Lizzie Bennet Diaries showrunner Bernie Su speaks to Hypable about the end of the series, auditioning Ashley Clements, dealing with criticism, and more.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has been a crazy journey, and no one has lived it the way showrunner Bernie Su has. We spoke to Su the day after the Lizzie Bennet Diaries finale aired. Now we can share Su’s insight with you, from his initial motivations to take on the project, what he would have changed in hindsight, how he deals with criticisms of the show, and much more.
If you need something to fill that Lizzie Bennet-shaped void in your heart, check out Su’s recently launched web series, Lookbook. The series follows the tumultuous world of (fictional) fashion blogging, and stars Lizzie Bennet‘s own Wes Aderhold – known for his portrayal of the sly and manipulative George Wickham. Or if you would prefer to wallow in nostalgia for a little longer, read Hypable’s top 10 Lizzie Bennet Diaries episodes, and see if you agree with our choices.
Hypable: How are you feeling now that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has finished?
Bernie Su: I’m mixed. A lot of good and a lot of sad – there’s no bad, there’s just good and sad. It’s such an experience, and I think as an artist, completing it is really the joy. We finished, we finished. I saw most of the cast yesterday at different times, and I saw the four girls together and took a photo of them. I had to take a moment to be like, “Wow.” Just, you know, feelings.
The outpouring from the fans and all that – my silence over the last couple days shouldn’t be taken as a sign that I have no feelings, I’m just trying to not pour everything out to everybody. Regardless, I feel really good and I’m really proud that we got to finish the show. I’m really proud of how we did. I’m pretty proud of what we have accomplished, as far as the legacy of Jane Austen.
There are critics, and people say we did things right, we did things wrong, we shouldn’t have done that, we should have done it this way. That’s fine, that’s cool, you can say that about the show, but I’ll just say that we gave it everything, we left it all on the table. It’s all there, and we can’t be faulted for trying – that’s the one thing I can always say. I’m just really proud of my team, and everybody, and what we accomplished.
When did this journey begin for you?
The first time I met Hank [Green, co-creator] was in March 2011. We didn’t get to start working on the show until actually after Vidcon 2011, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t know – people think we started working on it right away. It really wasn’t, we talked two weeks after we met for the first time about the show, but then we both realized how busy we both were.
I encouraged him to wait until after Vidcon, and that if we’re still feeling that we should do this after Vidcon (and this was four months later) then let’s go for it. And sure enough, at Vidcon I saw him, and he was still as enthusiastic, and the week after Vidcon he messaged me and was like, “Let’s do it!” I was like, “Well if he wants to do it, I’m in.”
So the real journey of it all started August 2011. Then we were developing it and talking every week or so about the show, and the details and nuances of what we were going to do, until finally it got to the point in November where I went, “Well, we’ve done all the development. We’ve got to either cast this thing, or shoot this thing, there’s nothing else we can do at this point.” The initial casting, they came in for the first auditions in December 2011, and that’s where it really began for them.
Were you in the first auditions?
Yes, I was. I saw every person who came in.
Do you remember Ashley’s first audition?
Yes, I do. Very much so. We had two days of auditions to audition the first four girls, and Ashley came in the second day. Either she was that good, or the other candidates just weren’t working, but she was the only Lizzie that day that was close to what we were looking for; the first day there were a couple others.
But I remember pretty vividly – I remember writing in my notes after she came in that she was the best Lizzie we’d seen all day. And clearly she was. That’s in my audition notes, I remember it very clearly. Mary Kate [Wiles] came in the first day, Julia [Cho] came in the first day, and Laura [Spencer] came in I think the first day as well. But Ashley was definitely second day.
Who was the most difficult to cast, apart from Lizzie?
Well I’ll say that the one that had the most conversation during the callbacks was Jane. Mainly because we had called back more Janes than anybody else, because we had a lot of good candidates. Coming out of the callbacks, there were two very, very strong candidates. That became a discussion that went all the way to the top, as in Hank and Katherine (his wife) had different opinions.
It’s good to have a discussion, but Hank had a hunch and Katherine had a hunch that was different. Hank wanted to go Laura, and I was like, “They’re both great.” I basically wrote a message to Hank, “Here are reasons why both candidates are great, and what each candidate gives you that the other doesn’t.” I think for Laura, she is very doe-eyed, and that really plays for our Jane well. The other candidate doesn’t have the same level of doe-eyed-ness, and not that it hurt her, but it was a different take on it. So I’d say that would be the one that had the most discussion.
And then Julia as Charlotte was also towards the end of the day on the first day. I knew Julia, I knew of her and I’d met her, and I was like, “Oh this is cool. I like this take on it.” So I was really happy with that one.