The cast and crew of The Shannara Chronicles was at New York Comic-Con to chat about their upcoming epic TV series. Read on to see what stars Poppy Drayton (Amberle Elessedil), Austin Butler (Wil Ohmsford), Manu Bennett (Allanon), director Jonathan Liebesman, and executive producers Al Gough and Miles Millar had to say about the characters, adapting the book series, and the large scale production of the show.
Poppy DraytonQ: Tell us a bit about the costuming, because it looks amazing, but it also looks really practical.
- A: Yeah, I mean, Beanie, well, Jane Holland, is her proper name, Beanie's her nickname from me, she's just genius. She just created these masterpieces, because she had sketch upon sketch, upon sketch, upon sketch, of these incredible designs, and incredible drawings, that she'd just whip up. My costume, my sort of signature look was like, a leather bodice and leather pants, and obviously a sword, and then I had this beautiful bangle which I tried to recreate in my general style. I'm trying to infiltrate it in. Yeah, I mean, they were extremely practical, because you'd imagine that running in so much leather would be really difficult, and sometimes it was, depending on how early our call time was, but for the most part, it was really movable, and it was really easy, and you could sort of, kick ass, in a load of leather, which is great.
Q: Tell me more about your character.
- A: I play Amberle Elessedil, and she's the princess of Arborlon. King Eventine, which is played by John Rhys-Davies, who's not quite here, he's the king of Arborlon, and I'm his granddaughter. The pilot opens, and there's a gauntlet, and, basically, there's a tradition in the elven world where boys have to try and win the gauntlet to then become carers of the tree. No girl has tried to do it before, and no-one's even dared. So my character decides to take that challenge, which is against all odds, and everyone would shoot her down if they knew, but she keeps it a secret, and she does it, and she succeeds, and she become one of the chosen. From that moment on, her life just completely changes. She then starts to have visions with the tree. You probably all know this because you're familiar with the books, but she has all these visions to do with the tree, and this horrific future that could happen for Arborlon, and so she then embarks on this quest to try and save Arborlon if she can, and the whole world that they live in.
Q: Usually, in these kinds of shows, the male armor tends to be a little more comfortable. Was everyone equally uncomfortable in their armor on the set?
- A: Most people were in a similar sort of level, but then there were the home guards. They were in full head-to-toe armor. They had massive helmets on, these amazing ponytails at the back. But they were all in black, and often, during the day, it would be quite sunny in New Zealand, because we started in summer. They would be gently fainting in the corner. And you'd be like, "Pick up a home guard, and just carry on with the scene." Yeah, they were just troopers. You had to be a strong character to deal with some of the costumes that you got put in in that show. I came out quite lightly.
Q: Where do you guys actually film?
- A: New Zealand. We were in New Zealand for six months. I hadn't been before I went to go and film there, and it's such an incredible place. I know you always hear, oh yeah, it's a great place, what's so incredible? It kind of is. You're like, "Oh, dammit," because it's amazing. They just have every location that you could possibly want. You have pine forests, and then you have black sand beaches, and then you have beautiful waterfalls, just everything. They have it all, and it's all stunning. It's got a special place in my heart, now, New Zealand.
Q: How was it like adapting the books to a TV Show?
- A: I wasn't really active in that little process of converting it over, but from an actors point of view? It was amazing. It's like a gift, to have something that's already established and already such amazing, incredible writing to work on. Normally you get a script, and sometimes some of them aren't quite as good as others. You have to be like, "Okay, I'm going to try and work with what I've got there and try and find the best bits of it." But when you already have that body of work that Terry has created to go off, the foundations of that are so strong, that then you're like, anything that you do on top of that just hopefully gets better and improves it. Yeah, it's amazing.
Q: Were you a fan of the series before you started?
- A: I confess, I didn't know the books before I started. I'm sure they did make it to England, but maybe not in quite such a big way as they did in the States. When I got the role, I just geeked out and read them all. I was doing a play in town, in the West End at the same time, and I was also packing up my house. I was prepping for this show, so I was like, "Oh my god, there's so much I need to do." I was listening to the audio books and packing up my house and learning lines for this Shakespeare play I was doing, and it was all like, "Argh," but it was so much fun. I did just got crazy on the research, because I'm a bit of a dork like that.
