[03/14/07 - 04:40 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: CBS's "Jericho"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

7:07 p.m.: Hey it's TV Guide's Craig Tomashoff! He's here to intro executive producer Carol Barbee who in turn intros the episode she's brought, this week's episode "Semper Fidelis." Hooray! I'd give you the deets but you'll probably have watched it by the time this gets posted. Let's just say a tank is heavily is involved.

7:56 p.m.: Craig returns to bring out tonight's panel - Erik Knudsen (Dale), Pamela Reed (Gail), Stephen Chbosky (creator/executive producer), Ashley Scott (Emily), Lennie James (Rod), Carol Barbee (executive producer), Josh Schaer (creator/producer), Jonathan E. Steinberg (creator/producer) and Skeet Ulrich (Jake).

7:59 p.m.: Carol quickly drops some spoilage when asked about why the show is set in Kansas, as opposed to say Manhattan: "When you see several of the episodes that are coming you're going to find out there were specific reasons that this part of Kansas was chosen. So it was chosen in the story for a particular reason. It's also the heartland. It's middle America."

8:01 p.m.: Jonathan on how the show came about: "It actually started as an idea for a little movie. It was a little character drama where there was sort of this big backdrop going on off-camera. And [it was] just a very difficult movie to end because there's really no end so we figured why end it, we'll just keep telling the story. So that's sort of where it started. So I was working on another project and had the idea and Josh was working on the project with me so we wrote a little treatment and we brought it to Jon Turteltaub - who's not here tonight but who is sort of godfather to all of us on this - and he loved it. And that was sort of the beginning of it. And then Steve came in and wrote the pilot for us and it's kind of [grown] from there... It's weird because when we grew up there were a lot of these stories but they were very different. They were Cold War stories. They were about the end of the world where the end of the world meant a flash of light and you were gone or you died of radiation a few weeks later. And things have kind of changed in that the Cold War ended and now it's a much different world. It's a post-9/11 world where the end of the world might mean something that you watch on TV happening to somebody else. It was sort of interesting to think about those big spectacle movies from the '80s in this new kind of light. What would it be to be a spectator to the end of the world and have to go on after it? So that was kind of the idea of where it started and we're kind of getting there now where when we started with the people in our town and our audience through their POV not really knowing what was going on. And now they're beginning to sort of be observers to what the end of the world looks like."

8:04 p.m.: Stephen on his initial reaction to Josh and Jonathan's treatment: "My insight where I was coming from was, 'It's great... we could use some girls.' [Laughs.] 'And some teenagers, but only if they sing, and some laughs.'"

8:07 p.m.: Jonathan on how 9/11 and Katrina influence the show: "[They] were both sort of the paradigms that we used as very different ways that a catastrophe can go and 9/11 saw a lot of the best in people and people [putting] themselves in danger to help somebody they didn't know. And in Katrina you saw some of the worst in people. And so I think those both act as the poles of what we draw on to create stories with."

8:09 p.m.: Lennie on why he did "Jericho": "If you describe the pilot to people and watch what their reactions are... and you kind of go - 'small town in the middle of America that's cut off from the rest of America after America's hit by a nuclear attack.' People go, 'Really? I'll watch that.' And if you get that kind of reaction you kind of want to be part of the show."

8:12 p.m.: Lennie on getting recognized by fans: "It's very weird because it kind of happens in strange places, well, they're strange places because you never expect it to be recognized. I suppose the funniest - well, it might not be funny now that I've said it's going to be - is I went out to see some friends and I was parking my car and this guy just walked past me and he went, 'What's in the barrel?' I was like, 'Sorry? What's in the barrel? I have no idea what you're talking about.' [And he says,] 'You're the guy from 'Jericho'' right?' And I went, 'Yeah.' And he says, 'What's in the barrel?'" He later adds, "'What's in the barrel?' and 'Why am I being so horrible to my family?' That's what my kids ask me all the time."

8:18 p.m.: Jonathan on researching the show: "It's weird though because it's... as soon as those bombs go off, it's a universe that doesn't exist. There's no research you can really do. And then talking to a lot of the experts we talked to it became very clear you ask six experts the same question you get six answers. And there's just no way to know.... It's an event that we sort of designed to break the system. So by definition the plan won't work and everything that everybody thinks is there, the safety net, is gone."

