Talking to GRIMM co-creators (credit shared with Stephen Carpenter)/executive producers (with Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner)/show runners David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf have been working together for ages. For one thing,  their collaboration dates back to the screenplay for 1982’s feature film WACKO. Or you could listen to the way the two Los Angeles natives share opinions and complete each other’s sentences while talking about their current supernatural procedural drama

GRIMM has its first-season finale tonight at 9 on NBC; it’s already been renewed for next season. David Giuntoli plays Portland, Oregon police detective Nick Burkhardt, who is still dealing with the discover that he’s a Grimm, someone who can detect the true essence of nonhuman Wesen, creatures who have been the inspirations for centuries’ worth of folk tales.

Greenwalt and Kouf talk about the realities behind their mythmaking, just outside a ballroom at the Pasadena Langham Hotel.

ASSIGNMENT X: Mr. Greenwalt, around 20007-2008, you were thinking of retiring from the film and television industry. What brought you back?

DAVID GREENWALT: Well, I did sort of retire – I’d kind of had enough – but what brought me back was two things. One was Todd Milliner, who had this idea about doing a modern retelling of the Grimm fairytales, that was GRIMM, and two was that my old partner Jim Kouf agreed to do it with me. So it was too much to resist and it’s been a ball. I wasn’t sure, because I’ve been running shows for awhile and it’s hard, but it’s good, easy work-  it’s not heavy lifting, you know [laughs].

AX: Among your many projects together was the screenplay for the 2004 feature film AMERICAN DREAMER …

GREENWALT: I remember getting to the point in the movie where we would go, “Wait a minute, who knows what in this scene?” And it was complicated. Because there were so many things going – there were always three levels going on in every scene. Two realities.

AX: You sort of have that going on now in GRIMM.

GREENWALT: We sort of do that in GRIMM, and we like that, because it amuses us, and it makes it more interesting, if you can pull it off.

AX: Was AMERICAN DREAMER good practice for this?

GREENWALT: AMERICAN DREAMER was good practice for everything we’ve done, I think.

JIM KOUF: Because that had action in it, romance, it had comedy, it had it all, so we’re going to try to do the same thing.

AX: Mr. Greenwalt, you worked on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and co-created ANGEL with Joss Whedon, and Mr. Kouf, you worked on ANGEL. Grimms, with their perceptions of and ability to combat the supernatural, aren’t entirely unlike Slayers. Are there elements where you’ve consciously gone toward the similarity and elements where you go, “No, let’s go away from that”?

GREENWALT: I think BUFFY and ANGEL were both really great, fresh shows, and this just seemed like another step – yes, it’s a similar genre. I think there’s a little more reality in GRIMM, even though people are morphing into critters and stuff, and it’s just such an exciting show, because such a hybrid – it’s half-procedural and half …

KOUF: Mythological. And also, with the characters, we’re trying to tie what they look like into a physical manifestation of their psychology or psychosis, so it exists within.

AX:  Is there any particular division of responsibility between the two of you as show runners, or do you both just do everything?

GREENWALT: Jim and I do everything together.

KOUF: Yeah. We’re responsible for the show. We’re the last word on everything, pretty much.

AX: How do you design individual episodes? For example, can you talk about “The Three Bad Wolves”?

GREENWALT: Well, we knew we had Monroe [the werewolf-like Blutbad played by Silas Weir Mitchell] in our cast, so we knew we had a Big Bad Wolf, and I can’t quite remember the exact genesis of that, but it seemed like a neat idea of, “How can we take a fairytale and turn it on its head?”

KOUF: It’s “The Three Little Pigs,” and the Wolf has always gone after the Pigs. Well, it was time that the Pigs got their revenge on the Wolves. That’s where we came at it form.

AX: Overall, from episode to episode, do you normally think, “What would we like to have happen” and then look for the fairytale, or do you come up with a storyline for an episode and then look with a fairytale that fits it?