Q: As you said, New Zealand's a wonderful, beautiful place, but a show like this has a lot of fantastical elements, did you have to do much green screening, or is almost everything practical?
- A: No, we did heaps of green screening actually. In the studios, we had this huge green screen, which was, not quite the size of this convention center, because that would be mental, but it was huge. You felt like a tiny little mouse coming up to it in the mornings. There was quite a fair bit, which is fun, for me, because I hadn't done much green screen work before, so it was a new beast to tackle. You obviously don't really know what your looking at, so you get to create it in your mind. I was just saying in the panel before how sometimes me and Austin would be chatting, and we'd be having to imagine this creature, and at the end of the take you'd be like, "Oh, what are imagining? What are you seeing?" Austin would be like, "Oh, yeah, I'm seeing this thing, it's got wings," and I'd be like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that's kind of what I was doing, but not the same thing." Then we'd both be like, "Oh, okay," and then Jonathan, our director, would come over and me like, "No, no, no, neither of you are right. This is what you're meant to be seeing," and we'd be like, "Oh." We got there in the end.
Q: Have you guys been able to see any of the finished CG?
- A: Yes. I have seen the first pilot episode. You see snippets in ADR, when you go in to do voice work after, to pick up lines and stuff, so you see little snippets, which gives you taste for it. The CG is incredible. Surpasses everything that I could have possibly imagined in my mind.
Q: With every new trailer that comes out, hype keeps growing for the show. People are really excited. Is that starting to get overwhelming, or is it still just wonderful?
- A: It comes in sort of waves. It depends what sort of mood your in, sometimes you're like, "Oh my god, it's mental that so many people ... " It's so wonderful, but also completely, like you say, it can be quite overwhelming, because you're like, "Oh my gosh." It's moving more than anything, because when you work on a show for six months, you can't help but get so attached to it. And then when you finally get to share it with the world, and everyone else is equally excited if not more so than you are, and this thing that you've made. It's so precious in your heart, then everyone else starts to get excited about too, is just the most incredible feeling. Yeah. I'm getting a bit emotional. God, I'm so quick to get emotional. Calm down. Anyway, yeah, it's lovely.
Q: Have you get any nitpicking fan mail yet? You know, you were great, but in the books, this happened, you were supposed to say this phrase.
- A: Not yet, but I'm sure that will come. I'm fully prepared for it. I hope that people like it, I suppose, that's all we can really do, but yeah, so far, no hate mail. Hopefully none, yeah, I know. Let's keep fingers crossed that no hate mail comes.
Q: If you had to choose your favorite episode to shoot? Or your favorite episode to watch? Or if they're both the same?
- A: Oh my gosh, well I haven't seen any of them, so it's hard to say. I've only seen the pilot, so it would have to be the pilot. Favorite episode to shoot? Oh my gosh, all of them, in different ways. I know that's a really lame answer but, genuinely, all of them. I think the more you work on a project, and the longer you get down the line, the closer you get with everyone, and the tighter you get as a family. That's including the crew and everyone. Every single person on set just becomes like this massive family. You just make all these cousins it feels like. Probably, maybe the later ones. Oh, it's hard. All of them.
Q: You shot the episodes in chronological order?
- A: Yeah, yeah. For the most part. We did pick ups, if there were scenes that we needed to redo, or dropped, or things along the way, but yeah, for them most part, it was in sequential order.
Q: One of the greatest things about the story is the strong female representation you have. What was it like holding the women up to those standards and wanting to portray them as warriors, regardless of gender?
- A: It was so refreshing for me, and for other female actresses who get the chance to play really strong female characters, because you get script after script after script, and they can be amazing scripts, but it's so often that they're the weaker, or the giving character, the maid. These sort of tentative women who are very much just women. They're lovely parts, but it's so rare to get a character that has so much strength and has to kick ass and has to save the world. That's huge. Absolutely huge. To have the chance to play a character like that was just utterly overwhelming. Yeah. I still feel hugely lucky.
Q: Are you ready for fan reactions to your character in the show in general?
- A: Yeah, I'm excited for people to see it, hear what they think.
Q: What do you think you're bringing to your character that's different than the books?
