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Q&A with David Reed, writer on NBC’s AQUARIUS

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Q&A with David Reed, writer on NBC’s AQUARIUS

Post by jade1013 on Thu 28 May - 11:34

Q&A with David Reed, writer on NBC’s AQUARIUS

David Reed is a staff writer on NBC’s new crime drama, AQUARIUS, in which a dogged detective investigates crimes surrounding the emergence of Charles Manson. The show premieres May 28.



Radcliff: This show looks very intriguing and exciting. And I have to say, I’m a fan of David Duchovny from The X-Files. I imagine that’s going to be a big draw to others, as well.

Reed: For sure.

Radcliff: I was going to ask you, “How do you guys get away with a Charlie Manson mystery show on NBC?,” but then I remembered NBC airs Hannibal, so it seems to be comfortably moving into darker territory.

Reed: Oh, yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. I think broadcast networks, right now, are looking to find ways to differentiate themselves, and I think they’re especially trying to compete with cable and to find ways to tell stories that aren’t exactly what you would expect from them. Nobody likes to be seen as stodgy and old-fashioned—and I think NBC has proven that they’re not. I’ve really been impressed with how much leeway they give to Hannibal and to Aquarius. A lot of our content is not more shocking than something you might see on cable, but it’s outside of what you know, before this show, I worked on Revolution, which was on NBC, and I think we almost self-censored on that show in some ways, kind of assuming there were things the network wouldn’t let us do, or topics we couldn’t explore. We learned it was actually quite the opposite – they’re really just looking to make a good show, more than anything.

What they want is something people will like to talk about, in the same way that Hannibal has a very vocal fanbase that loves to eat it up and follow it wherever it [goes]. I think NBC wants more things like that.

They have their broad-appeal hits, like Blacklist, and they also want stuff that — well, Aquarius could be a broad-appeal hit. We’ll see on May 28, when it airs, but I think NBC is excited by the opportunity to surprise people.

Radcliff: I was actually going to ask you about Revolution, as well. How does your experience there compare to this transition into Aquarius? I noticed in your filmography that you have three episode credits on Aquarius, and that’s out of a 13-episode season.

Reed: Yeah! The best thing about Aquarius, for me, was the responsibility that John McNamara, the showrunner, placed on me. I’ve spent years as an assistant of one stripe or another: I was a writers assistant, a script coordinator, and on the side I wrote a lot of things. I wrote a few movies for the SyFy Channel, a videogame adaptation for Sony, and so I always felt like I was kind of a “secret writer.”

So, I had this day job, as an assistant, and I worked with John, years ago, on a show called The Philanthropist. I was the script coordinator, and he was a consulting producer. At that time, he was having me work for him, during our hiatus from that, reading a bunch of scripts and giving him notes: doing my script coordinator job of notes and fixing typos. And one of the scripts he gave me to read was Aquarius. I think this was summer of 2009.

Radcliff: Oh, wow.

Reed: Yeah, I remember thinking: “This is such a great script, but this will probably never be on TV.” He was talking about positioning it for cable, at the time—but even then, I thought a Charlie Manson show might be too intense. So my experience was, basically, after years of helping him with different versions of the script, I refreshed Deadline [Hollywood], and there was a straight-to-series order and David Duchovny, and all of that great stuff. I found out like everybody else.

Radcliff: Wow.

Reed: I called John and talked with him about it, and I was lucky enough to get a job on the staff. There are five writers: me, John McNamara, Alex Cunningham, Sera Gamble (who I had worked for on Supernatural), and Rafael Yglesias, who is a novelist. They’re all very, very experienced.

[Editor’s Note: The Internet Movie Database also lists Mike Sheehan as a writer on the show.]

Radcliff: That’s great.

Reed: John had created several shows, Sera was the showrunner on Supernatural, Alex was one of the head writers of Desperate Housewives and created the NBC version of Prime Suspect, and Rafael sold his first novel when he was 16 and has written 10 novels since then. I was the very, very low man on the totem pole. But they put a lot of trust in me, which I really appreciated. And I came away with three scripts, and that’s—that’s something a lot of staff writers don’t get to do.

