The art of reimagination: In conversation with Will Graham
Will Graham, the co-creator of the new Amazon Prime Video show, A League of Their Own discusses why he felt the need to retell the story of a classic film
For Will Graham, his latest creation, the Amazon Prime Video series, A League of Their Own, based on Penny Marshall’s 1992 sports dramedy by the same name, has a personal connection. “I grew up with the movie. It was one of my mom’s favourite films,” Graham says. “I played baseball for seven years and I was terrible at it. I was a little queer kid who felt I shouldn’t be on the field and there was something in the movie that comforted me. I always loved the moment where Geena Davis catches the ball with her bare hand.” Graham explains that it is the universality of the story that encouraged him to take up the project. “A couple of years ago, we were looking into the stories underneath the subject and felt they were definitely worth telling. They are for everyone.”
In today's age, filmmakers and studios are under scrutiny every time a reboot, rehash, retelling, spin-off, remake or any new iteration of a popular source material surfaces. Fans of the original are not easily forgiving. Naturally, this places a tremendous amount of pressure on the creators. And when the source material is as revered as A League of Their Own, the pressure to live up to the name of the original grows multifold. Graham, who co-created the show, with Abbi Jacobson, definitely understands this. “We don’t see the series as a reboot of the movie. We see it more as a reimagination,” Graham says. “We borrowed the amazing tone Penny Marshall and the cast had set and tried to look at the stories through a wider lens. In fact, I had an incredible opportunity to talk to Penny before she passed away. We described what we wanted to do and got her support. It was wonderful.”
The “tone” that Graham refers to is the USP of the series. The formation of a World War II-era women's professional baseball team is central to the show, which follows several young American women and their stories. Serious conflicts like racism and sexism are addressed but the humourous and light-hearted tone remains intact. Graham feels it was vital to maintain this balance. “This is a show about joy and people finding their dreams and themselves. We didn’t want the obstacles to take the centre stage. We are talking about women, queer people, and women of colour at that point in history; this world wasn’t made for them. It is a part of the story, but that’s not what the story is entirely about.”
The project, which entered development in 2017, premiered five years later, overcoming multiple pandemic waves. “There have been a lot of challenges and yes, it did take a while. We have always believed that these stories were way bigger than us. What kept me going was the joy at the centre of these stories. We got to know these women really well and they had to deal with much harder things than developing a TV Show. Finding the energy to keep going was not so hard,” Graham concludes with a smile.