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Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Being Human

This is an interview that took place on January 3, 2012 with Anna Fricke & Jeremy Carver from Being Human.

Question:
So last season many of the plots were similar to the U.K. show. Can we expect that the U.S. show will branch off on its own this season?

Anna Fricke:
Yes, we made a decision this year to do completely original story lines.

Jeremy Carver:
That said, I think given that the show obviously has its roots in the British version there's always going to be an inevitable crossover just by virtue of swimming in the same pond. But there was a great effort to make the series as original as possible this year given that its roots are still in the BBC version.

Question:
With Toby Whithouse doing both shows do you find that it's easier or harder to do since he's involved in writing both the U.S. and U.K. version?

Jeremy Carver:
I want to speak carefully, but I think there's a bit of a misconception, Toby Whithouse is not involved in writing the U.S. version. He does have a credit on the show. The show is based on the show that he created. So Season 1 borrowed liberally from the story lines that Toby created and wrote, but no he's not an active writer on the U.S. show.

Question:
Can you talk about kind of how the season goes through changes?

Jeremy Carver:
The underlying theme of the season is each of our characters is being tempted by something that is leading them down a darker path. And I think that one of the things that we're playing with is that in trying to become more and more human they are in actuality being forced to confront their monstrosities more than ever.

I think whereas last year you maybe had a few of the characters going down darker paths and being able to rely on the other characters, this year each of our three main characters is being so enmeshed in sort of a darker path that there's a little bit less of a safety net this year in each other, in that basically what do you do when you're falling, falling, falling, and your support system isn't necessarily there for you when you need them.

Question:
Can you talk about the relationships we're going to see this year because I know there's a lot of different stuff coming up with that?

Jeremy Carver:
Yes. Aidan is basically confronted with the fallout from the death of Bishop, who he killed at the end of last year. And we are introduced to another aspect of the vampire hierarchy in current day America, which involves sort of this overall leader known as Mother. And Mother basically is going to sort of essentially trade Aidan his freedom if he agrees to train her disgraced vampire daughter to be the leader of Boston. So that opens up a whole can of worms in terms of Aidan having to deal with this pretty unpredictable daughter who he has known frankly, for about close to 100 years.

Along with that we're going to be introduced to Aidan's vampire protege, who is basically the last vampire Aidan ever turned, and that was back in the early 20th Century. He makes a return to Aidan's life. So that's the character of Henry, it's played by Kyle Schmid, while the character the vampire daughter is played by Dichen Lachman from Dollhouse. And both of these people will greatly, greatly complicate Aidan's life and will play a major part in sort of leading him down this dark hole that he may end up going down this season. We can also expect in Aidan to see the return in a way that we don't want to spoil, but we can expect to see our character of Bishop returning in a certain way this season as well.

For Josh, Josh of course is dealing with the fallout or at least is totally unaware that at the end last season, that he scratched Nora when he turned into a werewolf, and so as we come into the new season we find Josh and Nora both anxiously awaiting the rapidly approaching full moon, neither knowing what's going to happen. The results of which have sort of an explosive effect on their relationship, plus we'll see some more people from Josh's past reenter the picture in a surprising way.

For Sally we've got a ghost who considerably missed her door last season, she chose not to take that door or at least she chose to save Aidan instead, and she deals heavily with that fallout. And she will be introduced to basically lots of new ghost characters this year who will be sort of tempting her with new, sort of spectral temptation that will also, excuse me, lead her down a much darker path. So Sally as well will have a certain number of folks from her past in unexpected ways. So everyone is dealing with not just new and twisty monster sort of things that come from a natural extension of being the type of monster they are, but also dealing with people that they dealt with in a "previous life before they were monsters," except Aidan. Aidan with is with mostly people he's dealt with as vampire.

Question:
I'm hoping that you're going to be writing a lot of the episodes for Season 2, I loved your episodes in Season 1. Will you be doing most of it, some of it, and do you have new writers or the same writers?

Anna Fricke:
We're very lucky to have the same the writers as we had last year, Chris Dingess and Nancy Won. We also have new writers this year in addition to them. We have four new writers this year. So we're extremely lucky, it's a great group of people and Jeremy and I wrote three of the episodes.

