We are wrapping up our coverage of the activities and events that we attended while in LA for #TheLastJediEvent. Last week we shared all about our top secret visit to the set of Roseanne, and how we were able to interview some of the cast. Be sure to check that out and also all the rest of our fab interviews and show reviews here.
The last show we got to sneak a preview of was THE CROSSING. The new ABC show premieres Monday, April 2 at 10|9c. It stars Steve Zahn as well as a lot of other great talent. It grabs you right from the start and you will be pulled in waiting, anticipating and then thrown for a loop. After we watched the series premiere, we were able to sit down with Executive Producers & Showrunners Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie and chat with them about the show.
The interview with Jay and Dan was really great and we learned a lot about the background of the show and what we can expect. I really hope this show gets renewed because I am facinated with the storyline and would love to follow along!
How did you come up with the concept for the show?
Dan told us “It started with a photograph. It was one of the many photos that were kind of besieged by every day in the press of refugees. It was very specifically a photo of a dad who had come from Syria to Greece and had crossed the Mediterranean in a raft and barely made it by the looks of him. The photo one Pulitzer actually last year. And so, you guys would probably recognize it. It’s a father holding his little boy and just the look on the guys face, as a father, killed me. And that was kind of the spark initially. That’s when I emailed Jay and said, refugees. We don’t normally write kind of straight ahead, ripped-from-the-headlines dramas. We usually like to put a little spin on it. So, we figured out a way to put a spin on the refugee story and that was this.”
Did you get any inspiration for the show from LOST?
Dan explained “I think in a greater sense, we’re both genre fans. Fans of sci-fi. Another big inspiration for this idea was Ray Bradbury. There are a couple of stories he wrote about time travel, that kind of factored into the idea little bit. So, our influences kind of run the gamut.” Jay added “But being that this was the network of LOST, you know, comparisons are going to be made and, you know, we don’t shy away from that. We’re both huge fans of Leftovers, too. Big cameras, big scope, a lot of characters to explore and just that central mystery, you know.”
As far as the story arc goes, are we going to be getting answers in every episode?
Dan told us “I think the way we structured it, it’s the perfect balance of getting something answered and getting another question asked, pretty much every episode. Obviously, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of questions. So, we resisted the impulse to kind of answer too much too early. But at the same time, we’ve watched shows where you don’t get anything answered and then at the end of the season you’re like oh, I was entertained but I feel like I’ve been cheated. So, we don’t want that. So, we’ll be giving people enough I think, more than enough.”
Where did you film it?
“In Vancouver. A lot of shows shoot in Vancouver. I can tell you from having just been up there. You cannot, you know, turn around without bumping into someone from another show. It was nice with this show to be able to get different looks. Like, initially, we were told we were shooting in Vancouver and there like but Vancouver’s shot out. Like, you can’t watch TV without seeing a Vancouver location that you’ve seen a million times before. But I think we found some new ones, which is nice.” Dan explained.
You said the concept came from a photo. How did the rest of the come about?
Dan told us “Another influence was Ray Bradbury who’s written a couple of really interesting time travel stories, which impressed themselves on me at a very young age and always stuck with me. And it was, you know, initially, when you say time travel when you’re trying to brainstorm ideas for TV shows, there can be a little bit of a gag reflex because, you know, it’s an incredibly challenging subgenre of storytelling because it can get very confusing and you can go down enormous rabbit holes when you’re trying to discuss the mechanics of time travel and paradoxes.
But then we talked about a way to do it very simply and I think it’s kind of the way that what you see in the pilot is an initial jumping off point for the time travel. And we kind of made a pact early on in the writer’s room, let’s not go down any time travel rabbit holes. Let’s not get into paradoxes. Let’s not get into parallel existences. Let’s not get into things that are going to distract from the stories we’re trying to tell. So, we warmed to the time travel idea early. And also, of course, the notion of what will our world be like in 180 years? Will it, you know, potentially be a place that people will go to these lengths to escape from, we thought was compelling.”
Jay added “And in terms of the refugees, the discussion began with how do we tap into what’s happening in the world but not make it ripped from the headlines? How do we get some distance from it? Which is why we dipped into kind of this sci-fi genre because it gives you that distance from something that’s happening, you know, now, to talk about and explore in ways another sort of socially relevant issues that are coming out. And we decided to make these refugees from America to avoid comparisons to refugees coming from different countries and different religions and stuff like that and really focus on the people and the experience that they’re going to have here as refugees versus any sort of sociopolitical baggage that might come along with it.”
