Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W Van Sickle joins SciFiChick.com today for a Q&A! They are Emmy Nominated writers, producers and/or directors of over two hundred hours of TV programing, including cult classic The Pretender and the Syfy mini seriesTin Man – the reimagining of the Wizard of Oz that remains the highest rated program in the history of the network. Huge Sci Fi fans, they got their start in TV writing on staff for Alien Nation and The Flash.
They are the authors of The Pretender: Rebirth and the upcoming sequel The Pretender: Saving Luke(available April 2014).
Q: For those who are not familiar with the Pretender novels can you give us a brief description of the series?
A: Sure. Rebirth and Saving Luke are edge-of-your-seat mystery thrillers about Jarod, a child prodigy, stolen as a four-year-old and raised by a Halliburton-like organization that exploited his gift for their disreputable activities. After his escape, this ‘ingenious Jason Bourne’ – a human chameleon that can literally become anyone he wants to be – rejoins the world that has been denied him for 30 years. While attempting to find his family, he uses his brilliance to protect the weak and abused, those who can’t protect themselves.
He does this while staying just one step ahead of his nemesis, Miss Parker, the sexiest woman on the planet who is hell bent on tracking him down and returning him to her masters. Their multifaceted, love-hate relationship, driven by the emotional secrets they share, continues to fuel a heated chase, pitting a cunning predator against a brilliant prey.
The Pretender was and remains the most passionate expression of our life’s work. We hope our feelings have been reflected in the stories so far — and the ones yet to come.
Q: The books are based upon the international, cult hit television show, that your two created and produced. Do you need to have been a fan of the TV series The Pretender to enjoy the novels?
A: Not at all. In fact, former fans and new fans seem to like the novels equally if not more. We designed the story telling of the books in a way that there is nothing to ‘catch up’ to. The novels start at the beginning – but it is a new beginning – so the new fans are there from the start, and the old fans get additional information that fills in the blanks from their interpretation of the past.
Overall we think the stories have been so successful and entertaining because of the timelessness of the very compelling characters at the center of the mythology and their human connections to each other and to the readers.
Q: Who are the novels written for?
A: For anyone who likes a great story that will make them laugh, have them on the edge of their seat one minute, then sitting back and saying ‘what if…’ the next. We have said many times that we write for thinkers, creators, innovators and the curious who love to unravel a tale and enjoy the odd and unexpected, those who know life is a gift and want to share that in community with one another. If you enjoy great adventures with engaging characters that will mean something to your heart, we think you’ll really enjoy Rebirth & Saving Luke and the many more sequels to come from The Pretender Universe.
Q: How did you dream up the concept for The Pretender?
The Pretender was inspired by two different stories we heard growing up. One was the life of Ferdinand Demara a real life human chameleon who slipped form one identity and occupation to another staying one step ahead of the authorities. The other was a CIA program in the 50s and 60s called the Genius Project where the agency ran a special school for exceptionally bright children who in the morning had regular classes and in the afternoon were given problems to solve regarding things like ‘Strategies of Thermo Nuclear War.’ We loved the concept of a child who was so brilliant that he could combine both of the above ‘gifts’ – a hero whose super power was his brain and his heart.
We also felt at that time, and still do, that in society no one likes to go out on a limb to change wrongs that are done to people. No one steps up to do something to right those wrongs. We wanted to infuse a heroic character with that drive to ‘help the little guy done wrong’ and hence, Jarod.
Q: What’s The Pretender series about?
They are thrillers about the search for identity. About who we are and what ties us together as human beings and at the same time, in many ways, rips us apart.
Q: What can you tell us about your main character, Jarod?
Jarod is a genius prodigy stolen from his parents as a 4 year old, isolated from the world and raised in a controlled environment to best harness his incredible talent as a Pretender. A Pretender is a genius with the physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional ability to literally become anyone they want to be. A Pretender can read a book on neurosurgical techniques one night and the morning day suit up in scrubs and walk into an operating room and perform the technique flawlessly, without guilt, fear or apprehension. They can do the same with a fighter jet, a nuclear reactor and anything else you can dream of.
As a virtual ‘living computer’ Jarod performed simulation scenarios for events as diverse of how to prevent an airborne terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, how to prevent an accident on a space shuttle, or a teenage shooting rampage in a Colorado high school.
After 30 years of captivity by the Centre, Jarod discovered some of his simulations were turned inside out and the exact scenarios he had designed as preventative measures, were sold to the highest bidder and used for harm in the real world. Fueled by this guilt and determined to right those wrongs, Jarod escaped and now the chase is on.
Q: Is it true that you guys spent two weeks at Skywalker Ranch working every day, personally with George Lucas?
A: Yes. Being invited to do that was one of the most amazing experiences ever. If it is something your fans would like to know more about invites us back and we’ll tell you all about it.
Q: I read somewhere that you guys are planning on changing the world of entertainment – especially when it comes to reading – and that you have designed your books to work in a transmedia environment. What does that mean?
