Products You May Like
On Monday, news broke that Minx, the HBO Max comedy about an erotic women’s magazine that debuted this year, was abruptly cancelled—even though it was already renewed for another season. The news went public as the cast and crew were almost done shooting season 2, with only a week left of filming, to be exact. All of Minx season 1 will be pulled from the streaming platform as well.
The series starring Jake Johnson and Ophelia Lovibond is just one of the latest casualties of the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, which led to the cancellation and removal of multiple titles on HBO Max, both for tax write-offs and cost-cutting reasons. Recently, other axed shows include Love Life, Legendary, Los Espookys, and The Gordita Chronicles.
“We have enjoyed a good partnership with HBO Max and are working closely to find a new opportunity for Minx, so current, and new viewers, can continue this journey with us,” a statement from Lionsgate, which is producing Minx, said at the time.
Helmed by showrunner Ellen Rapoport, the 30-minute show follows editor Joyce (Lovibond) in her noble quest to launch a feminist magazine in the 1970s, but the only person willing to finance it is the sleazy-but-charming porn publisher Doug Renetti (Johnson). After some convincing, they work together to create the first women’s erotic mag, titled Minx, along with photographer Richie (Oscar Montoya), secretary Tina (Idara Victor), and model Bambi (Jessica Lowe). (Lennon Parham and Michael Angarano also star as Joyce’s sister and partner, respectively.) But it’s not all naked firefighters and dick pics; thanks to Joyce’s editorial savvy, it also includes thought-provoking pieces on women’s issues, all packaged in a playful page-turner. Much like the series itself. Against the backdrop of second-wave feminism and the sexual revolution, Minx’s comedic yet honest exploration of sex positivity and women’s pleasure speaks to both the ’70s and today without feeling too preachy. It also acknowledges who gets left out when feminism goes mainstream.
Naturally, the cancellation sparked an outcry from fans on social media, most of whom were charmed by Minx’s characters and timely conversations. (Some even mourned Johnson’s chest hair-revealing outfits as Doug.) Though it didn’t arrive with the fiery fanfare of, say, House of the Dragon, Minx received critical acclaim after its premiere in March and quietly garnered its own fan base. It currently holds a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and appears on multiple Best of 2022 lists (including ours).
But the cast and crew remain hopeful that the show will live on elsewhere. Rapoport, Lovibond, and Johnson tell ELLE.com spirits have remained high on set this week as they focus on wrapping up the season. They even had churro and donut trucks on the lot. “We’re in the finale and into re-shoots for episodes that were scheduled in,” Johnson says on Tuesday of where they currently are in production. By the end of this, they plan to have a full, finalized second season.
And though they can’t share specifics, Rapoport confirms Lionsgate is already having conversations about finding a new home for the show, and “I’m pretty confident that we’re going to end up at a great place,” she adds. Johnson notes that he’s been getting “positive texts and emails” and hopes that there’ll be good news to share in the future.
Here, Rapoport, Johnson, and Lovibond discuss learning of the HBO Max cancellation, the current vibe on set, and where Doug and Joyce’s stories will go next. They’ve also shared a first look at Minx season 2 in new photos.
How exactly did you find out the news that Minx will no longer be on HBO Max?
Ellen Rapoport: They told me about a week ago, and I let the actors know this weekend. The story was leaked, so it was a little unexpected. I was told there was going to be a press release at the end of the week from HBO Max, so we all knew in advance.
And what was your initial reaction? How shocked were you?
Rapoport: I think that we’ve all seen that things are being yanked off the service, unfortunately as a result of the cost-cutting measures that they’re taking. So it was a little surprising, but, I mean, it seems like anything is fair game at this point. So I don’t think anyone should be shocked to have their own show removed.
Jake Johnson: I personally don’t have a loyalty to a streamer, so I had talked to people at Lionsgate and heard that they were just as excited about the show as ever. And when you’ve got shows like Cobra Kai that get cancelled someplace, and then find new life somewhere else. I think these days, with the new world of streamers and so many options, it’s about a fan base and people caring.