Jeremy Carver:
We're very, very lucky to that we have an extremely, extremely talented core of people we brought on new folks this year to help us beef up for Season 2 and we couldn't be happier. We have genre freaks, character freaks, we just have an extraordinary group of people who have really taken to the show. So we're just incredibly excited about what you're all going to be seeing.

Question:
Can you talk about any of guest stars you're going to have besides Kyle Schmid and Dichen Lachman?

Anna Fricke:
Those are the big ones, those are our big guest stars.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, those are sort of the big guest stars that we're sort of announcing right now. We can also expect to see a return from of course, the great Mark Pellegrino in the character of Bishop in some form this year.

Question:
Can you talk about what has been the most challenging story line to create so far?

Anna Fricke:
I'm glad that we did it because I think it's a necessary aspect of Aidan's background to tell, but it's been a little tricky to figure out the realm of vampire politics. Because vampires are obviously by nature so old, and things go so far back, we just wanted to make sure that we got things right, and I think we did. But that was it was a lot to take on and it was an exciting challenge, but you know, when you're talking about people who are thousands of years old it gets a little complicated. So that was a challenge for us this year I would say.

Jeremy Carver:
I agree.

Question:
Has there been a story line that you have wanted to tackle, but for some reason or other, have not been able to yet?

Jeremy Carver:
Yes. There is an existing Aidan story line actually.

Anna Fricke:
actually we have a whole board.

Jeremy Carver:
That we're staring at on our wall.

Anna Fricke:
We have a board sitting in our offices.

Anna Fricke:
we really keep on wanting to get back into what exactly happened with Aidan's family, with his wife.

Jeremy Carver:
The original, back in Revolutionary times.

Anna Fricke:
Yes, his original life and child. So we won't say what we're thinking about for that, but that is a story that we actually wanted to get into, we have not time for this year.

Jeremy Carver:
I mean it's a story that we all know, we all love, and can't wait to spring should we be lucky enough to have a future season.

Question:
With the vampire politics kind of overtaking that story line, will there be some similar organization or coming together of ghosts and/or werewolves?

Anna Fricke:
Yes, I mean I think it's safe to say that this season we sort of see a new form of every monster. So we have the new sort of form of vampires and we will also see different kinds of ghosts and a sort of different ghost society that we had touched into before, and also a different kind of werewolf. And so while it may have that same mob structure with the vampires, I think yes, we do see a sort of greater world and hierarchy in the ghosts and in the werewolves.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, I'll go in further to say for example, in the werewolf world, I think last year, we had Josh introduced to just one other wolf. And the professor. And this year we are basically starting to expand frankly the types of werewolves that we're seeing, and there will be a particular type that Josh comes across that will greatly alter his world. And we'll be seeing that there is basically more than one kind of species of werewolf in our world, and we're really excited about that.

Likewise with Sally, she's not just making friends with ghosts, as a result of turning down her door, we're also going to be introduced to a different, I'll call it, species of ghost, that she may have unwittingly caused to come into her world by virtue of essentially screwing with the heavens as it were and passing up her door.

So we're going to see just like Anna was saying, it's necessary hierarchy, as it is introducing different sub-species of monster as it were. It's tremendously fun, it's really scary and it is, like I said, we couldn't be more excited about how we have expanded the reach sort of like world monster goes vampire this season. It's pretty ambitious what we set out to do and we're really excited to share it with everybody.

Question:
Sally kind of finds out a new power that ghosts have in the first couple of episodes, is that something that is going to come back up and that she'll be using throughout the season? Or has that been pretty much resolved in the first few episodes?

Anna Fricke:
Yes. Her new knowledge is something that she will continue to struggle with and come up against.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, you've got, I mean we talk about this power. We're talking about things a little bit clinically here in terms of different species of this and different species of that, but at its heart we're always going back to our characters. And our character Sally has been desperate to move on from her existence as a ghost, right? That's basically what all of last season was, "How do I move on from this place?" And with her door not an option anymore, at least as she thinks here, and in terms of like, the door is not presented to her in possible way now, how does she go about escaping what is essentially the eternal loneliness of being a ghost?