A: Our goal isn’t just to write incredibly great novels, but also to bring the concept of fandom to a whole new level in a global way. The Pretender Universe isn’t just about the overall stories – but about the fans themselves.
We are building a Global Integrated Fandom where The Pretender entertainment experience doesn’t end when the books do but continues between novels on our website https://www.thepretenderlives.com and through social media that connects readers and fans together in a larger community of like minded people.
Our website is the hub that serves as a an ever growing global community of fans that have come together not only to share about the stories, but to get involved in them, several characters in the novel actually are fans – our fans designed the cover of the novel – they exploring and building out the ThePretenderUniverse within the website. A very talented young fan that sent us some fan fiction – that was excellent – may even be invited to writing cannon of the mythology. The Pretender Universe is always expanding and we invite everyone to come be a part of it.https://www.thepretenderlives.com
In fact by reading this you already are. In all the novels and in the website and the emails and extras we send there are always hidden meaning and Easter Eggs. Including in the interview you just read.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: Yes. We love to hear from readers, so feel free to drop us a note via any of our social media links and be sure and come and see everything we are doing at https://www.thepretenderlives.com.
Thank you, Angela, for hosting our interview. We love SciFiChick.com and really appreciate this opportunity to connect with your readers.
Oh, and both novels are available in print and e-book through Amazon and other major retailers.
Saving Luke is ten times as good as Rebirth and I loved Rebirth! The story is a thrill ride, the Pretends incredible, the revelations about the characters – especially Miss Parker – are fantastic – and the surprises at the end are worth the entire read. I want more Pretender and I want it now! Jacob in Dubai
TPD: How did Broots end up working for the Centre? Did he realize who they were and what they did? Jon: No, he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he got the job. He just knew that he was qualified. His skills, his computer skills, were gonna get him a good position but he really didn’t know. He had no clue. And then there’s a follow up to that I think. TPD: And how do you consider that to have affected his conscience and morals? Jon: Well I think it made him quite a bit more cynical about the world. That the things that he thought were going to be, were pillars in society, I think he started to question everything, he started to realize, “hey, you know, I’m not a conspiracy theorist but maybe there is a conspiracy.”
Fan Patti asks about Broots working at the Centre.
TPD: Patti asks I want to know why Broots worked at the Centre. Did he know what they were about when he started working there? Jon: Patti, that’s a good question because that’s one that I’ve always, that’s one of the most predominant questions whenever I delved into Broots’ character, he should have known when they asked him if he has any relatives living on his employment sheet that there might have been something wrong with… He had no idea what he was getting himself into. And once he found himself there, he really was more afraid to leave than to stay.
Was Broots on Jarod’s or Miss Parker’s side?
TPD: This question comes from Vicky Ponty. We know whose side Broots was on, but what about you? Team Parker or Team Jarod? Jon: That’s a really tough question and I don’t know if I can really answer that because I think I always felt, I always felt that Broots was pretty aware that Miss Parker was actually on Jarod’s side but was not able to express that. I think that there was a lot of pressure on Miss Parker that we, all in the Centre, were not quite as aware of but she had to play a role. I always felt that, I always felt she was playing a role and I always felt that there was going to be a moment where I would turn to her and say “come on, we’ve got to help this guy.” But it never could happen.
Did you make up a backstory for Broots?
tPd: Did you mentally developed a backstory for Broots or did you just go with the script? Jon: Well, I emotionally developed a backstory for Broots, not mentally. No, just kidding. Yeah, I did, I actually did. I always try to develop a history for every character I play. You have to figure what are the circumstances which lead up to where that character is in time that we find the character in any stories. So, yeah, you always have to build a story and that’s part part and parcel to building my relationships with other characters. So yes, there’s a history.
What were your favorite episodes?
tPd: What was your favorite episode on the Pretender to film in particular? Jon: Well, I, you know, my sentimental favorite was the first episode that I ever did and I can’t… It wasn’t Curious Jarod… Every Picture Tells a Story, that was it, because that was the beginning and I knew right away when I came on the set. And the relationship with Andrea Parker, that plays Miss Parker, was immediate and i felt like it clicked and it was like “I’m gonna be here for a while.” I just felt that. So sentimentally, that one. But I think that Cold Dick was a lot of fun. I like the idea of having the story get twisted up like that and I like playing with different realities, I love those kind of things. And I can’t remember the episode where there was the second Pretender, but it was the one where I had the spoon as the weapon.
ThePretenderDaughter asks Jon what is Broots’s first name?
tPd: And this question comes from Judy, who wants to know what the heck is your first name? On the Pretender that is. We know your name is Jon. Jon: I’m not allowed to give that out. I’m not allowed to give… Broots is a code name. I can’t give it out. tPd: What letter does it start with? Jon: I can’t even tell you. tPd: Do you know? Jon: I do. tPd: Fine.
