Editor Richard Schwadel was tasked with the daunting task of setting the highly specific tone for his latest series, “Lucky Hank,” starring AMC veteran Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) as Professor Hank Devereaux.

Devereaux is the chairman of the English department at a quaint, underfunded Pennsylvania university. As Hank bounces between crisis and meltdowns with a sardonic wit that relies heavily on pacing and Schwadel’s keen insight.

Schwadel edited the first two episodes of “Lucky Hank” as well as episode seven. For Emmy consideration, he submitted episode two where a celebrated writer and friend from Hank’s past (Brian Huskey) visits his university. Hank is bitter towards the writer’s success and perceived superiority until they ultimately reconcile.

Awards Focus spoke to Schwadel about his work on the series in the below interview:

Awards Focus: How did you get involved with “Lucky Hank” ?

Richard Schwadel: I got a call from Jonathan Shore, a local post producer in town. He said, “Are you available? I’ve got a comedy thing, but I can’t tell you much about it at this point.” I said, “Yeah, for sure.” A week later, I found out that (director) Pete (Farrelly) was involved. So, I got in touch with John again and said that Peter and I had worked together in the past. And he said, “Oh, great. I didn’t know that.” So he let the producers know. Once everybody found out I was available, then it was just an interview formality and getting to know the show runners a little bit.

AF: Were they still writing the season?

Schwadel: They were. As often happens, show runners are writers too, and they were writing during production. They hit the ground running with this show. They were constantly writing and onset and going back and forth to LA, so they were really busy.

I reached out a couple of times when I had some questions, but I was pretty much left to my own devices in terms of figuring out the tone and how to navigate the show. It was on the script, basically. Occasionally, I would find a line that I wasn’t sure about what it really meant. In that case, I would reach out to the director first, and then I’d go to the writers if I needed to. But usually, the director knew.

AF: This is very different from stuff that Pete’s done before, and the dialogue is so sharp. You’re just jumping from barb to barb being thrown at Hank and the various other professors. Talk about that process and getting that rhythm established in the in the pilot.

Schwadel: The first scene where we meet his colleagues, there are about eight people in total. Gracie and Paul are fighting, but everybody comes in to listen to the fight. So it was a tricky scene. How do you get everybody involved when it’s an argument that starts off between two people?

I don’t like making an edit that’s not motivated by something. That was the challenge initially. Then people start speaking and getting a little bit more involved. Bob, whose character’s name is Hank, wades into the argument and ends up getting smacked in the face by Gracie with her notebook. It’s a great gag — the spiral ring of her notebook gets stuck in his nostril. He says, “Let go of the notebook!” and then she says, “I can’t, it has original work in it.” And he said, “Not if it’s yours.”

She rips the thing off because she’s so offended, and blood splatters on one of the professors sitting there. Getting the timing of that was about introducing everybody and letting the fight breathe a little bit in certain places. Then once Hank gets involved, it escalates again. It was really fun. My comedy background from sitcoms helps me a lot in scenes like that, because sitcoms are all about reactions. I’m always looking for moments where other characters are reacting to stuff that’s going on.

AF: What about the scene where they vote him out of Chair of the Department?

Schwadel: That one was more tricky, because he knew in advance what was happening, and so the audience knew too. The audience is ahead of everybody, because you don’t know whether they’re really going to vote them out. You just hear they’re going to have a vote. That’s a very dialogue driven scene.

I was trying to keep it real, stay true to each character, and keep each character alive. It was probably a four minute long scene. Throughout it, Hank has a sort of sad ethos going on. There’s a side of him that’s thinking, “This is pathetic. What’s going on?” But there’s another side of him that’s hurt. Trying to play both of those emotions of this guy sitting there watching these people kick him out, it was a challenge. But, when you have Bob Odenkirk giving you performances, it makes your job so much easier.

AF: By episode seven, the tone is shifted quite a bit, and it’s not as bantery or light. How did you see that arc evolving?

Schwadel: I read all the scripts as soon as they came out. It’s a very clear arc where it goes more dramatic and you really start to follow this guy’s damage in terms of how his family really messed him up. You get little inklings of it throughout the first couple episodes, but it really becomes apparent by episode seven.

It was a real treat for me to cut that episode because I love cutting comedy, but that was definitely the most emotional episode of the three that I did. I love cutting dramatic stuff. He was so amazing. The writing was incredible. He’s struggling with his father walking out on him and his daughter who’s married to this dufus.

He was struggling with his daughter in this episode as well. There’s a scene where he she calls him looking for her husband and he kind of implies that maybe he left because he wanted to. She’s like, “What are you talking about?” And she ends up hanging up on him. The next scene is so well written and acted. He’s in class, doing a writing seminar and listening to this student talking about a story about her dog. He steers the conversation from the dog to, “Well, she never asked her father for help.”

The subtext all becomes about him and his daughter, and his struggles with his daughter. He’s trying to somehow weave it into this poor girl’s story about how she lost her dog. It’s really a wonderful scene, and it’s both comedic and sad.

In this episode, there’s some really poignant stuff with his father. In a hardware store, he’s trying to square with his dad, what a schmuck he was for walking out on his family. But his dad has dementia, which he didn’t know prior. He’s trying to explain to his father his feelings, and his father instead steers the conversation to what the only thing he knows, which is literary criticism. Hank is gobsmacked that his father can’t even discuss what he did to his family, and he walks away from his father and leaves him there alone.

It’s a pretty heartbreaking scene, because you feel for Hank, but you also feel for this father, who has dementia and is left there going, “What’s going on?”

Then after that, Hank goes and tries to make peace with his daughter. He knocks on her door, and she says, “I don’t want your help.” And he says, “I’m not here to help.” There’s no more dialogue in the rest of the scene. He goes over to a cabinet, pulls out two cups, and puts a teapot on the stove. He just stands there, not really doing anything, just being present.

Then, she comes over and stands next to him. This really beautiful song starts, and then she puts her head down on his shoulder, and that’s the end of the episode. It’s really, really emotional.

AF: That’s in your hands, when the dialogue is gone. It’s just those human moments and expressions when you really get to sculpt. It brings your talents to the forefront.

Schwadel: It does. Also, kudos to Nicole Holofcener who did an amazing job on that episode. Everything just flowed so smoothly and felt natural. She just really nailed it, and that makes my job so much easier.

AF: Did you guys converse quite a bit during the cut?

Schwadel: We were doing her Director’s Cut the week of her film premiering at Sundance. So she was being pulled in many different directions. We spent a few days on the cut. She was really happy with what I did. Mainly, we worked on pulling time out. A scene or two needed to be trimmed up. With Pete, because it was the first two episodes we spent a lot more time together. But with Nicole, it was episode seven by then.

AF: You were in the trenches with Pete.

Schwadel: Yeah, but I knew what he was going for, because I worked with him on Loudermilk for two seasons. And then he and I did a project that nobody’s seen for Quibi. It was sort of a feature script that was chopped up into 14 episodes, and at the end of 2020, we started working on putting it all back together as a full feature. They ended up pulling the plug on us because it got sold to Roku. It hadn’t aired on Quibi yet. That’s still out there. I’m hoping that we get to finish that because it’s a great project with a wonderful cast — Bill Murray desert, Daryl Hannah, Dave Franco. It’s a good story, too.

AF: How long would it be? Do you have an idea of cutting it all together?

Schwadel: It was still fairly long when we last left it. I think we were at an hour and 45 minutes. But it will probably be about in the 90 to 100 minute range. The way Quibi was structured was that the rights go back to the producers after two years. So maybe by the end of this year, they’ll start working on it again.