- A: I think any time that any human being plays a character that was on page, you bring your life experiences. You're finding the seeds of that character within yourself and watering them and seeing them grow.
Q: Were you a fan of the book before the series?
- A: I actually hadn't read it, but my dentist had and I told him when I went in for the first reading and he said, "I read those books when I was in second grade," and he was so excited. That got me. I started finding more people like that, who had read the books before I was born and I was really excited.
Q: This is a bit of an atypical show for MTV. Has there been any pressure from the network to be more heart-throbby or any sort of gratuitous shirtless scenes? Just curious.
- A: That was, I think, my biggest fear and I always worry that takes away from the story. I hope there wasn't any of that. I got so obsessed by the time that we got in that anything that came up, it was just a matter of finding where that lives within the character. MTV did a really good job. They're super open-minded and I respect that.
Q: What draws you to sci-fi/fantasy roles like this?
- A: What draws me? I love how there's a metaphor for all the things that we go through in life. Not only are they that, but they're such a great escape for the pain that we go through in life. I remember watching Star Wars as a kid and just getting lost in that world and feeling empowered by that and seeing a guy who wasn't the hero have to find that within himself. That all really resonates with me.
Q: Do you think the show relates to the book well?
- A: Yeah, I think everybody on the side that got to make those decisions did a really good job getting Terry involved. And Alan, Miles and John, them all getting together and deciding upon these things as a team with Terry's blessing, it really did the books well, I hope. We'll see.
Q: Out of all the characters, was there a certain role that you really wanted to play? How did you get the role?
- A: It is very different. This came about in a very unusual way. I wasn't expecting it and I actually had my eye on another project at the time and I was going to all these meetings for that. I just kind of shot over to the other side of town to go meet with Dick Guys for this and I really didn't think anything of it. Then I got to read the script and the more that I started thinking about how much fun this would be and what a challenge it would be and what the show could eventually become, that got me really happy about doing it.
Q: Reminds me of The Neverending Story
- A: I loved The Neverending Story growing up, Labyrinth and all that.
Q: Is it kind of like that when you're filming?
- A: Yeah, especially because we filmed a lot of it outdoors in the woods. These sets were just incredible. We had all the same people that did the design for Lord of the Rings, so they really put so much into it that when you walk on set, you really feel like you're entering a different world. It's so awesome.
Q: How would you explain the show to someone who hasn't read the books?
- A: I would say it's a show that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future on Earth, and it's good against evil. It's epic. You get to see people who aren't necessarily heroes have to become that in order to save the world. There's so much that I could say on it, but I mean, that's one way. I've never described it that way before, but I did right now.
Q: What do you think it is about those post-apocalyptic stories about the future that really resonates with people?
- A: What is that? I always love those. There's something about it. I always wanted to do something post-apocalyptic. Why is it that that's so exciting? I think because what it does for me is, it causes me to see the world in a different way and to think about humanity in a way of going, "What would I do in this situation?" It adds these new challenges that are super heightened versions of what we do with every day life. Maybe that's what it is.
Q: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
- A: That's a really hard one. There were so many great scenes. The first one that pops in my mind was one where Manu and I decided we were supposed to be trotting down the beach and he said, "You want to see how fast these horses can go?" He had spurs on and we'd never gone anywhere near this fast and I go, "Alright, yeah let's do it." He kicks the horse and then I kick mine and they start racing, and neither horse wants to be behind the other, and we're just racing down the beach and it was glorious. I loved it.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your character.
- A: Allanon, he's the guide, he's the guide in this story. Of course Shannara had another book before this called the Sword of Shannara. In that particular story there was a war, so Allanon's been through the war already. Now he's waking up in time where there's another war about to start. He's reluctant to have to go through that pain and suffering again, and his job is to lead a young boy into that world. The magic of this in terms of me as a person and an actor, is that Will's character is torn because he's just lost his mother who is the guide in his life to some extent. As an actor, I lost my mother at probably a similar age to what Austin is.
- Taking the fiction aside and looking at it like two people, I understand his journey at this moment in his life and I understand that it's like, there's a bit of magic in the casting. In that regard, I can't say enough about Austin Butler in terms of how willing he is to show his emotion on screen. When you do any story, for what it's worth, you got to go through a little box in people's living rooms and affect them. Hopefully they're going to feel something. Austin's actual person fits this character so well, simply because of the fact that his character in the book is walking out of a village after losing his mother, and Austin lost his mother three months before this show started.
