Editor Michael Ruscio, ACE Discusses Working with Big Sequences and Character-Building Moments on Episode Five of ‘3 Body Problem’
June 19, 2024

Written by Maxance Vincent, AwardsRadar

Editor Michael Ruscio, ACE joined Netflix’s 3 Body Problem as the editors assigned to do all eight episodes realized how massive of an endeavor it is to work on such an ambitious production. Adapted from Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of the Earth’s Past trilogy, the series contains many never-before-seen concepts and sequences on television before, particularly in its fifth episode, Judgment Day, where Auggie Salazar’s (Eiza Gonzalez) nanofibers completely destroy the Judgment Day oil tanker.

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Having previously worked with co-showrunner Alexander Woo and director Minkie Spiro, Ruscio tells Awards Radar on Zoom that the stars had already aligned for him before fully joining the show:

“When the editors got to episodes three and four, they realized that with episode five, with so many big sequences and character-building moments, they needed to bring on somebody else to do it. I was lucky enough to be that person because I knew that many people in the business weren’t working. I felt fortunate to get that call.

I knew Alexander Woo from True Blood. I directed one of the episodes that he wrote. I also knew the director, Minkie Spiro. We did a Netflix series together called Pieces of Her and a Hulu pilot that didn’t go to series called Crash and Burn. We stayed in contact with each other for years. The stars aligned slightly, but I didn’t know David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. We met and talked about the show, my background, how I worked, and the approach to the show. It seemed to meld together, and we took off from there.”

Having previously worked with director Minkie Spiro on two projects, Ruscio discusses how easy it is to work with someone who already has a close collaborative process with him:

“I think she told the guys she wanted somebody she knew to work with. It’s a bit of a lethal collaboration when we’re together because I’m sort of a “Never Say Die” editor. She’s wonderfully relentless, looking for the specificity of moments, the best takes, camera angles, and the most humanity. I think that was a big part of why this was important to her, especially on the ship, because we didn’t want to show the spoils of war against too many innocent people. We wanted to make it known that they were on board that ship. You see the kids playing basketball and realize that this whole life on the ship has formed with these true believers. It was a difficult shoot, and I was keeping up with the camera as much as possible. When we finally came to show the editor’s cut, we had time together to hone in, perfect, and get something she felt she could commit to, knowing we would go through many variations in episode five.”

When joining the show, Ruscio discussed with editor Katie Weiland, who was initially meant to do the episode, before ultimately working on episodes one, two, and seven. Weiland had preliminary conversations on episode five, and even had previsualizations of some of the show’s biggest sequences done with the visual effects department:

“Some sequences were previsualized, but it’s shown differently when you’re in principal photography. For me, episode five felt like a mini-finale. The game portion of the series is not in this episode, except for the segment with the Sophon [Sea Shimooka]. However, it’s much more different than previous episodes because we get answers instead of having various periods done in the earlier episodes with the game. It’s a different animal and was always perceived as a culmination of what happened in the first four episodes.”

There was much to talk about in our audio conversation, seen below, including the process of establishing tension as Auggie reactivates her nanofiber machine with Clarence (Benedict Wong), working on the centerpiece “Judgment Day” sequence, collaborating with the visual effects department on Jin (Jess Hong) and Wade’s (Liam Cunningham) journey into the San-Ti video game as they speak to the Sophon, and piecing the “YOU ARE BUGS” cliffhanger ending.

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