[03/26/08 - 12:41 AM]
Live at the Paley Festival: ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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7:03 p.m.: Another surprisingly thin crowd welcomes tonight's archival selection - a clip from PBS's "American Experience" focusing on, you guessed it, the Kennedys.

7:09 p.m.: The Paley Center's Barbara Dixon once again takes the podium to intro tonight's moderator - Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly. She then brings out creator/executive producer Craig Wright, who confirms filming will begin on season two on May 1. He also notes that Bill Chais ("Shark") and Paul Redford ("Journeyman") have both joined the show's staff this season which will be run by incoming showrunner Daniel Cerone ("Dexter"). Tonight though he's brought with him a clip reel from the show's first season which plays really well. I know this is me beating a dead horse at this point but again - unless it's new content, the clip package is almost always better than a previously aired episode.

7:37 p.m.: And with that Lynette returns to introduce tonight's panel - Seth Gabel (Jeremy Darling)! Glenn Fitzgerald (Brian Darling)! Natalie Zea (Karen Darling)! William Baldwin (Patrick Darling)! Peter Krause (Nick George)! Zoe McLellan (Lisa George)! Blair Underwood (Simon Elder)! Greg Berlanti (executive producer)! And Craig Wright! - all of whom appear on stage in record time. There in spirit - Donald Sutherland, Samaire Armstrong and Jill Clayburgh.

7:38 p.m.: Craig on the show's genesis: "When I first came to Los Angeles six years ago, there were only two shows I really wanted to work on and one was 'Six Feet Under' and one was 'Everwood,' which was created by Greg Berlanti. And Greg and I met and even though I went on 'Six Feet Under' Greg and I maintained a long-term commitment to try and do something together. And so after I left HBO, I made an arrangement with ABC and at the same time Greg had and so we got together and said, 'Well, what would we like to do?' And so together we came up with this notion of taking this extended family of very wealthy people and putting at the center a very morally conflicted - but generally heroic - person, just sort of create a 'Dynasty' or a 'Dallas' if you will for the new millennium that could be seen from a different angle, sort of from the underside with a little of the self-awareness that our culture has at this point."

7:40 p.m.: Greg adds: "I think it's sort of a post-modern take on ['Dynasty'] in an HBO world, you know, where let's really see the underbelly of all that. I think in the '80s when you were looking at a lot of those shows, people were watching it just to see the opulence, just to see the wealth. And I think now we know so much more about what lurks behind that, we're sort of obsessed with the cracks in that facade... And also finally I think for me it was trying to sort of, you know, allow Craig's voice and what was the best kind of palate you could have and each of these characters is so human and so extreme at the same time and live in that kind of world where they're both fragile and they're explosive and I think his writing was, you can't really find it on network television."

7:43 p.m.: Peter gives a shout-out to "Sports Night." "It was a show that either audiences en masse weren't quite ready for or it may have had something to do with the fact Michael Eisner, who was running Disney at the time, put 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' on five nights a week." Craig adds that Peter's casting was the "beacon" the show needed to attract the acting talent the show eventually got.

7:46 p.m.: Blair is asked about his ever-busy schedule - literally the week he finished "In Treatment" he walked to the next stage on the Paramount lot to film "Dirty Sexy Money." "During a lunch break on 'In Treatment' Craig came over and Matt Gross. We went to lunch and we walked around the set and talked and I had seen the pilot... and I was just so blown away by the cast... and the writing and this world and I thought this Simon Elder character that we [discussed] was so fascinating to play." He later adds, "[I was told] he was a very enigmatic character, this guy was from Russia. I said, 'Okay, you know I'm a brother right?'"

7:49 p.m.: Zoe (pronounced without the "e") on her character: "I didn't really know where she was going... I still don't and that's part of the joy in discovering her. I know that she does truly love her husband, even though she an independent spirit, she's an artist, she's very strong and a lot more than what we're seeing. I feel like she's coming out of her shell a little bit. But what I keep feeling and reading and experiencing her is she is devoted to this man even though he is annoying her at times." Fun fact: the three ants painting her character buys is from an actual artist named Robert Russell, the works of who generally revolve around the perspective of ants.