ThePretenderDaughter asks Jon Gries about his fondest Pretender memories.
tPd: What is your all time fondest memory from working on the Pretender? Jon: There’s… I mean… Gosh that’s a hard question, you know one memory… I think that there’s every aspect of every day there was something, everyday working, whether it was Patrick Bauchau wandering around and kind of musing to himself and disappearing and everybody went “Where did Patrick go?” And you know, invariably, you would find him just walking around and drinking a cup of coffee looking at things and kind of humming to himself. It always made me really happy cause you knew, you kinda knew he wasn’t going to be too far off. He never wandered too far but wandered to a place where no one would think of wandering… and he wasn’t like he would go to craft service. That would be kinda in the way, on the way wherever he was going. And just getting the cast together and all of us sitting around. And we do these crossover shows, where actors would come over from other shows on NBC and they would say “this is such friendly, warm, loving environment and we don’t have that on our show” – and I won’t mention which show. But they were not. They were like “This is unreal. How is it so nice? Why is everybody getting along so well?” So I’m looking over to Steven Long Mitchell over there and just so you know.
ThePretenderDaughter asks: Which actor did you prefer to work with?
tPd: Was it easier to play opposite Miss Parker, Mr Lyle or Jarod? Jon: Clearly, no offense to Mr Lyle and no offense to Jarod, but hands down it was easier, always easier to play against Miss Parker. tPd: And why is that? Jon: Well, she is very lovely and, even though she would be mean to me, it would give me something to play of because Broots liked it. Anyway, but the thing is that heterosexually and Mr Lyle although he is a handsome dude and Jarod is a handsome dude and a nice guy to me, I always really liked playing against Miss Parker because I never knew what I was gonna get. She always surprised me.
The Pretender Lives: ThePretenderDaughter asks Jon Gries Questions #10
tPd: While filming the Pretender who messed up their lines the most? Jon: I would say, I mean, I don’t know who messed up their lines the most but who was the most interesting to work with because he was not certain always of what was going on, and sometimes to his credit we would be shooting two episodes at once and sometimes we would be bouncing back and forth between the two, so Patrick Bauchau sometimes would very candidly be standing there on the set, we all would be ready to do it, just about to go and he turned and go, “So, what are we doing here? What is this? What do I say?” And we would go laughing at him because he would just come from the other episode, he just be shooting, but he would wait to the last second to finally go “And what are we doing this particular moment? Oh ok…” Or he would say something from the other episode and it’d be a little wrong. “No, no Patrick. You can’t say that because the other episode is after this episode and you’re giving away information that we can’t give in this episode” and he would go “Oh really? Oh, ok…”
Fan Jenjen, asks Jon to explain the character development for Broots.
tPd: JenJen asks what kind of work did you put into Broots’ character development?
Jon: I would say, with respect to Broots, it was a different experience for me as far as building a character. One- it was an ongoing thing so there was a constant evolution but I would say, more than usual in the past when I arrived, since I’ve been creating characters, it was really centered specifically in the relationships with the cast, because I, you know, there was so much hidden, there was so much that wasn’t there, that I needed to fill in those blanks and I certainly wasn’t getting all the answers from Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle. So I had to do a little bit of my own imagination building the relationships. Interesting stories I could tell… Maybe…
Fan question 2
Q: Johnny, Miss Parker was always bullying you on the set, so I’m wondering if Andrea Parker intimidates you in real life. Jon: Kim, Miss Parker wasn’t bullying me on set, that was part of our relationship. Is that what being in an abusive relationship is like because I thought she loved me.
Jon Gries tells Julie secrets about why Broots stayed at the Centre
Julie: Hi guys, I have 2 questions for Broots. What is the story of Broots before he arrives at the Centre and why does he want to stay in the Centre. Bye. Jon: Julie, au revoir! Why? First I’m going to answer the second question. Why did Broots stay? Because Broots was afraid to leave, but then in time I think he thinks he is going to fix the place. He is going to make the place right, he has the power inside to make the place right ’cause he knows everything. He is also afraid to leave as I said. The part about Broots that lead to him getting into the Centre. He used to have special clearance in the military but he left to go work for private entities because that meant he was going to get paid more money. Unfortunately, he chose the Centre.
Was Broots the brains behind the Centre?
Q: Hey Johnny, was Broots really the brains behind the Centre? Jon: Coby, come on! Don’t ask me that question. Of course! Of course! They all had to come to him. That’s the number one clue. Everybody came to Broots. At the end of the day, Miss Parker came to Broots, Mr. Parker came to Broots, everybody came to Broots.
Jon Gries tells about the ‘Secret Meetings’ with the producers.
Brian: Hey Jon, it’s Brian here. I was wondering if you could tell us about the secret meetings that you’ve had with the producers. Jon: The secret meetings with the producers were incredible because it would usually revolve around where we were gonna go for lunch and what we were gonna eat. And whether or not I was gonna drive or somebody else was gonna drive. It was secret meetings.
Laurette asks if Jon has read The Pretender novels?
