UPDATE March 30: I've just posted a non-spoilery review of Tuesday's "V" episode. That post also contains episode summaries and guest cast for the next three episodes.
Below is a feature on the ABC show "V," which returns 9 p.m. Central Tuesday on ABC. I interviewed stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin and executive producer Scott Rosenbaum for the piece, which does not contain spoilers for the rest of the show's first season. Below the story are more extensive quotes from Rosenbaum and Baccarin. The Rosenbaum transcript contains some general information about where Season 1 will go (I wouldn't call it spoilery, but your mileage may vary). That transcript is followed by specific Season 1 casting and plot information (you'll get a spoiler warning before that part). Here is a separate piece on Mitchell (who also played Juliet on "Lost") talking about "Lost" and "V." Finally, there are three clips from "V's" Tuesday episode in the video player on the right side of this page.
Few would call it magical, but quite a few programs have done disappearing acts this season. Thanks to the Winter Olympics and the whims of network schedulers, shows such as "Chuck," "Supernatural," "V," "Fringe" and "Glee" (to name a few) have disappeared for months at a time.
But those shows are finally back (or return soon). And there may be a silver lining to the 4-month absence of "V," an alien invasion chronicle that returns 9 p.m. Central Tuesday on ABC.
According cast members Morena Baccarin (who plays the charismatic alien leader Anna) and Elizabeth Mitchell (who plays dogged FBI agent Erica Evans), as well as Scott Rosenbaum, the show's new head writer and executive producer, "V's" lengthy mid-season break allowed the tantalizing drama to regroup and amp up the tension.
"There are these visual reveals that, for me as a geeky science-fiction fan, are kind of huge," said Mitchell, whose character, unlike most Earthlings, thinks the "Visitors" are up to no good. "For Erica, it's gotten grittier and more tortured — she's going against all the things she believes in" as she assembles a human resistance movement.
"In those first four [fall] episodes, we really set up the world and what's going on," Baccarin said. "Now these episodes can go deeper into that. Every single character on 'V' — we get deeper into who they are and what their faction is and what their agenda is."
Rosenbaum took over as "V's" showrunner last fall (former head writer Scott Peters is still with the show). Rosenbaum has written for the NBC spy dramedy "Chuck" and the dark FX cop drama "The Shield," so tortured cops and secretive operations are things he knows well. And he's also a genre fan (the first thing that got him noticed in Hollywood was a sci-fi film script).
When he started work on "V," "the first thing I did was, I took everything that I liked and decided, I’m going to amplify that 10 times," Rosenbaum said. "One of the things I always loved about writing for 'The Shield' was the frenetic pace of the storytelling. You know, it felt like you were on a little bit of a roller coaster ride when you were watching that show."
The second step was to "intertwine" the lives of the show's characters more intensely but also focus on the "two strong, smart women" at the core of "V." He noted that there will be juicy stuff for Ryan (Morris Chestnut) and Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto), who are expecting a hybrid baby, and for Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), a news anchor who enjoys exclusive access to the Visitors, who've said they'll provide free health care in exchange for some much-needed minerals.
But Erica and Anna, Rosenbaum said, are "the spine" of the show.
"It is an ensemble piece, but it's also, really, a show about these two mothers protecting their children and how far they are willing to go to do that," Rosenbaum said.
The two women will eventually meet in "surprising" circumstances, Baccarin said. And even though they are enemies, Anna and Erica have a lot in common.
"She's an Earth woman and I'm an alien, but we both get things done," Baccarin said.
The November pilot for "V," a re-imagining of the 1983 miniseries of the same name, set up an intriguing alien-invasion scenario, one that the next three episodes attempted to capitalize on with inconsistent but occasionally compelling results. Though Anna and her sly manipulations provided more than enough reason to tune in, not all the characters in the show's large cast were interesting and the pace was occasionally sluggish.
Thanks to the extensive special effects Tuesday's episode required, it wasn't sent out the media in advance. But Baccarin said viewers will learn more about Anna — "physically and emotionally" — when "V" resumes.
