Jemima Kirke and Ashley Zukerman Discuss Welcomed 'Challenge' of Portraying 'Compromised' Characters in 'City on Fire' (Exclusive)
Apple TV+ recently debuted a brand new drama-thriller, City on Fire, which follows the lives of several New York City residents in the wake of a shooting that hospitalized a young woman who ties them all together. Among the show's cast are Jemima Kirke (Girls, Sex Education) and Ashley Zukerman (Succession, A Teacher), who portray Regan Hamilton Sweeney and her husband Keith, respectively. PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with Kirke and Zukerman about their work on the show, including what it was about the script by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage that drew them to the project.
"First thing was that I didn't see myself as the obvious choice for this character and I felt compelled, well, I felt intrigued by them considering me and flattered," Kirke offered. "But it made me wonder what kind of nuances they wanted for this character and that, 'Okay, we've got who she is on paper' — which is a classic archetype of a New York, Upper East Side, New York old money, very together woman — and then what happens when she has used to have this edge to her or that is probably still there. The fact that they were thinking in that way made me interested."
Kirke continued, "Then the other part of it was that I normally do scripts or shows or movies that are quite nuanced or polarizing... There were lines in [City on Fire] that actually the type of writing they do that I didn't think I could deliver. It was a challenge, some of these lines and because it's just a different kind of writing to do a thriller and to do the type of script that really draws people in rather than a thinking piece that's a bit slower. And so some of the lines were really challenging for me and I had to really sit and think about how to do them rather than argue with the writer about changing them, which is what I usually do."
Zukerman then added, "I'm the same. I love that it was a show about people that although there is this thrill at the center of it, that event just catalyzes all of these relationships to reveal. So every scene is really about people and people coming together and falling apart and I loved that. Also, people in compromised, difficult situations... I was fascinated... concerned, and worried, about the position my character finds himself in, blowing up his life and having an affair with a college student. We talk a lot about this. It's not an affair, which can be..."
Kirke interjected, "It's not a typical affair. It's not something that you just overcome. It's like finding out that someone you've known for years and so well actually has a third limb. It's like, 'What? You can spend time with a 20-year-old or a 19-year and you can relate to them? I didn't know this about you.'" Zukerman continued, "Yeah, an affair can be a symptom of a relationship problem, but with a 19-year-old, with an 18-year-old, that's a problem in the man." Kirke replied, "It says something about that character that I didn't know, as the wife, that you were capable of."
Agreeing, Zukerman then concluded, "I was intrigued to delve into that because it is something that I don't see talked about that often in shows. That's not something, but yet it happens often in life and it does happen often with men. I was interested to figure out what is it about these men that do that and this man in particular."
The first four episodes of City on Fire are now streaming on Apple TV+, with new episodes debuting on Fridays.