- The kind of reality meets art scenario and I'm not trying to hype this in any way whatsoever, but it's important that people feel what comes through that screen and I think what Austin's bringing to this is a level of reality as well as acting. The two things are combined in a way, I could feel it when I was working with him.
Q: Austin just told us that his favorite scene is where you guys are riding down a beach and you told him "Let's race the horses really fast." I'm curious what your role is, a grizzled war veteran who's a guide, in your mind what kind of guide do you really think you could be?
- A: I think the story you're talking about is a great example of the type of guide that Allanon is and potentially, again, the relationship I have with Austin. We were given these big horses to ride in the show. Big horses and the particular guy who is the horse wrangler or what ever you call it, said to us, "When you come out, just trot up the beach, play it nice and safe." I said to Austin, as we were about to start this particular scene, I said, "Dude" because we had these spurs on our legs, "just kick it, let's just go, let's go hard."
- The reason for that story is a lot of times when you're acting, you're asked to put a lot of tissue paper between yourself and the performance and I'm not really good at that. I don't like playing characters in the safe zone and I always like to try to bring out something that is more consequential in performance. When we're asked to ride our horses for the first time, I said, "Austin, let's make these things gallop."
- I think it's important because at the end of the day, nobody wants to watch you again through that little box in their living room and see you trotting, they want to see you galloping. Something was just in that moment that we dedicated ourselves to galloping in the show. It was similar when I was in Spartacus, our fight scenes. When you fight in a scripted scene you're meant to pull it back, but playing a gladiator like Crixus, I could never pull it back, and now playing Allanon, I can't pull it back. There's no way of pulling it back. This character's seen it all.
- I lost my brother in my arms in real life. I held my brother when he died in real life. I learned how to deal with that through art. It's my job to help people understand the journey from that to salvation or to healing or whatever. My characters have got this wonderful quality all the time, whether it be Slade Wilson or Crixus or Allanon. I'm asked by producers and directors to bring it all to the camera. I do that with the responsibility of understanding what those feelings are and hopefully helping people who are sitting in their living rooms just wanting to escape or feel something that's real.
Q: What is it about sci-fi/fantasy roles that you keep coming back to?
- A: I don't know, mate, I walk into rooms that are called casting and they look at me and they say yes or no. At the end of the day I keep on getting yeses to characters that are very complex, that have a big shade of gray. This is a unique opportunity because for once I'm actually playing a good guy. Crixus was. Crixus was actually epically a good guy because he was flawed. People are flawed, that's why I think at the end of the day people love Crixus.
- Allanon is flawed, terribly flawed. In this particular journey with Shannara, he has to really come to terms with himself, but he's a loner. In this particular show, Allanon is completely a loner. He's the last of the Druids. He's the only person who believes in magic. But magic in the show is almost like the magic that we need to believe in now in the world. It's the magic that stops hatred. It's the magic that stops evil. It's interesting because Allanon has to go from being a war monger to being somebody who has to really combine a whole bunch of people.
- In this particular story, whether it be Star Wars, whether it be Lord of the Rings, we talk in metaphors, stories are always talking in metaphors, so we talk about evil and good. This particular story has a whole host of different kinds of species that are metaphorically speaking about the world we live in. Whether you're black, white, yellow. That's what we're talking about and at the end of the day this consequential level where Allanon, he's a bit of a bigot in a way, because he's been through wars and he knows where to point his weapon. It becomes more about the heart for him in this show because as a weapon person ultimately, you're going to have to go and sit by yourself and realize that you're dealing with people. I think that in this story Allanon gets to these moments where he just sits back from the war monger in himself and has to realize he's dealing with people.
