It is pretty evident how different Maniac is from every other TV show in just the first couple of episodes. Viewers are immediately struck by the strange and inventive poop-cleaning machines, human pop-up ads, and animatronic koala bears that populate the alternate-reality New York City, and things only get more bizarre thanks to a fantasy-creating, reality-jumping supercomputer. But Emma Stone saw a less flashy way that Maniac stood apart from other shows, and that's why she signed on. Emma Stone's Maniac character isn't like anything you've seen on TV, and she explained why in a new interview with IndieWire.
Of course, the chance to transform into a bunch of different characters — from an international assassin to an elfin archer — would be appealing for Emma Stone. Plus she got to reunite with her Superbad costar Jonah Hill and work with buzzy auteur Cary Fukunaga. But the real reason that Stone agreed to play Annie Landsberg, a disconnected woman haunted by failed relationships with her mother and sister, was because Annie's story does not center on romance. Stone said that the Maniac script was the first time she had seen a show in which a female character did not have a love interest:
When I went through all the scripts, I was like, "She doesn’t have a love interest all throughout the whole thing." I’ve never seen a show with 10 full episodes, a whole season, where a female character doesn’t have a love interest.
Of course, some fans are probably thinking, "What about Owen?" It's true that Jonah Hill's character of Owen Milgrim does develop a very strong bond with Annie throughout the series, but although they end up driving off together, their relationship is never explicitly made romantic. Emma Stone explained that what Annie and Owen find in one another is a true friendship rather than a predictable romance.
Cary Fukunaga, the director of Maniac, also said that he recalled Emma Stone stating how important it was to her that her character have her own story that is not dependent on a love interest. He said that Stone had explained the manic pixie dream girl trope to him when they fist met — a film trope wherein a vibrant female character exists only to inspire a male character to better appreciate life (think Annie Hall, Garden State, or 500 Days of Summer) — and he made sure that Annie did not fall into that trope.
It represents a welcome evolution from the last time that Emma Stone starred opposite Jonah Hill. In Superbad, her character of Jules was pretty much just a prize for Hill's character of Seth, never getting a storyline of her own that did not relate to Seth. But in Maniac, although Annie and Owen are constantly drawn to one another in their fantasy realms, they are also both working through their own separate traumas — as Owen is forced to decide whether or not he will lie to protect his family, and Annie seeks closure and understanding after the death of her sister. Their connection is still a love story, but not an explicitly romantic one.