"There are so many revelations in every episode," Baccarin said. "I was like, 'People are not going to be able to breathe when they watch the show.'" (But don't worry — the revamping hasn't extended to Anna's signature pixie haircut. "I don't think I have a choice anymore" on whether to keep the character's sleek hairstyle, Baccarin said with a laugh.)
But how can "V" sustain its new pace, especially if it comes back for another season? After all, that is clearly ABC's hope — that "V" sticks around for at least another season and hangs on to at least some of the viewers who faithfully tuned in to "Lost" every week for six years.
Rosenbaum said he would like "V" to last that long, and creating an overall roadmap for the drama was his first order of business when he came on board.
"Normally you just want to jump in and figure out where these next eight episodes are going and finish off Season 1 because you don’t have a lot of time," Rosenbaum said. "But… I had to make sure of what the show was going to be long-term. So I went to the well and I just came up with as much as I could for as many seasons as I could imagine, and then backtracked and figured out what Anna’s long-term plan would be and how she was going to accomplish it."
For those of you wondering why the technologically superior Vs don't just take over Earth and enslave or kill humanity, well, they don't want to. Not yet, anyway.
"First of all, they need us. I don’t want to explain exactly why they need us, but they need us and they need us alive, at least for the first part of the plan," Rosenbaum said.
And despite her placid assurances that she and the Visitors are "of peace, always," humans would be quite wrong to underestimate Anna, who is ruthless under her human-looking facade.
Viewers saw last fall that the Vs are actually lizard-like under their false human skins, and those who assume the Vs share human values and priorities are mistaken, Rosenbaum said.
Anna "is an animal," Rosenbaum said. "It’s not that she doesn’t like humans, it’s not that she’s evil — it’s just that we are standing in the way of what will allow her people to grow and continue to evolve and move forward." (Speaking of animals, those who recall the original "V" will see some specific homages to the 1983 series when the ABC show returns.)
Erica, on the other hand, has "one arm tied behind her back because she has a little thing called a conscience," Rosenbaum noted. "How does she fight this battle against Anna, maintaining her humanity and morality, when she is going against a foe that doesn’t have to go by the same rules?"
"It's a war, and the humans can't win mano a mano," he added. "The trick to beating them is being smarter."
There's more from Baccarin and Rosenbaum below. Update: My Elizabeth Mitchell piece is here.
Baccarin's quotes do not contain spoilers. Rosenbaum talks in a very general way about some developments in the rest of "V's" first season. I would not call the interview transcript spoilery per se but your mileage may vary. There are specific casting and plot spoilers at the very end of this post, but you'll get a warning before you get to that section.
More quotes from Baccarin:
On doing a lot of green-screen work: "At first I thought it was really fun. It's very imaginative and you're in this huge spaceship — I can go around and see the monitors and see everything. But after 12 or 13 hours in that room, it becomes challenging to stay focused. All the scenes can start to bleed together — sometimes we're doing five scenes in one day. I realized the difference one day when we shot a scene in a hotel in Vancouver. We actually had a set! I was like, Why am I having so much fun today? Why is it easier to act? We had an actual set and I didn't have to do the other work of imagining the set. It can be a ton of fun, but it's so imaginative and creative that you have to really stay on yourself not to get lax with your choices."
And the byproduct of spending an entire day in a green room? "When you close your eyes, you see orange."
I commented on how I felt she played Anna as a physically still person — the kind of person who draws others to her not by being showy or energetic but by having a very calm center: "That's what I'm going for. I want people to be drawn to her and not know why and to think there's something wrong with them for being drawn to her — but they can't help it." ??On the many layers of Anna: "She's so subtle. It's not like I'm guffawing and laughing and twirling a mustache, you know? [laughs] There's something underneath everything Anna does. She's so double-sided. She can be bigger at times but really fine-tuned other times. I really enjoy playing the role because there are so many roles within it and so many levels."
On being recognized: "I definitely have been recognized a lot more. I need to buy some hats [laughs]. The haircut is a dead giveaway. I'll be at the post office or on a flight and people will come up — usually they're shy about it or unsure it's me. With some trepidation, they'll be like, 'Are you that girl from "V"?' Some people don't say anything but just look like they're scared of me."
