together after years apart, that led to this premise of a pact [where] they would walk out on their lives, meet on a train platform and go on this journey together.
There’s an element of “be careful what you wish for”, exploring what happens when you step outside your obligations.
Why is the idea of breaking free and reinventing your life so alluring?
Nowadays we have so many choices but as life happens, those paths close down. Worrying that you took the wrong option and wondering about what might have been is only human. We might pin those feelings from a certain person and fantasise about the idea of dropping everything for them.
In some ways, it’s a really exciting idea. Time goes so fast. You leave school or college and suddenly you’re in your late 30s, still feeling like the same person inside but with all these grown-up commitments. Maybe we’re secretly all feeling like it happened too quickly.
Did you set out to write a story that would cross genres?
Mainly we just wanted it to be exciting. We wanted to investigate what makes people fall passionately in love, what makes you feel so safe and accepted that you can say anything, do anything, and be your true authentic self with that person.
But, of course, you can’t have a drama without conflict. Other things come crashing into their world. There’s an element of “be careful what you wish for”, exploring what happens when you step outside your obligations. Wonderful, magical things happen, but terrible things too.
Apart from the Before Sunrise films, what else did you look to for inspiration?
Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train, of course. We watched lots of road trip movies like Badlands. And I always reference Nora Ephron. When Harry Met Sally’s influence can be detected in everything I do. I aspire to the gorgeousness of that back-and-forth.
What is it about trains and romance?
I love a train journey. I love that feeling of being out of life, of stepping into another world. Time seems to operate differently on trains. It’s like a microcosm of the real world. Ruby and Billy feel like they’re secretly trying something, just to see. They’re in denial about what they’re doing and because they’re shut away from everyone with no phone signal, it’s almost like nobody will notice they’ve gone… But of course, they do notice.
Tell us a bit about the characters…
Ruby is a lot braver than she thinks she is. She’s fallen into a way of behaving with her husband that isn’t who she used to be with Billy. She rediscovers her authentic self through the journey.
Even though he’s very flawed, Billy’s love for Ruby is deep and true and he’s made vulnerable by that. It’s nice to write a man who’s driven by his need for a woman.
What were Domhnall and Merritt like to work with?
I still can’t believe that I get to work with actors that extraordinary. They constantly surprise you. Sometimes you have no idea whether a line is going to work until they come out with it and then they do something that breaks your heart. They make you look good!