Interviews

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE 600 399 Joel

Most of us remember 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami from the round-the-clock news coverage, bolstered by home video footage shot by eye witnesses. The survivors’ harrowing accounts and pictures of the destruction evoked waves of overwhelming feelings.  Now it’s Hollywood’s turn. Writer Sergio G. Sánchez and Director J.A. Bayona’s THE IMPOSSIBLE is a heartfelt, gut-wrenching testament to survival that tells the true story of the Belon family’s painful ordeal to re-connect after a natural disaster. It’s through the microcosm of this family that we see the world of pain and loss.

The film begins as an idyllic vacation for Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three young sons Lucas, Simon and Thomas. But their holiday turns into a hellish nightmare when a wall of water wipes out the resort and separates the family. When all is said and done, the tsunami has killed over 200,000 people and left millions homeless. Maria Belon, who was actively involved in the making THE IMPOSSIBLE, is beside herself when she thinks about how fortunate her family was.

“There is no explanation. There’s no reason why we survived and other moms and dads and kids didn’t. We just ask, ‘what for?’ not ‘why?’ If you ask why, you can go dark. We would like to go up.”

Writing commenced on the third anniversary of the tsunami. Sánchez says, 

“[Producer] Belén [Atienza] heard Maria’s story on the radio and it moved her to tears. We met Maria in Barcelona and heard an extended version of her story. We sat at a table and the coffee went cold. None of us had planned to do a movie about a tsunami. I think in a way the film is not about the tsunami – it’s a story of a loss of innocence. There was something very universal about it.”

Bayona was able to assemble a cast of incredible actors to help tell this extraordinary story.

“Naomi is really good at getting into the dark places and getting close to the tragedy. And also she’s a very everyday woman. Same with Ewan. He has also has this normalcy no matter the character he’s playing, he’s able to keep humanity. He’s really easy to have a sense of empathy from the beginning.”

The film’s message hit home with McGregor and pushed him to explore new territory.

“This film was an extraordinary opportunity to explore being a dad for the first time. I’ve been a father for sixteen years. This was an opportunity to look at the unique love that you have for your children is a love that you don’t experience with any other human beings in the world.”

Watts responded to the script’s emotional resonance.

“The minute I read the script it just felt rooted in truth and it just felt necessary in a way because it was an intimate piece of storytelling about this family as well as addressing this tsunami.”

While the film shows events almost exactly how they happened, it did go through one major alteration. Filmmakers decided to change the original Spanish family to an English one. Says Sánchez,

“We didn’t know if we were going to get the financing to make this film. That first draft was in Spanish. Even in that first draft, 80% of the dialogue was in English because after the wave comes, that’s the language everyone would use to communicate. So then with the characters, you never know where they are from. We let everyone keep their accents. Instead of working against that, we thought it was an interesting concept to have this family have no home. It’s not clear what’s the home they want to go back to. At the end, they realize home is where they are together. We were trying to make it universal – to try to create a place where nationality didn’t matter.”

Bayona reiterates,

“It felt quite natural to get an English speaking cast. It was a film about people – about a Western family going to Thailand and how it’s an experience that transforms them. It’s the end of these people’s innocence. There’s a lot of suffering in survival – it’s not a victory. I thought that was very interesting.”

Watts felt it was necessary to spend time with the real life heroine.

“I didn’t have to worry about the walk and talk and the look of Maria because nobody knows her. I got to invent that part. The power of what she went through was so big. We spoke a lot. There was such a willingness on her part. Although she had reservations about being a part of telling her story for a movie, she also felt it was right that it wasn’t just her story. It was the story of so many. There’s no question that woman has left a massive profound impact on my life. She’s full of courage and so centered and connected. She’s inspired me.”

McGregor felt he had the freedom to create a character from Henry’s experience. He says,

“I’m playing him and I wanted to capture him but we were making them British not Spanish so already I felt I’ll play this guy on the page. I knew that the director knew him and the writer had spent a lot of time with him so I trusted that they steered me in the right direction. When I knew he was coming out to Thailand after a month of our shooting, suddenly I thought, ‘Oh, fuck. What if he doesn’t think I did him at all? What if he doesn’t like it?’ I was nervous that they were coming. It’s a funny idea that you’re playing somebody and it’s an easier idea if they’re not there in a way.”