- There's a wisdom to that, written by Terry Brooks, written by the same people that wrote Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, that's really trying to help you understand the magic for whatever it's meant to mean, is something we're always trying to address in storytelling. The one thing about Shannara that's very unique is when you try to create magic as a visual, like those epic things like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, it's expensive. You could never have told this on a television screen until now. Like Peter Jackson said ten years ago he could never have brought Lord of the Rings to the big screen because the world itself was too expensive to create. Shannara's that same visual. The one thing that they did right, was they decided to shoot in New Zealand where all of those epic fantasy stories have been shot. I know the people that I'm working with, because I've worked with on Spartacus and on The Hobbit, I know they know how to make this. The moment that I walked into the set, the studio which is as big as this room, and I saw the Ellcrys, I knew that we're in film territory. Television was in film territory, what's television doing in film territory? What's television in film territory doing with MTV? It's a very, very unexpected mix, but from it, hopefully that magic is going to coming through that little square in people's living rooms and affect them. That's the end of it, that's all that matters. Will this show have magic that it's meant to have? It's a big step for MTV, it's a big step for all of us. At least we're on the frontier, at least we're pushing the boundaries.
Miles Millar, Jonathan Liebesman, and Al GoughQ: Tell us a little bit about how it's like working with MTV considering their usual properties don't really fall in line with this. But it looks amazing.
- AG: It's funny. We went around and pitched the show to everybody and MTV was really the network that stepped up. I think because they wanted to be bigger. It was a really big swing and a bold move for them. They were really all in. They actually turned out to be terrific partners for this. They were willing to be bold and that's what the show required. You couldn't play it safe. This show would not work on NBC. You cannot play it safe.
Q: Is there any pressure from MTV to make more a stereotypical MTV protagonist? Did you guys get any pressure from the network to make it a little more MTV-ified or were able to just do what you want?
- JL: Aside from when they called, they wanted Amberle to be Snooki, there was no...That's a joke.
- MM: Yeah. No we got no pressure from them in terms of that. They really want it to be it's own thing and for them as a network they really want to broaden their audience. They sold this to see how rare is it to see a property like this that has been so beloved and sold 50 million copies and that chance for it to be on MTV, they really saw it as an opportunity.
Q: They didn't try to bombard it with a bunch of teens, right?
- MM: The book at its core is about three 20-somethings who are on a quest and they're figuring out their lives. I think that is for them, is very relatable to their audience that most people when they're 21, 22, sitting out in the world, don't know what they're going to do. I think these people have to save the world but it's still ... They have issues with family; With parents; With what they want to do with their lives and giving meaning to their lives. I think that's incredibly relatable and contemporary and universal.
- JL: I think also you're dealing with the show runners who've done 10 seasons of a hugely successful show so when you're fighting for an actor you want, you've got a lot of say which is awesome. It's a little different to movies.
Q: What are you guys looking forward to in doing this?
- AG: We're looking forward to everybody seeing it at this point.
- MM: No, but for us when we did it we wanted to do something different. We wanted to do something that hasn't been seen before. We wanted to challenge the idea of what you could do with visual effects on television; The idea of fantasy, which people had a prejudice against like, "Oh, fantasy's not for me." I think this show will surprise people and that's always great. When we did Smallville, the idea of doing a superhero show on television was like ...
- AG: Nobody wanted it.
- MM: Nobody wanted it, it was like a joke. It was like Lois and Clark. What are you guys doing? We had friends who felt really sorry for us, "Oh, you're doing Superboy." I think that started a genre on television. For us, this is great, this is exactly ... To me, superheros are an old story, old news, and this feels really new and really fresh. It's exactly what we did in terms of finding something that people are sort of sniffy about, a little bit prejudiced, and breaking the barriers and saying this is really really cool and really exciting and different.
Q: With Smallville, you could really re-write the story entirely. Here, you have something you're anchored to. How does that change the trajectory for you?
- MM: Luckily we've got a great ... Terry Brooks really understands that ... He's been an incredible partner to us and a collaborator. If you have a book is a book and a TV show's a TV show, they're 2 different beasts. He's given us the freedom to really keep the integrity of the book but also ... It's its own thing. The characters are, not different, they're the lifeblood of the book, but also they become their own creatures.
- AG: Yeah, because the book was written 40 years ago so it's like, you have to evolve those characters to fit in a television landscape and story-telling landscape of today. Terry gets that. It's all there. But a lot of the same issues we had ... Not issues but a lot of the same challenges were the same challenges in Smallville as well, which is how do you take a story that had always been sort of period and give it a contemporary feel and tone and make it relatable to an audience, where you had the most unrelatable hero of all with Superman. The other thing is, it's a great story and the book is really good. There's so much story to tell that 10 episodes of television, we're sometimes like, "Sh*t, we should have asked for 13," because there's so much good stuff in there.