On whether she was surprised that some commentators made a big deal of the show's alleged political messages or allegories: "It didn't surprise me that much. I think we tend to do that — we want to label something so we can understand it. We're not making any statement about Obama — we are trying to make people identify [the show] with their own lives and the state of affairs in the world. It's great that people want to relate it to [current political situations]. It means that they feel the show relates to them and to their lives."
On the mid-season break that "V" took: "I'm glad we were able to take the break. We were able to regroup. I think the show is coming back so much stronger. We got a chance to reassess and take a breather and really be able to come back 100 percent. It's a really big show and it gets very exhausting very quickly. For me, it was a chance to sit with the character a bit more and find out more about her, and it was a chance for the producers and writers to come back and give that much more depth to the characters." This interview has been edited and condensed.
A transcript of my interview with Scott Rosenbaum is below. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Ryan: Have you always been a sci-fi guy? Or was it a case of, the opportunity to work on this show just came along?
Rosenbaum: I’m a huge [sci-fi] fan and what’s interesting is, there aren’t a lot of sci-fi shows out there, really. When I was first coming out here [to L.A.], I think "The X-Files" had gone off the air, and I loved that show.
But I’ve always loved sci-fi — honestly, when I saw "Star Wars," that just completely changed my life. And I wanted actually go into outer space some day, if they would only let me. Certainly, I think was the impetus for me even wanting to write for film and write for television.
And recently we’ve started seeing a few more science-fiction shows, obviously with "Battlestar", which I also loved. But if you’re a TV writer in the last 10-15 years, you haven’t had that many options. If you’re going out for [to look for a staff job], there might be maybe two sci-fi shows, if that.
In fact, the first thing that I ever got any sort of attention for was this science-fiction piece, it was a feature script. I wrote it in college, came out here, and ended up getting it to Ridley Scott — and "Alien" and "Blade Runner" [are] two of my favorite movies. And here I am, I’m 23 years old and I get a phone call from him. Literally, I came home one day and there was a message on my machine: "This is Ridley Scott calling from London, I’ve read your script. Is it possible you could meet with me in my office next week? I’ll be in Los Angeles." I’m like, "Oh my God!" You know what I mean?
Rosenbaum: And I got to sit down with him. It was a wonderful experience. I went through the entire script with him, page by page, line by line. It was just fascinating and fun, learning [from him]. Just the questions he would ask me told me everything that I needed [to know, everything] that I didn’t know about writing. He’d ask me questions, and some of them I wouldn’t have answers for, and that was my realization — as a young writer, you start to realize that everything needs to be super, super, super three-dimensional.
But the person who really taught me how to do this was Shawn [Ryan, creator of "The Shield"]. Shawn was just amazing; he was not only an amazing showrunner but he taught us — he taught us how to write that show. He taught us how to write for television.
I think a lot of showrunners are not that patient. Your script will come in and they will take it from you and rewrite it. But he would get the script and sit down with you and talk you through like every single scene and [ask], "Why did you make this choice?" And you’d explain it and he’d say, "I would have done this, and here’s why." And then you would [understand] that. He really taught you how to do it, which was a wonderful thing.
Ryan: That's interesting. The only time I've ever been in a writers' room is when Shawn let me sit with the "Lie to Me" writers one day — they were trying to break this episode where the characters were in Vegas. And it was fascinating because I think half the reason I do this job is because how stories come together and why they work or don't work — that just fascinates me.
I think he's said this when I've interviewed him, or maybe he said it to someone else, but it stuck in my head — that he always had the approach that "the end of every scene is an act out." The idea being, you have to have that snap and that reason to go on to the next scene every single time, not just before the commercial break. And you know, I liked "V" when it came out. But I felt at times that the show didn’t really know how to balance all the stories and give everything that sense of momentum and tension. Is that something you wanted to address when you first came on board?
