David Caspe & Jordan Cahan on the Volatility & Adrenaline Rushes in ‘Black Monday’

New York’s Wall Street is where all the magic happens. It is the center of where all financial transactions take place along with adrenaline rushes David Caspe and Jordan Cahan are the creators of the recent Showtime series Black Monday that follows the worst stock market crash in history – until now.The duo’s thought to add a satire and comedic feel to the stereotype of Wall Street is in no way depicting what happens in this business world.

ATM: How did you think to prepare for your series Black Monday?

David: My dad was a commodities trader in Chicago during the 80s. He still is kind of.  It is not like New York’s Wall Street, but it is a similar world. He always told me a bunch of stories that were at the same time, hilarious, heartbreaking, and scary. We thought it was an interesting world to set a show in. We have always wanted to try a show that is part drama, comedy, rom-com, dark comedy, and mystery. We landed on this and threw some ideas around it. We thought this was a great world for it.

Jordan: When you look at the world of Wall Street, especially during the 80s, a lot of this job is inherently volatile. In most jobs, the worst thing that can happen is losing your job. However, on Wall Street, in losing your job, the worst thing that can happen is not only losing your salary for the years, not only did you get fired, but you lost everything. You have lost your whole life’s savings in a day. People got wiped out. This volatility to us felt like there is inherently so much drama in this world.

Also, they are so full of excess, flashy, and the showiness of everything. In this world, money is all that is important. Greed is good, coming from this era. These two things contrasting each other felt undone. It felt like it was a good way to do a comedy and a drama. We always talk about the fact that Wall Street, the film by Oliver Stone, was an Academy Award-winning drama. This is the level of access in the drama version; it felt like a chance for Oliver to flex his muscle and be able to tell a grounded story in a broad universe.  

ATM: What strategic tactics does the character Maurice Monroe take and use to navigate the white world on Wall Street during the ‘80s?

David: There are a lot of guys that will do anything to beat him to succeed. On top of this, they were born into this situation, so they feel is entitled. They have a much better view because of this entitlement. He has to fight ten times [as] hard. He has a lot more to go up against to succeed.

Jordan: It is a very cunning, conniving, and dog-eat-dog world. He has to play in this sandbox. This is going to be incredibly fascinating and difficult. 

ATM: Would you agree that Maurice coming from humble beginnings makes him understand how it is to be less fortunate, which happens to be the result of the crash to the white people on Wall Street who did not grow up like this?

David: Yes. This gives him an advantage. He’s had to work to get to the place of competing with them. [It] is a trait that puts him over the top. For him to get to become a number 11 on the Street, is instantly harder than all these other guys in the top 10 to be in the top 10.  They were either born into it or a situation where they can easily go to the right school, get an internship and rise to the top of the companies. He achieved so much more as an 11 than anyone in the top 10. 

Jordan: It is a trait that he and Blair share. This is what’s surprising. Blair is a kid who seems entitled. We hear that he went to Wharton.  Later in the season, you get to see specifically where Maurice Monroe came from.

ATM: What is your reflection on the volatility that is exhibited in the characters on this show?

David: There is only a certain amount of money that is passed around or essentially traded back and forth. If someone makes ten dollars, then a group of people lost ten dollars. You are literally in the most competitive situation. 

Jordan: This is the fun in the season going forward. You see alliances made and weaknesses spelled out and the cut throat nature of the business. There is not a magical bubble around the main characters. They are always looking over their shoulders. You see a lot more of this as the season moves forward.

ATM: How can you compare the volatile highness in cocaine to the instability of the stock market business?

David: In general, Wall Street or trading has attracted a group of wilder people. Some people work on Wall Street who are more conservative specialists. Their approach is more business-like than the characters we put in the show. The wild swings of Wall Street — the fact that you have to sustain and endure so much risk. You have to be able to go to sleep at night somehow.  The fact that in the morning, when the morning bell rings, you can lose everything you have made in your life in one day, it can cost you your family. You might want to jump off a balcony. Or you can wake up to winning and making more money than you have received in your life. The wild swings attract a certain type of person that can handle more risk in their life.

Jordan: Inevitably these people in this situation need to let off some steam. In some way, they could be an adrenaline junky. This might be why some people party a little crazier, harder, or yell a little louder. They are dealing with a lot of stress and risk to the point where it maxes out all of their personality traits. It makes someone want to go big in every situation. There are plenty of people on Wall Street without this personality type. This is a dark comedy. We chose what we think is the funniest personality type to put on the show. This is in no way saying that Wall Street is only these wild and crazy group of people.

ATM: How would you explain the Wall Street 80s era to a person who did not come from, nor has been educated about this time?

Jordan: It is extremely volatile. There are highs and lows. There is a lot of greed and envy. You are looking at your neighbor’s car and apartment. You are envious of all of this. It is nicely represented in the movie American Psycho. It is also in Wall Street. We are pretty much trying to have fun with it. This is the mandate of the show. Yes, there is a mystery, comedy, and romance, but we are a comedy and trying to have a good time.

ATM: In what ways, do you notice how their work ethic starts to change who they are? What are the first stages that you see in their change of behavior as a comedy?

David: They work hard and play hard. As they sink deeper into it, they work harder and play harder. These two things are connected. The harder they work, the more stress, and the risk that they have on the line, then the more they want to blow off steam. This goes along, and the risk and stress increase.

ATM: How does Champagne lLL expose the lavish lifestyle a person could have in your perspective?

David: For us, it is really about the character. How these two guys have been living this life that is a bit of a lie. They have been living an undeserved life. They have been getting the rewards of someone that has worked for so long. They do not understand the world outside of it. After the events in the pilot, it is funny seeing Alpha and Ronny crash back to earth. They have to start still with the things all of us deal with on a daily basis.

ATM: Have you all ever lived in the same competitive nature as described in both shows?

David: I was in the art world for a while. I was trying to make it as a painter. Then I moved to try to be a writer. They are both competitive in a sense. It is not a zero-sum game, which makes it a lot more of people being happy for other’s success. Some people are a little pettier with this stuff. Especially, I have found in the writing and comedy communities that everyone is happy for anyone’s success. Someone getting on a show or writing a show does not take away it being the only job out there, someone got this gig, and you cannot have it. Granted people are competing for similar jobs, but there are other jobs.

It is not nearly as competitive. One person’s win does not mean a loss to another person. You cannot lose all your money or anything like this in Hollywood. If you write something that people do not like, then they do not take all the money you have made in the last five years. It might hurt you going forward. I do not think this is the level of the risk every time. In general, comedy writers are a little nicer or nicer to each other. I am kind of speculating because I have not been on Wall Street. This is only a comedy, and we took some funny characters who are very loosely based on this world. We in no way think everyone is like this on Wall Street.

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