‘Trying’ Exec Producer O’Hanlon Directed From His Bedroom With COVID

Trying on Apple TV Plus
(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Season two of comedy Trying, about a London couple seeking to adopt, premieres on Apple TV Plus May 21. Esther Smith plays Nikki and Rafe Spall portrays Jason. The couple has been approved by the adoption panel, and eagerly await the right child. 

Andy Wolton created the show, and exec produces with Jim O’Hanlon, who directs. O’Hanlon directed from his bedroom when he was waylaid with COVID. It was in the middle of shooting when he came down with COVID. O’Hanlon said his case was not horrific, more like “a very bad cold” with lots of aches. 

Armed with an iPad, he directed from home for eight days, getting the feed from two cameras via Zoom. “I would call Action and Cut and they would [remotely] bring me to talk to the actors and give them notes and talk to the DP and give ‘em notes,” he said. 

It being season two helped, as the cast and crew knew O’Hanlon and trusted him as well. “We had a shorthand,” he said. 

Production never stopped. “We kept the show on the road,” said O’Hanlon. “We never had a hiatus and we finished on time.”

He likes the way his remotely directed episodes look. 

“It’s going to be in all my contracts now,” he quipped. “I don’t leave my bedroom.”

O’Hanlon previously directed the Rob Delaney-Sharon Horgan comedy Catastrophe. Initially reading a script for Trying, he was on board right away. “It was right in my wheelhouse,” he said. “It’s funny, it’s real, it’s warm, it’s relatable, and it’s got [tons] of energy.”

And it shoots five minutes from where O’Hanlon lives, in Camden Town. “We felt that gave [Trying] its own identity, one that hasn’t been hugely seen on screen before,” he said, “but one which is massively vibrant.”

Season two has eight episodes. Imelda Staunton, who will play Queen Elizabeth II in season five of The Crown, portrays Nikki and Jason’s nutty social worker Penny. 

Trying is about more than adoption. It’s about a couple that feels as though they can never quite keep up with the Joneses. “The two keep trying to keep up with the world, and they’re feeling like they don’t quite measure up to their friends,” said O’Hanlon. “They can’t compete with them. They don’t have as good jobs as them, they don’t have as much money as them, they’re not as clever as them, not as sophisticated as them, they don’t love foreign films the way [their friends] love foreign films, they don’t go to enough lectures.”

Trying is “for anybody who ever felt slightly not quite good enough,” said O’Hanlon. “That was another potential title--Not Quite Good Enough.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.