To help ground the film in authenticity, THE IMPOSSIBLE shot at the same hotel where the Belon’s had vacationed.  Sánchez says,

“People kept coming to us asking, ‘do you know this story?’ There’s this palm tree in front of the hotel that’s covered with pictures and teddy bears. There’s many open wounds and a need to tell this story. It’s like sending a message in a bottle to many different people.”

Great care and respect is given to the film’s script in crafting a fitting tribute to survivors of this horrific event. Says Atienza,

“We were cautious because we were invading some place that is painful that went through all that. We soon found out they want to talk about it. They need people to know. When you are watching the news,you don’t feel what these people went through. That is why we were so obsessed with not only telling the story, but the feeling. Everyone there had a story. We had a lot of extras that were at the tsunami. For example the scene with Ewan in the bus station, the people surrounding him are real survivors. Before he shot his scenes, the other people told their stories. It was very emotional and helpful for Ewan to be transported to what that moment was like. They were very generous and brave to openly share with us to help the story feel true.”

Bayona says,

“…that created a special atmosphere on the set. I felt not like a filmmaker but a messenger getting all these stories and putting them together on screen.”

To capture the horror of the event, Bayona didn’t rely solely on computerized effects. Instead, they built a massive tank with rushing water and debris. Atienza made sure all of the pieces of the puzzle would be there in order to do justice to this incredible story.

“The only way to do it is step by step. One of the key things was to have the money in order to really tell this story right. Not so much the adventure but how it felt. The realism was key to the story. We started from scratch. We worked for six months on an animatic that had all the shots we needed. There’s very little digital. We shot there with the actors in the water. The rest is a composition in the shot with plates of real water at scale. It’s very precise and fun to do because it’s an old school way of doing things. The problem with digital water was it still had this feel of fantasy. In this film, anything that could bring you out of the story would harm the story. Same with the sets – they were huge. Only the background is composition.”

Astute audiences will note that sound design is key during the initial wave sequence. Atienza states,

“We wanted it to sound like a monster. Suddenly this wave becomes like a monster for this family. It’s non-stop. Maria said she could feel the evil in the wave. It wouldn’t listen to you even though you beg it to stop.”

Bayona expands,

“Everything had to be very sensorial. Much more emotional than intellectual.”

Belon was at first reluctant to tell her story on the big screen but ultimately changed her mind. And thank God she did. Says Sánchez,

“That was one of Maria’s questions, ‘Why our story? Nothing happened to us.’ So for us we struggled to find within that story a moment of empathy. The whole story is geared to that last scene on the plane – a sort of bookend with the beginning. It’s not a happy ending – Maria is thinking of the woman on her arm, Lucas takes off that tag, Henry opens up that note with the names on the list. Again, it’s all about the people who remain there.”

Belon states,

“I personally feel I came away from the wave with so much presence. It was selfish of me to keep it for me. People have told me they’ve come home from the movie and hugged their children. There’s nothing else to say. Nothing else to say.”

THE IMPOSSIBLE opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 21.

INTERVIEW: Jeffrey DeMunn talks THE WALKING DEAD, “Dale”, and Frank Darabont

INTERVIEW: Jeffrey DeMunn talks THE WALKING DEAD, “Dale”, and Frank Darabont 556 390 Joel

It is THE must watch show for fans of strong serialized drama and the horror enamored. A show about survival, and a modern day wagon train full of diverse characters fighting against a mysterious zombie plague that has befallen the world.

THE WALKING DEAD was created by Robert Kirkman, adapted for the small screen by noted Director Frank Darabont, and brought to life by a tremendous cast which includes frequent Darabont collaborator, Jeffrey DeMunn.

A classically trained theater actor and a veteran of over 100 TV and film projects, I spoke with Mr. DeMunn today about the DEAD source material, Darabont’s sudden departure, and what the future holds for his character.

