NYCC 2015: LOOKINGGLASSS ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW PART 1
Interview conducted by Karin Crighton
Science fiction thriller Lookingglass comes to Fox this fall. Corrupt retired sheriff Jimmy Pritchard meets an untimely end only to be revived by a pair of brilliant and highly eccentric twins who control the social media empire known as Lookingglass. Reincarnated into a thirty-five-year-old with superhuman strength, Jimmy has a chance to right the wrongs of his past, but is the damage he did beyond repair?
Executive producers and writers Rand Ravich and Howard Gordon sat down with reporters at New York Comic Con last week to talk about their new show.
Reporter: This is an absolutely fascinating premise; where did it come from?
Rand Ravich: Howard and I had both started talking about Frankenstein independently but at the same time, so it started with that. There were a couple of abandoned projects, we barked up several different trees.
Howard Gordon: I wanted to work with Rand very badly; I was such a fan for years.
RR: And I of Howard's. Well, we'll see how today goes.
Reporter: What was it about the story that got you interested?
RR: It started very big, it started off with the myth, and what happens when you create something you're morally unprepared for? Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should just because you have the technology. But then when you funnel that into a character, it broke away from that and became about that character. Frankenstein is more about the doctor, this is about the lead character. This is about Jimmy Pritchard. What happens when you come back and have a second chance? And from there it became very human: what would you do with your child, what would you do with your granddaughter and what would you do with the city you made of mess of? Can you fix it? Will you make more mistakes trying to fix it? And the same of the scientists: they created something and now it's out there on its own. Can they control it? Can they correct its mistakes or will they continue to spin things out of control?
HG: I remember sitting around a coffee table where we met and hashed out stuff feeling as middle-aged men how suddenly invisible we felt in the world. That was a very personal idea. Maybe not as much as second chances, but what is like for your back not to hurt? For your knee not to hurt when you get out of bed? For your tooth not to break when you eat a Mary Jane.
RR: But that middle-age invisibility is a negative superpower. You start to recede, recede, recede, and what happens when a person has given up and let go, like Jimmy Pritchard has in the first five minutes of the episode? He's going to sit in his chair and he's going to drink. What happens when you're not prepared to come back? What happens when you do have strength in your hands again and what are you going to do with it?
Reporter: Why did the title change from The Frankenstein Code to the Lookingglass? What were the other incarnations?
HG: It wasn't another incarnation; it was different projects altogether, actually.
RR: But always weirdly conflating science fiction and character. We were always groping around this arena.
HG: “Frankenstein” has such a strong, specific gothic reference and it was always a double-edged sword. We always asked would this or won't this [title] work? Lookingglass, which is such a wonderful name, and has its own atmosphere for this project and it's more “up”.
RR: It's a shinier name. Even when it was Frankenstein, which was always a temporary title, we never wanted it to be gothic. We wanted it to have a lot of air and light in it. Frankenstein promised a brooding, gothic feel. Lookingglass, is by its nature, very reflective and shiny.
Karin Crighton: Is science fiction going to continue to play a big role in the series or will it be more of a cop drama?
RR: He is science fiction. And his relationship to his son and to his granddaughter is science fiction. His character is that creation, so that will always be a part of the show.
Reporter: It does seem that there's a theme of temptation and corruption; the new Pritchard tempted by the habits of the old, the twins playing God; is that something you're going to be wrestling with in this show?
RR: Absolutely. He is a corrupt character. He didn't take money, but like an old fashioned sheriff, he thought he knew the law so he became above the law. He did things for what he perceived to be the right reasons but often in the wrong way, which is a form of corruption. So he will always be wrestling with that.
Reporter: Did you see the recent Ryan Reynolds/Ben Kingsley movie that was a variation on this idea?
RR: I did not see that...Self...Less?
HG: No. How was it?
Reporter: I didn't see it either. I was curious if you were influenced by it.
RR: If it had come out before production, we would have, but there's no time now.
Reporter: You know what this reminds me of, and not in a bad way, is Now and Again.
HG: I've only seen the pilot.
RR: I think that's an age-old question, what would you do if you could do it again?
HG: The Six Million Dollar Man!
Reporter: Will there be a constant stream of new characters that he's reconnecting with?
HG: Yes, he's reconnecting with the past and the present. Not just with his own family but with the wreckage of his past that he's trying to make right.
Reporter: Is it fun to go back into the flashbacks and do period stuff?
RR: Yeah! The old character does reappear and there are flashbacks to when he was younger, it is fun because Rob [Kazinsky, who plays the reincarnated Jimmy Pritchard] is so virile. Watching those flashbacks helps remind us there is a very old man inside.
Reporter: So there's a chance Philip Baker Hall will make another appearance?
RR: Oh yeah, you'll see him again.
KC: Do we get to see more exploration of his relationship with his family?