Radcliff: Right.

Reed: I have nothing but glowing things to say about John, because of the incredible amount of trust he puts in everybody. Once he likes somebody, he likes them a lot.

Radcliff: That’s terrific. And that doesn’t always happen, obviously. What you just spoke about reflects the importance of building relationships, over time, and that comes up in a lot of the conversations that I have with writers. I think a lot of people don’t realize that, no matter with whom they happen to be dealing, they are building a reputation. It looks like you built some positive connections.

Reed: Exactly. And if you’d asked me, two years ago, where my first staff writing job would have been, I would have bet any amount of money on Revolution. But the TV gods chose otherwise: that show wasn’t picked up, and Aquarius was. I had kept in touch with John and had done a lot of work for him, on the side, over the years, and that turned out to be a thing. Who would have guessed?

I totally believe that you always need to be putting your best effort out there. Because you never know if the key is going to come from your day job, or from that person you met at a meet-and-greet. They’re going to remember you two years from now, and they might have an opportunity that could change your life. If you can find a way to be memorable, that’s always good.

Radcliff: How did you gravitate toward writing as a profession? I know a lot of people begin as assistants, as you said, but what made you want to get involved in the business in the first place? Do you remember?

Reed: I do remember spending a lot of time, as a kid, wanting to write down stories and make movies with my friends. We had a videocamera, and I always took on that role of writer and director. But the practical side of my brain always won out, when I thought about what I would do for a career. I thought I’d be a doctor, and then I thought I’d be a computer programmer, because that was always something I’d had a huge interest in. I went so far as to get half of a computer science degree. But I found myself really, really bored by the work.

At that time, I wanted to make videogames. I love playing games, and I love reading about games. But the actual work, the grind of it, is not as fun as sitting down and making up a story. So, in my junior year of college, I really seriously thought maybe I could switch paths and be a writer. Interestingly, I didn’t know any professional writers. I come from a pretty small town in Wisconsin, and my parents are both doctors. I thought that sort of professional career was the way that you lived.

It took me awhile to meet people who actually do make a living doing stuff that I just consider to be fun. It’s just a cool thing to do, and it’s the sort of thing I’d be doing anyway. So why not try to make a living off of it?

Radcliff: Right.

Reed: My wife is also a writer. We moved out here together, and she was a little more serious about coming to Los Angeles—sooner than I was. She was my girlfriend, at the time, and she convinced me [to move]. We came out here together in 2006. At first, the time since then was really me catching up with her desire to really make a living. But as soon as I looked into TV writing, and all that the job entails, it really seemed the only course.

My wife writes features, and I definitely gravitate toward TV, because you can write something and, five days later, you’re on a set and David Duchovny is reading it.

Radcliff: There’s that immediacy to it that’s so appealing. And there are a lot of great stories being told on television. We see a lot of great actors and writers now gravitating in that direction.

Reed: Yes.

Radcliff: I went through the UCLA program and, at the time when I was there, a lot of people kind of dismissed television. But in my last year there, I started taking TV classes, and found that area was, in some ways, more appealing to me. Now the UCLA program has opened up more in that direction.

Reed: And, you know, it might be cyclical, too. In the same way that there are other industry trends that are cyclical. I think we are, right now, in this great space for television, and there are so many outlets for stories that it’s become sort of a wonderland, in a way.

I imagine that things will eventually contract, in some ways. As much as films and TV are expanding because of technology, I think we’ll actually start to see more low-budget features again. People will be able to reduce their budgets further and still achieve great things. So everyone will want to go write their feature.

And then that’ll contract again and TV will be back on top. Right now, though, I think TV is definitely the place to be.

Radcliff: What kinds of shows shaped you? What did you grow up on and admire?

