Wow, this joint is dusty. Damn Twitter, with its instant gratification.
For those of you just joining us, this post-game was a Leverage tradition which held up pretty well until air dates and production started overlapping, thereby consuming my spare time. I am sure there will be a fair number of Grifters standing in the corner, glaring at me. Don't worry, kids, if I'm in here re-arranging the chairs, I'll get to the old business.
So, here's where we usually do a brief bit about how each episode came together, then in the NEXT post answer any questions you may have. If you'd like to see how that usually goes, just click that "leverage" tag over on the right hand side, and those posts will come up. A few caveats for the new folks:
1.) I tend to swear. Be aware.
2.) Argue to your hearts' content, but please be respectful of each other. I've never had to ban anyone, and I expect that same level of restraint with the new show. This is my house, not yours, and I do not consider asking anyone to leave my house "censorship." Basically, don't be a fuckwit.
3.) It doesn't have to be a question. Your comment below does not need to be a question, it can just be a comment or a shout-out about something you want to discuss with other fans. That would be cool.
4.) Us writers, you fan. I love your input, your questions, your theories, even your disdain when it's amusing. But end of day, my scrappy writers and I are the ones who have to fill 50 pages of empty paper every week which are simultaneously amusing and shootable on a brutally tight budget and schedule and makes three levels of executives happy. Basically, know that I dig that you watch the show, we should be pals, but that particular line is not crossed. Our choices are our choices and we earned the right to make them, even if you don't like them.
Okay, now to the show.
How did this happen?
You can find plenty of videos on YouTube of me discussing this, thanks to some podcasts and bloggers, but here's the short version.
I'd done a rewrite on the 1st and 3rd LIBRARIAN movies, but really wasn't that involved, back in the day. I mean I enjoyed them, but they were very much Dean Devlin, Noah Wyle and Michael Wright (the former head of TNT)'s baby. They were like THREE MEN AND A BABY, but the baby was an adorable family-oriented action-adventure movie franchise. For years, they attempted to navigate a weird bit of contract thorniness involved in transforming TV movies into a series. Finally, last summer, they called me. "We have the rights! Now lets make a show!"
The trick, of course, was navigating Noah's schedule. Falling Skies was still going strong, and there are a considerable number of legal whizzbangs in place preventing actors from being the lead on two shows simultaneously. So we knew we need alternate leads. "Leads" plural. We didn't want there to be another "Librarian". We weren't replacing Noah; hell, he was looking at busting his ass to shoot as many episodes as he could.
Oh, and we couldn't have Bob in every episode, nor Jane. This was getting interesting. (NOTE the 1st: This is always tough for fans. Roles are attached to specific actors, and sometimes we just can't have them due to scheduling or contracts. One of the reasons I like animation ...)
(NOTE the 2nd: You can always get Mark Sheppard. Not because he's easy, but because I seriously believe there's three of him.)
We certainly as hell weren't going to do a cold reboot. Those movies had FANS (as we've seen from the premiere numbers, a surprising number), so the challenge was to honor them as much as possible, make the tie-in as tight as possible, but still have a base upon which to build with new actors.
At some point, rewatching them, we said "Hey, what if we did more than reference them? What if we actually made this in continuity?" That solved a big problem for us -- Flynn Carsen after a decade of doing this would be pretty good at it, or dead. So let's make the fact he's good at it a plot point. It came at a price. Solitude and sanity, to protect the rest of us.
But if he's around, even intermittently, how do we balance the rest of the team? He's a polymath, what do the rest of them ... do?
Nicely enough, Lester Dent solved this problem for us in the 1930's. Lester Dent wrote Doc Savage, among a million other things, and very much built the pulp base upon which the rest of us toil. Doc was a polymath superman, but his friends were specialists who would solve the only nearly-impossible problems in a story while he wrestled Incan cultists (yay!) or lobotomized prisoners to cure them of their "criminal tendencies" (er, boo. yikes).
So we split Flynn Carsen up into his disparate expertise ... ises. - isi? Anyway, we assigned art and history to one, sciences to another, and tech/tomb robbing to a third. Three neophytes seemd like three identical beats, so again we went back to the movies. Hey, who ARE all those people on the stairs in the first movie ... ?
Okay, they were geniuses, and could've been Librarians, but weren't. What the hell did they do with their lives? That's when the themes of the show began to emerge. About loneliness, and choice, and how everybody has gifts, but not everybody choose -- or is allowed to -- use them. There's a complicated bit of business about characters are lenses, and so you should build them in diametrically opposed pairs in order to best showcase your themes, but that can wait for the very boring and specialized book I'll write some day.
All of this was done on an insanely tight schedule. Most shows have three or four months to get up and running. To beat Noah's deadline for returning to Falling Skies, we had five weeks from greenlight to camera roll, with nothing but the first script written. We shot out of order, on location, so the production team could buy enough time for the paint to dry on the sets. Writers were hired four weeks out, some of the actors weren't locked until the week of shoot. This was interesting, as it meant the writers were well into episode four writing dialogue for characters that we had no idea how they talked.
As for the actors you haven't met in the movies:
Rebecca was on a short list of potential leads. One of the signatures of The Librarian movies is the action heroine partner. Not kidnapped, nor rescued, nor vixenish -- she can and should always be able to kick Flynn's ass. Rebecca had just done King & Maxwell with Leverage co-creator Chris Downey, and he couldn't be more effusive with his praise. RR can land a joke, too; in person she's relentlessly dry and funny. You'll see us tweak Baird's delivery style closer to her own sense of humor over the course of the season.