7:51 p.m.: William on people's reactions to his affair with Carmelita: "When people come up to me on the street and say, 'Your relationship with Carmelita it's like the greatest, sweetest, most normal relationship on the show.' And I'm like, 'We're either doing something horribly wrong or incredibly right.'" Craig adds: "TV gives you a chance to say a lot to a lot of people and especially [in large] ensemble shows that are nowadays so popular. If you don't use that large ensemble nature of the show to transmit some normalizing influence about diversity then you're being radically irresponsible. And so we knew early on in our conversations about the show that we wanted to include people with diverse lifestyles as well as racial diversity. We just knew we had this character of Patrick who was this scion of this family but who wasn't suited to it and who really feels like he's in the wrong skin. And so then you think well who is he going to seek out and find to mirror him in a love relationship? And lo and behind it's someone who feels very much not at home in his own skin either."

7:53 p.m.: Lynette presses on if we'll learn if Carmelita is a pre- or post-op transsexual. "Honestly enough people are asking the question that I think when we find the right story moment in season two to address it we will," Craig says. "And it won't be a backpedalling moment."

7:55 p.m.: Natalie is asked if whether or not she'll end up with Nick is her most asked question. "No, the predominant statement is - 'my husband loves you.' I'm not kidding. I get it in the bathroom, I get it everywhere."

7:59 p.m.: Glenn on being Brian Darling: "I just try to approach it with a full commitment. It's like whatever it is that he's experiencing, I think he is sort of forceful and passionate. He has a level of honesty that most people don't. I think he feels deeply so whatever it is, it goes way down. So I just try... try to go at them full steam, like to really commit. So whatever it is, even if it's just the most seemingly - from one point of view - absurd. For him it's not at all absurd."

8:01 p.m.: Seth on his character's arc: "I think he's on a journey, he's on a journey to find himself. He's this lost little boy and I think every single episode is an attempt for him to discover who he is and find his true self... I think he'll always be reckless in that he's always searching for something. I have a feeling he won't find his true self for a long time so that means there can be a lot of crazy hijinks in the show. But I think he's always going to be the little boy on the show and sort of represent that looser spirit or that looser character [in comparison] to everyone else. And so there will always be that element of fun with him."

8:03 p.m.: Greg on Dan Rather's cameo in the pilot: "We always knew we wanted at least one celebrity in the pilot... I think there always was the intention of you wanted the randomness of celebrity, the randomness of the people that moved in and out of their lives. It wasn't so much the high caliber, high profile celebrity but it was the celebrities on the periphery of their lives. They were the equivalent of like a sentry in a Shakespeare scene, they were almost a prop or a set piece. They gave it that sense of reality."

8:10 p.m.: Craig confirms the show's commitment for next season - three previously unaired episodes plus 13 new episodes plus three additional scripts. The former trio however won't air as is and will probably undergo some tweaks to match the second batch of 13 episodes.

8:12 p.m.: When asked about the show's budget, Greg admits that the first season of "Dirty Sexy Money" might be the most expensive freshman season produced in television history (per episode).

8:16 p.m.: Natalie on if the jewels she wears on the show are real: "When there's a guy following me to the bathroom they're real. And if not, they're costume."

8:18 p.m.: Patrick admits Eliot Spitzer's foibles definitely make his character's seem timely. Craig however says Patrick's election campaign won't be timed to the actual election due to time constraints. "I think Patrick started the series as a character who was essentially in the closet," Craig notes. "He's a character with a personal reality that's closed... and I think that the most countercultural [story] to tell with him is that his journey towards openness should bring him success. That's all I'll say."