Laurette: Hi, I hope you’re all doing well. I want to take a moment to thank all of you to do this, as we are probably the luckiest fans in the world. Now I have a question for you Jon. How do you feel about the Rebirth of the Pretender? And have you read the book? Jon: Au revoir Laurette. It’s Jon. I’m gonna answer your question. I have read the book and I’m very excited about the Rebirth of the Pretender, particularly because Broots is going to play prominently. Even though he is not in the first book. It’s ok, I understand. I understand… you have to slow play these things, build them slowly. And then when they finally get there… oh yeah, it’s going to be good. So yes I did very much enjoyed the book and thank you for your question.
It’s been a long time coming, but The Pretender is finally back. The story about a genius named Jarod, who has the chameleon-like ability to become anyone he wants to be (surgeon, soldier, policeman, chemist, teacher, FBI agent, etc.), debuted on NBC in 1996. Over four seasons, Jarod traveled the country using his abilities to help those in need. All the while, he was being pursued by agents of the Centre, a corporation that had taken him from his parents as a child and exploited his genius for their own shady purposes, and also searching for the answers to who he was and where he came from. After NBC canceled the series in 2000, cable network TNT picked it up for syndication and, in 2001, produced two movies that continued the story. While a third was planned that would solve the last remaining mysteries and wrap everything up, it never materialized, and fans were left hanging with an unresolved story. For years, creators Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle promised that they would one day bring Jarod back, refusing to let the story die. Twelve years later, the first in a brand new series of novels, The Pretender: Rebirth, has now been released.
Unfortunately for long-time fans, Rebirth is not a continuation of the television show. From how Mitchell and Van Sickle described it in their announcement back in July, I expected the book to pick up sometime after the final movie, The Pretender: Island of the Haunted, while retconning the backstory and events from the show to a more recent time, as a way to maintain continuity while still taking place in the present. Instead, Rebirth is a full-on reboot, essentially going back to the beginning of the whole story and starting over. Jarod has already escaped from the Centre just prior to the start of the book, and now his chief pursuer, Miss Parker, is called back into active duty by the Centre and charged with tracking down and capturing him. In a way, the book is a reworking of the very first episode, with Jarold arriving in New York and pretending to be a doctor at a prestigious hospital. Several scenes and even entire lines of dialogue from the first episode are recreated almost verbatim, and while the story runs a similar course, it ultimately plays out very differently. If you’ve been a Pretender fan since the beginning, as I have, it won’t feel like you’re just retreading the first episode.
The thing that struck me almost immediately is how easily Mitchell and Van Sickle seemed to slip right back into writing these characters, even more than a decade after they had last written them. Jarod, Miss Parker and Sydney all feel exactly as they did in the show. Their personalities, and especially Miss Parker’s ice cold bitchiness, is spot-on. Jarod is clearly the star of the story, trying to solve a little boy’s disappearance following a tragic car accident, while also pursuing a seemingly-unrelated mystery involving a high level clearance area of the hospital. At the same time, he encounters several patients who play varying degrees of importance to the story. I especially liked his interactions with a young female named Skylar. Jarod was always such a kind, warm-hearted and caring man who refused to stand by and let others be mistreated or ignored, and that side of him is well on display here. Miss Parker and Sydney have a lesser presence, basically stuck in Centre rooms trying to piece together clues as to Jarod’s whereabouts, but the authors set the stage for their characters to be developed in subsequent novels.
Many of The Pretender‘s hallmarks are present, some of them preserved identically. One was Jarod’s discovery of all the things that we take for granted, but are new to him from having been locked away in the Centre his whole life. Just like in the first episode, Jarod discovers ice cream for the first time, as well as PEZ, which sort of became his trademark on the show. He also has the DSAs — Digital Surveillance Archives — that he stole during his escape from the Centre, which he uses to reflect on his past and the various simulations he was forced to run for his captors. Others have been updated for 2013. Whereas Jarod used to keep small red notebooks filled with newspaper clippings related to whatever mystery he was working toward solving, he instead now uses an iPad, with a red cover. To my surprise, the language gets a tad . . . “heavy” at times, both in dialogue and the story itself. It’s not really too excessive, but it’s a little odd when you consider that The Pretender was a pretty family-friendly show in that regard. My only really big complaint is that the plot seems unnecessarily set up in order to lead into a second book, so in a way Rebirth almost just kind of stops rather than ends. But the climactic action, as Miss Parker closes in on Jarod for the first time, is exciting.
Overall, I was satisfied with Rebirth. Despite the occasional grammatical error, and a couple strange passages that are literally written from the POV of a rat(!) that lives in the warehouse where Jarod is staying, the plot was well told and suspenseful. The story kept me fully engaged throughout, which was good considering that it’s not until about halfway through that we finally begin to learn exactly what Jarod is doing in New York in the first place. A second novel, The Pretender: Saving Luke, is due out in December. Mitchell and Van Sickle have stated they have stories for at least a dozen books (that’s not even including the upcoming line of comic book mini-series that will compliment the novels with prequel stories), and while I’m still a little disappointed that they are not a direct continuation of the show, it was a lot of fun revisiting these characters anew. It’s because of that — my fondness for the characters and enjoyment of the overall story — that I’m willing to essentially go on the same journey again. This was a good start, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store, and who. (Mr. Raines? Broots? Angelo? Mr. Lyle? Brigitte?) The Pretender is back, and I couldn’t be more excited. original review on livejournal can be found here.
