Anatomy of a Scene: The Call of the Wild

The Night Of — Episode 4, Scene 48

Following each episode of The Night Of co-writer/director Steven Zaillian breaks down elements of a key scene.

Steven Zaillian: In this, one of the early scenes that takes place in Freddy’s cell, the longtime inmate offers the novice some advice.

What’s most interesting about this scene to me is how it was written by Richard Price and played by Michael K. Williams and Riz Ahmed.

At this point in the story, we certainly have an idea who Naz is, and some idea who Freddy is in terms of character. But this scene shades what we know, or think we know.

Freddy is more than a tough inmate, and Naz is more than a scared kid. We sense that — and they sense it about each other — over the course of this scene.

We also see what may become a bond between them — books — but at the same time feel it may well come at a steep price for Naz. This tension of the unknown runs alongside and in between everything they say to each other here.

This was important to Richard and me — that none of the characters in the story were just one thing or the other, just good or bad, but rather an alloy of both, and in that way were closer to real people as opposed to characters servicing a plot. And that here, at this point in the story, we could feel how narrow the line is that Naz walks as he feels his way through life at Rikers, and negotiates with Freddy, which is what he — and Freddy, too — are doing in the scene.

From creators Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, ‘The Night Of’ is an eight-part limited series that delves into the intricate story of a fictitious murder case in New York City.

New episodes of The Night Of air Sundays at 9 PM on HBO and are available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.