8:19 p.m.: Lennie what makes "Jericho" special: "I think one of the things that you find out in the episodes to come is that Jericho survives in a particular way because of the makeup of Jericho, because they are people in Jericho like Skeet's character and like Mike's character and like Pam's character, just all of the, because of the people who set the character of the town, people who take the lead in the town... So I do think a large part of the story of Jericho is actually about how you redefine yourselves in the face of adversity. And I think that kind of attracts people to it. It's not just about the bombs dropping, it's about what happens after the bombs. How do you survive afterward? Who are you when you're not defined by your MP3 player or your car or your video or your television or what's your favorite television program? That's not what's going to define you - what's going to define you is who you are and what you're going to do for the [guy] who stood next to you."

8:21 p.m.: Jonathan on why they're keeping viewers in the dark about who's responsible for the bombs: "The audience should be in the same sort of shoes as the people in town. And so while everybody wants to know in town and that's the big question on everybody's mind, the bigger question is, 'What am I going to eat tomorrow?' and 'What am I going to do about this guy who has a gun pointed at me?' 'What am I and can I be the person I think I want to be in the face of all this?' So it's out there and you saw sort of the beginnings of it now, of this world sort of starting to impose itself on these people and starting to answer some of the questions that they have been a little too busy to be asking out loud."

8:22 p.m.: Carol adds: "You'll find out to who did it. You'll find out to a great degree by the end of this season a part of that answer. Certainly next season you're going to... [you want] a next season?" [Applause.] This prompts Stephen to joke, "I just had this vision of like if everyone who just applauded worked for CBS."

8:24 p.m.: Jonathan on if he knows what season four and season five and so will be: "The very first day we sat down, the very first question that Carol asked was, 'What's the end of the show? If we go for how many seasons we want to go for, what's the end of the show?' And for us when we started it was always sort of about the first few seasons of story and the bombs went off and that sort of initial panic were really just chapter one. And this was never going to really attempt to create a show about people starving to death, that was sort of the first hurdle. And so yeah, we have a pretty good sense of... we certainly know exactly where the story is going in terms of the overarching mythology, in terms of where Hawkins fits in, the people who sort of on the outside world who may or may not be looking for him and more importantly, the government. We saw a little bit in the last couple episodes that it's starting to become a presence in people's lives again. And they're starting to ask, 'Where is the government? Where is the President?' And so that becomes a very big part of the mythology going forward."

8:26 p.m.: Carol on how, if at all, the show turned out differently than it was originally conceived: "I think we were all surprised that, I think we all thought after the pilot... we were going to sit down and tell the story about these characters and we were kind of surprised at how we couldn't do that. You really need to continue that momentum at least for a little while 'til we kind of earned our way into being able to tell stories about these characters, these people and their relationships. It was ridiculous in episode two or three [to have them] talk about their relationships as they were running to try and save their lives. And so, but now luckily we've earned our right to tell the story."

8:27 p.m.: Lennie on when he learned his character's secrets and what he does and doesn't know: "I don't know what's going to happen to my character. For the first four or five episodes I didn't want to know what my secret was, I didn't want to know my reason for being in Jericho, I didn't want to know who I was and what it was I was capable of. And then [it got] to the point where it was quite difficult to play the character without knowing certain things so I went into the writers' room and Jon and Josh kind of told me what my secret was and what my back history is. And it's great... I think I'm gonna need to be a little bit taller and I started jogging. When they told me my backstory I was like, 'I'm gonna have to get fit.' So I started exercising."

8:28 p.m.: Pam on what it's like to know what's coming up on the show: "The hardest part about being in Jericho is there's some deaths that are coming and they're really, really difficult. Actor to actor, character to character, we've wrapped ourselves around this show and I didn't even realize it the first time it happened and the second I've just become aware of. They haven't aired yet."

8:30 p.m.: Erik on if he thinks about what he'd do in the same type of scenario: "Definitely when you watch 'Jericho' you think, 'What if that situation happened?' Of course I've thought about it. I mean I've never been involved with a major disaster. I mean there was the blackout that we had for like two days. But seriously, I mean the traffic shut down, people got out of their cars, they helped traffic. Some people would try to take the ice, some people would try to help. You don't really know if you're going to be a good or bad person. And you've got family, you want to protect them. You're a single guy, you're going to be greedy." Skeet then quips, "That's the most I've ever heard you talk."