How familiar are you with THE WALKING DEAD comic series?

Jeffrey DeMunn: Im not really all that familiar with it, as a matter of fact when Frank first called me to do the job I was working on another job down in Dallas and he asked me if I wanted to come to Atlanta and kill zombies and I said ok without any previous knowledge of THE WALKING DEAD. I just took a leap because it was Frank Darabont.

Are you aware of where the story goes in the comics?

JD: I have some awareness of it, yeah, but its not by any means a focus of mine. Its like doing an autobiographical play. Aaron Burr, I did that once, I studied some on the life of Aaron Burr but ultimately what you have to go by is what your script is. So I have some awareness of it but its utterly peripheral.

Speaking of Frank Darabont, obviously he’s no longer involved on a day to day basis with the show. I know you’ve worked with him extensively through your career, how has his departure effected you and how do you think its effected the show overall?

JD: Inevitably it is a massive change. It was Frank who brought everybody together. I’ve worked with Frank, I guess for about 22 or 23 years now on various projects. I think its 7 projects in all, this is my 7th Darabont project and I’m no way unique in that. Our scenic designer Greg Melton went to high school with Frank. Our wonderful zombie-maker Greg Nicotero has known Frank and worked with him for 17 years. The FX guy Bill has worked with Frank, I don’t know how many times, Laurie Holden. I guess what I’m trying to say is that everybody was brought together by Frank, not just the cast not just a few individual crew members but it was a massive reuniting.

He works with a group of people and he carries that talent with him and talent follows him because he is, within our time, he is one of the greats, so yeah its made a massive difference having him leave, it was his vision that took a successful comic book and turned it into a massively successful worldwide phenomenon.

If you picture that there was once a wonderful book called RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Frank Darabont read it, and had a vision of what it could become as a film and suddenly that became huge.

His ability to take something from the page, from someone elses hand and move it to the screen…THE MIST for instance is a favorite of mine, and I re-watched it for the first time in awhile for an article, and the vision of that movie is striking in how it casts humans as the monsters…

JD: Did you watch it in Black and white?

I did not, I didn’t know it was available in black and white.

JD: Yes, that is the way that Frank originally wanted to only release it, he shot that as a black and white movie but the powers that be said “no you cant do that, people aren’t going to watch a black and white movie and you’ve got a rough enough ending as it is“.

Going back to THE WALKING DEAD, it seems like his impact is still felt and I think that speaks to how strong his vision was.

JD: Well he worked on the first 8 which takes it right through 2.08, which will be now the first 7 because we combined 1 and 2 for the premier to make the hour and a half premier. So Frank’s work is right through what was our episode 2.08 and I believe that will complete what is shown this autumn and then there is a bit of a hiatus, followed by the remainder of this season in which he had nothing to do with the plotline and so on.

The remainder of the season he had nothing to do with, but another big thing, and I don’t mean to go on and on about Frank, but he’s a genius and one thing, he would look at every makeup, he would look at every costume. People knew you had to run it by Frank, he had his hand on everything, especially the editing. So what we do have now for this year is the edit is not the “Darabont edit“, in that you will see some differences and I believe some people have noticed that already.

What episode are you guys up to now?

JD: 2.12.

Can I get any kind of hints as to where the show is going to go?

JD: Not a chance. (laughs)

Not a chance, well, I had to take a shot–I guess you could be called a character actor in terms of movies and TV, obviously you’ve done a lot of theater work as well but you’ve kinda found a home with THE WALKING DEAD in that you’re stable and its an everyday job. How has that transition been for you?

JD: Oh fine, you know when we shot THE GREEN MILE it was an everyday job too, that was 20 weeks. So this is just a long one (laughs), like a long movie, so yeah it hasn’t been a huge transition, the big transition is always between doing theater, and doing film or television.

Which do you prefer?