Q: So that was your choice to ask for 10 and not 13?
- AG: I don't know who ultimately made that call, but we could have probably used a couple more episodes. But it was great. I think, as Miles said, you distill it because it is a different media. Terry will always have the book; readers will always have the book. The show is faithful to the essence of the book. Hopefully in success it's going to become it's own thing; Just as Game of Thrones has become it's own thing.
Q: What about the special effects? Can you tell us anything that's going on with that?
- AG: I'll kick this one to you, but one of the things the 3 of us wanted to do, having worked with a lot of visual effects certainly with Smallville and Jonathan with his films, is we wanted to keep it as real as possible. We built sets. There's no digital sets. There's real prosthetics. We got the guys at WETA so when you see the Dagda Mor, that's an actor with basically a prosthetic. When you see the gnomes and trolls, they're real people.
- MM: For us, it was always the mantra of Star Wars. Also, Favreau is very much about practical as well so that's a really good. We built epic sets. These sets are bigger than movie sets. They're huge. It gives the actors a sense of place and I think it really adds a level of authenticity to the series and to their performance as well. They're not in a green room acting with marshmallows. It's like it's a real place. It makes it feel real.
- JL: When you give them, an actor reality, they interact with it. You try and duplicate that with visual effects so if you have a creature, it's better to even have a guy dressed in green. Even a person you're going to replace, it's better to have the actor interacting with something. A lot of times if you're just doing something in front of a green screen, the actor or the director doesn't think to give a direction of interaction.
- AG: You can see a lot of times I think when films and things don't work it's because it's that lack of interactivity. I know in our early seasons of Smallville when green screens, you had to give the actors ... They're young actors anyway and then you had to explain to them what they were doing so they could act against something.
- MM: One of the reasons we wanted to do this show was to really push the boundaries of what has happened, what is possible for visual effects on television in terms of the level of CGI. The creatures in the show are as good as any movie. They look awesome. That's about prep, about creature design, and who you hire as your visual effects team. I think for us, we had to get the best and really push it and surprise people with what you can do.
- AG: Jonathan, it's interesting because you don't think about it but it's true, you always said with the visual effects house you want the best because their first draft is going to be 10 drafts better than this guy's first draft. He might give you a better bid, but he's never going to deliver for you. It was really that push for quality and finding the best people.
Q: What company were you using for the special effects?
- MM: Pixomondo.
- JL: Pixomondo were our main house. WETA helped us with the prosthetics.
- AG: WETA Workshop was really great. Again, New Zealand, if there was ever a country to shoot a fantasy show in, shoot it in New Zealand because it's in their bones from Hercules and Zenith, to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It was great.
Q: With something like this, you have to cut a lot of side characters and some people don't like that. What's the process of this side character, you get the axe? I know you guys have the benefit of being a completed series so you know who becomes important later. How do you guys decide who is on the chopping block?
- AG: You know it's interesting and it's never easy. There's obviously people that are sort of fan favorites, but it's who's going to help to push the story forward? All the characters have to be in some sense story-engines and if they're pushing the story forward and evolving it, they stay. There's some aspects of it that we couldn't do, so those characters ended up not making the cut. It's never easy. The thing with TV is it will always beat the preciousness out of you. You have 42 minutes to tell the story of an episode and we've got 10 and so it makes you a ruthless storyteller.
- MM: Yup.
- AG: But even Terry will tell you. He goes, "Every word has to count. Sometimes I'll just start writing and I'll get to the point, but with you guys it's like every word has to count." And that's true.
Q: Was there a book or something in your past that made you know you were going to be doing this? This job, in particular this kind of job in fantasy?
- AG: No. I think when we read the book ...
- MM: Neither of us are fantasy fans. I love fantasy movies but I've never read a fantasy book, to be honest. For us, we read this book. I had not heard of the Shannara books. I had heard of Terry but the story was so compelling, that's what got us hooked. Similar with Smallville, we didn't grow up with comic books.