Rosenbaum: Yeah. Essentially what I did is, the first thing I did was, I took everything that I liked and decided, I’m going to amplify that 10 times. One of the things I always loved about writing for "The Shield" was the frenetic pace of the storytelling. You know, it felt like you were on a little bit of a roller coaster ride when you were watching that show and we were never afraid to tell a story and burn story really, really quickly. I think that was why, when people watched that show, they were so enthralled by it, because the amount of story that we would tell in one episode, another TV show might tell that amount of story in six episodes.
Ryan: Yep, definitely.
Rosenbaum: So the thing that I wanted to do was — the very basic premise of the show is fascinating. It is the first time we have made any sort of contact with intelligent life and so for me as a viewer, my instinct is — I want answers. I want to know as much as I can.
There were two ways I decided to attack the show. [First,] the thing about "Chuck" and "The Shield" that are very similar and I think on the new "V" will be very similar — everything is based on character. When I break a story, I don’t just think, "What is the crime this week?" — it's "What’s the emotional arc for Erica on this episode?" So, for instance, [one] episode is about Erica’s decision. In order to protect her son, Tyler, she’s going to have to essentially break the law and cross a line that she’s sworn an oath to protect. How do we do that in the most interesting possible way? Once you have that moment, then you say, what’s the actual plot to tell that emotional story?
What I really want to do is get into all of these character’s heads and really find out some more backstory about them, but also create conflict. Yes, [many characters are] united to defeat the Visitors and get rid of the Visitors, but at the same time, I wanted to really [emphasize that] everyone has a similar agenda, yet different agendas.
What happens when, for instance, you pose the questions — do you protect your son? Or do you protect the Fifth Column? Do you protect your group? We're trying to put all of these characters into positions where they have to make difficult choices and sometimes make choices that don’t necessarily meet the agenda of the rest of the group. I think it complicates things, but I’m hoping in a very good way.
[Second], I want to know as much as I can about the Visitors. What do they look like underneath the human skin? Where did they come from? Why are they here? What are they after? How are they different, not just anatomically from human beings, but how are they mentally different? Are they spiritually different? Do they have emotions? Do they have thoughts? These were areas that I find really interesting and we dove into these in the next eight episodes.
Ryan: Oh, that's a good question for me — so there are eight more episodes, a total of 12 for the first season?
Rosenbaum: Yeah, there are 12.
Ryan: Excellent. I really feel that, as a sci-fi viewer, I always get really nervous when new projects come along. I think it’s such a compelling genre because it tells us who we are now, it can tell us about our own society and choices through these metaphors and parables. But sometimes there’s this effort to dumb it down or just make it about the guy with the bumpy head and weird tentacles. And those stories can be fun, but it has to be more than that — it can be so much more.
Rosenbaum: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t want to make everything black and white. To me this show – it’s not "War of the Worlds" [where] they come here and they zap us. I’m sure a lot of people are saying, "Well, if the Vs have the superior technology, why don’t they just immediately just take over?" And they are going to take over eventually — that’s the plan. But to me, the fun part about this show is watching how Anna and the Vs manipulate human foibles and human weaknesses to slowly come in and take us over.
First of all, they need us. I don’t want to explain exactly why they need us, but they need us and they need us alive; at least for the first part of the plan. And the idea though, and I use this analogy is, if you take a frog, drop a frog into boiling water, it will immediately hit the water and jump right out. If you take a frog and you put a frog in cool water, it’ll sit there, it’ll luxuriate, you turn on a heat to a boil, the temperature will rise, and what will happen is, the frog will actually acclimate to the increased temperature so it’ll just be sitting in the warmer water, the warmer water, the hotter water. And by the time it comes to a boil and the frog is actually cooked and it doesn’t even realize it.
And that is sort of my big plan for Anna. It's that she is slowly but surely putting nooses around our necks and tightening it and tightening it. And she’d doing it, hopefully — going back to what you were saying — in a way that will bounce back and it will reflect who we are as people. And part of the reason that Anna’s plan can be successful is because of human foibles, and human error, and human selfishness.
