Matthew Weiner’s AMC drama Mad Men is considered one of the seminal TV series that helped change the fabric of the medium, arguably elevating it to the prestige of film and theater. Weiner, a man who’s never been afraid to drop out of the public eye, has been notoriously cagey about his follow-up to the hit show about ad men in the ’50s and ’60s, saying only that it would be a contemporary anthology series and that its eight episodes would unfold on Amazon.
Now, thanks to a new interview with Weiner from The Hollywood Reporter, we have more details. The series, called The Romanoffs, will center around the Romanov family. The Romanov family, for those unaware, were the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia. The family was killed after an attack by revolutionaries in 1918, but the remains of one of the czar’s daughters and his only son were never found. The mystery of the “Romanov survivors” has pervaded through the ages, with multiple people claiming to either be a survivor or a descendent of one. Weiner’s show will tell the stories of those who believe themselves to be those descendants.
“The reason that I picked the Romanovs,” he elaborates, “is that in an era where we have social media and so much theoretical connection to each other it really seems like we’re further apart than ever. And I love this idea that these characters believe themselves to be, whether they are or not, descendants of this last autocratic family who are part of one of the great true crime stories of all time.”
In terms of format, Weiner says the show will operate more like Black Mirror than, say, American Horror Story. “We’re doing an actual anthology — and I say it that way because the word is used for different purposes now than it was when I was growing up,” Weiner says. “They’re contemporary but every single episode — and there will be eight — has a different cast, a different story and a different location.” As many as four will be filmed in the U.S., while the others will take place abroad. Weiner also noted he’s interested in continuing the series should it prove a success.
The benefit of the anthology approach, Weiner says, is that you can “get actors who might otherwise not do TV because they weren’t asking for much of a commitment.” And, yes, he’s very open to the idea of those actors including Mad Men alums, many of whom are now enjoying a career on Hollywood’s A-list.
Weiner also says that, while the show is in the writing process now, the series won’t premiere until “this time next year” or “maybe a little earlier.” He also disputes the initial claims that he was paid $70 million for the series, clarifying that the entire budget of the first season is $50 million.
Weiner isn’t all that interested in comparing the show to his previous hit. “[W]hatever comparisons are going to be made, the topic sentence will be, ‘This is different.’” And different is right. What many loved about Mad Men was the journey of watching its characters evolve over seven seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to bite-sized portions of the show creator’s storytelling.