He’s also friends with Lynn Novick, who is my co-director and coproducer on this, a longtime collaborator. And they’d been conspiring, so it was all fortuitous. He was embarking on a book project [about prohibition], and we were happy to share our research with him and he shared his with us.
Did Daniel Okrent write a companion book about prohibition for your series?
He did a book called “Last Call.” It’s not a companion book.
What was the research like?
It was our usual deep dive.... This required us to take a lot of time, to work with a lot of scholars, to interview a lot of people ... lots of witnesses from all across the country. It required us to find incredible footage in the most unlikely places and, of course, go to hundreds of archival places to find the still photographs [that] make it come alive.
How long did it take to make?
The decision to do it was about six years ago. The actual intense work has been over the last three-plus years. And that’s normal for us.
What was the biggest challenge in pulling it together?
I think understanding the levels and complexity of the story to represent [prohibition accurately.] We are all distracted, understandably, by the gangster story. By the flapper story. And we have that. The film is sexy, and it’s violent, and it’s dramatic. All that stuff.
But invariably we permit Al Capone to distract us from the fact that bankers, newspaper reporters, I’m sure filmmakers, judges, regular people, were routinely breaking the law [to drink alcohol]....