Had Inside Amy Schumer not already been taken, it would have been a fitting title for Schumer's new HBO Max docuseries. The project's third installment, "Birth," culminates in her cesarean surgery, surprisingly HD iPhone footage glimpsing the comedian and bona fide movie star's innards as her son is born.
That follows scene after scene of Schumer vomiting due to hyperemesis gravidarum and comes before she ventures into the latching and pumping that comes with breastfeeding, just a few of the more bodily fluid-focused aspects of this singularly accurate depiction of bringing a new life into the world. And that -- the highs and lows, trauma and beauty of Schumer's pregnancy with her first child -- is only half the story of Expecting Amy, as the doc is titled.
The three-part series is also a look behind closed doors at Schumer's relationship with husband Chris Fischer, who receives his own autism spectrum diagnosis amid filming, and inside her creative process as she develops a comedy special, 2019's Growing, for Netflix. It all comes together to create a portrait of Schumer as she's never been seen before. To co-direct and edit, she called on Alexander Hammer, who'd previously worked on Beyoncé's Homecoming -- which proved a natural-enough fit.
"They're both fearless, that's the biggest thing," Hammer says of how the two are similar. "I think they're both powerhouses in their own right. They both have something to say within their art. They use their art to express ideas and further conversations, and they're strong in their convictions and have a very focused idea. That's something I really do like."
With Expecting Amy out now, Hammer phoned ET to discuss taking nine momentous months of Schumer's life and crafting them into the year's most intimate, unflinchingly honest television experiences. (It goes without saying, considering Schumer's involvement, it's also funny as hell.)
Pregnant With Possibilities
Schumer never set out to make a buzzy docuseries for a prestige streamer. "They didn't really know what it was going to be," Hammer says. Expecting Amy starts with footage of Schumer filming herself, announcing that she's just learned she's having a baby and pondering whether she'll document it.
While that whim might be what sent Expecting Amy down its particular path, it may have actually been a detour from another project she'd been entertaining. "I think it started as more of an industry idea like, 'Let's see what it's like to build a show from her perspective.' And then, 'Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant,'" he says.
So Schumer and Fischer began recording one another, footage that would ultimately make up the majority of the doc, while enlisting friend and photographer Marcus Russell Price to follow along. "And then, unplanned, these things take such a drastic turn," Hammer recalls, "and they persevere by saying, 'Let's keep it going.'"
Keep the Camera Rolling
Filming kept going even as Schumer became increasingly, concerningly ill. In one self-recorded moment toward the end of part 1, she reveals that she had thrown up blood and later vomits non-stop for hours on end, the latter prompting her to go to the ER. In the ride to the hospital and into the room with the doctors, Fischer kept rolling.
"It wasn't about capturing it the best you can. It's like, 'We're going to get what we're going to get, but we have to deal with the situation at hand,'" Hammer says of the couple's dedication. "And as they were learning, it became more important to document further. Like, 'No, we have to show this.' I honestly think the project became bigger than they had expected."
Likewise, in part 2, a conversation about Fischer's inclusion in Schumer's comedy becomes an emotional back-and-forth, the camera panning from one to the other as they argue. "It was a very organic conversation that turned into something," Hammer explains. "And [Marcus] just stepped back and captured it." While not so medically delicate, it's not something one would generally want aired out to the public.
"It was an interesting exercise in their communication and dealing with intimate issues with one another and getting through that and coming together in the end," he reasons. "I love that kind of stuff. I love seeing what moments are caught or captured accidentally or on a whim."
Giving Birth, Selfie-Style
Schumer gave birth to her and Fischer's first child, son Gene, on May 5, 2019, and later opened up about having required a not-totally-planned C-section resulting in a three-hour surgery. And still, it's an enitrely different experience seeing it unfold up close, as shot by Fischer and doula Domino Kirke.
"They would just whip out their phones at different times and steal these moments," Hammer says. Watching Schumer wave to the camera as she heads into the operating room, you expect a title card to explain away the surgery as we cut to her in a hospital bed, skin-to-skin with her newborn. But then Fischer is propping up a camera in the OR and we are seeing every bloody detail of the miracle of life.
"One thing that I was trying to do is keep you engaged and interested and wanting to see," he says. "There are some things you might show that are gratuitous, and that was never the plan. I thought it was so interesting. Like, how can you bring the audience in and help them experience a little bit of what they went through? I thought it was special. I thought it was really special, actually."
Nothing's Off Limits
Following Gene's birth, Schumer sought Hammer out. "She literally reached out on Instagram," he laughs. "Like, 'Hey, what are you doing for the next couple weeks?'" Those few weeks became 13 months as Hammer labored over hundreds of hours of raw material, finding the story along the way. Through it all, there was one mandate: It's all in service of the greater good.
"Amy was a champion of the project the whole time. She felt like turning the light on to some of these issues and she saw this as an avenue to do that, her celebrity being aside," he says. In such, nothing in Schumer's life was off limits. "I would always ask, 'Is this OK? Is this too much? Is this too far?' And she was like, 'Nope. Let's do it.'"
Beyond the hospital stays and private moments at home, Schumer and Fischer provided access to old home videos and unseen footage from their wedding, including toasts from some of their very famous friends. "The celebrity aspect wasn't the focus, so you kind of forget that along the way. Then maybe you have Jake Gyllenhaal or Jennifer Lawrence pop up, and it's like, 'Oh, yeah. This is what she does.'"
But there was no sensitivity even to their inclusion. "It was never the intention to focus on their friends. It's just their friends are a big part of their lives," Hammer says. "These are their friends. Chris grew up with Jake and Jennifer Lawrence is really great friends with Amy, and you can see how personal those friendships are in just that glimpse."
"I'm hoping the people that need to see it, see it," Hammer muses on his hopes for the project. "There's a lot of information in there that you might get by accident -- you're not going in for it, but you're going to walk away with a lot -- and I think there are women, if they get in that position, they'll know that they're not alone." (The project has also allowed Schumer to bolster the work of HER Foundation for hyperemesis gravidarum awareness and Every Mother Counts.)
"Then for the general audience," he adds, "I hope they just fall in love. I think they're going to fall in love with Chris. I think they're going to see a side of Amy you wouldn't expect. Because I didn't expect it. I didn't know her personally before this, so to see that, it's pretty special."
All three parts of Expecting Amy are now streaming on HBO Max.