Welcome to Part Two of our exclusive interview with EUREKA co-creator/executive producer/show runner Jaime Paglia, where he talks about the “extra” episode, the animated episode we got, the musical episode we didn’t get, and his directorial debut with the body-swapping “Jack of All Trades” episode.
ASSIGNMENT X: Was there any danger of EUREKA ending with the end of Season Four?
JAMIE PAGLIA: We sure hoped not.
AX: EUREKA has been a ratings success for Syfy. Can you explain why it was canceled?
PAGLIA: If you look at our budget and say, “Okay, we’re doing fine with our numbers and …” You’re making money, but you’re not necessarily making as much as if you were to say, “Okay, instead of making a full season or even six episodes of EUREKA, we could go and make six new reality shows and order a couple more pilots of potential new shows.” Especially with that kind of a merger [between NBC/Universal and Comcast], you’re looking at, “Okay, this is a show that is definitely going toward its end, whether it’s this year or next year.” You don’t want to stick around too long. So I think ultimately it’s a budget issue and again, I think we were mostly just grateful that they did make the decision and give us enough time to put together a final episode that did have the opportunity to wrap things up and say goodbye to the fans.
AX: For those who find this confusing, you were renewed for Season Five, then you got six extra episodes that would have been Season Six?
PAGLIA: That would have been Season Six, yeah. We got picked up for six [episodes], and I know that there was the perception of, “Oh, then it’s six and you’re canceled.” And then there was the debate about whether that meant we were canceled or not and we had the six episodes. But then about a week later, unfortunately, we didn’t end up having those.
AX: So you have thirteen episodes for Season Five?
PAGLIA: We have thirteen.
AX: And the last one stopped being whatever it would have been and turned into the series finale?
PAGLIA: No, we had an extra episode.
AX: Wait, so you originally had twelve and then you got one more?
PAGLIA: The Christmas episode actually was part of Season Five, although we aired it this last Christmas. That was the original thirteen, and then we got a fourteenth episode, which is going to make it air as thirteen now, because we already aired the Christmas episode.
AX: Speaking of last year’s Christmas episode, “Do You See What I See””, how long had you been holding the idea of doing something with every form of animation known to humankind? Did that predate EUREKA?
PAGLIA: No. I do love animation and had wanted to do an animated episode for awhile, and there were definitely challenges to doing that. When we did our first Christmas episode, “O’ Little Town,” we designed it to be a perennial. It wasn’t a part of what was happening with our normal storyline, it just sort of existed outside of that narrative, and we wanted it to air every year from now on. We thought, “That’ll be great. We’ll make that our little Christmas episode and contribute to what everybody’s season will be.” I grew up watching RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and FROSTY THE SNOWMAN and PEANUTS’ Christmas special and all those things, and just remembered how much I loved those. And so I think because the Christmas episode did so well, Syfy wanted us to do another one. And I said, “But we just did it. That’s it, that was the one. We don’t have a better Christmas story to tell, really, that I can think of.” It really just felt like we were going to go back to the same well. I said, “Unless we can do it as an animated episode,” which was something that I always wanted to do. And they said, “Love it, do it.” So they were great. Amazing support from our network and studio.
Matt Hastings directed it and we went off and got Curious Pictures to come in to do the animation stuff and Ray Rowe was our director of the animation segments. I was having a conversation with Matt Gore, my visual effects producer, because we were trying to figure out how much of this should be done by our vis effects guys and how much should be done by the animation house and where they should cross and all those things, and the debate about what style to do. I was just, “It’s really hard to choose.” And out of that came, kind of like with the reset, “Why limit ourselves to one?” I had a concept years ago, it was going to be called “Eureka2D,” where we were going to start losing dimensions. If Carter turned sideways, he would disappear, because he became two-dimensional, and he [would be saying], “What the hell is going on?” And it was going to end up being a perception thing. We didn’t end up doing that episode, so, “Well, what if we do that episode with animation, where basically every time they try to change something, it just changes the style of the animation?” And so we came up with the ideas for it, and Eric Tuchman and Amy Berg wrote that [“Do You See What I See”] script, while I was [making “Jack of All Trades”], the episode that I wrote and directed. [“Do You See What I See?”] was the longest [post-production] process that we’ve ever had to do, and we didn’t have nearly as much time as we needed to do it. An average SIMPSONS episode that has one style of animation, [where] everything is already designed, I think takes about nine months to make, and we did five animation styles and live action, and we had five months to do it.
AX: Are there any animation styles that aren’t in there?
PAGLIA: At least in the little quick montage, I think I managed to get them all in there. That was something that I was really happy with, being able to do that little segment.
AX: Is “Jack of All Trades,” the one where Jack swaps bodies with Fargo and Zane, your directorial debut?
PAGLIA: It is.
AX: Would you have been able to direct an episode any earlier in EUREKA’s run or did you need to know everything you’ve come to know in order to do it?
PAGLIA: I think it’s a bit of both. I think that I was so focused on the writing and so focused on running the show with my other producers for the first few seasons, that for me to step out for three weeks and go [direct an episode] was not possible. I was going to do it in Season Four, and we had a new sort of team. Bruce Miller, who had come on as a consulting producer in Season Two, we promoted up and he became my co-show runner. And so we had completely re-staffed and it was a new machine that we were building, and until it was up and running smoothly, I didn’t want to step away. By the time I had the opportunity, it would have been about Episode Eighteen of Season Four, and so at that point, I had to choose between directing Eighteen or writing the season finale. So I chose to write the finale. But I knew that if we came back for Season Five, we were going to plan for it, I knew that we had the right team in place, that they were so good, the writing staff and all of our producers and our cast and crew, that we could get far enough ahead that I could actually go and do it. And it was great.