Somewhere in the late 1990s there was an odd moment in my life. I sat around visiting with my parents and my older brother. My brother and I are very different. He’s the off-roading, gun shooting, get drunk and party type. I’m more of the plus hotel, fine art, sipping whisky and conversing type. My folks are blue-collar, do-it-yourself, poker night couple. But we have two things in common, we all love football and that one weird night in the late 90s we discovered that we all liked the TV show The Pretender. It was a show about a man who could be anything trying to help people in trouble and discover who he is while he runs from a mysterious group calledThe Centre. Jarod, played by Michael T Weiss was a genius that could flawlessly assume the role of any job/career. He had been taken from his parents as a child and raised/mentored by Sydney played by Patrick Bauchau. Once Jarod had escaped, he became hunted by Miss Parker oddly enough played by Andrea Parker. Jarod used his abilities to try and figure out who he is and help others. It was a well written and acted show that played the mystery angle well but maybe lasted a season too long. Think Mr. Spock meets MacGyver with an Bourne Identity background.
The character of Miss Parker was an interesting one that started off as the sexy antagonist but grew into her being just as involved and manipulated by the Centre as Jarod. Her past was just as muddled in mystery as his. So it makes sense that when series creators Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle decided to get back into the universe, Miss Parker’s history would be a place they’d choose to explore. Besides their announced novel The Pretender: Rebirth, there will be a 6 part graphic novel series called The Pretender: The Centre Chronicles that details the origin of the Centre and how that affected a young Miss Parker. The novel is scheduled to be released October 7th. The creative team for the project is interesting in that both the writer and the artist have acting backgrounds. Jenna Busch will write the series. Jenna has worked in comics on Archetypes, Ladybird and contributed to the Womanthology, also an editor for Fan Voice Entertainment and has written for the Huffington Post, IGN, Comic Soon,AOL and JoBlo. She is an actor, singer and former make-up artist. “To us Jenna is the Blond Miss Parker.” Says Steve Mitchell. “Her insights into dynamic, strong female characters and her twisted sense of story telling made her the perfect person for this project.”
Craig Van Sickle added, “We’re thrilled and lucky to welcome Jenna into the Pretender family as we give the brand a new Rebith through Novels and Graphic Novels and hope to have her involved in both.” “I’m thrilled to be a part of The Pretender universe,” says Busch. “I loved the show and Steve and Craig have been so wonderful during this process. I’m a lifelong fan, so it’s a huge honor to be able to contribute to the story.” The creators released the sketch of the cover to the first issue from artist Jeffrey Henderson, who will do all the covers and art direction for the series. Henderson has worked for Marvel, DC and Image comics, as well as doing storyboards for films like 30 Days of Night, Twilight: Ecllipse, Spider-Man 3 and 4, and Oz the Great and Powerful. He’s also an actor , voice over artist and musician.
… Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle …… on the Pretender, tP and their Rebirth
The Pretender war a very fascinating series, shot between 1996 and 2000. Then, after only four seasons and two movies it – unfortunately – vanished. Now, after more than a decade it returns. This was so exiting that it made us contact Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle, asking for an interview with us.
The HistoryZauberspiegel: How did the idea of creating the series PRETENDER come up? Did you develop the series with the concept of the two levels of narration in mind (i.e. Centre vs. Jarod and Jarod helping people in need)?
Steven Long Mitchell: We had always wanted to tell a story about a person who could be anyone he wanted to be. It seemed like such a wonderful dream.
Craig W. Van Sickle: Yes, we always wanted to have two level of narration so we could delve deeper into the back story of the man who was finally free.
Zauberspiegel:What criterias did you choose the actors of the series by? Were there other candidates besides Michael T. Weiss and Andrea Parker who were on your shortlist
Steven Long Mitchell: Michael was our first and only choice – tP would not have been the same without him or Andrea Parker.
Craig W. Van Sickle: Andrea blew us away the second she walked into casting and we knew she was everything we’d dreamed Miss Parker could be and so much more.
Zauberspiegel:What were the reasons for your final decision to choose Michael T. Weiss and Andrea Parker for the leading characters in the series PRETENDER?
Steven Long Mitchell: They were the characters – it wouldn’t have worked without them
Zauberspiegel:And what made you decide on Patrick Bauchau?
Craig W. Van Sickle: We wanted an international cast and we are big fans of Patrick. So happy he agreed to bring Syndey to life for us.
Zauberspiegel:And this leads to the question how and when you decided to extend the part of Jon Gries (as Broots)? Craig W. Van Sickle: After all Broots became a popular character, a (hidden) object of affection in the series.