8:20 p.m.: Craig on incoming showrunner Daniel Cerone's influence: "We have found a way to sort of give the show a different kind of rhythm so that even though we're telling as much story every week, we're telling a deeper story. And we're just sort of going to relieve it of its emotional hyperactivity a little bit. As Daniel said, we sort of went from climax to climax to climax and I think we want to give these characters - because we have this great cast - we want to give them all a chance to have the best possible scenes. And to do that sometimes you [need to] slow down our macro storytelling a little bit so [the actors] have a chance to live with issues."

8:23 p.m.: Craig on when - or if - the mystery of Nick's dad's murder will be solved: "We didn't start this show with a murder mystery so we wouldn't solve it." As far as if anyone knows, Peter says, "If Nick George doesn't know, I don't know." This causes William to note, "Did you ever see [a] body?" Craig adds: "I know who thinks they did it. Remember I used to work on 'Lost.'" And Greg follows up with: "I think the audience will get a great sense of satisfaction of watching this next season and [we'll] leave it at that."

8:26 p.m.: Craig shares this theory about money and how it relates to the show: "When an episode of 'Dirty Sexy Money' is good, you can point to any given moment in it and show that these people are being drawn to destruction by this inexorable force that is no one's fault. It's just the existence of money. It's the fact that advancement exists. Advancement and the opportunity for advancement exists in life and it is symbolized by money. You know what I mean? Well, I'll put it this way - when you symbolize advancement in life with money, down you go. And so, my point is this - we will satisfy the audience's need to know who killed this man but hopefully if the show does its homework we will open the deeper question of what drives these kind of forces. Because people are guilty of crimes but people are not guilty that life is complicated... and so I hope that no matter whose finger gets pointed at, the show will ultimately lie the real blame at the feet of money."

8:28 p.m.: Lynette asks if Craig has an end point worked out for the show. "I don't want to say too much," Craig says. "But I'm not lying when I say that in terms of the mythic structure of the show, we know how it ends... For anyone who's read 'The Divine Comedy' all the way to the end, they wouldn't be so far off."

8:30 p.m.: More Craig theories, this time about life in general: "I've always said that I thought life, life is like trying to push a 12-foot wide steel cylinder through a 12-foot wide steel hole. And the sound that it makes as it goes through is this sound - eeeeeeeeeeekkkkk! That impossible movement is life... On this show I think we just want to tell that story in the world of American wealth and privilege, about what it's like to have all this freedom and all this power and all this potential and what to do with it. And we're very much looking for a moment in this season where Nick makes a very, very big speech about this and about the problem of being wealthy, and how the wealthy people in America and in the wealthy West have a situation on their hands the likes of which maybe no other human begin has had, where they have no requirements on them. All they have is creative freedom and potential, right? No one is stopping them from doing anything - except them. They have this God-like problem. And I don't envy them at all, you know? And if the show has done anything clever with it... it's trying to make us feel pity for these people instead of attacking them so viciously like we do like on AOL. I don't know why I thought of AOL." This prompts Lynette to say, "Does he talk like this on the set?" Everybody nods.

8:32 p.m.: Our first non-sequitur spoiler for next season: at some point Lisa brings a piano home, a scene which the network deemed "a little silly."

8:33 p.m.: Lynette asks Craig if it would ruin the show if Nick ever confessed his love for Karen. "Robert Frost said you have to hold something back for pressure," Craig quips. Glenn then bashfully announces he has to excuse himself to relieve his own pressure. As for Nick/Karen, Craig affirms, "It would not profit anybody for that to be voiced." She then presses for any spoilers about Seth's character. This causes Craig to ask Daniel (who's in the audience), "Can we talk about that?" Thumbs down. "I agree. You know, people always used to say they want to secret of 'Lost' but they don't want the secret to 'Lost,' they want to watch 'Lost.'"

8:35 p.m.: Peter on Natalie's character: "She's got this big brain she doesn't want to use. I like that about Karen, it's like, 'Who wants to think?'"

8:37 p.m.: Audience Q&A. Greg is asked about, well, being Greg: "My secret is I like to work with great writers who can really do it on their own... My favorite place to be is just in a story room breaking stories and participating in that. I do it that way and I try and teach each of the writers who work underneath me to produce their own episodes. They all sort of mention writers on the set, that's not always customary on TV. And the more autonomy that the writers have to see their episode all the way through, the more everybody sort of feels like they're really communicating at all times. The benefit of all that for me and for my life has been the opportunity to work on multiple different things."