So if the news comes that the show’s dead and we don’t get to make anymore, then I’ll be very sad. If we’re not on HBO Max and we’re on another name, then I’ll be just as happy. So I feel like I’m still in the wait-and-see phase. I felt like that article came out on Deadline a little bit early, and so I’ve gotten a lot of sad texts from people. But I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. I think we’re more in a wait-and-see-if-we’ve-got-a-new-home [stage]. And if we do, we’re going to come out blazing, and we’re excited to be there.
Ophelia Lovibond: I feel the same; it wasn’t this devastating thing. I just thought, “Okay, well then, we’ll just live somewhere else. We’re still finishing the show, making the show. We’re still having an amazing time filming it.”
Johnson: I’d also be way sadder if this was the only show that it happened to, and it was based off [seeing] early cuts of what we were doing, and they hated it. Then I’d feel really sad. We haven’t even turned in a lot of stuff. We’re still working. So when it has to do more with money and tax considerations, I’m kind of like, “What a weird fucking time…”
Lovibond: It’s like, it’s not personal.
Johnson: Let’s just keep working and find a new home and make more shows and hope people like it.
Could you talk a little bit more about what the atmosphere on set has been like after the news and during this week of filming?
Lovibond: I think the fact that people knew we were going to be allowed to finish and the post-production was going ahead and we would have a finished season, when people realized that, it was just all hands on deck, just getting on with it. You weren’t going to abandon each other. We kind of rallied.
Johnson: It also led to some good jokes.
Lovibond: There was a lot of laughter, actually.
Johnson: We’re shooting a scene and you get to say, like, “This is, right now, literally for nobody.” But honestly, everything that we’re hearing from behind the scenes is that there’s interest from other places. And the truth is, I’d be really excited to land somewhere, and if we land somewhere that’s excited to have us, I think we’re all just kind of in this weird limbo stage. But in our business, a lot of times you make things and you don’t know. You make an indie film and you hope people like it, but maybe it’ll never come out. Or you shoot a pilot and, while you’re making it, you think it’s really special, and then nobody else agrees. So we’re in the process of just making and finishing season two.
I’m sure you’ve started seeing some of the reactions—the tweets and Instagram comments. What has that felt like?
Lovibond: It’s so lovely; there’s just been so much support and people being flabbergasted at it being removed, but then realizing that it’s going to go on to have a different life—there’s excitement about that. And that’s been really lovely to see how much people love it and want to see more of it. There’s a real appetite to see it. We’ve got new material to show them. So that’s great to know it’s going to be received well.
Johnson: I think the truth of it, and I feel the same way. I also feel that this business, people are really starting to realize that they have the control more than these streamers and these businesses. An app runs its app, but if the people want something, then there will be more of it. Right now, HBO Max is making business decisions, so, great. I hope they’re right. I hope it makes all the money they want it to make. But for people who want to make creative decisions, there’s a base of people who will come to that site and watch it. And if they’re already there, then they’ll keep watching it. And so, as a creative, that’s really cool, when people like what you’re making and want to see more of it.
Lovibond: Lots of people [said] again and again [that] they don’t care what platform it’s on, they just want to watch the show. That’s what it comes down to.
Johnson: And that makes you want to work harder to make something that they’re going to like.
Rapoport: At the end of the day, in a funny way, I feel like this is a great opportunity, frankly, to find even more viewers. We have the viewership we have on HBO Max, and I think that’s great, but the potential to go to a streamer which has a different makeup, a different kind of audience, would be great, because I think more people would discover us. And so, in some ways, if this leads to more people being able to see us, I think it’s a net positive.
How does it feel being creatives in this industry and seeing that this is the state of the TV landscape? Does it empower you? Or does it make you feel a little discouraged?