So when she's presented with new ways of, "being human," she leaps at it and she does so knowing that it could lead her down a darker path. And just because it leads her down a darker path doesn't necessarily mean that she's going to stop doing it, which of course is the underlying theme of the season is, temptation. And that's what we're seeing all three of our characters with is, how far is far enough?

Question:
Could you tell us about what were some of maybe the biggest writing and/or production challenges you guys found with the Season 2 opener, and sort of carrying on the story from last season into this year.

Anna Fricke:
Part of it was timeline because I think ending Season 1 was,"Hugh wants to see you." We sort of married ourselves to having to pick things up pretty quickly, and having to explain who the heck she was so I mean I think that timeline wise, and always with the story lines sort of working around the full moon for Josh's change and things like that, I would say, like, figuring out that timeline in the beginning in terms of what was happening with Aidan after Bishop's death, what was happening in Boston, what was happening with Josh? And we couldn't go past the full moon turning basically, because you've got Josh, you've got Nora's been scratched and we don't know what's happening there.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, and I think even in more general sense you always hope that Season 1 is going to attract more people to Season 2. So while we're a pretty serialized show and we want to give the returning fans what they're looking for, just throw the red meat and let's get it going, there's a certain element of, "Wow we have to make sure we're bringing all the new viewers and keep making them feel welcome as well."

Anna Fricke:
We want to set up all the new characters and the new things that we're excited about.

Jeremy Carver:
Exactly, there was a lot of set up of new things for seasoned viewers, but while still wanting to grab the new viewers by the ankles and make sure they weren't left behind. So I think those of us have been writing for shows, I think you're seeing openers are always some of the trickiest because there is so much almost Calculus that has to be done. As much mathematical equation, that's like I was just talking about, as there is heart and emotion and all that stuff. So I think unto itself, a season opener is just tricky business.

Question:
Could you talk about casting new characters. Do you guys have them specifically in mind or did you have to do a lot of casting for both their characters?

Anna Fricke:
We had to look for Suren who Dichen plays. We went through some searching for that. Kyle was actually someone we had read before and he was not available for various reasons last season. So we were sort of throwing out names for that character and then, "You know who it would be great to see again, Kyle Schmid," and he turned out to be perfect for the role.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes Dichen, we were both great fans of Dichen. So when it was a really happy moment when her name came across our desk, because she just seemed perfect for the part.

Question:
Is there some more romance? I liked the romance between Josh and Aidan, is there some of that to look forward to this season as well?

Anna Fricke:
Yes, absolutely. I mean that's also our favorite kind of story to tell. And we always try to make a point of having those roommate moments with all three of them, and also the romance which we love writing as well. I think Aidan and Josh definitely have a lot of great conflict this season, they get pretty enmeshed in each other's lives due to decisions they've both made and yes, definitely there's more of that to look forward to.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, the notion of these three as roommates and having to deal with each other through the good, the bad, the funny, the not funny, I mean maybe we take that for granted. But we're with you, that's the DNA of the show, that's why the show essentially works. I mean nothing is more alive than the three of these on the screen together, or some combination of.

So that is always there, it just I think, to go along with your point about the character, because it's not Scooby Do and they're not all sort of investigating crimes together and they're not riding in a van together, they each need to have very full and vibrant story lines of their own. So that's what we were just trying to say that, we don't think anyone gets the short script this year in terms of their individual worlds, while of course we always, I mean the three of them together in that house it's our North Star.

Anna Fricke:
True North.

Jeremy Carver:
True North, thank you. True North, that's it. But we'll always land back with them because that is the beating heart of the show right there.

Question:
There's the brooding bad boy and the neurotic Jewish boy that's above station. Will you integrate more into it this season?

Jeremy Carver:
Absolutely.

Anna Fricke:
Yes.

Jeremy Carver:
Nora is a fantastically integral part of the show and we haven't spoken about there enough. I mean Kristen Hager is an absolute gem and she deserves a mention I can say that she comes into her own, Nora, in a way that she never expected and that is both, surprising and exciting and dangerous and tempting. And Nora very much goes down a completely wholly sort of self-sufficient road this year that has massive implication with her relationship with Josh. So she absolutely as a character on show, blossoms in terms of story line and screen time.