JD: I don’t really have one I prefer, they’re both still an extraordinary challenge and they’re both still very very exciting to me. So I don’t have a preference, they feed each other. Theater is harder, it’s a tougher job, and it takes more out of you. But I just enjoy them both, I’m fortunate enough to be able to do both.

Your character on Walking Dead is slowly going through a transformation. He seems to be more vocal, a little less concerned with confrontation, for instance, the whole back and forth with Andrea over her father’s gun. How do you feel about that?

JD: Well, I think it makes sense to me. Dale is a protector, a caregiver, a watcher, and eventually people like that have to speak up. Yeah, you’ll see a lot more of that from Dale.

Now in the comic, Dale kinda moves from being a paternal figure in Andrea’s life and moves toward a romantic relationship with her. Is that something you foresee happening in the show?

JD: I haven’t seen it yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

INTERVIEW: Jewel Staite talks FIREFLY, Food, Fun, and Fillion

INTERVIEW: Jewel Staite talks FIREFLY, Food, Fun, and Fillion 571 425 Joel

As a journalist I am duty-bound to conduct interviews that aim for revelation, probing my subjects with deft questions that are supposed to push them beyond where they want to go. That’s how Oprah does it, that’s how I’m supposed to do it, but funk that.

I reached out to Jewel Staite, a globe-roaming gourmand and portrayer of both Kaylee Frye, the ever lovable mechanic on FIREFLY, and Jennifer Keller, the resident Doctor on STARGATE ATLANTIS, with the hope of having a fun conversation that I could share with you.

The following conversation does not contain revelations on the internal struggle of a suffering thespian, or a questionnaire inspired by Bernard Pivot; frankly I’m not that good at my job.

No, instead of that stuff we touch on brain eating, cheap wine, the ego of Nathan Fillion, shrimp pot pie, Muppets, the creepiness of shag carpeting, and Jewel’s plan for world domination.

And now without further delay, Jewel Staite…

So, you’ve been acting since you were 9 or 10. How are you so normal? Or is it all a clever ruse?

Jewel Staite: Sorry, did you just call me normal? That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I grew up with a mom who wouldn’t put up with any sort of diva-like behavior. She frightened me into being a well-adjusted person. Thanks, Mom.

I have become slightly addicted to late night re-runs of DA VINCI’S INQUEST, with Nicholas Campbell and Donnelly Rhodes (DANGER BAY!). You were on that for much of the first and some of the second season, and it seems like a role that was a key pivot point toward more mature projects. What was that experience like?

JS: I think that was the very first set I worked on where two of the lead actors were doing a love scene I had to walk in on. It was a very different change of pace from Disney and Nickelodeon, that’s for sure. 

You’ve got the very wonderful blog, happyopu.net where you have revealed yourself to be a foodie and a wino, or rather, a wine connoisseur – I’m curious, does my preference for $5 bottles of Strawberry Hill “wine” make me a bad person or am I just keen on depriving myself?

JS: Sorry, I didn’t hear anything past “very wonderful”. Just kidding! Go ahead and drink your cheap wine. I’ve been known to down a glass of Yellowtail on the plane if that’s all they’ve got. But please do yourself a favor and make up for it with something expensive soon.

If one has the opportunity to saunter into a particularly fine restaurant, are they better off ordering from the menu or giving the Chef carte blanche?

JS: Carte blanche, always! Some of my favorite meals have been when I’ve trusted Chef to do what he does best. Plus, it feeds their ego when you let them do the deciding for you, and they really let loose most of the time. I like a loose chef.

There are stock questions like “What kind of weapon would you use in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” and “What would you’re death row meal be?” that I could ask, but those are boring so let’s mix it up: What do you want on your plate if you’re on death row during a Reaver apocalypse?

JS: The lobster pot pie from Michael Mina’s at the Bellagio in Vegas, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. And maybe a Xanax.

I was at New York Comic Con this weekend (and so were you, but you know that), and I had a former pro wrestler call me “Big Daddy” and then give me an impromptu bear hug. What’s your weirdest con  moment?