Rapoport: I think that we are in a weird place where things can just be kind of pulled willy-nilly from streamers. And I guess, to be honest, I’m just grateful that our international distribution has been handled by Lionsgate. HBO Max only distributes us in North America and Latin America. And I’m just grateful that we have a studio partner that’s incredibly stable. Most executives I deal with at that company have been there for decades. And so I think that this is kind of an isolated situation having to do with the rules following a merger. I’m just happy that we have a studio partner who really believes in the show, is taking care of the show, and I’m confident is going to sell the show and get it on a different platform.
Johnson: I also think in terms of this era, there’s potential for a lot of growth in an exciting way. We did New Girl, and by season 7, I think there were about 40 people in the world watching our show, and we felt it while we were doing it. For real, on Fox, our numbers were doing terrible by the end, and we all felt it, and we knew it, and it’s why they got rid of us. And then it got to Netflix and it got a whole new world. And then each year, new people discover it. And so I do feel like Minx came out on HBO Max, and they marketed it in a certain way. But there is an entire group of people who will come up to me and say, “Hey, I read something about you. You’ve got a character who’s got ’70s clothes? What is it?” And I’m like, ‘We did a whole campaign for it.’”
So there are a lot of people who this show was not geared towards, who I think would really like this show. So if this finds the right place and it finds that audience, I am so happy that this happened in this terms of our business with HBO Max, because we got a second life. For me personally, I want to see how it shakes out first.
Ahead of season two, what can you tease about Joyce and Doug’s stories?
Johnson: I would say this season there’s a lot of big things that happen. Each character goes on a massive ride. There’s a lot of great guest stars, there’s a lot of big action. The characters get involved in a bunch of different adventures. There’s a whole new character in the mix that Elizabeth Perkins plays, she’s a really great character. So if you like the ride of Minx season one, this season gets even bigger.
Rapoport: I think it’s a good, very fun continuation of the first season. And we’re really servicing all of the stories in plot lines that we set up in season one. And I think every character really has a satisfying story.
What has been the most fulfilling part about being on the show?
Lovibond: It sounds so cheesy, but it’s just all being together and exploring this world. I mean, we really truly get along so brilliantly. The crew works so hard, and the creativity that goes into this show, it’s just so exciting to be part of it. And getting to all act together and make each other laugh. That’s the way you get to spend all day. It never gets old.
Rapoport: I’m very proud of what we made in season one, and how well it was critically received, and how many people have reached out about it. We get access to limited information, but, for example, I know that our completion rate, which is the number of people that finish [the show], is extraordinarily high. Which is nice because that says to me that people who started the show stayed with it. And personally, I like 200 shows and then I watch three episodes of them and just forget to go back for more. So just knowing that the huge majority of people who started us finished the show is really nice. It feels like we took people on a satisfying journey, and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.
Johnson: And I really like the chest hair wig that I wear for this show. Because I don’t have any hair on my body. I’m totally bald. So, for this, the wardrobe people have done an amazing job fitting my chest with a perfect chest hair wig that I guess has gathered some social media attention. So shout-out to our hair and makeup department.
Rapoport: It’s called a chest merkin. It’s called a cherkin! It’s a merkin for Jake’s chest. It’s so sad he can’t grow hair.
Johnson: It’s not sad, it’s attractive! No, I agree with Ophelia. I really like the group. The casting crew is really fun. The writing’s really fun. It’s really nice to play these characters. I really like playing Doug, and I’d be really sad if it was over. I don’t feel like the journey has ended. What people don’t see is that, when certain [shows] get cancelled, they are jobs and you get paid, and you get paid well, and they’re fun, and you move on to the next one. But on this one, it would just be really disappointing, because I don’t think the stories are done.
There is a feeling at times when a show ends and you’re okay that it ends. Or a movie ends and you feel like you guys did it. This one just doesn’t feel complete yet. So if it ends now, I would leave with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, because I don’t think it’s finished yet.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.