HG: The chemistry between Tim DeKay (who plays Jimmy's adult son Duval) and Rob is remarkable. As a father/son dynamic, it is very durable and it's working very well from now on. And now of course, the son has a tickle of suspicious and won't let it go.
RR: But that becomes the emotional core of the show. Because of all the damage Pritchard has done, his family is the most wrecked. That's the one he most needs to repair. All the people he put away, all he did, that's nothing compared to what he did in his own house with his family.
Reporter: What's the dramatic thrust of the show week to week?
RR: Week to week, as he grows closer with his son, they will work it out within the work, which is crime. Duval became an FBI agent because of his complicated relationship with his father, and they will work it out together during the job.
HG: In a way Pritchard is a superhero. He's got these superpowers (reincarnation has left Pritchard ultra-strong), he's backed by these two characters (the Lookingglass twins Mary and Otto) that can peer into anyone's personal business. Which may not always be legal...
KC: Why was the choice made to give him superhuman strength and senses?
RR: I think it relates to the return to strength, to go a little further, grab a little more, augment his own life with physical powers. Hopefully it will serve the character.
HG: And at the end of the day, the theme asks does man have the right to play God? Who is watching the watchers? And in that, is there a flip, dark side to have those superpowers?
RR: Also it's fun to know that he thought in his corruption he was the law, so now that he is more empowered, what will he do with it?
Reporter: Are there negative physical aspects as a result of being regenerated that will affect Pritchard?
RR: He might be too good looking...
[Agreed. Rob is foxy.]
RR: He's tethered to this [stasis] tank [where the new Pritchard must return every twelve hours or die]. That is part of the creator/creation conundrum; he is a human being but he is leashed to them [the twins]. He has to return to them or else he will die. And that again is science fiction that works for the relationship.
Reporter: Is this a procedural or serialized show?
HG: They are standalone stories, but there is a serialized element to it involving the family, father/son, and the twins.
KC: The family relationship between the twins is very complicated; do we get to see more of that?
RR: You find out what caused it, and as he enters their life it begins to wedge them. You'll see how that affects each of them differently and as a unit.
Reporter: What's the physical scope of the show? You have superhuman strength, how out-there does it get with feats of strength?
HG: We're still quantifying that superhero story, and it's one you don't know from DC or Marvel. Rand's created one with his own mythology and it's evolving. It is quantified in subsequent episodes.
RR: Very human sized, very character driven.
HG: Except for the time travel. [laughs]
RR: Except for the time travel!
Reporter: What are the threats he's going up against?
RR: The threats will range from very personal, emotional crimes to larger crimes that fit his powers. But this first season they will stay as grounded as possible to perfect his relationship with his son.
Reporter: Is what he's involved with something larger than what we see?
RR: The genie's out of the bottle. As far as what's happening within him and the FBI, the technology coming on board and being out there in the world, it will manifest.
HG: Along the lines of Frankenstein, Rand found one of our latter day legends, we have corporate titans. We have Google, we have Amazon. At Google there are two guys sitting around deciding “Should we go to Mars or explore human longevity?” They are modern day gods, playing god. And those characters are not on television outside Mary and Otto.
RR: And the technology is a monster. What Mary and Otto can do, like Old Pritchard, and ostensibly for good, is reach into everyone's pocket. And it's frightening.
KC: That spyware scene was the least science fiction aspect of the show!
HG: Have you heard about this thing at Google? It was just in the New York Times, they're doing a longevity project. These guys in their thirties are saying they're going to live to 150 – and I think they might do it.
Reporter: Theoretically, if this technology leaked out, this could become a global phenomenon.
RR: And who gets it and who deserves it and to what purpose do you put it?
HG: It needs to be a secret and there's tension in that secret. And so he can't come back as Jimmy Pritchard even though he can't be Jimmy Pritchard.
RR: But that's the great thing – he can't help but be Jimmy Pritchard. And Rob, he can't hide who he truly is.
KC: Are they going to bring back anyone else? Are you allowed to say?
RR: Eventually. It's a lonely world for Jimmy!
Reporter: What do you think the show comments on our world today?
HG: I don't think it's a good idea to comment, I think it's a better idea to ask questions, which I think this show does. It's dark and grounded, but Rand's writing is light. I don't think I've ever laughed before at something I've had my name on. I really enjoy it. It doesn't get bogged down, but in a very accessible way those good questions get asked. And it turns out there are no good answers.
Reporter: What do you think the weekly directors will add to this?
RR: For directors it's a challenge to establish a science fiction look but keep the characters in it. And there are two worlds; the Lookingglass compound and outside. We ask them to treat the Lookingglass twin's house like a space station. The Goodwin twins have now what we'll all have twenty years in the future. And Duval is in the present. And what we ask of the directors is to have a different look for all those worlds. When you're in Lookingglass you're in the future, when you're with Duval in the street you're right here, right now...To be able to combine those two worlds is what we're asking the director to do.
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