AX: Did that script have particular resonance for you, or was that the one place in the schedule where you could go direct an episode?
PAGLIA: I definitely chose which one I wanted. [Body-swapping] is a sci-fi trope that I’ve loved and saw the opportunity for the comedy and I wanted to write something that would have more of a focus on the characters, and I do definitely have some visual effects and some stunt gags going on in it, but it was more self-contained, so that I could be focused mostly on working with the actors. And our cast is hilarious. The challenge of that one was, when I wrote the script, the network was unbelievably supportive, but they said, “We really love the script – how are you planning to actually direct it? Because if people don’t understand that there’s been a swap, maybe you need to cover yourself and have the actors look in a mirror and see the reflection of the other person and all those things, some device that would let people know definitively who is who.”
I just really wanted it to be an actor’s piece. I think everybody [in the cast] believed they could pull it off, but it was a little bit of a risk. It was [discussed] a couple of months before I actually went to direct the episode. I told them what was coming. The actors studied each other and were looking at mannerisms and inflection and all those things, so it became a process that was really fun for them, so I think everybody was so excited that by the time we got out there to do it, it was like, “Let’s do this! This is going to be so much fun!” And it really was. It was the most fun I’ve ever had.
AX: In writing EUREKA overall, when you’re coming up with concepts, whether it’s a seasonal arc or just an episode, do you start with what would be a funny situation and then, how can this almost destroy Eureka, or do you come up with the dramatic situation and then go, what’s funny about this?
PAGLIA: All of it. We try to always start with the characters in terms of what’s happening, so we know why we’re telling the story. It’s always character first, and then you try to find the great sci-fi, a story that will thematically mirror what’s happening with the characters, or it feels right to have that be the catalyst for what’s going on with those characters. Sometimes the stories start from reading an article online or something else, but it gives you an idea you put up on the A storyboard and then you’ve got the character board going over here and then you just find the best way to marry those ideas.
AX: Have you ever had an arc or a story idea that was just too difficult to execute in production terms?
PAGLIA: The one episode that I didn’t get to do, that I was hoping to do in Season Six, was the musical episode. [Syfy executive] Mark Stern challenged us to do it in Season Three at Comic-Con and I do regret that we weren’t able to make that work scheduling-wise. Because you have to have so much extra prep time for, obviously, writing the songs, scoring the songs, choreography, rehearsal, costumes, sets that you’re going to have, that you basically either have to shoot it first in terms of the season order, or coming back from hiatus somewhere in the middle, if you have a break in there. We just weren’t able to make it all work timing-wise with the way our calendar broke down.
AX: What was going to be the catalyst for everybody singing and dancing?
PAGLIA: There are some interesting music therapies that people use, especially on kids with autism and people with speech disorders. It’s really interesting. Stutterers often cannot stutter when they’re singing, and so there was going to be a therapy device that basically ended up interacting with something else in the town that was causing people to sing. We ended up using an element of that in “Reprise.”
AX: Where everybody was acting on suggestions from the jukebox …
PAGLIA: We borrowed one of the elements from that [musical premise] and ended up using it. So that was as close as we were able to get in terms of the musical episode.
AX: What are you proudest of with EUREKA?
PAGLIA: I think I’m in some ways proudest of the team that we’ve put together, who built the show. And it’s fun. So to remember the fun every day, I think that’s the thing I’m proudest of on that side of it. And then for the channel [Syfy], in terms of the show itself, I hope that we created something that multiple generations have been able to enjoy together. Actually, we didn’t intend to make a family show, but it kind of evolved into that, and it was really nice to be able to hear those kinds of comments from people at Comic-Con and Twitter and Facebook – “Thanks for making this show that I can watch with my daughter and my mom,” or “my dad and my son. This is one of the few times that we all sit down and enjoy something together. So thanks.”
AX: What have you got coming up next?
PAGLIA: There are a number of things. We sold a project to Universal Television called BOB FROM CORPORATE. I’m producing that with my partner, James Middleton, who was the executive producer of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. He developed that show and was one of the executive producers. He developed the last two TERMINATOR movies as well. [Also working on it is] brilliant guy and a writer out of AFI, Eric Rochefort, who wrote BOB FROM CORPORATE, so that’s one thing that we’ll see if that finds a home at a network now. I’m working on projects with Muse Entertainment and Lakeshore Pictures and a number of other great people that I would love to work with. Some of them are original series idea or future ideas, and some of them are projects that I’m already working with writers that have great ideas that just need someone who’s gone through the wars that I’ve gone through now, having been in their shoes when I started this series, to be able to help maybe give them a little more support and guidance.
AX: Is there anything you’d like to say about EUREKA?
PAGLIA: I can just reiterate that this last season is probably the finest work that we’ve done as a collective team – the writers, the cast, the crew, our visual effects team. I think that we’re going to be delivering a really exciting, emotional and funny final season, and we’re going out on a high note, and I’m really grateful that we’ve had this ride. Certainly thanks to the press and all of our fans for making it happen.
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Article Source:Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with EUREKA co-creator Jamie Paglia on the cancellation and more Season 5 talk – Part 2