Reed: I grew up watching a lot of Star Trek Like, really, really a lot. [laughter]

Reed: We didn’t have cable. We lived out in the sticks, and so I was pretty late into high school when my parents got satellite TV, which was the only option available. Before that, we didn’t even get FOX. We only got NBC, CBS, and sometimes ABC. Depending on the weather.[laughter]

Reed: It was kind of rough, especially since I obviously love TV. But we would watch a lot of stuff on videotape. Every Friday night, my dad would take me and my little brother and my sister to the video rental place, and I would rent a videotape that had two episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series on it. I watched the entire series that way, over the course of 30 odd weeks. We wore out our copies of Indiana Jones on VHS, the Star Wars movies, all those classic children-of-the-80s experiences.

Radcliff: I have to ask you, then: What are your feelings about the new Star Wars trailer everyone is talking about?

Reed: I unabashedly just love it. [laughs] I have a five-year-old son. We just watched it together. At the end of it, he looked at me and said, “Let’s watch it again.” I was like, “Oh! Thank you.”

Radcliff: [laughs] That’s great.

Reed: Because that’s exactly what I was going to do, anyway. I love it.

Radcliff: And now you have a great excuse, if your wife asks, “Why are you watching that again?” It’s for your son. It’s parenting.

Reed: Exactly! You know, I worked at Bad Robot, right as they were starting the Star Wars expansion. And they are so incredibly secretive, as everybody knows. But even within Bad Robot, a lot of people knew nothing about what was being made. They’d just say, “Yeah, it sounds like it’s going to be good!”

Radcliff: I hope it’s great. There’s a real resurgence of older television shows, lately, as well. The X-Files is coming back. I just saw something recently about a Full House reboot.

Reed: I’m really excited about The X-Files, actually. I talked to David Duchovny, very briefly, about it. I got into that show by catching up—basically, my wife was a huge fan of it, and so, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started catching it at my friends’ houses. But when the first movie came out, I became completely obsessed.

Radcliff: [laughs] I understand.

Reed: I was in college when the DVD sets started coming out. That’s the first TV drama that I remember coming out in DVD boxed sets.

Radcliff: You know, I think you’re right. Yeah. I was really into it, too.

Reed: I bought all the boxed sets and caught up that way.

Radcliff: It was also the first show that really took advantage of the rise of the Internet culture, and of the dialogue between fans and the show itself—which is so central to, I guess, every show now.

Reed: Right! And, you know, that engagement is a really great and interesting thing. I was a writers’ assistant on the last season of Battlestar: Galactica, and one of the ways I got into that show in the first place was because the creator of the show, Ron Moore, did a podcast of commentary on every single episode. For a super-nerd of the show, especially for someone who loves writing and wants to learn more about the writing process, that’s an invaluable resource for peeking in and deconstructing how and why they made the choices they made.

I have benefited greatly from that engagement online, as a fan. I’m very into that kind of stuff.

Radcliff: I know the popularity of the Breaking Bad podcast was so strong that one of the editors of the show, Kelley Dixon, decided to do a Better Call Saul podcast, too. I guess they do those on Saturdays as an extracurricular bonus.

Reed: Oh, really? That’s fun.

Radcliff: You’d mentioned that, during your period as an assistant on shows, you were also writing TV movies and things like that. Did you have representation at that time?

Reed: No! No, I didn’t. I got my first couple of paid writing jobs through my work on Battlestar. I would literally go up to the SyFy office to drop something off. Today, script distribution is entirely electronic. All the executives read them on iPads.

But at that time, I would schlep over 15 copies of a script for the SyFy Channel offices. And through meeting assistants there, and meeting coordinators there, I got a chance to meet with some of the producers of SyFy Original Movies. Those are crazy. What an insane experience. The movies I worked on were shot in Bulgaria, and they had very small budgets but very ambitious ideas. You’re literally making a full creature movie every week.

Radcliff: That sounds fun.

Reed: It’s almost like doing a TV series. The producer of the company works with the showrunner and may have some ideas. And then some ideas are pitched, some are from SyFy, and it all goes into the pool. I went into a meeting and they said, “Do you like crocodile movies?” And I said, “Who doesn’t like a good crocodile movie?” So I got the job writing Croc 3. And I really just got that job from showing up.

Radcliff: That’s amazing. It wasn’t as if you’d had something in your portfolio as a sample for them that was in that area?