Ultimately, though, it’s a show that celebrates humanity. Because ultimately, despite the things we do that are sometimes bad and despite the fact that we sometimes feel emotions like greed and jealously, at the end of the day, I believe that we are kind-hearted, good people and that we sometimes get led astray. Even though our people will sometimes make mistakes, and even though we will be aggravated by some of the choices our characters make or the world makes, it’s really a celebration why humans [persist] – it is about human resistance. It's about how, even though we may not be as evolved in some ways, certainly [humans are not as technologically advanced] as the Vs, but I think we are more evolved. And I think that makes us sort of special.
I look at Anna in a way that I don’t think Anna is necessarily evil. Well …
Ryan: Yeah, that’s just what I was going to ask.
Rosenbaum: She doesn’t start out as evil. I think I have a really cool arc for her for multiple seasons, but I will say this, certainly in the first season, Anna is not evil. I look at her like this: She is an animal. And her instinct is very similar to the instinct of human beings. Her instinct is to protect her young and the perpetuity of her species.
Her plan, at least in Season 1, it’s about protecting her children. It’s not that she doesn’t like humans, it’s not that she’s evil — it’s just that we are standing in the way of what will allow her people to grow and continue to evolve and move forward.
I think that’s really scary because there’s something really cool about when you realize you’re not that [similar]. You’re not battling a human being who can have some complicated emotions — you’re dealing with something that has a singular goal in mind and will stop at nothing to achieve it.
And at the other end, you have Erica who I sort of look at as the mother – as the sort of, metaphorically "the mother of all humans." And she’s got one arm tied behind her back because she has a little thing called a conscience. How does she fight this battle against Anna, maintaining her humanity and morality when she is going against a foe that doesn’t have to go by the same rules?
And I think; how do all of our people deal with that? And for me, it’s interesting, the challenges that they have as they move forward. There’s a priest on the team. What does he do? How does he make these choices? Does he cross moral lines? Does Erica cross moral lines?
And so, what I’ve tried to do is really sort of give the show just a lot of depth, a lot of nuance, and not make it just a pure action vehicle — which it has a ton of — or a pure sci-fi vehicle. We want to do what all great sci-fi shows do, which is make us think and make us see ourselves and explore ourselves through the stories that we are telling.
Ryan: Yeah, that's what "Battlestar" and even "The Shield" did so well. So many times people faced a bad choice and a worse choice. It would be one complicated, difficult alternative versus another complicated, difficult and awful alternative. You know? It’s not a black-and-white situation.
Rosenbaum: Yeah, exactly.
Ryan: So does this give you a lot of potential because there are so many factions? You have Fifth Columnists, the people who are trying to betray the Vs, and humanity has collaborators who help the Vs, and then you have some Vs who have sort of changed sides. All those things seem like they could be really interesting, but is it difficult to balance all those stories and characters? Is it hard to service all those threads?
Rosenbaum: Well, I think that’s the challenge and that’s the fun of it. I mean, we have Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut and Joel Gretsch. We’ve got Scott Wolf, Morena [Baccarin] — these are stars. All of them are number one on the call sheet. We have such wonderful actors who are capable of doing amazing things. How do you balance all of those stories and make sure that everyone has a good strong emotional [story]– in every episode, [how do we give them] clear through lines of what they’re accomplishing during the season? And it is definitely a challenge with these ensemble shows.
What I want to do is, rather than keep these characters separated in their lives, I decided to immediately start intertwining them. I think "collision course" is the wrong term, although I would say some of them are [on that kind of path]. But one of the things that worked well on "The Shield" was that all of the characters — their lives were sort of intertwined at all times, even if it wasn’t about a case, it was a personal thing. So, in any single scene, you could have a character who’s wondering about what the A story case is, but at the same time they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, on a personal level, and then on a bigger mythological level. I think that worked and it helped us tell a lot of story because it became a story about people and their lives, rather than just pure plot.
And so what I tried to do is get all of these people together as quickly as I could. It doesn’t mean they are all on the same side, but their lives are certainly intertwined.
Ryan: I have to to say, in my opinion, the weakest plot in the first four episodes involved Erica’s son. I have nothing against the actors in that story line per se, it's just that so often on TV, it’s like, "The angry teen is rebellious and petulant." And that’s really all they get to do. And I’m just wondering if you can address that at all, or if you want to tell me I’m full of it because maybe you think that story is just fine.
