Emma Moran on Extraordinary: ‘I kept sending Disney+ scripts, thinking – they’re not gonna like this!’
Screenwriter Emma Moran discusses writing her new Disney+ sitcom Extraordinary, her creative influences, and more
Everyone in the world gets a superpower on their 18th birthday. Everyone apart from Jen: she’s 25 and normal, the only one of her friends who can’t reverse time or speak to the dead or run at the speed of light. Extraordinary is a typical flatshare sitcom in a completely atypical world, where an awful situationship guy might literally just fly away when he gets bored.
Emma Moran, the debut screenwriter behind Extraordinary, recently joined Alex Moreland to discuss her new Disney+ sitcom – explaining some of the challenges involved in developing the show, revealing how she helped build the show’s soundtrack, and talking a little about some of her hopes for a potential second season.
What was your starting point with Extraordinary? How did this all begin?
It came from… I wanted to write a flatshare sitcom. I thought of writing your traditional one, and just felt like it was a bit flat – like I wasn’t really saying anything with it. I was writing it at a time when superhero stuff was exploding everywhere, so I just thought one day to combine these two things –where one genre is about, you know, being the best, being the fastest and strongest, and then combining that with these characters who are the opposite of that, who are a bit useless and a bit stupid and not very aspirational. The second those two things came together, everything just spiralled from there.
So, building on that – obviously, this is arriving when superhero film & TV is absolutely massive. When you’re approaching something like this, playing on what will be an existing frame of reference for the audience, are you conscious of what you want to push away from or emulate?
On a kind of thematic level, I wanted to shy away from the superlative-ness of superhero stuff, where it’s all about achieving and being a hero and chasing goals and being the best. I guess the show was a reaction to that, glorifying the opposite, and being kind of weirdly anti-aspirational in a way.
When it comes to the funny stuff, I think just taking those superpowers that we know, and twisting them to be just really dumb and selfish in usage, I think was really, really fun. Just seeing how superpowers would interact with dumb human nature is the starting point for [Extraordinary].
Tonally this feels a bit unusual for Disney+ at times – see the main character called Jizzlord – how did you approach that during the production process? Were there ever any worries around that – not necessarily while making it even, but in terms of it finding its audience on release?
I guess I try not to think about it in that wider way: I just sat down to write the show I wanted to write, and then hoped that Disney would be on board and, luckily, throughout the whole process, they were. I got a lot of creative free rein – I kept sending in scripts thinking, like, ‘this isn’t gonna be what they want, they’re not gonna like this’. Then every time it was ‘can you do it more? Can you push it further?’ Yeah, I think it’s kind of refreshingly different [as a show].
You clearly have a lot of fun with the stranger, more useless powers – the dentist is great, in particular – were there ever any instances where, you’d thought of a power, some good jokes to go along with it, but maybe just couldn’t find a home for it in the show?
Maybe not specifics, but yeah, I have basically got a massive Word document of just powers ready to go that don’t have a don’t have a home. Like, knowing someone’s postcode.
That’d be a good one, I’d like that.
Yeah, I’m sure you’d just become a postman or something, you know, but yeah, there’s lots of wrinkles like that, that we just run out of time for, but are always up here.
The soundtrack gives the show quite a distinct feel – was that something you were quite involved with? Can you tell me a little about what influenced that?
It’s – I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and end up with a vendetta against me from a music supervisor who will hate me for saying this – but I created a playlist for the season. I think that really heavily influenced the music choices, there’s quite a large amount of songs represented directly from that. So, the writing and the music were sort of built in tandem – I’m glad that we’ve really kept that together. I think it really does give the tone and the energy of the show that we wanted to give, but yeah, I’m never gonna not brag about it being from my playlist.
Maybe that’d be your superpower! I wanted to ask as well about what you’d say your big creative influences are – I know you’ve spoken about the impact of things like Spaced and The Mighty Boosh, but is there anything else you’d point to? Either as an influence generally or on Extraordinary specifically.
Yeah, I guess those were the two biggies. There’s a lot of quite surreal British and Irish comedy that I think has definitely informed what I do – like, and I know it seems quite mainstream now, but stuff like Father Ted back in the day was so silly? Quite warm, but so silly. Then there’s the really weird stuff, like BrassEye.
I think also there’s a little bit of the big American sitcom in Extraordinary, with the really strong friendship group – the found family and heart that the show has. There’s a bit of that Friends or Parks and Rec kind of feel to it, but hopefully slightly undercut with quite dark British Irish humour so it never feels too schmaltzy. I’m allergic to – like, what do you call it? – sincerity. I’ll never get that schmaltzy.
What have you been watching and enjoying lately? Any recommendations you’d share?
Ah, I hate watching TV now! I’m not just saying this because it’s on Disney+, but The Bear is great. [Otherwise] I’ve just been going back and rewatching things – I rewatched all of Seinfeld over the summer, which made me go insane, but it was worth it. Though I wouldn’t recommend doing it in one go! And I watch a lot of reality TV, to be honest.
Have you thought much about a potential second series of Extraordinary?
I mean, it’s kind of up to the gods, but yeah – I think we’ve just spent so much time sort of building this really rich parallel London, I think it’d be really nice to keep digging into. It’s the same with having this list of powers we haven’t gotten to – you know, you’re just scraping the surface. I think there’s a lot more there to dig into. So hopefully.
Finally, then, just to wrap everything up – is there anything you hope people take from Extraordinary, in terms of their experience watching the show?
Hopefully, it’s just coming away with that feeling that it’s okay to just be okay, you know? Being content with the average, you know, so… that sounds really depressing! But hopefully, you know, you come away from it with a sense of joy and warmth, and appreciating the ordinary things basically. That sounds really wanky, but you know what I mean.
Extraordinary begins on Disney+ on Wednesday 25 January, with every episode available to stream at once as part of a boxset.