Have you pulled anything from your personal lives and put it into the story?
Jay explained “We’re both dads. You’ve got father-son stories and a couple of different mom and daughter stories that are afloat. So, a lot of that is informed by being a parent and the notion of being separated from your child, the notion of having your child taken from you, the notion of not knowing what happened to your child.”
Dan added “Certainly, having a family fractured by separation, divorce, you know, the desire to repair that like Jude has with his son. And what we explore I think in the show is Jude sort of inability to repair his relationship with his son is transferred onto his ability to help this woman find her daughter as sort of a surrogate for him.”
Tell us about the actors…
Jay said “Steve Zahn is terrific and I wish we could take credit for him. It was the first name she mentioned to us when we talked about Jude and we instantly responded to it.” Dan added “It was super heartening because it’s not the typical choice, which was nice. We didn’t want this to be the typical show. So, to lead with that kind of choice for your cop character, we thought was great. It wasn’t a down the middle, lantern-jawed traditional leading man sort of guy. He definitely has different nuances to him which were great, definitely brings that to the role.
As far as the other actors, Natalie Martinez is someone we worked with before on another show we did, whose great. I had also seen her on a show called Kingdom where she plays an MMA fighter and she’s terrifying. So, we knew she could handle the physical rigors. And we weren’t honestly at first sure like if she was going to be able to handle the maternal rigors, but then she came on set and she did amazing. The connection she has with the girl who plays Leah Bailey, in between takes they’re best buds. It’s crazy. She wasn’t someone I thought had like that in her. But it’s there. I think it comes out in the show, which is nice.
And Sandrine Holt. I’ve been a fan of Sandrine Holt since she was a kid acting and Black Robe and we watched her work recently on Mr. Robot and House of Cards. She just reads this really smart, lends a certain gravity to the role of Emma Ren, who’s playing the homeland security officer. She popped up early. We call her and had a conversation with her instantly about it and she was the front-runner from the beginning and got the role in the end.”
Dan added “The rest of the cast was the auditioning process, which is great. It’s great and efficient to be able to right off the bat cast someone like Steve Zahn and get that out of the way. But it’s also a lot of fun to be able to discover these people in auditioning. It’s difficult having such a big ensemble sometimes writing for it and producing all of that. When you go up there and you walk amongst them on the set and you’re like wow, what a great family this is.
We pulled from all different places. It’s a really cool feeling. And I think they feel real like I think they feel like real people, which was another kind of stipulation for us. We didn’t want it to seem like a bunch of television actors, which is always nice.”
What type of research did you do for the show?
Dan told us “All kinds. Especially on the scientific end of things. Going forward, you’ll see a lot of that crystallizes. We had a synthetic biologist as a consultant who read all our scripts and who we talked to. His name is Andrew Hessel who’s at this very moment probably curing cancer and I’m not kidding. That’s one of his pet projects. We talked to futurists about what the world might look like in 180 years which was fascinating.
We talked to a climatologist from NASA about what the weather might be like in 180 years. It was great because normally we’ve written on police procedurals. We’ve written on medical shows and that’s fine but talking to a futurist, to me, much more fertile, much more interesting at this point in my life than talking to a cop about another homicide. It was a lot of fun for us and the other writers to be able to get into that.”
What brought in the idea of the superhuman?
Jay told us “That’s just the way it’s going. You see it all over the Internet and everything. You read about how we’re trying to make ourselves better you know, down to the cellular level. And when CRISPR technology came out, the CRISPER/cas9 technology, you know, it seemed like that genetic editing was right around the corner. And when we first started talking about where’s our future in the show, is it 1000 years out, is it 500 years out? The more we talked to these experts, the more that number began to shrink because they seemed to think these things are right around the corner.
And whether, you know, socially we adopted this stuff quickly and it’s able to go through is another question. But the technology seems to be there. So, it just seemed that was the natural thing. It’s that and we talk about AI a lot. That was something we kind of wanted to avoid at least, you know, for the pilot, you know. The future was about people who took the opportunity to make themselves better. There were haves and have-nots. Some could make themselves better. Some couldn’t and that became the bifurcation in a society where it quickly became this dystopian future. It was almost like Homo sapiens and Neanderthals where they were like well, we’ve evolved past you so now you got to go.”