JS: Well, I signed someone’s back at New York Comic Con that they later had permanently tattooed on themselves, so I think I trump you, Big Daddy. Weirder than that, though, was when a very respectable-looking older lady asked me to sign her boob. And I said yes. If you’re reading this, I’ll never forget you, Crazy Lady! XO

You played Doctor Jennifer Keller on STARGATE ATLANTIS; does the medical jargon stay with you, and also, how’s your Mandarin? Do you know medical jargon in Mandarin?

JS: I know no medical jargon or Mandarin anymore. As soon as it’s out of my mouth and the scene’s done, I promptly allow my puny brain to forget it. I have been known to use the phrase, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”, however.

Has Nathan Fillion changed now that he has “cop show, screw-you” money?

JS: He hasn’t changed at all. But I have. I let him pick up the check more.

Being a part of the “Whedonverse” surely comes with perks; I imagine some typecasting drawbacks as well. Is it an overall joy or is it frustrating to be so strongly associated with Kaylee and FIREFLY?

JS: It’s totally an overall joy. Really. That show’s one of the things I’m most proud of being a part of. I adore being associated with it, and I love every single person on that cast like family. And that’s about as serious as I’m going to get in this interview.

What were your thoughts when you first read the script for FIREFLY, and how surprised were you when Joss got the band back together for SERENITY?

JS: When I first read it, I couldn’t believe my luck, honestly. And I think we were all stunned when Joss got that movie greenlit. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. Plus, I was really relieved I was going to see Nathan again, because he owed me money.

So say AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, and Joss gets a greenlight for SERENITY 2. Is he touring the country, going from set to set like Kermit the Frog trying to track down stray Muppets or are you on his doorstep in full ragamuffin attire the next day?

JS: Who you calling a ragamuffin? Seriously, this Muppet would be there in a heart beat. Wait – which muppet do I get to be? Can I be Gonzo?

What can you tell me about THE PACT?

JS: THE PACT was a short I did last year for a friend of a friend that ended up getting into Sundance. It’s dark and moody and super creepy. Because it has a lot of shag carpeting in it.

How are you not like Kaylee Frye, how are you better than her, and how is she maybe better than you?

JS: She’s overall a better human being than me. She’s sweet and lovely and wide-eyed and wears her heart on her sleeve. I just wear my liver on my sleeve.

DOOMSDAY PROPHECY seems like one of those, “make a bag of microwave popcorn, Saturday afternoon on the couch, fun disaster movies“. What do you say to those who get a bee in their bonnet and think that Syfy originals are an affront to mankind and puppies?

JS: Those people are the kind of people that don’t believe in having cable because it’ll turn your brain to mush. Well, sometimes a mushy brain is exactly what we need on a Saturday night. I love movies I get to check out on. Not every movie needs to be flippin’ PRECIOUS.

We can’t avoid it – you ate brains on SUPERNATURAL. Now, you’re a bit of a food gangsta, would you find your inner Bourdain/Lector and eat a (non-human) sautéed brain of some kind?

JS: What makes you think I haven’t already…?

It seemed like Kaylee’s favorite place was her hammock (which I understand you stole, thief). What’s yours, geographically and I suppose spiritually?

JS: Listen, that thing was given to me, I swear. You want to talk about being a thief, talk to Fillion. He’s got boxes of stuff he stole from that set, and the irony that he’s playing a guy who helps cops right now is not lost on me. But I digress. My favorite place is Maui. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, so that’s my recharge the old batteries place. One of these days I’m going to pull a Woody Harrelson and just move there permanently and become a beach bum and wear hemp and grow dreads. Okay, maybe not the dreads part. And that hemp’ll be Chanel.

What’s next?

JS: Same thing I do everyday. Try and take over the world.

How do you say “Whino” in Mandarin?

NYCC INTERVIEW: Dark Horse Comics Scott Allie on BUFFY & FIREFLY comics

NYCC INTERVIEW: Dark Horse Comics Scott Allie on BUFFY & FIREFLY comics 549 250 Joel

There always has to be someone to make sure the trains come in on time, and for Dark Horse Comics (HELLBOY, STAR WARS, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) that person is Scott Allie, Dark Horse’s Senior Managing Editor.