KOUF: It’s a bit of both. There are fairy tales that we seem to fit to real life. We get an event that’s in the newspaper, for instance, and then we say, “That looks like it was done by one of our fairytale characters.”

GREENWALT: Something that’s hard to explain, something that has an essential mystery to it.

AX: Can you point to anything that was born of a newspaper article?

KOUF: Depending on what the crime is, if it’s a fairytale, we try to match it to a crime that’s happening now; in the modernization of the fairytale, we try to base it in some real, factual stuff. Like in “Lonelyhearts,” the kidnapping of women, people finding people in basements who have been kidnapped and held there for long periods of time. That happens all the time. So we took that “Lonelyhearts,” which was based on Bluebeard, and matched it to events that we’ve read about.

AX: As far as the character Monroe, was he always sort of planned to become Nick’s unofficial partner, or was that the result of you seeing how well the character worked out?

GREENWALT: He was designed as a character to be a regular, and then he really popped terrifically.

AX: And was it always building to that moment at the end of “Of Mouse and Man,” where Monroe had the crap kicked out of him by other supernatural beings because of his alliance with Nick, and then decided, “All right, not just out of friendship with Nick, but for my own dignity, I’m gonna side with the Grimm”?

GREENWALT: I think we discovered that as a B story in that episode, and then we had, “How would you end that episode?” and Jim came up with the idea of them clinking beers and – because obviously, Nick would say, “You don’t have to do this any more,” and Monroe says, “Sweet, bring it on.”

AX: So is it ever going to be like the Three or Four Musketeers, with Russell Hornsby as Nick’s detective partner Hank Griffin and Bitsie Tulloch as Nick’s girlfriend Juliette both aware of what’s actually going on?

GREENWALT: [laughs] Stay tuned.

AX: Was it decided that Monroe needed a girlfriend, or did you just look at the sparks between actors Silas Weir Mitchell and Bree Turner as Rosalee and think you wanted to expand on that?

GREENWALT: We think there might be some sparkage there.

KOUF: It was such a great set, we didn’t want to lose it [laughs].

GREENWALT: Yeah, [Rosalee’s] spice shop set. And we wanted to bring in another female character, to balance that a little bit, and then we saw this natural attraction – there would be a natural attraction between these two.

[At this juncture,  GRIMM special makeup effects designer/supervisor Barney Burman joins the interview]

AX: Unlike a lot of other shows where once somebody’s in prosthetics makeup for a scene, they stay in it, on GRIMM, you have the blinking effect where Nick sees somebody’s true nature and then they go back to looking normal. How do you schedule that, because it looks like you have to have the person in makeup very briefly for a scene?

GREENWALT: There are many different ways we do the special makeup and the CGI stuff. Sometimes it’s just CGI. But there’s a development period, so when we’re just breaking the story, if we decide, “Oh, it’s going to be a bat creature,” they’ll know right away it’s going to be a bat creature, or whatever the creature might be for that episode, and then they start sending us drawings, and then eventually, we all approve – NBC and Jim and I and Sean [Hayes] and Todd {Milliner] approve the drawings and then they either make a CGI version of it – if you’re not [focusing] on [the makeup] too long, you can get away with a CGI, but if you’re really on it for any length of time, you really need to build prosthetics, which Barney Burman does so great for us.

KOUF: It’s a big magilla.

BARNEY BURMAN: Yeah, but in the scene you’re talking about, it’s a CGI. We do [the brief shots] CGI – we don’t put them in the full-blown makeup unless we’ve got a big scene where they have to act in it for a long period of time.

AX: So do you have, as it were, the prosthetics in a computer and you just superimpose them onto the actor for the quick shots?


BURMAN: It’s more built to the actor. We never want to lose the face of the person underneath. So that’s the idea of our show – it’s part of that individual. We don’t want it to just be somebody in a mask. We want it to be that individual. For CGI, we put dots on their face and then [the visual effects artists] can build the CGI to that particular face. So if we know we’re doing a quick morph – that’s how we refer to it – then we put the dots on the face.