Reed: Not really. My “sample” was that I had gotten the producer’s email address and that we had chatted a little bit. I had said, “Here are some ideas I have.” And because they make so many of these movies — I mean, hundreds of these —

Radcliff: Creature movies, specifically.

Reed: Well, it’s all part of this brand: SyFy Original Movies. They air on Saturday nights. Things like GIANT SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, or SHARKNADO—[laughter]

Radcliff: Right. Yeah.

Reed: So I pitched a few things, and it was really just my set of pitches that served as my sample. We chatted in the room about some ideas for LAKE PLACID 3. That was my first produced piece of television.
It was a very bizarre experience. I was fairly young. I think I was 24 when I got the job, and I had no complaints about any sort of feedback they wanted to give me. They have a lot of metrics about how people watch those movies. They know they want someone to fire a gun every eight minutes. Or every act, basically. [laughter]

Radcliff: Right before commercial, just give me something violent.

Reed: Right. They kind of just need—they have certain things they’ve figured out to make sure it’s successful for them. So it’s kind of a crazy experience. “And then the giant crocodile bites the boat in half!” All that kind of stuff.

Simultaneously, I got a job working on SUPERNATURAL, which, in its way, is a creature thing.

Radcliff: Right.

Reed: So, for awhile, I was just living monster movies, day in and day out. I wrote LAKE PLACID 3, LAKE PLACID: THE FINAL CHAPTER—which, by the way, is not the final chapter—

[laughter] And then I wrote a movie called BOOGIEMAN, and I did some uncredited work on some other SyFy movies. Dialogue work or a quick story polish. I was working on SUPERNATURAL at the same time, though, and I found it to be very synergistic. My work at night on the SyFy movies could definitely be brought to bear on monster-of-the-week work on SUPERNATURAL.

Radcliff: So, your jobs were aware of each other.

Reed: Yes, totally. In fact, my boss on SUPERNATURAL, Eric Kripke, he had written a movie called BOOGIEMAN before SUPERNATURAL had started. I was in the writers’ room one day, and SyFy had just recently come to me and had said, “We want to do a movie called BOOGIEMAN.” So I told Eric, “just so you know, we’re not ripping you off.” [laughter]

Radcliff: It sounds like you’ve kept very busy, ever since you came from Wisconsin. Right?

Reed: Yeah, I mean, I feel very lucky that I basically got— I think every writer needs to have a certain amount of practice before they’re ready for primetime. I felt like I was really lucky to do a lot of my practicing for companies that actually gave me a little money on the side. Most of the work that I’ve written now has been on assignment, which I think is fairly rare for someone kind of starting out.

Radcliff: Very much so.

Reed: I got pretty lucky.

Radcliff: When I was looking through your filmography, my assumption was that your interest was in sci-fi, because so many of the titles you’ve worked on are in that genre. AQUARIUS doesn’t really fit that mold. Does that feel like a big stretch for you?

Reed: I thought, at first, that it would be a stretch—just because I hadn’t written a lot of it. But a lot of the stuff I actually watch and enjoy is not genre or sci-fi stuff at all. My favorite shows are THE AMERICANS and MAD MEN.

When AQUARIUS was first starting, the very simple description that I told my grandma is, “Well, it’s kind of like MAD MEN with cops.” Because of the 60s setting. I felt like it was easier for me to come and tell myself, “This is the kind of stuff I enjoy, even though it’s not the kind of stuff I’ve written a lot of.” It’s the kind of stuff I’ve wanted to write a lot of.

I don’t consider myself a sci-fi writer. I was excited by a lot of that stuff as a kid, and I still am. I love STAR WARS, and I’ll be first in line for the next STAR TREK movie, but I think it’s important to not be boxed in as just a writer who does one type of thing.

Radcliff: I agree. I think, creatively, that’s always the objective—to be versatile. A lot of us get into writing because we want to be able to express all sorts of different things, and in different ways. But I’ve also had a lot of conversations with people who say, “Well, an agent or manager needs to know what your brand is, in order to be able to promote you.” I bristle at that, because a lot of the writers who I follow or who I have admired very often move from comedy into drama or vice versa.