I met up with Scott at the Dark Horse booth at New York Comic Con where I’m almost sure he stood throughout the first full day of the east coast answer to San Diego, meeting fans, pros, and press alike.

Accommodating and forthright, Allie spoke about Joss Whedon’s involvement in this “season” of the BUFFY comic, the future of FIREFLY comics with Dark Horse, and the digital future of comic books.

Is Joss’s involvement on BUFFY this year less than it was last year?

SA: It’s different. He wrote a lot of last season, and he’s not writing any of it right now. He wrote the first issue. So it’s definitely less in that way. But we’ve got more going on, you know. So he’s overseeing the script that Andrew’s writing and that Chris is writing on the two different titles. And he’s still in control of the covers and that kind of stuff. Yeah, so there’s a little less day to day. And he’s not writing as many issues as he was.

He’s probably going to come back to write some when he really wraps up AVENGERS. But for right now Andrew Chambliss is writing all of BUFFY and Chris is writing all of ANGEL AND FAITH.

Any possibility of a FIREFLY monthly title?

SA: Not a monthly title. We don’t have any interest. It’d be great to do commercially, but creatively that’s not where we’re headed. But we are going to do more FIREFLY. We actually just announced yesterday that our Free Comic Book Day book will have STAR WARS and SERENITY. And then we’re going to follow up with some more stuff later in 2012.

Any more graphic novels like THE SHEPHERDS TALE?

SA: Depending on what we come up with it might be straight to graphic novel or it might be serialized like in the past.

You guys are really at the forefront of digital comics; Where do you see the industry five years from now? Do you see it more digital, or still paper and ink?

SA: There will be a shifting balance towards digital. Right now digital is not really a significant part of anyone’s financial life, but everybody’s being really aggressive and ambitious about building it.

We’re doing our thing, comiXology has what they’re doing, and there are other companies. I think that will continue to grow. Right now it’s a relatively small portion of income in the industry. So I’m sure it’ll shift a little bit more towards that in the next 5 years.

What about the pricing model? Do you think it’ll stay similar, or drop down to due to less overhead?
It’s all over the place. I think our digital pricing is the right way to go. But there are a lot of companies that charge a lot more for digital. So right now it’s everywhere. I imagine over a short period of time it will fall in line with ours, but you never know. Maybe when it takes off people will start charging more. Right now it seems like a lot of pricing is based off of pamphlet pricing. And we’re not exactly doing that. We’re a little lower, because you’re not paying for printing.

INTERVIEW: The Mind of Jane Espenson

INTERVIEW: The Mind of Jane Espenson 584 404 Joel

If you have watched a TV show in the last 15 years it’s likely that Jane Espenson has been related to it in some way–the Kevin Bacon of writers, connectable to most actors, writers directors, and shows by her extensive resume. Espenson is more than prolific though, standing as a trailblazer for female writers, and a beacon of quality in a TV world that consistently seems to devalue it.

Truly interactive at a time when that virtue can be easily faked, Espenson agreed to this extensive interview about TORCHWOOD, her new web-series HUSBANDS (premiering September 13th), the fairytale drama ONCE UPON A TIME (premiering October 23rd on ABC), and her extensive career.

In the interview we touch on issues ranging from televisions cowardice regarding same sex intimacy (my words), and the difference between fantastical and reality based story telling. We also address such burning questions as which Avenger Joss Whedon will kill, and who is the bigger bad-ass: Buffy, Starbuck, Echo, or Gwen Cooper?

As the season draws to a close, what has been the most satisfying part of working with Russell T. Davies and the rest of the TORCHWOOD crew?

JE: I think that question answers itself – working with Russell T. Davies has been the best part of working with Russell T. Davies. I already like that part of my job is helping someone else realize their vision. And Russell makes that task even better by being so effusive when one of us gets it right. It isn’t that he’s easily satisfied, exactly – he can be very exacting. It’s just that he notices the thing you did get right in a scene and praises it, even as he points out the thing that needs fixing. He’s this big tall guy shouting HOORAY at me and I can’t get enough of it! I adore him!