AX: So it’s like version of motion-capture. Are you finding that there’s one type of Wesen that seems to work better than another – mammals, reptiles, ogres?

GREENWALT: Each one is a discovery and as Jim has said, we like it when the person even looks like the [Wesen version of the character], except sometimes, like with the guy who’s the bat [Murcielago] out there, they all look kind of like those Murcielago bats, because they’re more of a flock. But each one is different.

KOUF: We were going to do a dolphin at one point, and that actually became the bat, because there were some sonar things involved in that episode.

GREENWALT: We were thinking, “A dolphin’s going to look really weird, big nose and stuff, it’s going to be strange.”

KOUF: And not necessarily scary.

GREENWALT: And not that scary. So we kind of discover it as we go.

AX: Are there any entities that you discovered you couldn’t do, because of logistics?

KOUF: Not yet.

GREENWALT: I guess we wouldn’t do an elephant, but we’ve done a lot – I think we’ve done about twenty odd creatures.

AX: Do you see GRIMM as getting more and more arced or more and more standalone as it goes along?

GREENWALT: Both. We want to keep it a hybrid – we want to keep it so you don’t need a scorecard to watch this show, you’ll be able to tune in and just understand that’s that guy who sees those critters, but for the hardcore fans, the mythology will deepen and there will be more of that kind of thing.

AX: Is Sasha Roiz’s character Police Captain Renard going to be back next season?

GREENWALT: I think you can say he’ll be back next season.

KOUF: We have no plans to get rid of him.

AX: It’s just his character is so ambiguous …

GREENWALT: That’s the right word.

AX: Is he going to be made any less ambiguous by the end of the season, or any more ambiguous?

[GREENWALT and KOUF both laugh]

GREENWALT: You’ll know a little bit more about him, just like you’re going to learn more about Nick. You’re going to learn more about all the characters.

AX: GRIMM is one of the big successes of the 2011-2012 TV season and ONCE UPON A TIME is another. Do you think there’s something now in the zeitgeist that’s bringing people back to the traditional mythology and fairytales?

GREENWALT: There sure seems to be. GRIMM was developed years ago, so I think it’s just kind of a coincidence. Todd Milliner developed it –

KOUF: Five or six years ago.

GREENWALT: Yeah, five or six years ago, so I think it’s just kind of happy coincidence. But there seems to be something in the zeitgeist, people longing for those fairy tales from their youth.

KOUF: I think we’re bending ours a little more toward reality than [ONCE UPON A TIME]. We’re trying to ground ours.

AX: With GRIMM, there a strong element of, “I wonder what that person’s really like.” I mean, do you think that’s part of what’s appealing to people about the show?

GREENWALT: I think there are many things that appeal to people on this show. It’s a fun mystery, it’s a little horrific, it’s shocking, it’s fun. It’s meant to be just fun entertainment.

AX: Anything else you would like to say about GRIMM at present?

GREENWALT: Keep watching and stay tuned. We’ve got fun stuff coming at the end of the season, and next season, too.

Related Link: TV Review – GRIMM – Season 1 finale – “Woman in Black”


Related Link: Exclusive Interview with GRIMM star Silas Weir Mitchell

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with GRIMM star David Giuntoli on the Season 1 finale and beyond

Related Linnk: TV Review: GRIMM – Season 1 – “The Thing With Feathers”

Related Link: TV Review: GRIMM – Season 1 – “Island of Dreams”
Related Link: TV Review: GRIMM – Season 1 – “Three Coins in a Fuchsbau”
Related Link: TV Review: GRIMM – Season 1 – “Tarantella”
Related Link:TV Review: GRIMM – Season 1 – “Pilot”

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: Exclusive Interview with GRIMM co-creators David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf

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