Steven Long Mitchell: We wanted a character tat would be fun for Miss Parker to play off of. Jon Gries was a fabulous choice for Broots and he always stole the show. He’s a wonderful actor and an even better human being.
Zauberspiegel:Michael T. Weiss succeded in making Jarod look like a big curious child, discovering things of every-day life like softice, Bubble Gum or PEZ. Was it his initial idea to do that? Did the actors have a chance to add own ideas to the story during the run of the seasons? Including the further developments of Jarod, Miss Parker or Sidney? How free were there screenwriters to bring ideas of their own?
Steven Long Mitchell: tP was a creative family and EVERYONE contributed greatly to its success.
Zauberspiegel:How did the crossover to the series PROFILER happen? And how close was the cooperation or exchange between the particular creatives of the series?
Craig W. Van Sickle: It was NBC’s idea and a natural one. We had done these before and enjoyed working with the other creatives.
Zauberspiegel:George Lazenby, former Bond-actor, appeared in a few cameo appearences in the series, playing the father of Jarod. Seen from today’s view on things, wouldn’t it have been an intersting idea to install Lazenby as a ‘new’ recurring charakter in the PRETENDER series and offer new impulse and more insights to the history of the characters?
Steven Long Mitchell: You never know what might happen.
Zauberspiegel:The series was terminated after ‘only’ four seasons. What were the reasons for that? Did you run out of ideas for another season of the PRETENDER?
Steven Long Mitchell: No we have years of Pretender stories left to tell.
Craig W. Van Sickle: And we are about to start telling them in more ways then one.
Zauberspiegel:2001 two PRETENDER-movies were made for TV. What was the purpose for the movies? Were they only meant to solve some secrets and riddles that remained from the TV-Series?
Steven Long Mitchell: No they were intended to keep the story going.
Craig W. Van Sickle: And since they didn’t allow us to do that – we have finally come up a way to do it ourselves.
Zauberspiegel:During the four seasons one couldn’t sometimes help but wondering if Jarod wasn’t a prey of Miss Parker in more than one way. Thus to say, there were indications for a sexual tension between the two of them. Was this done on purpose or was this rather a misinterpretation by the fan?
Steven Long Mitchell: Miss Parker and Jarod are connected in more ways than just one.
Craig W. Van Sickle: We will find out more as their story continues.
The FutureZauberspiegel: The PRETENDER returns – after more than a decade …… how (as a series? movie)? You will find out July 19th… when (will it be aired? When will the shooting begin)? You will find out July 19th
Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle: Our Pretender Mission Statement … In the tale of The Pretender, Young Jarod was taken against his will and held away from the world by forces larger then he was. Yet during his captivity he never gave up hope that his fate would be freedom one day – to return to the world to continue the amazing journey we call life. The story here is very similar. A little over a decade ago, forces larger than tP and for reasons that really don’t matter, made a decision that kept the saga of tP locked away from the world – just like Jarod was. We know loyal fans were disappointed and yes, so were we. There was so much more to tP that all of you wanted to know and that we wanted to explore. But there is good news. Just like Jarod who, after decades of confinement, finally escaped The Centre and ran away to be free. Well now, so has the tP itself. After being locked away for so many years, tP is finally free to return to the world and continue life’s adventure. As fate would have it, we have regained the rights to give tP the Rebirth it deserves. We can now reinvigorate tP for as long as you want – and no one can ever lock it or Jarod away again. After thinking long and hard about the best way to bring the tP back, we’ve come up with several different ways to reawaken our much-loved saga for both faithful fans and new fans alike. First, tP will be reborn as a series of novels enabling us to delve much deeper into the characters’ hearts, minds, souls and lives in a more revealing way that the limitations of a weekly TV series could never allow for. Second, we’ll add graphic novels to the mix, fleshing out even more provocative details of the early years of Jarod, Miss P, The Centre and much more, leading to… Third, be it cable/broadcast TV, a Netflix model series and/or a series of Pretender feature films – tP will then be taken to a whole new level with familiar faces and new characters as well. You have always been loyal to tP and we want you to know that we’ll always be loyal to you. The Pretender has found freedom – and an amazing journey into life is about to begin again! The Rebirth of The Pretender will blow your mind.
Zauberspiegel: What actors of the original cast will join in? And, after the death of Harve Presnell, what will happen to the character of Mister Parker?
Steven Long Mitchell: The Pretender wouldn’t be the same without the actors who made it so popular.
Craig W. Van Sickle: When tP is reborn on film we will have tons of surprises for them and for the fans.
Zauberspiegel:In ‘Reality’ more than a decade has passed. How will you deal with this gap in the reality of the series?
Steven Long Mitchell: In ways that will make you smile –
Zauberspiegel:Without revealing to much, can you give us a little insight on what we can look forward to in the continuation of the series? Will it also take place on two levels or will it concentrate on the fight between the Centre and Jarod only?