Kane, well we knew we wanted to go against type for the art historian. Even the rough ideas we had were close to Kane as a person, and when he turned out to be available it wasn't a hard choice. Kane's tragedy -- and I tell him this all the time -- is that he's a bit too good-looking to have to rely on his comic timing. Which is magnificent. Ironically, although the character background is close to his personal background, the role itself is a chance to show off some of his other chops as an actor.
Lindy is one of those actors that everybody in Hollywood knows is good. Kind of the "player to be named later". The role of Cassandra was a straight audition -- the character wasn't even "Cassandra" at first, because we auditioned all ethnicities and we wanted to keep the concept loose, until we found the right person. She just frankly out-muscled the other actors. The audition pieces were the hospital meltdown and the henge mathematics/meltdown. Those pages ate a LOT of other actors alive, but she blew through them like a champ, and hit all the emotional beats. So straight-up audition there.
John Kim was submitted on tape from Australia. We screened the tape, all agreed "Much like Ezekiel's super-power is that he's charming, this kid is charming." It was also his first series shoot, and the other actors teased him mercilessly. With love. Usually. And yes, that is his real accent.
John Larroquette is John goddam Larroquette. We were very lucky he was available. He brought so much style and tone and unexpected pathos -- seriously, he constantly surprised us -- that we eventually started writing the role much bigger than we intended. Jenkins winds up with a nice little season arc.
Some cool behind the scenes production facts, and then I'll open the floor to questions. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The opening sequence
A rather large number of the soldiers around Baird in the opening sequence are, thanks to some friends of production, actual SEAL team and Delta Force members, past and present. They have ... been places. The large fellow to Baird's side at the door is Delta. This amuses me to no end, as I imagine some terrorist watching the show in a bar in Karachi and saying "Hey, wait a minute..."
Oh, and she's carrying a Glock 17, so Baird does indeed have enough in the magazine for that shootout. Not only did we count, Rebecca called us on it to make sure.
The missing magic artifact lost in an abandoned Nazi store-room very much establishes the tone of the show -- our show posits that there's a secret (INSANELY COOL) history of magic, and its remnants are scattered all over the place. Very fine writer Ken Hite (@kennethhite) recently wrote a book called The Nazi Occult which is a fascinating piece of work. It's meant to be a sourcebook for role-playing gamers and others, so it blends real Nazi occult history and practices with fiction, as if everything that could've happened, did happen. Basically, everything in the book which seems too insane to be believed is true, and the boring stuff's the bits he filled in. I can't recommend it highly enough.
The sequence was originally set in a church until we found that location, which was also much closer to other locations we needed. So the bit was rewritten. Hey, you want your precious words perfect, go write a novel.
Charlene and Jenkins
Charlene was originally in both parts of the launch, but her other show unfortunately meant we couldn't make he shooting schedule work. She eventually came in and shot all her scenes in a single day at the END of the season. I think that she winds up with a very nice hero moment instead. I do miss the original script beat where she's the one who saves Flynn and you discover she was Judson's Guardian, but we'll figure some other way to bring her back ...
Meeting Ezekiel Jones
is in the theater in Portland which served as the Parliament House in San Lorenzo in Leverage. That is indeed the Dagger of Aqua'ba. (whether I mean it is the same prop or the same object ... as I used to say in the Leverage post-games all the time, you choose whichever makes you happier)
The Prosciutto Cutting Torch
Works, more or less.
Of course we know Excalibur wasn't the sword in the stone in Malory's version of the story. Note how I said "in Malory's version of the story" because it was, in fact, a made up thing. In the Librarian-verse, it's the Sword in the Stone. Which is fine, because in that case it is still a made-up thing. As a long-standing nerd, this particular style of pedantry always drives me mad. It is not one of our better traits.
'Cal was established in the movies as the Sword in the Stone, he's certainly the closest thing Flynn has to a recurring friend. It was Michael Wright who suggested setting these two in a more classic European treasure hunt, and that led us pretty nicely to Arthurian myth. I knew I wanted to use ley lines as the gimmick with which to return magic to the world, and "ley line" screams "earth, rock, stone" etc. You can see where this is all intersecting. His sacrifice was meant more as closure on the past series than as a sacrifice, but we knew something more was going on here when crew members began to cry as I pitched the scene out for the visual effects guy, without even seeing it.
I do suppose we could have been truer to Malory's version (note I do not say "more accurate" as Malory's version was, again, a made up thing) but given the choice between taking a page of dialogue to explain that Excalibur is not the sword in the stone and instead spending that time making you cry over the the "death" of a meter of metal, I will spend my time more wisely. Did you feel something? Good, right choice. I don't feel beholden to the a plagiarizing rapist under house arrest. Let him write his own damn show.
The Tower of London Stone Heist
is all one shot, if you go back and watch, including John Kim disappearing act as two extras cross. Razor bit of timing, there.
The Levitating Stone
is just the old wire dog-collar trick, with Noah selling the shit out of it. How professional is he? He spent time experimenting with different vibrational frequencies, finding the resonance of the wire so the STRING part would flutter and bounce while the Stone stayed relatively motionless, and therefore in focus for the camera even as they ran down the street. I mean, damn.
Stone's run on John Turner
If you stumble across my writing, you notice I reference Turner quite a bit. He's my favorite artist, so I can write character discussions about him without slowing down to do research.
Right, this always goes better when I'm answering your questions, so have at it. I'll try to answer as many as possible by Sunday, and put up a question post for "and the Horns of a Dilemma" at the same time.
For 10 episodes or 100, it's great to have you along for the ride.
Try not to die.