Rosenbaum: Let me just say this — the Tyler character will be a different. He’s 17 going on 18 and to me, he should be acting more like a man rather than sort of a petulant child/teenager. What I have going on for him is — I’m hoping is he can actually have realistic adult conversations with his mother.
But also, he is a central part in what is ultimately interesting about the show. I sort of look at it as, it's these two mothers and they’re battling for their children. Erica’s trying to battle for Tyler, and Anna’s battling for Lisa. What’s interesting for me is the push/pull. You have Tyler as being pushed closer to the Vs and we’re going to start to see Lisa possibly being pushed closed to Erica and humans during the course of the arc of the season.
Hopefully you’ll see Tyler’s character feeling more grown up and having a greater responsibility in terms of what he means to the show. I think he handles it. And I will say this — some of his scenes are my favorite scenes in the new batch [of episodes]. There is a scene in the first episode back, which, to me anyway, it chokes you up. He’s really starting to shine and I think he’s going to really surprise you.
Ryan: You know, we saw in the first four episodes, some people are realizing the Vs are not all they’re cracked up to be. It's not just, "Hey neighbor, can we borrow a cup of minerals and we’ll be on our way." You said you like to burn through a lot of story, and I think as a viewer that can be really fun. But do you have to parcel it out because you can’t reveal everything quickly, especially if you get another season? Is there enough stuff in the story hopper? I was interviewing Morena earlier and she was saying she just could not believe the number of revelations that come in the next few episodes. I mean, do you have an endless number of them in your trick bag?
Rosenbaum: Believe me, this is something that I think is crucial. What I did when I first came on the show was, I knew coming in that [burning through story] was the plan. [I thought], I know what kind of show I want to do, and it’s going to be one of those shows where when you get to Act 5 and Act 6, and it's "Bang, bang, bang," "Wow," "I didn’t see that coming." And you’re just left with, "Oh my God. I’ve got to watch this next week."
I look like turning over cards. I knew that I couldn’t just have a 52-card deck because if you have a 52-card deck, you’re going to run out of cards really quickly. So I spent an enormous amount of time figuring out that larger mythology. Normally you just want to jump in and figure out where these next eight episodes are going to be and finish off Season 1 because you don’t have a lot of time. But I felt that I couldn’t take that approach. I had to make sure of what the show was going to be long-term. So I went to the well and I just came up with as much as I could for as many seasons as I could imagine, and then backtracked and figured out what Anna’s long-term plan would be and how she was going to accomplish it.
So, to answer your question, yeah, I think that we will answer an enormous number of questions by the end of this first season, and you will get real answers — there are no false things that you are learning. What’s interesting about Anna is that she has such an intricate plan.
It’s sort of like a chess match, you know, and to get to checkmate it takes hundreds of moves. Each move has a purpose and corners us and is not false, but [even as you might think,] "I know what the Vs are here for," what you’ll find out is, "Oh, I was right about that, but then there’s this other thing that they’re trying to do."
I always try to, as best I can, to write a show as if I’m the viewer watching it and remember what I like. And I think sometimes you can take the easy way out and parcel the information out super, super, super slowly, and some people do that because it’s easier and it ensures more seasons. I feel that my job is to tell the best story possible at the pace that I like and would want to watch. And then just keep coming up with more. And I think we will. I feel very good about it.
When I took on this show, I just said, "Hey guys, is this a mini-series, or is this a show? I want to do this, but I want to do six seasons of this." And they’re like, "Absolutely. This is a show that we plan to run for a very long time." For ABC, hopefully it can take the place of "Lost," although no show can really do that because that is such a monumental, amazing show. But the idea is that this will be a show that you tune into at 10 p.m. and hopefully you can watch it for the next five, six seasons.
Ryan: Well, if "V" succeeds, in a sense, it'll give me some hope. Because I think sometimes there’s a perception from the networks that "Oh, a genre show can’t make it." And you know what? A genre show done badly — no, that can’t make it. Sometimes the powers that be look at shows that were executed badly or decent ideas that fell apart in the execution and say, "Well, people don't like that kind of show. Those shows can't hold on to viewers." That’s just terrible reasoning. No, viewers don't like it when shows are lazy or badly made or condescending.