Steven Long Mitchell: It will be The Pretender you know —
Craig W. Van Sickle: And tP you never expected
Zauberspiegel:How much impact did fangroups such as the „Miss Parkers Yahoo-Groupe – FrustratedTpFan“ and their never ending work to continue the series have on the return of the PRETENDER? How important are, all in all, fans really? Are they one argument for the importance of certain series or are they only padding?
Steven Long Mitchell: We love to entertain – been doing it our whole lives – and for the past 30 years have made our passion, our career path. Nothing we have done has reflected that passion more than The Pretender. That the fan groups share equal passion make us all the same.
Craig W. Van Sickle: The fans are the most important thing there is. They have always been loyal to The Pretender and we will always be loyal to them.
Zauberspiegel:Today series on channels such as HBO receive high praises for quality and entertainment, some say even better and more than the cinema movies. What do you think about that? If you agree, why is that so? And if you don’t, what is the advantage of the cinema compared to TV-Series?
Steven Long Mitchell: Cable allows for a more in depth character analysis that we find liberating.
Craig W. Van Sickle: But there are many ways now – many other platforms to enhance the experience we used to think we could only get from tv.
Zauberspiegel:Thank for the q&a and good luck for the return of The Pretender. May it live long and prosper (… oops … wrong franchise)
Steven Long Mitchell: the Rebirth of the Pretender will take many forms starting soon.
Senior Writer, BuddyTV This Sunday, December 2 at 9pm, the Sci Fi Channel will premiere its latest high-profile miniseries event, Tin Man. A fantasy re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz,Tin Man is a six-hour miniseries that will air over three consecutive nights, Sunday-Tuesday at 9pm. Created by Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle (who previously created the TV drama The Pretender), Tin Man was originally conceived as a weekly TV series, but was expanded by the network. BuddyTV spoke to the two creators of Tin Man in anticipation of the premiere. They discussed how it originally came into being, how they assembled the impressive cast that includes Neal McDonough, Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming and Richard Dreyfuss, and the many Easter egg nods to the original book and film fans can expect to see. Continue reading for a full transcript as well as the audio file of the interview. Hi this is John from BuddyTV and I’m talking to Steven Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle the creators of Tin Man, the Sci Fi Channel original miniseries. Hi guys.Steven and
Craig: Hi. Tin Man is a re-imagining of the classic The Wizard of Oz and I’m just wondering what brought about that idea?
Craig: Well originally we pitched this as a TV series. The idea was kind of always looking for new ways to do storied franchises like cop shows, we kind of came up with the idea of: how about if you had a cop who was working in Oz? And hence the name Tin Man because he wears a badge. Sci-Fi sparked to the idea immediately but basically they wanted us to tackle the whole enchilada, if you will, not just do the Tin Man character but they wanted us to take the whole Wizard of Oz sort of franchise story and re-invent that for their channel.
Steven: Yeah, basically we left the meeting thinking they liked the idea of doing a TV series and we got back and our agents called and said: ‘They’re going to do a four hour mini-series,’ and we said, “About what?” And they said, “About Tin Man,” and we said, “Well, Tin Man wasn’t finished.” So anyhow, they encouraged us to make the entire Wizard of Oz re-invented as a four hour mini-series, which we did. And eventually they liked the script so much they decided to make it a six hour, so here we are. And is there still any hope, if it’s successful, of turning it into a series? Like Battlestar Galactica was originally a mini-series.
Steven: Yeah I think we could definitely go back to right where we were and it’d be a great six hour pilot if you would, but there’s a character of the tin man established as a cop and there’s some back story and there’s a lot of interesting characters and situations that we could grow from. And we know that Neal McDonough who plays the tin man would love to do it. And then when it was changed, was it always called Tin Man? And did you just not change it after it was turned from a series into a mini-series?
Craig: It was one of those things where you kinda keep calling it the “working title” and before long it grows on everybody and you make your proverbial list of: “OK, what else can we call it?’ And everybody kind of came back to Tin Man eventually.
Steven: Yeah, in many ways I think it’s a nice homage to the original movie and the original book. But it’s also, you know, so we’re not saying we’re just doing The Wizard of Oz. Although in the six-hour piece the Dorothy Gale character, who we call DG, is in fact the main protagonist in the movie. And you mentioned briefly Neal McDonough, who at least personally I loved him in Boomtown and he was one of the big reasons I was most attracted to this mini-series I gotta say. And how was the casting for this? Was it an easy mini-series to cast? To get all these roles filled correctly?
Craig: Well fortunately there was a lot of interest from a lot of big named talent. I think we ended up with a really hugely great cast. In terms of Neal, Steve and I did a series with him called Medical Investigation, became fast friends. There was a long period of time there where it didn’t look like the schedules were going to match up and Neal wasn’t going to be able to do the movie. But Steve and I kind of just kept pushing and pushing: ‘He’s the guy. We’ve got to get him. He’s the character.’ And eventually it did work out. So we were thrilled with that.