Reed: Yes, and I think the ideal situation is that your brand is “good.” [laughter]

Reed: You know? Your brand is that you write good material and you’re smart. If Matt Weiner wants to go write a sci-fi film, a space opera—and I don’t think he does—but if he does, I think people would say, “Give it a shot. Let’s see what he does.”

My boss on BATTLESTAR, Ron Moore, has done a lot of sci-fi stuff. But when you talk to him, it becomes clear he does not think of himself as “a sci-fi writer.” He thinks of himself as a writer who happened to work on STAR TREK for a long time, and on BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA. And now he’s got OUTLANDER, which is its own sort of thing.

Radcliff: Sure.

Reed: A lot of the stuff that he’s interested in is just good drama, not good sci-fi drama.

Radcliff: Speaking of which: your new show, AQUARIUS, is it completed now? Is it in post-production?

Reed: It’s completely finished now. We finished writing in early November, finished shooting at the end of November, and finished post-production in February.

Radcliff: I really want to ask you about it, specifically. But, both as an interested viewer and as a journalist, I understand there are things you can’t really discuss. But I do want to ask: was there something in the process of creating it that was a particularly unexpected challenge? Maybe on the writers’ room or on set? A opportunity for growth for you?

Reed: There were a lot of challenges in dealing with real history and in knowing that we don’t know everything. The show is really a story about a detective—Sam Hodiak, the David Duchovny character—who is trying to figure out what his place is in a very changing world. When people look at it, from the outside, they assume “this is a Charles Manson show.” And that really is a part of it, but it’s actually about the changing generation.

It’s about a lot of people in a world that doesn’t look like the world they grew up in and are used to and are comfortable with. And one of the challenges for me, since I wasn’t alive in 1967, was figuring out the perspectives of all of these characters. David Duchovny’s character was a soldier in World War II. What was his childhood like? What was his experience in World War II? What was it like to come home from that and live out a decade before the events of AQUARIUS?

All of the characters have very different life experiences than most of the writers on the show. So you have to dig a little deeper to find the touchstones we all can relate to.

Radcliff: Right. I was reading up on it, and it does seem to have some of the same kind of tones—at least, in my mind—of MAD MEN, as you said. Because it seems very interested in a situated time and place, moreso than, say, in the solving of these crimes.

Reed: Right. You can look at it, in a simplistic way, as a procedural, because the Duchovny character is a detective, and he does solve crimes in the show. But it really is about the time and the place, as you said. It’s about societal changes of the 1960s and how Charles Manson sort of slipped in and destroyed all of that. The cop stuff is just one fun layer among many layers.

I like police shows, and I like any good mystery. A mystery, well-told, will add something to any show. So we definitely have some of that. But we’ve also got a lot of character drama and people dealing with figuring out who they are. It’s pretty classic grist for the drama mill.

Radcliff: Would you say it’s fairly serialized? Is he pursuing one big mystery over the course of the season? Or is this the sort of show for which, if you happened to miss a week, you’d still be okay in terms of figuring out what’s going on?

Reed: Every episode has a beginning, middle, and end—we’re trying to tell one story at a time. But there are very serialized elements on top of it. There’s Duchovny’s character’s interaction with Charles Manson and figuring out what’s going on there. There are also more personalized stories for him, concerning what’s going on with his family. He has a distressing family story.

There are a lot of serialized elements, but it’s important that every episode can stand on its own as an hour of entertainment.

Radcliff: I’m always interested in the dynamics within a writers’ room. I’ve heard many people say that someone is, for example, a writer who is great with jokes, another might be great with structure. Maybe someone is just a great personality to have in the room to keep everyone engaged. Do you have a sense—and it might be too early in your career to determine this—but how would you position yourself, in respect to what you bring to a writers’ room?

Reed: A lot of my experience, before I was a full-time writer, was as a researcher or as a keeper of knowledge. On BATTLESTAR and on SUPERNATURAL, my job was to keep track of the mythology of the show.  In the case of AQUARIUS, one of the things that I tried to do was be a repository for information about all the different elements we’re dealing with: The Manson Family, the Black Panthers, the LAPD in the 1960s.
It’s a very research intensive show, and so I try to keep hold of information pretty well. I think that’s an area where I’m pretty helpful.