There is a scene in the TORCHWOOD episode “Immortal Sins” where Gwen and Jack make it known to each other how far they will go to protect what they value most–That scene can’t be written by someone who doesn’t fully understand the history of TORCHWOOD and specifically those two characters. How do you capture a previously established voice so well?

JE: Well, I watched all the previously existing TORCHWOOD episodes, and I rewrote that Gwen/Jack car material over and over at Russell’s direction. He didn’t tell me exactly what he thought they’d be feeling, but he just kept telling me to go deeper. It was a great note. And, interestingly, I think it might’ve helped me that I hadn’t been writing them from the start, because Jack’s mortality made him a bit of a different guy in these scenes – we’d never seen him fighting so hard for his own life before. To see him with a horse in the mortality horse race was something new and one of the things that changed from draft to draft was realizing that I had to make him fight harder. Which meant she had to come back harder. The first draft of that script was much more about sadness, and every draft got angrier and craftier, and then it kind of earns the sadness at the end because they’re so damn exhausted from all the anger. Russell let me take the time to find those scenes. I wrote them; but I couldn’t have written them without Russell.

Would you consider coming back to TORCHWOOD if the show is renewed for a 5th season? A follow-up: if the unthinkable happens and TORCHWOOD isn’t renewed, can you see it living on as a comic book like BUFFY?

JE: I would go anywhere with Russell. If he does more TORCHWOOD, I would do it in an instant. I would also go anywhere with Joss, obviously, and will be doing more BUFFY comic book work. And if TORCHWOOD lived on with a comic, I would do that, too. I think TORCHWOOD would lend itself very well to that, actually. Joss has been great at finding BUFFY stories that would’ve been impossible to film, and that took the series forward – I can see Russell doing the same with TORCHWOOD. I have no idea if he would want to, but I think it would be very do-able.

Any chance you’ll also write for the ANGEL AND FAITH comic?

JE: I don’t have any plans to write for Angel and Faith, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

How did HUSBANDS come to be and when did you decide, “I shall rule the interweb with this”?

JE: Ha! It came to be because of my co-writer Cheeks (Brad Bell). He’s a talented performer and I’d seen his videos on YouTube. I was interested in writing for him and that sort of turned into writing with him. We came up with the idea for HUSBANDS together – let’s do a newlywed comedy with two guys – oh, and let’s say they got married before they meant to. And then we just really wanted to make it happen. It didn’t seem like something we could take directly to television, and Cheeks had experience with making things for the web, so we just decided to go for it, to make it the way we saw it in our heads. We brought in Jeff Greenstein to direct it and help us produce it, and the three of us went forward as a team. If people like it online, perhaps it’ll make the jump to TV, or perhaps it will continue online, or not – who knows? For me, it’s very satisfying just to look at this thing we made and say, yes, that’s what I wanted.

There are other shows that get lauded for the fact that they prominently feature openly gay characters and yet we see them hide from actual same-sex intimacy. You’ve said that HUSBANDS is “ready for television, but television is not ready for it”. Is Husbands built to change that?

JE: Television may have changed since I said that. TV executives can be pretty good at reading the public and I’m seeing signs that they may be readier now. We certainly hoped that HUSBANDS would help bring about that change by demonstrating that there is an audience for this kind of story. But if that change is already happening, then that’s even better!

Do you think it’s a disservice to the story when the choice is made to avoid intimacy and a full portrayal of a same-sex relationship? I mean, going back to TORCHWOOD and “Immortal Sins“, if we hadn’t seen Jack fall so fully in love with Angelo wouldn’t that have limited our understanding of how deeply affected Jack was by his betrayal?

JE: Yes, certainly, it was always our intention that we had to make the audience sense the love between them, and that we wouldn’t skip over anything that you wouldn’t normally skip over in a love story. But I actually think the even more revolutionary thing happened in episode three, “Dead of Night,” in which we saw a male-male sex scene inter-cut with a male-female one. That’s an implicit statement of equality that’s pretty hard to miss.

