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Director Michelle MacLaren Explains How Directing Breaking Bad And The Walking Dead Influenced Shining Girls - Exclusive

In her two-decade career as a TV director, Michelle MacLaren has racked up a heap of credits on big-name shows. She's helmed episodes of everything from the science fiction series "The X-Files" to the gritty crime thriller "Breaking Bad," as well as the post-apocalyptic zombie adventure "The Walking Dead" and the action-fantasy "Game of Thrones." Through her work, MacLaren has shown an impressive ability to move between genres and bring a variety of stories to life. In her latest project, Apple TV+'s "Shining Girls," she sets the tone for an especially slippery story as the director of the show's first and second episodes.

"Shining Girls" focuses on Elisabeth Moss' Kirby Mazrachi, the only victim to survive an assault by a serial killer who has attacked women across several different decades. The ordeal has left Kirby traumatized and uncertain. Even worse, it destabilized her reality, leading the facts of her life to constantly shift around her. Yet even as Kirby does her best to get through her confusing daily life, she works with reporter Dan Valazquez (Wagner Moura) to track down her attacker. 

MacLaren sets up the world of the show from Kirby's unreliable perspective while establishing the fluid, genre-hopping nature of the story. It's a tough balancing act that MacLaren pulls off in an elegant and unsettling fashion. In an exclusive conversation, MacLaren spoke to Looper about how her past directing experiences informed her work on "Shining Girls."

She takes a grounded approach to story

While Michelle MacLaren noted that her directing experience encompasses a variety of genres, she explained how she's learned that no matter the project, it helps to approach the story in a realistic way to ensure viewers believe what they see on screen. "'Walking Dead' and 'Game of Thrones,' and less so [with] 'Breaking Bad,' have very fantastical elements to them that we approach in a very real, grounded way," MacLaren reflected. "We approach 'Breaking Bad' in a very real, grounded way as well. I learned how to show dragons flying and zombies doing whatever, if you approach it in a very realistic manner, it can really feel like it's happening."

MacLaren revealed that the origins of her approach go back to her work on "The X-Files." "It's subjective storytelling. It's what I was taught and learned a lot about on 'The X-Files,'" she shared. "We're always perfecting it. I learn on every project that I can do, but in this particular instance [with "Shining Girls"], working in a number of different genres and then being able to work on one thing that is genre-bending, it's exciting to bring those different things you learn from those different projects to one place."

New episodes of "Shining Girls" premiere every Friday on Apple TV+.