Rosenbaum: I couldn’t agree with you more. You know what the history of "The Shield" is — at FX, they said, "We don’t want a cop show. We want anything but a cop show." And of course, they were tired of [badly executed cop shows on various networks], but like you said, it’s about the execution of the idea.
Ryan: What sort of developments do you want to tease to get people amped up about the new season?
Rosenbaum: [See the end of this post for the first part of Rosenbaum's answer.] You’re going to start to learn a lot more. We’re going to understand a little more of what they are underneath, and how they’re different from us.
You know, the pregnancy stuff is going to be really fun. Val is pregnant. And the question is, what is this baby going to look like when it comes out? And there will be plenty of moments leading up to the birth that I think are going to be really fun for the audience, where they’ll get to see things that Val doesn’t even see, but they will really start to give you a picture of what’s going to happen. Eventually she’s going to go to a doctor, a V doctor, and she’s going to get an MRI taken and we’ll get to see that MRI at one point, early on. And you’re going to see the effects. And the pregnancy is an accelerated gestation period. So, she’s going to have a lot of questions to ask Ryan about the so-called child.
Ryan: And OK, I have to say this too about the show — so many shows out there, not just yours, I think, generally portray members of media as pretty bad people. Just amoral. And honestly, I’ve thought a lot about that. Every show has the episode where the journalist comes on and is betraying people and being sleazy and you know, even sleeping with their sources and stuff. But I guess, from a plot perspective, the suspense in any show usually comes from information and who has it and who doesn’t have it. And the journalist character will parachute in and stir the pot and mix things up, and because of that, some people get information that they wanted or aren't supposed to have, and that puts more plot elements in motion.
And so I get it, on one level, why journalist stories are like that, I mean, I guess that makes sense logically. And I like Scott Wolf a lot, but is the Chad Decker story going to be another case of a reporter doing things that are unethical or questionable at best?
Rosenbaum: Yeah. No, he will. I mean, first of all, the actor is amazing.
Ryan: Oh yeah, of course. Not casting aspersions on Scott, or even "V." I'm just sort of wondering if it'll go in a direction I feel like I've seen before.
Rosenbaum: Well, Scott's such a talent that you have to give him meaty, great stuff to do because he just eats it up and he’s great at it. I think we have a really sort of very, a really interesting arc for him this season. I don’t think his character is sleazy at all. He’s put in a very precarious situation. He’s dealing with the Vs and he suspects, possibly, that Anna could be up to something nefarious. But he doesn’t have any proof. So he has this journalistic responsibility to not break a story, or set off a panic, when he could be wrong because he really doesn’t have enough information.
What's interesting for me about him is, now he’s an on-air personality, but before he got there, he had to work his way up through the ranks and he was an investigative journalist. So I want to see him use those investigative journalism skills and start to dig into, who are the "V’s"? Why are they there?
He is going to start to discover things and then he is in danger when he learns stuff. He is smart enough to know that his discoveries could put humanity in danger if the news is not delivered in a careful way. And I think part of the fun of his character is him getting caught in this vortex of the V world and Anna and what he knows and how does he play both sides, if he needs to. Or does he just play one side?
I think he’s fun because he stands up to her and I think we have some really good episodes for him. Anna is a tough cookie and Anna’s manipulating everybody, but I think you’re going to see that Chad Decker definitely has many tricks up his sleeve and he’s a real smart guy.
Ryan: Yeah, I can see how it could be a very difficult balancing act. And as you say, people could panic and riot. It could be terrible if something gets out in a way that is irresponsible.
Rosenbaum: Yes. And there’s [an upside for him], he’s suddenly the belle of the ball, so to speak.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. He's the only one with access.
Rosenbaum: Yeah. How does he balance his own personal ambitions with his newfound power, or this newfound fame with his own morality? He’s going to have those tough moral choices that you talked about.