Many know Alessandra Torresani as Zoe Greystone on CAPRICA. She’s just a teensy bit different in HUSBANDS. Is that how the character is written, or is there room for input and improvisation?

JE: Oh, Haley is written very differently than Zoe. Alessandra contributed a huge amount in terms of insight and physicality and commitment, but the lines mostly remained as Cheeks and I wrote them. Alessandra really is a madcap 1930s comedy blonde with no filter and a giant sense of humor, so this part is great for her. I hope people see what a comedy natural she is as a result of this part.

You’re involved with ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC. From what I’ve seen that’s a show that will look to tell a story with some rather big and fantastical elements whereas HUSBANDS is grounded in reality. Do you prefer one type of storytelling over the other?

JE: That’s a fascinating way to look at it. I think most people would characterize it the other way – ONCE is an hour with as many dark elements as it has light ones, while HUSBANDS is a half-hour comedy soufflé. But I think your point is valid, too. ONCE has scenes set in a literally fictional world, while HUSBANDS is set in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I love writing all of it – one of the things I’ve been fortunate to be able to do in my career is to vary the genres I write for. I’ve written for comedies like ELLEN and DINOSAURS and ANDY BARKER PI, and for light dramas like THE O.C. and GILMORE GIRLS and for sci-fi and fantasy shows like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and BUFFY and TORCHWOOD. HUSBANDS and ONCE both represent chances to try something new.

Tell us a little more about Once Upon a Time. How did you come to be involved with that, and what kind of stories do you want to tell in that world?

JE: I’m Consulting Producer now at Once Upon a Time and I’m loving it. The guys who created it and are running it — Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, come from Lost and they’re very smart guys. They happened to be Buffy fans and they brought me in to look at their pilot and meet.  I loved what I saw and was very happy to be involved. Technically, I’m part time, but I’ve found it hard to stay away. We’re writing really unusual and complex and funny and dark stories using iconic fairy tale characters. When do you really get to talk seriously about Snow White? I think it might be huge.

Do you prefer working on a show from the beginning or joining an established show midstream?

JE: They both have their upsides, but new shows are so often difficult because they take a while to find their feet. It’s exciting, but it can be stressful.

You’ve worked on some brilliant shows that never found the success they deserved; is there one you miss most as a fan?

JE: As a viewer I miss ANDY BARKER PI, the last Andy Richter half-hour. I loved that show. It was very funny and very smart and had the most amazingly high-powered writing room. I think it deserved more. And there was a lot more life left in two space-based shows I’ve written for: FIREFLY and BATTLESTAR. As a fan and as a writer I mourn those both.

Many of your contemporaries and former colleagues have explored film, most recently Marti Noxon with FRIGHT NIGHT; do you have a desire to tackle that medium as well?

JE: I think I would love doing punch-up on features. Just pitching jokes in the last phase before filming. And with the right project I might want to write a screenplay, but it’s not high on my list of things-I’m-burning-to-do. I like smaller scale things – in fact, the smaller it is, I might like it better. I really liked working on HUSBANDS because I could grok the whole thing and could help control it. On a feature the writer seldom has much control.

If you were Joss which Avenger would you kill?

JE: Oh boy, I’m not going to second-guess Joss.

Bigger badass: Buffy, Gwen Cooper, Starbuck, or Echo?

JE: That’s tough. Buffy’s got magic-strength which would kick the butts of the other three. But… hm…Gwen has righteous Welsh anger. Ultimately, though, I’m going to go with Starbuck. Buffy would beat her in a one-on-one fight, but Starbuck would never ever ever give up, even in the face of that certain knowledge, and I think that might make her a badder ass. But on any given day, the math may work out differently.

What’s your favorite question, “Will there be a sequel to SERENITY” or “What do you think of the Joss-less BUFFY reboot”?

JE: Ha – I actually don’t get asked the first one that much. I get the second one a lot. Right now, they’re both being beaten by “Will there be more TORCHWOOD?”