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Cash Carraway on her new HBO series 'Rain Dogs'

MILES PARKS, HOST:

HBO's new show "Rain Dogs," a raunchy dark comedy set in London, follows Costello Jones as she navigates motherhood while dangling on the edge of poverty. She's a single mom, an aspiring writer, and a peep show dancer who manages to form a complex and sometimes toxic pseudo-family to help her make it through. Cash Carraway is the creator and executive producer of "Rain Dogs" and she joins us now. Hey, welcome to WEEKEND EDITION.

CASH CARRAWAY: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. What an intro.

PARKS: Yeah (laughter). It's great to have you. So your show opens with Costello and her daughter Iris getting evicted from their shabby London apartment and also ignoring calls from Selby, who's this man who was recently released from prison but who seems to want to help them out. Can you just talk a little bit about who Selby is and what his relationship to Costello and her daughter is?

CARRAWAY: Yeah, well, Selby is Costello's charismatic, dysfunctional, slightly violent best friend who is from a very privileged background. He's from the upper class. Him and Costello come from very, very different worlds. But they're soulmates, you know. They connect in a way that neither of them do with anyone else.

They completely love each other like they would if they were in a romantic relationship. But they're not in a romantic relationship. Selby is gay. So they don't have that bond, but they do live in almost, like, a romantic fantasy despite that.

PARKS: Yeah, I was going to ask - it almost - it feels like a family unit. Do you see it as as a family unit?

CARRAWAY: Oh, yeah. They are a true family unit. And it's just slightly dysfunctional because I think neither of them really know how to love properly because of their sort of traumatic pasts.

PARKS: Yeah. So you've said before that this show is not an autobiography, but it is shaped a lot by your personal experiences. Can you tell us a little bit about how this show kind of came to be?

CARRAWAY: Yeah, of course. Yeah. It's definitely not autobiographical. Daisy May Cooper isn't playing the part of me. And in fact, it came about because I did write a book many, many years ago, a memoir that was published by Penguin Random House back in 2019. It was called "Skint Estate," and it was sort of like a jaunt through the gutter, I suppose. It was all the struggles and stories that happened whilst I was living in poverty as a single mum.

And that book did get bought for television. I wrote the screenplay for it. And then suddenly one morning I woke up and said, I really don't want to write about my life anymore. It was too exposing. I felt like I'd said everything I wanted to say as myself with the book. But then I just - I was speaking to HBO about it. And thankfully I came back with "Rain Dogs," and they liked it.

So, you know, it was quite a risk doing that because, you know, I had just come out of poverty, you know, in writing the book and then getting the book commissioned as an adaptation. So to sort of turn around and say, I don't want to do it, you know, potentially I could have, you know, lost an awful lot.

PARKS: So that does kind of parallel with something - a theme that comes up in the show, which is Costello's continued dream of becoming a writer as well. And at one point she stumbles on this opportunity to get an essay published in a newspaper. Let's listen in to that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RAIN DOGS")

FLEUR TASHJIAN: (As Iris) Today, Mummy, your name is going to be in the newspaper and not for a crime.

DAISY MAY COOPER: (As Costello Jones) Yeah, you're right.

TASHJIAN: (As Iris) All my friends' mums are going to read about it, and soon we won't be poor. You're a real writer now.

COOPER: (As Costello Jones) Yeah, I suppose I am. I am a real writer.

PARKS: That doesn't exactly end well, but I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what pushes Costello to keep kind of chasing this artistic dream, even as all these aspects of her life are seemingly kind of crumbling?

CARRAWAY: Well, I think because she thinks that she's good at it, as simple as that. She wants a job where she can provide for her daughter. But she finds it really, really hard because of the way that she is perceived. Like, the people that she meets who could give her these opportunities view her in a way where they look down on her. They sort of find her experiences very exotic and fetishize them in a way and sort of want to make her a victim.

She sort of views herself as a sort of raconteur, like a sort of Charles Bukowski, Jeffrey Bernard-type figure, sort of, like, dancing through the gutter. And everyone else views her, you know, as someone very tragic. And that's why I wanted to make the script funny. You know, we see this awful poverty, and yet she kind of keeps on going and sort of laughing through it until she can't anymore.

PARKS: Well, and I do wonder about that poverty that you mentioned. And I'm wondering about how you feel like TV has portrayed poverty broadly. Is there something missing in how other shows have portrayed poverty that you were kind of trying to aim to shine a light on in making this show?

CARRAWAY: When I started out writing it, I was really clear with myself that I didn't actually want to write a show about poverty. I wanted to set it in the world of poverty, in the landscape of poverty, in the same way that sort of "Succession" - you know, it's not about wealth per se. It's about this dysfunctional family. And that's what I wanted with this. Obviously we have the world of poverty, and we see the world of missed opportunities that people in poverty have to deal with. But actually, it is about the strength of character and about sort of endurance.

And in terms of, like, other shows showing poverty, I think - you know, I don't know necessarily what it's like over in America, but in England, when we see poverty on TV, it really is quite pornographic and condescending. And I think it's because it's portrayed usually through the eyes of middle class and upper class television executives who - they sort of want the audience to feel really sad about it. So when I set about making this, I really didn't want the audience to feel pity. I wanted them to put themselves in the shoes of these characters and have as much fun as them. And that's why I set up the dynamic between Costello and Selby, where it's them against the world.

PARKS: I totally see the comparison to "Succession" now that you mention it. Just that, like - yeah, and also family exists no matter what your social class is, what your exact definition of family is. Some of those dynamics are a little bit universal, right? One of the questions I had watching this show was the family unit that you've written here is a family that kind of comes together. It's not a family that was - that these people were necessarily born into.

CARRAWAY: No.

PARKS: Is it a net positive or a net negative for all three characters? Can you just kind of break that down of, like, how this family unit works for the three of them?

CARRAWAY: Well, it's sad in its origins because they all come from families who either didn't want them or they couldn't really bear to be around anymore because it was too sort of abusive or traumatic. But I think it's really positive in the fact that they found each other and that they desperately, desperately want to have this, you know, traditional family unit. It's just that - the only problem is, is that they just don't know how to do it right. And that's what the whole series is sort of portraying, is them constantly trying to do the right thing, but failing miserably because they just don't know how to do it.

PARKS: Yeah. Cash Carraway, the creator of "Rain Dogs" on HBO - it's out now. Thank you so much for joining WEEKEND EDITION.

CARRAWAY: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.
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