Ryan: Anna as a character, I think just the way she was written and the way Morena played her just really popped for me. There are a lot of amazing actors in the cast, I definitely think Elizabeth Mitchell is an amazing actor, but Anna was so compelling. Maybe it's partly a case of when a great actor gets a great, semi-villainous, mysterious role and it’s just a kind of a wonderful meeting of casting and talent and writing. Do you kind of view Anna as being a lynchpin of things going forward?
[My audio recording cut out at this point; from here, I'm reconstructing the interview from notes I typed up as Rosenbaum and I spoke.]
Rosenbaum: I definitely view the spine of the show as Erica and Anna, these strong, smart women who will do whatever they can to protect their loved ones. It is an ensemble piece, but it's also, really, a show about these two mothers protecting their children and how far they are willing to go to do that.
Ryan: And so eventually they'll have to meet.
Rosenbaum: Yeah. When they first meet, it will be very special and surprising. They do not meet under ordinary circumstances in the situation you might expect them to meet in. You won't see it coming.
And earlier in the season, even though they haven't met, the analogy would be, they're like boxers who are circling each other and haven't started throwing punches yet. They're aware of each other and trying to figure out what the other one is up to.
Ryan: I have a question from a reader of my site, I thought it was a good one. And we sort of have talked about elements of this, but I thought it was worth asking this:
"The original 'V' was powered by the dynamic of resistance against power, truth vs. agenda. I understand that the original was a miniseries, and this incarnation (hopefully) a long-running series, but that tension of wondering whether the visitors are benign to humanity is dissipated very quickly in the pilot. So my question is what will power this re-working of the story? If it is not David vs. Goliath, then what lays at its centre?"
Rosenbaum: There is a David and Goliath story here, no question. The Vs are bad guys and the humans are good guys. But what we tried to do to make the show interesting is, what if only a small number of people know or suspect the Vs are up to something bad? They can't tell anyone because they don't know who's a V and who's not. And if they were to tell everyone, there would be a panic. It's a war, and the humans can't win mano a mano. The trick to beating them is being smarter. We can't let them know what we know while they attempt to take us over. It's a case of the humans trying to undermine them. It's not just strong vs. weak, it's who's smarter, who's a better chess player. And this is a long-term match.
They're definitely more powerful but what's fun about the takeover is that they need to do it in a careful, meticulous way. [It's a case of,] "Beware of strangers bearing gifts." How can them healing us be a bad thing? Hopefully the answers we give the audience will end up being surprising.
Casting information and more information from Rosenbaum and from ABC's press site about upcoming episodes are ahead. Spoilers ahoy!
- Guest actors in the March 30 episode include Roark Critchlow as AD Paul Kendrick (Critchlow played Slim the piano player on "Battlestar Galactica"), Rekha Sharma as Agent Sarita Malik (Sharma was Tory on "BSG"), Mark Hildreth as Joshua, Charles Mesure as Kyle Hobbes, David Richmond-Peck as Georgie, Christopher Shyer as Marcus and Lexa Doig as Dr. Leah Pearlman. Sharma, Richmond-Peck and Hildreth will appear in additional Season 1 episodes.
- In the April 6 episode, we'll meet Erica's ex husband, Joe Evans (Nicholas Lea from "The X-Files"). He'll be in more than one episode.
- In the April 13 episode, we'll meet rebel leader John May (Michael Trucco from "Battlestar Galactica").
- When the show returns, we'll meet Kyle Hobbes (Charles Mesure), who will be a key part of Season 1. "He has an integral story going forward, and he's a really great, fun character," Rosenbaum said.
- Rosenbaum has talked to some of the cast members of the 1983 "V" series about appearing on the new show, and "you may see a couple of them" in upcoming episodes.
- Val is going to have her baby before the end of the season.
- Rosenbaum had this to say about the first episode back: "The people who watched the original 'V,' there were some really, at the time, groundbreaking, 'Oh my God' moments. I think the first big one was when Jane Badler ate the gerbil or the hamster. One of the things I wanted to do is sort of pay homage to those moments. In the first episode back, we’re going to pay homage to all that stuff, but I’m also hoping that we’ll trump it, and it’s the 2010 version of it."