8:35 p.m.: Stephen on his own experiences during the L.A. riots and 9/11: "I was there. It's when I was a student at USC and I remember going from, I actually worked for the university. I'll never forget standing 36th Place and between me on campus and my apartment maybe 60 yards away the entire supermarket, the corner market was burning. And people were looting it and I had to wait for the police and the fire department. And I finally went home to my apartment, went to sleep and when I woke up it was louder - the sirens. That's when I knew this whole thing was going to take a long time. I was very scared. I was also in New York for September 11th. And there are certain images... I don't tend to dwell on it, I try to... it's kind of scary if you really went there emotionally. But for me the one image, that was the one thing I was doing when I was writing the pilot, I went to it a lot, which is after September 11, I was in Brooklyn and I don't know if everyone remembers, the wind was very focused that day. And it went right over my apartment and I'll never forget the, just the business papers floating by... And then the next day you started to see the posters and the signs, the pictures of families on the subways and in Union Square Park and so it just really got to me."

8:37 p.m.: Carol on flying to San Francisco with Skeet and running into some turbulence. "We had a little bumpy beginning and I swear I had this thought - I didn't tell Skeet this - I thought if this thing goes down, well Jake Green is here! I swear I had this thought! He'll save me! I've seen him do it!" Skeet adds, "You'd have to write it really [fast]."

8:39 p.m.: Time once again for Q&A. Someone asks when we'll see Heather again. "You're going to be very happy [soon]," Carol says. The same person asks if any of the panel has stocked up on water and supplies as a result of the show. "Get a ruggardized computer," Lennie jokes. "You never know when it will come in handy."

8:40 p.m.: Jonathan on how the famed TV movie "The Day After" influenced the show: "I had never seen 'The Day After.' I've always wanted to watch it [but] growing up it was one of those things I was sheltered from. So we watched it after the project had sold, everything was sort of moving, I figured, you know, we might as well watch it so we NetFlixed it and watched it. It's depressing." Stephen adds that they're probably more influenced by Stephen King's "The Stand." Skeet points out a new set on the show - a cafe - is named after it. Ashley jokingly calls it "The Peach Pit," after the fact they film where 90210 used to shoot. "We finally got [Shannen Doherty] to leave," she quips.

8:42 p.m.: Someone goes into a lengthy critique of the military inaccuracies on the episode we just watched, which prompts the always ready with a quip Skeet to say, "It doesn't air until tomorrow so we're going to go and [fix it]."

8:47 p.m.: Carol on when we'll learn the status of the rest of the world: "The audience finds out as the people of Jericho find out so as we get out in the world more and information gets to us more you'll find that out. We start to get a little bit of radio, we start to get more people coming through so it's coming."

8:48 p.m.: Jonathan on how they deal with the science behind radiation on the show: "When we first started to talking to experts about it, about fallout and radiation and how we would be affected, almost universally their answer was, 'You've got nothing to worry about. You're how many hundred miles away.' That was one where we did want to be worse. We're like, 'Well couldn't it be a little bit worse?' And they just would not budge on it... A lot of those episodes early on were more about the fear of it and more about not knowing what was in the air, this thing that can be killing you without you even really knowing about it."

8:51 p.m.: Jonathan on how the show differs from their original treatment: "Periodically we'll go back and look at the original treatment. It's weird because it was really a snapshot of the world. I mean it was about what was going on in other countries and what the governor was doing. And we sort of figured that would be the first few episodes and then Carol came in and said, 'Well, you just described eight seasons worth of TV.' But we're pretty close... early on there was a lot of figuring out how do you tell a story like this on network TV at 8:00. And we sort of, I think are figuring it out. And now we're getting to a point where I this is the story I think we always wanted to tell and it's the beginning of the story of I always wanted to tell. I think the next chapter was always sort of the most interesting." Stephen adds that originally the character of Bonnie Richmond was not intended to be hearing impaired, they just fell in love with Shoshannah Stern as an actress. He also notes that some budget constraints on the pilot forced them to hold off some elements that were later incorporated into future episodes.

8:55 p.m.: Skeet says to look out for episode 18 (the one aired tonight was episode 15) for some major revelations about Lennie's character. "I think that's probably our biggest backstory revelation thus far this season."

8:57 p.m.: Josh on what it's like to literally hold the fate of "the world" in his hands: "Not that the excitement has worn off in any way, but I can remember on day three when we, Carol had sat us down, she had laid out the objectives for that first week... I think by Wednesday of that week if I'm not mistaken we had to decide which cities got hit. And I remember Jon Steinberg in front of the map with a handful of thumb tacks and he was just giddy as a schoolgirl. Jon's a Philly native and was just like, 'Philadelphia's gone!'"

9:00 p.m.: And that's all she wrote - only one panel left!

COMING FRIDAY: FOX's "The Simpsons"

  [march 2007]  


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