Steven: And we devised the role for him. He’s such an iconic character and the role is just a very iconic, role. And we just wanted … we were very big fans of Boomtown as well, and we loved to work with him on many other things. As far as the other characters go, let’s just go in no particular order: Zooey Deschanel as DG was just such a fresh approach to the role that … we didn’t want Judy Garland. Not that a Judy Garland character wouldn’t be wonderful, but we wanted something that would be fresh and new and speak to an entirely different generation. Zooey speaks to a different generation, she’s a very interesting, quirky actress who brought something very fresh and that’s something we really wanted in this role.
Craig: And with the Glitch character who we always saw as kind of the comic relief character of the piece,Alan Cumming was … when we heard he was interested we all jumped at that because you just need to look at his body of work to see why that is; and we were always just big fans. So those three came together very nicely.
Steven: We also thought that it would be just wonderful to put Alan Cumming and Neal McDonough side-by-side because we knew there would be such interesting energy coming off of them. One guy’s such a strong iconic guy and the other is just electric and out there and we were very fortunate to have those two characters because they work great on-screen.
Craig: As far as the Azkadellia character, again, it was kind of on our part to create an antagonist who was very un-Margaret Hamilton like, even though we love what Margaret Hamilton did in the original. We wanted a sexy villainess who again brought kind of a youthful danger, deadly kind of vitality to the piece. All at the same time, was quite frankly beautiful to watch and really had some fun with updating some of the wicked witches nastiness, if you will. So we saw [Kathleen Robertson] in Hollywoodland and wanted different things and felt like she was definitely right on for the part.
Steven: And as far as the role of Raw, Raoul Trajillo, the role is one of an empath. Someone who feels more than he speaks. And what we really wanted was a character who could, quite frankly act without having to say a lot of dialogue. When we saw Raoul in Apocolypto, you know when you watch a role that a man does in Mayan and you understand absolutely all he’s doing and all his emotions, we thought we’d be lucky to get this guy and we were. He was just terrific.
Craig: And Richard Dreyfuss, that just kind of speaks for itself. For the part of the Mystic Man you want that really big name that everybody is going to know; and who’ll bring the great stuff that Richard brings to a role. So it turned out we got the very strong cast. You know when people see the cast list they’re always like, “Oh wow. I love them, and them.” So that came together really nicely. Definitely sounds like a pretty easy, painless process then to get such a talented cast.
Steven: Yeah. We were very fortunate. And I think too, the roles themselves and the iconic nature of the movie certainly intrigued them to read the script and luckily they responded to the words. It was not a very difficult movie to cast. In many places it was like we had an embarrassment of riches. And I’m just wondering, based upon the original the Wizard of Oz, what exactly on a thematic level I guess … are you trying to say something different? Are you just trying to re-state that message? What are you trying to do differently than the original?
Craig: I guess we kind of turn the message on its ear, the “There’s no place like home,” we turn that on its ear and part of the goal was while we loved the original movie, it’s a fairly thin simplistic story structure. Obviously we had four then later six hours to build that, so we knew we needed to add a dimension to all the main characters as well as the personal journey that our lead character was going through.
Steven: So the thematic of “There’s no place like home,” but what we do it build up all the character dynamic and realize that there’s no place like home, but home is basically where your heart is literally. And your heart is with the people you love, who are your friends and the people that mean something to you. The exploration that DG goes through brings here to that point and brings characters all together. All of them being better for having been together on this journey. The first part at least, the entire structure has a very sort of fantasy novel kind of element. Like a fantasy mini-series. And I’m wondering other than the Wizard of Oz are there any other inspirations in this mini-series?
Steven: I guess that you could say that thematically, or just from a structural stand-point that it has very much a Joseph Campbell-ian epic to it. We’re big fans of Lord of the Rings. We’re big fans of Star Wars and those kind of trilogy movies that actually have a character that goes through not just a small journey, but a huge journey. And that in each journey, in each movie if you will, they learn something about themselves that turns the entire movie, the following movie in another direction. We structurally tried to do that so that, as Craig was saying, the original movie, the original books it’s a very thing story but we realized that to make it substantial for six hours we really had to look at the characters and really have them find things about themselves and thing about their inner-relationship with the other characters here that we could sustain. We really went for a big epical story. Are there lesser, smaller sort of Easter egg nods to the original that you put in throughout? Other than, obviously there’s the larger structural things, but are there any little things that fans will have to look harder for?
Craig: We tried to take as many icons as we could from the book especially, and the movie of course, but the book and try to kind of make a nod to it. There’s a fun little game you can play with this mini-series which is: “Oh that’s a reference to this, or that.” So we tried to take those icons and twist them a little bit.
Steven: And we purposely do something like where you’re watching and sitting there and all of a sudden you go, “Hey, where’s Toto?” We want you, and I think that’s a really good catch phrase you put on it, an Easter egg. It’s like an Easter egg hunt. There are definite places where we’ve hidden things. Definite places both visually and with dialogue that is peppered throughout the whole movie. Part of that was part of the fun for us and we thing that’ll be part of the fun for the whole audience.