Radcliff: You’re probably doing a lot of reading, then.

Reed: Yes, a ton of reading. And not just the stuff you’d expect about the Mansons, but also a lot of books about life in the ‘60s, and in the ‘50s. A lot of it, for me, was also thinking about the music. Not just the top 100 songs of 1967, when the show is set, but also—I listened to a lot of music the characters might have grown up with. These are the songs they would have listened to for their Prom. We immerse ourselves in the culture of the era.

Radcliff: That must be a lot of fun.

Reed: Yeah. I have a record player in my office, and we’ll put on The Beatles or “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” That’s how we work.

Radcliff: I remember reading an interview with Matt Weiner in which he said that the natural impulse, when you’re writing something that’s period, is to assume that everybody, at the time of  a major historic event, is talking about that event. But in reality, the characters should really just be focused mostly on what’s happening in their own life. That’s what he keeps in mind with MAD MEN. Adding that kind of color to AQUARIUS must be very fun, because people living in history don’t know that they will be living in history.

Reed: Right. Exactly. You know, Vietnam is underway at the time of the show, and some of the characters are deeply concerned about it, because they have family members overseas and fighting. They’re the ones who are keeping the TV on and watching reports of it. Others really don’t have as strong of a personal investment and are more concerned with their own lives. We try to come at it from each character. That’s an interesting part of the process.

Radcliff: You mentioned your wife’s a writer, as well. Do you share early drafts with each other?

Reed: We do. Although, because of the turnaround in TV, it’s actually kind of hard. A lot of times, the second that I’m done writing something to a point where it’s good enough to show anyone, it kind of has to be out the door. She might read the fourth draft of something that’s just about to shoot. So it’s not really a writer’s draft.
She writes more for features, and that tends to be a more drawn-out process. That makes it easier for me to be involved in the early stages of her work, because she’s not on the clock, in the same way.

Radcliff: Right. And she’s working on her features from home?

Reed: Yeah. We have two kids, and she stays at home with them, and then she writes in her very limited free time. She’s remarkably prolific for the amount of time that she has.

Radcliff: That’s really great. What’s the gestation period for an episode of AQUARIUS? You mentioned maybe four drafts?

Reed: Yes, but it really depends. With my first episode of AQUARIUS, we had the luxury of a lot of time before we started shooting. We had the first six episodes written before the cameras rolled on episode one. That’s very uncommon, at least on shows I’ve worked on. But then, because of production and rewrites—

On my first episode, I had basically three months, from sitting down at Final Draft to write to when we shot it. On the season finale, which I cowrote with John and Rafael, we had a much shorter time between draft and shooting. We broke the story over about a week, and we had a draft of it a week later, and it was filming a week after that.

Radcliff: When you’re working on a 13-episode limited series like this, and you’re writing into a vacuum without any audience feedback—does that feel odd?

Reed: It does, in a way. But, at the same time, the audience is ourselves. So we just have to hope that if we think something is good, others will like it, too. You remove the impulse to go take everybody’s temperature. You’re not writing to see what people like and what they don’t like. Of course, that’s something you can’t help but do, sometimes, when you’re working on a show that airs as you’re shooting it.

It certainly would be helpful to know if this is a big hit or if it’s more for a niche audience. But I don’t think we’d change it, anyway. I think we’ve done what we set out to do.

Radcliff: That’s good.

Reed: John has a very, very strong vision for the show. Once he’s decided, he’s decided, and we really follow that.

Radcliff: As a viewer, that’s exciting, because, when something kicks off, sometimes you don’t really know if the showrunner knows what the season might look like.

Reed: Right. John knows everything, basically. It helps that it’s a period show, so you have tentpole, real-world, events that you can look forward to and place in the chronology. When I started on the show, John already had a pretty good plan for what each character’s arc would be throughout the series.