Question:
Some of the fun of the show was to see what carries over from other vampire, werewolf and ghost stories, but also where you guys decide to take the lore of these three monsters with your own original spin whether it's powers or debunking myths or what have you. How much do you guys do you get to play or how much do you enjoy playing with the traditional knowledge of these monsters and then adding new stuff to it?

Jeremy Carver:
It's always a balance right, because there are certain expectations. I mean part of the fun that goes back to the BBC series was particularly how they played with the vampires in that they could exist in sunlight et cetera, et cetera. Staying with the BBC version they took great, great liberties with their ghost character, Annie right, its name is Annie, in that she could touch things but she could be seen by people if I'm not mistaken. I think their Season 2 she was totally able to be seen by folks.

Anna Fricke:
Yes, she is.

Jeremy Carver:
We took our ghost character in much smaller steps but you'll remember at the end of last season, one of the sort of like good-bad, immediate good-bad things that happened after Sally missed her door was that she discovered that she was able to connect more to Earthbound objects, which of course also implies that she is more Earthbound now that her daughter is gone so that's the good and bad of it.

So we'll see in Season 2 Sally is able to basically interact with inanimate objects on Earth more, but we get a huge kick it out. Look one of our favorite, if not favorite scene from Season 1, was Josh and Aidan in the bathroom in Episode 7 when Aidan has that reaction to garlic, in which we spun that to be that, the garlic lore doesn't actually ward off vampires, but that it was something that if a vampire eats garlic it would expose him even more.

Anna Fricke:
We always tried to sort of take the lore and just try to do what makes sense to us. We just like to be able to follow it in a way that is going to make sense to us in a logical way. And like we said earlier we have some new writers and we have they span from like huge genre geeks to straight up character writers. And so we'll have a lot of notions flying around the room. And there's always one guy who's like the BS detector, who like the big genre fans, like, "Okay this guys," and it would be like, "Does this make sense to you?"

So we all have a lot of notions that we like to play with, but we try to reign it in and make sure that's following some kind of logic that keeps with what we set up before. We tried to be careful about that.

Question:
Is there any chance that you'd be looking at other kinds of monsters, variations, or are we going to be rooted basically with these three monsters through the series?

Jeremy Carver:
I wouldn't speak for the whole series, but I'll speak for the season in that this season you're going to see variations like I was trying to say before. You're going to see variations of the species we've already introduced, but we're not necessarily seeing new monsters.

Question:
How much are we going to see Terry Kenny as Heggeman as well as more information about the Dutch?

Jeremy Carver:
Well the second question, I think the Dutch play a pretty big role, this year we'll be introducing new Dutch characters this season. And as for Terry Kenny, you'll definitely be seeing Terry Kenny and Terry Kenny will be involved in a very explosive story line kicking off our season.

Question:
What efforts are you guys making to differentiate your supernatural creatures from all of the other versions that are out there?

Anna Fricke:
Well just speaking to like the vampire politics question first, and I personally wish that I could use a different term than politics, because it sounds like it's so dry, which it's not. For me it makes sense that vampires do have a structure because they are this sub-culture that has existed for thousands of years and they have to have their own, sort of rules and society, so that makes sense to me.

I think what we try to do most and what we always try to focus on is the core of the show, which is being human. Which is sort of keeping everything grounded on an emotional level for these characters, and keeping them in touch with their humanity and trying not to get too caught up in fantastical or arch storytelling.

I mean even in terms of like the Mother character we have, who is sort of like a Queen Elizabeth character in this vampire society, she and her daughter are actually a biological mother and daughter meaning that she turned her own daughter into a vampire. And so with something that I think has the show apart a little bit, in that you know, there are actual blood ties there.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes, I think Anna's hitting on it nice. It's not necessarily a question of, how do our politics differ, it's how do our characters differ? And when we introduced this sort of like new line on the vampire hierarchy, we do so by focusing very heavily on the characters themselves. And when we have this mother and when we have this daughter who have a very, very, very complicated mother-daughter relationship spanning hundreds and hundreds of years, so as much as we had to deal with the "politics," underneath it all and effecting all of it is, the relationship between this mother and this daughter who Anna noted are actually biological mother and daughter from again, hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

So while we're dealing with their very complicated relationship, Aidan himself, as the season progress will realize has an extremely complicated relationship with each that spans back decades that he has to navigate while again, always sort of trying to acquire his freedom which was promised to him at the beginning of this new season.

