When you’ve got two leads the caliber of Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, there’s nothing else to do but shine the spotlight on them.
Rockwell and Williams as Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon—first lovers, then husband and wife, then exes, and finally and always, collaborators—are at the heart of FX’s two-hander about the couple and the untold story of their lives together.
“We wanted to capture the fact that this was such an amazing creative relationship and intimate relationship,” said Sally Daws, executive vice president, advertising, strategy, FX Networks. “We are really featuring the leads in this campaign because of who they are—this series is about their personal and intimate lives together.”
That concept is captured perfectly in the below key art, which shows Fosse (Rockwell) in the foreground wearing one of his famous hats and smoking his eternal cigarette, while Verdon (Williams) sits behind and above him. But even though he’s in the front, she’s the one that catches your eye, her face aglow.
That’s symbolic of Fosse and Verson’s relationship, in which he emerged as the very famous one for productions such as Sweet Charity, Cabaret, Chicago and All That Jazz, and she—once a formidable Broadway star in her own right—faded into history. This series aims to resurrect Verdon’s legacy, to place it on the same pedestal as Fosse’s.
“A key part of this show is that it’s about their equal partnership,” said Daws. “Most people know Fosse’s name but not Verdon’s. But it really was a partnership. They worked together on so much of it. That’s why the show is not called Fosse.”
The series, which is partly based on the book Fosse by Sam Wasson, also reveals how imperfect the man was even as he drove relentlessly to perfect his legend. His dancers may have looked beautiful, his complicated choreography effortless, but behind the scenes, much of Fosse’s life was chaos as he tried and failed to tame his many demons.
Part of FX’s marketing efforts for the series focused specifically on big cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, and in an even more targeted way, on Broadway. To that end, emphasis also was placed on fans of art-house movies and of romantic dramas, besides casting the net to a potentially broader audience.
“Every show has its own very specific hook that we use to build media and promotion and social around,” said Daws. “We fish where the fish are.”
Besides the standard on-air, digital, social and out-of-home media blitz, FX also assembled a few creative partnerships to get the word out about the show to the people most likely to be interested in it. But the core of the campaign was still focused on on-air spots, with FX buying time in both NBC’s Golden Globes and, on a market-by-market basis, ABC’s Oscars.
“TV is still critical. These are TV shows. We advertise in places where it makes sense to be and TV is still a really important place to be,” said Daws. “We do broadcast, cable—we run the gamut. Wherever we can do TV, we buy it. We really kind of started out long lead on this because of the critical acclaim we think this show will get. We started out with the Golden Globes—that felt like the perfect fit for this audience.”
The network worked with Saks Fifth Avenue to turn its store windows into fantasies drawn from the style of the show both in New York and Los Angeles. (See photos above.)
To draw in Broadway, FX partnered with Playbill, which produces news about the Great White Way as well as those yellow programs you get whenever you see a Broadway show.
In Los Angeles, FX also screened the show’s first episode through partnerships with local NPR affiliate KCRW and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Fosse/Verdon premieres on FX on Tuesday, April 9 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
[Saks Fifth Avenue images courtesy of FX/Luis Guillén]