Radcliff: That’s probably a relief for you, as a staff writer, to know you’re working with someone who knows where he’s headed.

Reed: For sure. And I’ve worked on shows before that knew where they were headed but, because of the pressures of modern television, they were required to hook people very quickly. You don’t get a lot of second chances. If you don’t premiere well, or if you don’t hold that rating, things can go downhill very quickly. So sometimes there’s a lot of pressure to do things to save your story as quickly as you can.

I understand that, because there are shows that I watch and love—shows like SCANDAL or THE 100. Those are shows that burn through plot very, very quickly. It feels like candy, almost. They don’t feel like they’re stringing you along, but you’re always ten minutes away from a shocking revelation.

So knowing AQUARIUS has a plan and is going to take its time to get there gives us the ability to kind of be more disciplined and say, “We’re not going to take this big scene from the end of episode 13 and put it at the end of episode 3 just to have a shocking moment. That’s something we’re going to hang onto.”

Radcliff: So you guys have mapped out several seasons, already, generally?

Reed: Yes. Yes, in broad strokes.

Radcliff: And are you—I don’t even know if you have time—but are you writing any personal projects outside of the show?

Reed: I have samples I’ve used to get work, and I have a pilot that I co-wrote, with my friend Adam Karp, for CBS. It’s called MODERN GOTHIC. That was my last piece in development. I’m working on other stuff, but it’s the early days for most of it. I always have irons in the fire.

Radcliff: And you’ve got some kids to take care of, too.

Reed: Yes. It’s busy at our house.

Radcliff: What profession do you think you’d be working in, if you weren’t writing for television? Would you have gone the path of your parents and become a doctor?

Reed: I think if I weren’t doing this I’d probably be working in videogames. That really was my intention—to be a game designer. But it feels as if the story in videogames is kind of, by necessity, not the first priority. The first priority has to be, is the game fun to play? That’s not my skill set: figuring out those details and the nitty-gritty technical details of making a first-person shooter fun to play.

Radcliff: I think it would be challenging to—with all the branching—map out all the options someone can take in a sprawling videogame space.

Reed: It’d be challenging, but, at the same time, kind of interesting. I’d love to someday work on a game. But TV is such a great medium for a writer, because you get to tell so much story. In games, the story takes a back-seat, a lot of the time. You work on a game, and it takes three or four years to tell a small slice of story. On a TV staff, you’re constantly, constantly developing new material to find out what the next step is.
Radcliff: Sure. One more question, and we’ll wrap up. If you could transfer over a character from another show or film into AQUARIUS—

Reed: [laughs]

Radcliff: —who would you want to write into the show?

Reed: Oh, that’s interesting. Hm. Actually, personally, I would take Don Draper. There are certain similarities between the shows, in setting and tone. He’s the sort of character who could walk in and have a conversation with someone on our show and then walk out and it wouldn’t break the show. There are certain differences in aesthetics and tone, but I think that would be fun.

Radcliff: Well, Don is really resisting the impulse to grow sideburns that everyone else on MAD MEN is falling for. Everyone else on that show is growing their hair out.

Reed: I know! This season feels like it’s just wacky facial hair time. I guess they wanted to start the ‘70s with a bang. Roger Sterling’s mustache is amazing.

Radcliff: I know. That’s going to be a popular Halloween choice this year.

[laughs]

Reed: Right.

Radcliff: Thank you so much for giving me so much of your time. It was fun to talk with you. Good luck with the show. I’ll be watching.

Reed: Oh, thank you! Thank you so much. This was fun.

—-
David Radcliff is a writer, editor, and educator who has worked with Nickelodeon Studios, Disney Studios, Amazon Studios, and The New York Film Academy. He has been a finalist for the Disney Fellowship, a semifinalist for the NBC Writers on the Verge Program, and has won top honors at the Austin Film Festival and at ScriptaPalooza. David is currently a finalist for the Sundance Episodic Story Lab and is (gently) outspoken on issues of disability representation.


Final Draft

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Re: Q&A with David Reed, writer on NBC’s AQUARIUS

Post by sir on Thu 28 May - 11:36

Thanks

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