Diane Kruger's Roku series "Swimming with Sharks" debuts Friday. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, April 14 (UPI) -- National Treasure and Inglourious Basterds actress Diane Kruger says she signed on to star in Roku's new dark comedy series, Swimming with Sharks, because it authentically reflects, though in exaggerated ways, what it's like to be a woman navigating the treacherous waters of Hollywood.
Based on the 1994 Kevin Spacey-Frank Whaley film of the same name, the remake written by Beverly Hills, 90210 alum Kathleen Robertson begins streaming Friday.
It follows the relationship between Kruger's imperious film studio executive Joyce Holt and her bright, ambitious new assistant, Lou Simms (Kiernan Shipka).
"There is such a unique tone of it being clearly based on true events or true stories, yet there is a pulpiness; it's like a guilty pleasure kind of thing. I couldn't put it down," Kruger, 45, told reporters during a recent Zoom panel discussion.
"It's a true two-hander in the sense of really having well thought-out female characters that are not one note."
The concept of women putting personal lives and family planning on the back burner to pursue their dream jobs also resonated with Kruger.
"That brings its own sets of problems and emotional reactions," she explained.
"A woman my age, I've kind of done the same, right? I had a family very late. I pushed everything back until it was almost too late. And I think that's very relatable to a lot of girls and women today."
When Kruger started out in the American entertainment industry more than 20 years ago, few women were in powerful positions.
"The ones who were tended to be very harsh, sometimes harsher than men," the actress recalled. "Our industry allowed certain bad behavior to go as acceptable for a long, long time. And, so, a lot of the situations [in the show] ring true."
Kruger acknowledged she despises Joyce for her toxic brand of leadership.
"We can definitely do better than that, [but] I feel for her," she said. "We do want it all."
Robertson, 48, wanted to explore the power dynamics of women from different generations under intense circumstances.
"It was really about what it is in 2022 for a 21-year-old coming into this industry versus a woman who is in her 40s, who has come up through the system in a very different way," the writer said.
Robertson pointed to a scene in which Joyce brushes off someone's inappropriate behavior, telling Lou this is the way the industry always has been, and she doesn't expect it to improve.
"Lou's perspective is very much like, 'Oh no, no, no, it has to change! And it is changing,'" Robertson said.
Swimming with Sharks was penned at the height of the Me Too movement, when influential film producers like Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin were knocked from their perches because of their sexually abusive or bullying behavior.
"It was really important for me to make sure that it felt more about the characters and their journey, and less about me making a political statement about where we're at at this moment in time," Robertson said.
"On the positive, I think things have actually never been better for women in the industry. And I think that there's been so much incredible forward motion."
Circling back to Sharks, Robertson sees Joyce and Lou as more alike than different.
"They have both suffered incredible trauma in their lives," she said. "They have both suffered abuse in their lives. They're survivors and they were both raised by single moms. They were both poor."
Shipka said she felt "safe and secure" with Robertson at the helm of the series.
"I just felt like everything was going to be OK, and I think that's what you want with a showrunner, especially when you're making something that feels creatively risky and big," said Shipka, 22.
"To have the grounding presence of Kathleen, who was passionate about the story, knew the story she wanted to tell and was confident in what she wanted, it just made everything 10 times better. You don't feel like you're floating in the abyss."
The former Mad Men and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actress connected to Lou's passion, if not her scheming workplace demeanor.
"She is, at heart, a dreamer and was obsessed with movies and Hollywood as a kid. And I was dealt a different set of cards in my life, but I also did -- and sort of do -- have that spirit of being very enchanted by this town and movies at large," Shipka said.
"I kind of took what I could make sense of and what I knew to be true to myself and said, 'What if I was given a different hand?'"
Shipka hopes viewers will be moved emotionally.
"When I consume entertainment or art, my favorite part, or the most comforting part about the great songs that you love or the shows that you watch or the movies that stay with you, is that you kind of feel understood or at least seen and represented," she said.
"When I played this character, I felt like I got to understand parts of myself that I didn't previously," she said.
"I hope that someone watching this can see Lou, and she can unlock in some way a part of them that hopefully isn't maniacal like her. But I hope she helps someone understand themselves more."