- AG: Yeah. We weren't comic book fans. We loved the Donner movie and that was it. In some ways when you're not encumbered with all of that, it actually is sort of better.
Q: I was wondering whether you came in with different eyes because he asked the question about who you would cut out.
- MM: No. Completely fresh.
- AG: Yeah, we hadn't read all the books and stuff like that.
Q: Is there an episode you guys are excited for people to see?
- AG: I'm excited for people to see all of them. I think they all ... You can't have a favorite child ...
- MM: As a show-runner, and the reality of television is you look at ... You think you can have a clunker in a season and we've had clunkers on Smallville You just want an audience to "Please, please get over episode 6."
- AG: Please keep watching.
- MM: This one is like we kept waiting for the clunker to come and it never did. Just to be honest, this is a show we haven't experienced before. It just works.
- AG: It's not like we front-loaded the pilot and then you feel it. The scope of it stays all the way through.
- MM: But as favorites, the first 2 hours. If you're not coming back after those, then you're dead. I don't get it.
Q: When you have a show that stretches out so long with Smallville, it must to tough. But here at least you know within a framework, do you have an idea that this will have an ending or do you see it as open-ended?
- MM: Oh, it's definitely open-ended. The season feels very complete. It's a full meal; But it's definitely open for ...
- JL: Yeah, the book has an amazing climax which is the climax of the first season, which is pretty devastating and awesome.
Q: But that is also sometimes and interesting thing. Sometimes you want an ending. Some things you don't want to go on forever and other things you expect it to go ...
- JL: This has an ending. I agree with you, I can't stand when I binge-watch TV shows and I get to the end of a season 2 episode and I'm like, "How did anyone stay a fan until season 3? I could just go to season 3 on iTunes." But this has a absolutely satisfying, definite, definitive end at season 1. It's open-ended in some ways, but what is set up is paid off.
- MM: It's not The Killing.
- AG: Yeah, it's not The Killing.
- MM: Or The Fall.
Q: How do you balance the dynamic of the creatures, and the effects, and the fantasy of it, and the humanity of the characters? Do you look to the actors to contribute in some way or is it already conceived in your mind? Or do the actors bring something to it?
- JL: Actors, if you don't involve them they won't do their best work. I think the more you can write a character that can be done prosthetically from a fantasy standpoint, the better it is. Because there's something happening in an actor's face that gets lost in translation even with motion capture. When we were doing Ninja Turtles, a lot of the cool stuff actors would do would get lost and it was an entire process of trying to slate certain emotions, but with prosthetics it just comes through right away with the Dagda Mor.
- AG: You don't lose it with the layer.
- MM Yeah, and also we ... Jack Roffey who plays Dagda Mor, he's a really experienced person having done all of Peter Jackson's movies that he knows how to wear a prosthetic just it's 8 hours of makeup and putting this stuff on.
- JL: And sleeping with it that night often. You try shoot him 2 days in a row because it takes 4 hours to apply and if the guy sleeps with it, you save a couple hours.
- AG: And WETA recommended him to us, said, "You really want this guy to do it because he'll be able to give you a performance under all that makeup."
Q: Did you have him sleeping sitting upwards or?
- JL: What happens is they just blur the makeup but the mask stays good and then they just repaint the detail.
Q: I can see the value of you guys having a little distance from this to be able to see the thing of the actors, because a lot of times I think if you get too precious about it you don't know how to let the ...
- AG: Miles isn't precious about anything.
- MM: I am the hard guy. No, because it's always about never settling, and making sure that it feels unique and different, and that it's complete.
Q: So have you become a comic book/science fiction/fantasy fan now?
- MM: I love, I mean that's my world. I always love those movies.
Q: Is it a harder challenge to do something original, or to try to make someone else's original and bring their stuff to life?
- AG: I think doing something original is always harder. Always harder when you're building it from the ground up. I think when you're dealing in this world, you do have certain architecture that you can ...
- MM: Yeah, a little bit. You've got a journey.
- JL: You have a bible and you have a world ...
- AG: Yeah, you have stuff that you know and that's been tested and that when an executive says, "We don't like that." Well, it's been in the book for 30 years so we're doing it.
- MM: You can't change it.
- AG: So you can't change it. It's good. We got very precious about the book when it served us. We're like, "No, Terry won't go for that."