What if you misdialed a stranger–and kept talking? An interview with the creator of Jules and James
by G.G. Andrew
One of the most fun discoveries I’ve had this year is learning about the Jules & James podcast, a fictional podcast that tells the story of two strangers who meet through a misdialed phone call and keep talking, and, eventually, fall for each other. I listened to the first few episodes and loved the awkwardness and artistic bent of the dialogue.
As a fan, I had questions, and the creator and writer of Jules & James, Jennifer Schwed, generously agreed to answer a few for me. Here’s what Jennifer had to say about the podcast–how it came about, when these two strangers will finally meet, and who’s more into a possible romance with the other early on…
How did the idea of Jules & James originate?
After our company, Through the 4th Wall, finished a run of an enormous live production last fall, I wanted to create something very small and intimate—as if it was designed for one person, one audience member. I wrote out lots of ideas that combined the personal and voyeuristic and I landed on the concept of listening to a relationship grow and evolve over time via an ongoing phone call. Ideally, I wanted Jules & James to be both an escape and something relatable.
Having listened to the first few episodes of the podcast, I’ve been surprised by how natural the actors sound. I feel like I’m actually overhearing a real conversation. How much of the dialogue is scripted?
The dialogue is 100% scripted and the actors are 100% brilliant. Both Jules and James have backgrounds in improv and they have such a natural chemistry that they sound completely authentic. And I should say they do add in their own asides from time to time, which I love and highly encourage!
On your website, the podcast is referred to as similar to Before Sunrise, a movie I love. What aspects of that film were you were trying to capture in Jules & James?
The beauty of Before Sunrise is the simplicity of story. It moves the way life does; it flows. That’s what I was trying to capture with Jules & James. That unexpected ease you find with a stranger that opens the door to a million possibilities: will this person become the great love of my life…my best friend…or will I never see them again? For the viewer, Before Sunrise feels both startlingly intimate and completely unknown—and you want to go along on the ride with Celine and Jesse. That’s what I want to capture with Jules & James. I want the listener to be engaged enough to go along for a ride that maybe feels both foreign and familiar.
In the first episode especially, I felt like Jules sets some boundaries with James–by stopping him from interrupting her, resisting the idea that their meeting is a romantic “meet-cute,” and being the one who has his number (and not vice versa). Was this intentional? What part do their genders and backgrounds play in their communication styles and behavior?
Jules was definitely setting boundaries! You’ll learn (a lot) more about her throughout the series and the role of their genders and past relationships comes into play. I think also, for Jules, she’s a writer and director. It’s her natural inclination to guide ‘scenes’—even in real life.
I know this is a romance podcast, but so far in the first few episodes, Jules and James haven’t moved beyond friendship. But I’m guessing there’s more there. Can you tell us who’s more interested in a romantic connection earlier on, Jules or James?
I think there’s a peculiar and shifting line between friendship and romance. Jules and James are truly getting to know each other and revealing bits and pieces of themselves along the way. Plus, they both have lives that preceded the phone call and may prove a hindrance to an immediate romantic involvement. James may seem more outwardly smitten, but Jules is definitely sticking with something that is probably not her natural inclination. I like to think they both felt an immediate connection and each shows their feelings in very, very different ways.
James and Jules both talk about their lives, but a lot of it revolves around their art. Are artists the primary intended audience for this podcast?
I didn’t intend for this to appeal strictly to artists. Ideally, I wanted the story to be multi-faceted and appeal to a broader audience. The romance of a chance encounter, living the life you dreamed of, the self-doubts we all face whether we’re an artist or not…there are a lot of themes and I hope those themes speak to people from entirely different walks of life. There’s a lot of “what if” that runs through Jules & James. I suspect a lot of us play that game with ourselves sub-consciously and this story is a kind of manifestation and meditation on the ideas that surround “what if.”
I know from your website that we’ll eventually not only be able to hear the podcast, but interact with these characters online. Can you tell us more about that? Which social platforms will they be on? Will we get to peek at James’s paintings or see clips of Jules’s films?
Yes and yes! We’ll get to see both James’ paintings and Jules’ films. Jules will have both an Instagram and Twitter account and James will have a portfolio of his artwork online. Listeners will be able to engage in conversation with them through these platforms, but we’re also planning more events for season two—fingers crossed!
Can you give us a hint of how, and when, Jules and James will finally meet in person?
Here’s what I’ll tell you: they set a date to meet towards the end of season one. The date is based on a specific event and it will be their first in-person meeting which occurs around episode #34 or #35…
Thanks so much to Jennifer for answering my burning questions about this new podcast! If you’re a fan of podcasts, or films like Before Sunrise, I’d definitely recommend you give it a listen!
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