Dan added “It’s just interesting because you already see a big split in people who are warning of the dangers of genetic engineering versus people who are embracing it with open arms saying it’s what we need to do. And you can see that split becoming more profound.”
Was there anything else as far as when you spoke to the futurists that you weren’t expecting?
Jay told us “There are two I can point to. One is there were several ideas that they were able to quickly validate as these things are coming quickly. That was one of the unexpected things. The other was is how optimistic they are about the future. And this was in a political climate which was rather charged if you remember this last year. And talking to all of them, they are all very optimistic about how technology can solve the problems of the future and the here and now. And how it’s not politics that, you know, create change. It’s technology and the adoption of technology. So, that was heartening to hear. Every time we were on the phone with one of them we’d hang up, you know, duly impressed but also a little bit heartened by what they had to say in their point of view.”
Dan added “They want a game changer in terms of the storytelling but just little fascinating curls that we would try to drop in like in the pilot, like the notion that there won’t be real meat in the future, which is essentially right around the corner. Like, they are already creating meat in labs. I think the way that this futurist, Pablos Holman, who you can find great Ted talks from this guy. We were on the phone with him and he said I believe that in my daughter’s lifetime, she will come to look back on the fact that we actually used animals for meat as totally, she will look upon it with incredulity. Like, she will think it’s the most absurd thing she’s ever heard. And it will just seem like a total non-starter in the future. And to me, I was like wow, I never even thought of that. But apparently, according to him, it’ll be commonplace.
Can you talk about your backgrounds and what led you here to this show?
Dan told us “We actually started our careers at ABC about 15 years ago. On Dragnet. So, our career background starts there. In terms of personal backgrounds, I was a kid in San Diego who wanted to make movies. We’d run around with my parents VHS, incredibly clunky two-piece VHS, the kind you had to hold with one hand and shoot with the other. And I really wanted to do that and I came to UCLA and went to film school. Toiled away as an assistant for several years to a director and then eventually hooked up with Jay and we started writing.”
Jay added “I’m from Northern California, which basically it’s Silicon Valley but it wasn’t when I grew up there. And I came down to Pepperdine for school first majoring in business than had sort of a meltdown and realized I wanted to make movies. But Pepperdine has no film school so I sort of had to teach myself. They do have a film school now but they didn’t when I was there. I worked for my first gig I got really lucky. I got an internship on Pulp Fiction. And was just cutting class right and left to go work on this show as an intern. And then started working for a director in television and that’s when Dan and I met just started writing behind the scenes for years until we decided to make a go of it. I think we were both unemployed for about 25 weeks at the same time just saying, we’re going to stop and write and try to make it in. And thankfully, we did.”
What was your biggest challenge in the execution of the show?
Dan told us “I think the biggest challenge in the pilot I would say was the weather. The weather is what makes the pilot look so cool, that kind of gray Northwest gloom I think lends it an atmosphere that is perfect for what we wanted.”
Jay added “I think it’s trying to re-create the scope of the pilot, you know. You work on different budgets when you go into series and, you know, the challenge was, how do we maintain the mystery and scope and epic feeling of the show that you saw in the pilot. As you transition into diving deeper into the characters. And that starts to take place on that scope. But keeping that balance I think, you know, reminding people of the scope of the pilot each week but diving into the characters that ultimately who you come to care about. These people on the show and these refugees. That was a challenge. But I do think we pulled it off. I’m very proud of the show. I’m really excited to see it launch.”
If you miss the show or want to see it again, you can get caught up or rewatch past episodes either streaming or on the app after they air on ABC. This is a great way to watch your favorite shows if you have kids (like me) that don’t want to go to bed when they are supposed to and you don’t have a way to record or pause it! Join us tonight as we watch the show and follow the hashtag #TheCrossing – and use it to tweet along with the @TheCrossingABC!
Watch the ‘THE CROSSING’ Series premiere Monday, April 2 at 10|9c
Learn more and stay up to date with the show on :
FACEBOOK | https://www.facebook.com/TheCrossingABC
TWITTER | https://twitter.com/TheCrossingABC (#TheCrossing)
INSTAGRAM | https://www.instagram.com/thecrossingabc
WEBSITE | http://abc.go.com/shows/the-crossing