Stephen Mangan as Arthur Conan Doyle, Rebecca Liddiard as Adelaide Stratton and Michael Weston as Harry Houdini in HOUDINI & DOYLE - Season 1 | ©2016 Fox/Joseph Scanlon

Stephen Mangan as Arthur Conan Doyle, Rebecca Liddiard as Adelaide Stratton and Michael Weston as Harry Houdini in HOUDINI & DOYLE – Season 1 | ©2016 Fox/Joseph Scanlon

David Shore, who created the Sherlock Holmes-like character Dr. Gregory House for Fox network’s HOUSE M.D., is now back at Fox  as an executive producer on a show about Sherlock Holmes’ real creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In HOUDINI & DOYLE, Mondays at 9 PM, Michael Weston plays the famous escape artist and cynic and Stephen Mangan is the writer and major spiritualist. The two were friends in real life – in HOUDINI & DOYLE, created by David Titcher, they team up to solve crimes in 1901 England, aided by Police Constable Adelaide Stratton, portrayed by Rebecca Liddiard.

ASSIGNMENT X: Had you ever thought of doing a Sherlock show or a Houdini show before this?

DAVID SHORE: Well, I sort of did a Sherlock show.

AX: Had you thought about doing a more overtly Sherlock show, then?

SHORE: No. And I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that, because when this came through the door, David Titcher brought the idea for this, Houdini and Doyle solving crimes in 1901, and their different attitudes. It wasn’t just, “Why haven’t I done this before?”, it was, “Why hasn’t anybody done this before?” It seemed like such a natural.

AX: There’s you, there’s David Titcher, and there’s David Hoselton. Was it a rule that you were only working with people named David on this show?

SHORE: [joking] I didn’t think it was enough that we were all middle-aged white guys. I thought it was important that we were all middle-aged white men named David. [in earnest] I’ve known David Hoselton for thirty years. I went to law school with him. And I’ve worked with him through HOUSE. But the Davids is a coincidence [laughs].

AX: So what is the exact genesis of HOUDINI & DOYLE?

SHORE: It was David Titcher’s idea. He brought it to a Canadian production company. I was working at Sony and they brought it to Sony to bring it to me. I loved the idea, and I brought David Hoselton in to help us out.

AX: What is the actual division of responsibility between the three of you?

SHORE: The initial idea came from David Titcher, and he’s on the writing staff. David Hoselton runs the writing staff. Hoselton and I are constantly in communication over where things are going. I’m not in the writers’ room that much. I’m in editing a lot, I’m looking at every script, I’m looking at all the outlines, but Hoselton’s the day to day show runner.

AX: But you were involved with the casting?

SHORE: Yes.

AX: And what were you looking for with the three main actors?

SHORE: Houdini, we wanted somebody who could command a room, but also there’s an arrogance with the character we love, but we want him to be lovable in spite of that. We didn’t want that to overwhelm the character, we wanted to sense that heart behind that. Doyle, the concern was that, because he’s the believer, he could be too naïve and too [much] the straight man, because Houdini is potentially overwhelming. We wanted to make sure it was somebody who, again, could grab a room, but who would say something and you’d go, “Oh, five minutes ago, I would have thought I’d never buy that, but it came out of his mouth and I kind of buy that.” Stephen was the first one we cast, and he just came in, and we would have him audition with people. And every time we auditioned people, it just reinforced how right that decision was. Adelaide, there’s a vulnerability to her and yet a strength to her, to Rebecca. Again, that happened surprisingly quickly. She read, and we needed a Canadian for that part, we’ve got one from each country of our partners [Shaw Media in Canada, ITV in England], and she got the accent, but that was obviously secondary. The important part was that this is a woman in an unusual position, and we wanted to sense that vulnerability, and we wanted to sense the strength at the same time, and we got that.

AX: You also have Tim McInnerny as the police captain …

SHORE: Yes, under all that facial hair. He’s fantastic, and I didn’t realize right away that he of course had worked with my old friend Hugh [Laurie, star of HOUSE] on BLACKADDER. I did not make the connection right away. We cast him without having made that connection. But he was fantastic.

AX: His character is very ferocious. Does it help that Tim McInnerny has that comedic background?

SHORE: Always. Comedic background always helps, if you know how to handle it. He knows how to handle it.

AX: There’s also a fair amount of colorblind casting, with actors of various ethnicities in positions of authority, and the white characters not reacting, even though the show takes place in 1901 England. Is the philosophy, “Skin color is like hair color, it shouldn’t be an issue in period pieces”?

SHORE: Yes. It’s a little tricky when you’re doing a period piece, because the minority population of England was probably much lower than it is now, but who cares? It’s much more important that we cast the right people and the best actors, the most interesting actors.

AX: Are you looking for a balance of emotion and drama and comedy in each episode?

SHORE: Yes. There’s no specific percentage, but I want it to be scary, I want it to be kind of X-FILES in 1901, but I want it to be fun at the same time. I want it to be grounded fun. Some fun stuff becomes, not necessarily silly, but when there might be a ghost in the room, you’re no longer on the edge of your seat. I want to keep people on the edge of their seats, and I want to make people laugh. I want to do everything.

AX: In the first few episodes, it does turn out that the explanation is non-supernatural. Is that going to be the case straight through, or …?

SHORE: The goal we were aiming for almost every time is, the explanation is not supernatural, but the explanation doesn’t completely fit. There’s something about it, something not quite right there, something that requires further investigation – not that we’re going to do that, but something that makes you think maybe there was something there, maybe there was something behind what we saw. So that Doyle can still have something [he can be right about].

AX: You did HOUSE for so long, is there anything new you can learn about disease or disease treatment from any period in history, or is it like you can have, “She’s got psoriasis!” as a major clue?

SHORE: [laughs] I know everything about medicine. No, I’ve forgotten it all. I don’t want to keep going to that well, I think that it wasn’t that useful [for HOUDINI & DOYLE].

AX: And what would you most like people to know about HOUDINI & DOYLE?

SHORE: That I like it. It’s a great one-hour [series] that’s scary and fun and funny and will make you think, and I love Houdini, I love Doyle – it’s a labor of love for me.

This interview was conducted during Fox Network’s portion of the most recent Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California.

Related: Exclusive Interview: HOUDINI & DOYLE show runner David Hoselton

Related: Exclusive Interview: HOUDINI & DOYLE creator David Titcher on new supernatural Fox series

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Article: Exclusive Interview: HOUDINI & DOYLE executive producer David Shore

 

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