Anna Fricke:
I think what sets this show apart from some of these other genre shows, again of which I'm a big fan, is that our monsters are trying their best not to get enmeshed with their other monsters. You know, Aidan, like at their heart, Aidan sort of wants nothing to do with the other vampires and Josh wants nothing to do with the other werewolves and Sally just wishes she had taken her door. And like all they want, again, just like to hit it home, all they want is to be human. And so they're always trying to do that, trying to have human relationships, trying to have normal lives, I think that ultimately is what differentiates it.

Question:
Now with the introduction of the mother and daughter story line, does that mean that we're going to be locked in Boston for the whole season or are we going to get out more this year?

Jeremy Carver:
Let me unpack that question for a second. In the general sense, yes we are mostly in Boston as our setting this year, yes. There's no packing the family roadster and going to Orlando for an episode.

Anna Fricke:
But we do see different places in flashbacks and like that. We're largely in Boston.

Question:
Earlier last season we met Josh's sister and she was the only gay character on the show. So what I was wondering is, this season are we going to see more diversity in terms of race and sexuality?

Anna Fricke:
Yes actually. We are trying to make a point of that, and one thing and this is a small thing, but we wanted to sort of make a point that even in like in the vampire feeding world that men aren't always feeding off of women and women feeding off of men, we wanted to mix that up a little bit more and show that it's a free-for-all.

Jeremy Carver:
And we can look forward to Emily making a return.

Question:
How do you find the right mix of drama, comedy, sci-fi and what level of darkness to use when working on this? And do you have a favorite type of thing to write?

Anna Fricke:
I mean I think a lot of that comes from our writing staff, we have a great mix. And I think our favorite type of show is something like Friday Night Lights, or early seasons of Rescue Me, that you know, you're telling through serious stories with a heartbreaking quality that have real humanity and humor infused.

Like that's the kind of storytelling we love is sort of - dark comedy I think is what we are the most comfortable with. And you know, that's the kind of voice we look for in our writers who are all wildly talented, and that's who we look for when we're going over the script. Any time we have like a really intense scene we try to put in an inappropriate joke gallows humor.

Jeremy Carver:
Yes I mean both of us the shows she mentioned, we're just enormous fans of wild swings, frankly sometimes wildly inappropriate swings between humor and true sort of pain, and I would go further to say that for me I think the best humor springs from pain. So I think the core of the show are three characters who are in pain when you strip it all away, because they are all what they don't want to necessarily be. So when you start with that as your touchstone I think it's a little bit easier to find that mix. But it's something that we are ever vigilant about maintaining because it's just to us what strikes the most natural tone for our show.

Question:
Do you guys ever actually film around Boston or is it all in Canada?

Anna Fricke:
We did do some pickup shots and some footage in Boston. Last year we were able to get a little side crew down there rather. But we, no we mostly are filming in Montreal. We try to get to Boston if and when we can, just for some establishing shots and stuff like that, but we have to stay around Montreal.

Question:
Can you talk a bit about the group of werewolves that are kind of, "Want-to-be werewolves rather than human," can you talk a bit about that and how it's going to affect Josh?"

Anna Fricke:
We thought it would be interesting to show Josh is so set on being human and curing the werewolf curse rather that we wanted to explore the idea of monsters who don't view themselves as monsters basically, that werewolves who see being a werewolf as their natural state and that they feel more comfortable in that way.

And we sort of likened it to transgender people who like really, firmly believe that they should have been born a different way and they're just trying to make that transition. That's kind of how we approached those characters. So we just wanted to show a different point of view than the one that Josh has which is, "I'm cursed, I hate it, I just want to be human." We wanted to show the sort of opposite side of that spectrum. Someone who actually feels trapped in their human body.

Question:
Who comes up with the episode titles?

Anna Fricke:
We all do.

Jeremy Carver:
We all do.

Anna Fricke:
Yes, all the writers do. It's a pretty equal opportunity. We vote. So I'm glad you like them.

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