8:40 p.m.: Someone asks about Peter's ever-changing sideburn length. "I don't know if I'm particularly known for my grooming," he jokes, adding that executive producer Matthew Gross for some reason is obsessed with each cast member's hair.

8:42 p.m.: A fan wonders if the producers got their first choices in casting. "Can you really imagine any but one answer to this question?" Craig notes.

8:45 p.m.: Craig shares some more about the show's origins: "The original title was 'The Ruins.' Their name was the Rooneys and then the tabloids called them the Ruins. And then one day we were in a meeting about the characters and some people requested that the characters, while they were dark, should have a sort of normal quality, sort of 'darling' quality. And I said, 'Well, why don't we just call them the Darlings? Just change the name [of the show] to 'The Darlings.''... And then that was found to be too ironic. So then, the powers that be came up with 'Dirty Sexy Money' which I actually [think] was a gift from God because it's a great title and perfectly fits the attraction and repulsion that money creates."

8:47 p.m.: Someone asks Greg about "Eli Stone" and its chances to return. "It's 50/50 I think," he says. "It's a decision, it'll just be a choice by the network... I think we're sort of on the fence, like another couple of very good shows on the network."

8:50 p.m.: Craig admits there was some discussion, despite its taboo, about making Karen turn out to be Nick's half-sibling but shot it down in the interest of picking his battles with the network. "We want to do weird stuff," he adds. "And so we want to save it up for the weird stuff we can really do."

8:52 p.m.: More spoilers: "When we ended last season," Craig shares, who also adds his father got married six times. "Nick and Lisa had stated an intention to embark on having another baby. And I wouldn't invalidate that it occurred... They'll be going forward as a couple for a good long while." He later adds, "Storytelling is built on momentum, right? And momentum wants to draw things to a conclusion but television wants to make things last. And there you have the algebra of weekly one-hour drama, of how it works in terms of extenuating expectations and making enough happen, about duplicating a product so people felt they see the show they expected to see but enough new stuff happens. It's a fascinating thing, it's a fascinating problem. I love it... At some point it will end and it will probably be [ABC's] doing so I just want to have enough time to, I don't blame them they're in a business, it's business... so I just want a chance to end the story because I definitely know how I want to end it."

8:55 p.m.: Someone notes that considering the acting/family connections of the cast, will we see any cameos. "Stephen's off 'The Apprentice' so I guess...," Billy quips. "I wouldn't want to break the reality of the show in that way," Craig adds.

8:59 p.m.: Seth admits to not completely reading the pilot script for his audition. "I did accidentally in the skimming think that Peter's character was my father at some point and that always just stuck with me for some reason and throughout the show I've just sort of treated this character as sort of like a real father, like a father that he really wanted, one with real values that actually paid attention to him. And I think we've sort of gotten that on there a little bit."

9:03 p.m.: Overtime! Craig on the Tripp character: "In the original script to the pilot... Nick had Kiki for the day and had to do this immensely stupid series of errands with Kiki, which eventually brought him into Tripp's office. And Tripp had this office at the time that had this giant wooden wall, dark wall behind his desk. And it's very telling when you think about what we eventually did. So they're talking and whatever, he says to Nick, 'You know how they say Nick, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs?' And he goes over and he says, 'Kiki, come here.' And he picks her up and he walks over to the wall and he goes, 'Well, think about if you wanted to make city, you know? Or what if you wanted to make a world? Think about how much would have to get broken.' And he hits a button and the wall goes up and you realize that you're 100 stories above New York City when you thought you were in the basement. And that ambivalence is exactly that character. Now what Donald Sutherland brought to it was this immense commitment to loving Nick, right? Which just makes it all the more creepy."

9:10 p.m.: That's a wrap! See you tomorrow.

  [march 2008]  


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