In Part 2 of our exclusive interview with SCORPION creator Nick Santora and his co-show runner Nicholas Wootton, there is discussion of music, math, romance and action. The series, renewed for a second season, is on CBS, Mondays at 9 PM. If you missed Part 1, read it here.
AX: You’ve had Katherine McPhee, who plays the team’s “normal” member Paige, singing, which obviously reflects on her musical background …
NICHOLAS WOOTTON: It’s amazing – everybody in the cast has musical talent.
NICK SANTORA: They can play piano, they can play guitar, they can sing – they have legitimate, real musical talent.
WOOTTON: They can actually play. It’s pretty incredible.
SANTORA: There might be a SCORPION band Season 2.
AX: Well, there’s supposed to be a strong correlation between mathematic capability and musical capability …
SANTORA: We have an episode [“True Colors”] that deals with geniuses and their attitudes and opinions towards arts. Some of them just think it’s nonsense. Others see correlations. So we get to get all those points of view.
AX: How arced versus standalone are the SCORPION episodes?
SANTORA: The adventures and conundrums of the week will be standalone – the character interactions and the growth of the relationships will arc out throughout the course of the show.
WOOTTON: Yeah. The stuff that we went into in the pilot is the idea that they have these very high IQs, intelligence quotient, very low EQ, which is emotional quotient, and we’ll see them, hopefully over the course of the series, balancing out.
AX: Now that you know you have a second season, are you becoming more arced?
WOOTTON: Philosophically, the [second-season] pickup was fabulous information to get – we really weren’t planning on changing anything because of it. We really had arcs planned in there that I think we will continue to follow. So we were given wonderful news, we kind of had an idea that it would be coming, just in terms of given what the numbers have been, which have been wonderful for us, we really have always had arcs planned and we really are very excited to follow them out now.
AX: For Season 2, do you think you’ll be more arced than you’ve been this season?
WOOTTON: I certainly would like – I think that’s something that we’ll start to determine as we start to break that season. I think what we may have going into next season is more arcs. We’ll be able to look at an entire template and we’ll be able to plan those things out a little bit more than we did this year, because we really only had the first thirteen planned, and then we moved on once we knew that was coming up.
AX: How long in story time is the first season?
SANTORA: The first season probably would take about a year. And we really want to see this company grow, hopefully over many seasons, from a ragtag group of genius misfits in a garage to a real big company, and how that affects their lives and their relationships.
AX: Do you foresee any sort of an issue in having the budding romantic relationship between Happy, played by Jadyn Wong, and Toby, played by Eddie Kaye Thomas, developing at the same time there’s a relationship between Walter and Paige brewing?
WOOTTON: It gives us options. I mean, I see nothing but good in those things. And we’ve been doing it for a while now, so I feel like it is absolutely something that we feel works for us and it gives us a lot of places to go in terms of, one heats up, the other cools down, we’re able to play with those sort of temperature shifts.
AX: Is it challenging going forward finding projects for the team that utilize everybody’s strengths at some point in the story?
SANTORA: Coming up with the adventure of the week, is always a challenge. We try to come at it from a place of where we want to see our characters travel emotionally and interpersonally, and then once we know that, we try to think of the adventure that will match that. And then, once we get into those scenarios, it’s not as hard as you’d think to figure out which superpower can help solve this problem. Because at the end of the day, almost any big problem is going to need a lot of ways to be attacked, and all of their skill sets work.
AX: When you’re constructing the stories, do you actually construct it as, “Okay, the first step is this, the second step is that,” or do you go, “This is Point A, this is Point Z, and this is all the Rube Goldberg-ian Walter O’Brien stuff that goes in between”?
WOOTTON: It starts off in a lot of different ways. We sometimes start with a big emotional beat that we want to get across, and sometimes we start with a big nuclear reactor is melting down. If we’re going to do that, then we try to think, “What are situations we can put our characters in which they’re amazing, and what are situations in which they’re terrible?” And that’s how we start to fill those things out.
AX: Do you go through Walter O’Brien’s case files at all?
SANTORA: Yeah. He tells us about them, he has source material that he’s brought to the table and we’ll review that, we’ll talk with him about it. He’s an open book. He helps us so much, it’s indescribable.
AX: Is some of it classified, or Official Secrets Act, things like that?
SANTORA: Oh, yeah. Walter makes it very clear that, “If I’m telling you something, that means you can repeat it. A lot I’ll never tell you.” Look, it’s like being friends with a secret agent. I don’t know how to get in touch with the guy – he just sort of gets in touch with us. He’s a really interesting guy doing interesting things.
AX: Justin Lin, famous for a lot of the FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies, directed your pilot, which had quite a car chase sequence …
SANTORA: There is the most incredible action sequence I’ve ever been involved with in television.
WOOTTON: The last two acts of [SCORPION’s first episode] – it’s safe to say you’ve never seen this before, and probably never will again.
AX: How involved is Justin Lin going forward? Is he your producing director?
SANTORA: Well, he’s not our producing director. He’s got a little small independent film called BOURNE coming up that he’s going to be involved with. But even though he’s going to be busy with that, Justin has made it very clear that he’s available to us night and day if we ever want to bounce ideas around. He’s such a collaborative, great guy. I’m not saying this because I’m being interviewed, this is the truth. For someone who’s had as much success as he has, he is incredibly humble.
AX: Do you shoot in Los Angeles?
SANTORA: Yes, We use L.A. as part of the tapestry of the show, and we’re really excited about that.
AX: So the show’s actually set in L.A.?
SANTORA: Yeah. L.A. for L.A. When does that happen?
AX: Are you working on anything else?
SANTORA: I’ve got some movie projects I’m doing and a new book [that was published in November 2014], and it’s my first-ever chapter book for kids. It’s called I WANT AN ALIEN FOR CHRISTMAS. It’s a kids’ book, as opposed to the crime thrillers I normally write, so that’s something I’m excited about.
WOOTTON: I have time for SCORPION and only SCORPION.
SANTORA: I meant to say, I think about nothing but SCORPION.
AX: Is there anything else you would like to say about SCORPION right now?
SANTORA: I think SCORPION is a different kind of show, in that it’s not straight procedural. It’s really a comedic action fun procedural, if that makes sense, a fun hour of television where there will be comedy, there will be heart, and there will be some really cool action as well.
WOOTTON: Action thrill ride. Those are the key words.
SANTORA: Action fun thrill ride with a misfit family team that loves each other.
WOOTTON: The action continues, it’s going to get bigger and better, and the best is yet to come.
SANTORA: I know I’m speaking for everybody when I say this – we feel incredibly fortunate to be working with everyone we’re working with on this project. It’s a nice group of people.
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Article: Nick Santora and Nicholas Wootton on SCORPION: Part 2 – exclusive interview