Cristin Milioti on How Made For Love and Palm Springs Accidentally Mirrored Pandemic Life

Cristin Milioti knows there’s a weird coincidental feel that her 2020 film “Palm Springs” and her 2021 series “Made For Love” both felt very timely as bookends to the pandemic. “Palm Springs” was about living the same day over and over again — something that felt very familiar during quarantine times — while “Made for Love” is all about feeling trapped and confined by your surroundings.

“I feel astronomically grateful and blessed that I was able to shoot anything during this time, and that I was able to put anything out,” Milioti tells Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “The fact that ‘Palm Springs’ came out when it did, and sort of resonated in this different way that we had no idea it would do. And the way that ‘Made for Love,’ weirdly, has resonated within like all of us being trapped and a slave to our technology… I can’t believe it.”

Mostly by coincidence, Milioti has found herself appearing in several projects with a sci-fi bent. And between “Palm Springs” and “Made for Love,” she’s also been hanging out in the desert quite a bit. We spoke with her about all of that, about the wild ride that is “Made for Love,” and her heartbreak at the lengthy shut down of Broadway. We began by discussing the string of success she has had over the past year, even in the midst of the pandemic. Listen below!

HBO Max’s “Made for Love,” a dark comedy adapted from Alissa Nutting‘s novel of the same name, stars Milioti as Hazel Green, a 30-something woman escaping a toxic marriage to tech billionaire Byron Gogol (played by Billy Magnussen), who has implanted a futuristic monitoring device in her brain. Ray Romano stars as hazel’s estranged father, who in the decade since Hazel disappeared has not fared well. Milioti, of course, is a star of Broadway, film and TV who is known for roles such as the mother in “How I Met Your Mother,” the star of the “Black Mirror” breakout episode “USS Callister” and starring opposite Andy Samberg in last year’s “Palm Springs.”

“Completely unintentional,” she says of the sci-fi connection. “I mean, I love sci-fi for sure. I also I think sometimes I’m drawn to things that are left of center and have sort of sneaky ways of addressing bigger issues or something through a lens like that.”

In doing research to play Hazel, Milioti says she watched a lot of YouTube videos of women who are public figures and interviews with women married to very successful, sometimes quite mercurial and mysterious, but famous men. “I really tried to infer that in some interviews, they seem like they are unable to speak what is actually happening,” she says. “And that they have boughtinto this fairy tale that has been turned into a complete nightmare. Which we keep hearing time and time again. We heard it with Princess Diana. We heard it with Meghan Markle, recently… Why would [Hazel] agree to do this, and it’s because she’s offered the ultimate ‘dream.’ ‘You’ll never worry about anything again, you’ll be successful, you’ll have all the money in the world, you will want for nothing, you’ll go to fabulous places, all you have to do is give up everything and be with me.’ It’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ It’s ‘The Little Mermaid.’”

Milioti says she grew up loving those Disney films, and only realizing later that some of the messages coming out of those movies is troubling. When she signed on to “Made For Love,” Milioti says she was also thinking of another character: Uma Thurman’s The Bride, aka Beatrix Kiddo, in “Kill Bill” Volumes 1 and 2. “Doing something like that has always been my dream,” she says. “Something I found very funny about Hazel was that there were parts of her survival story, it’s dark. But to me, it’s very funny that if you took Beatrix Kiddo, and she actually had no skills, but had to get out of those things… I mean, this woman is dealing with an assassin after her, running from her tech billionaire husband, except that she has no skills, she can barely hold a shotgun. And I always found that very funny. But she sort of always gets by the skin of her teeth.”

Meanwhile, Milioti also discusses the complications of producing “Made for Love” as the pandemic shut production down for many months. But that down time, she believes, allowed showrunner Christina Lee and Nutting to hone the show’s story.

“Our crew and creatives, it is such a testament to them that it is seamless, because there are shots in this show that I’m facing you and it’s 2019. And then I turn over my shoulder and it’s December 2020,” she says. “We block shot this, so you’re shooting everything completely out of order. So there were some things that we grabbed outside, so there will be one scene of us walking into a place talking and walking out. And it’s three separate months from two separate years. I think the silver lining of us going on a break for six months was that Christina, our showrunner and Alyssa, our co-creator, who wrote the novel, they were able to really sit with everything we’d shot and everything that we were supposed to shoot, and everything that had been written and cull back through it and be like, ‘Do we want to do that now?’ We were able togo further with certain things and create some really new exciting things.”

Later on, Jazz Tangcay chats with Catherine Zeta-Jones about her time on Fox’s “Prodigal Son,” which we just learned this week would not be moving forward with a third season. But first, on the Variety Awards Circuit roundtable, Clayton Davis joins us to dissect the huge Hollywood Foreign Press Association implosion and the news that 2022’s Golden Globes will not be moving forward. And we look at his first round of Emmy predictions.

Variety’s Emmy edition of the “Awards Circuit” podcast is hosted by Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Danielle Turchiano and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in television. Each week during Emmy season, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.

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