Burkely Duffield in BEYOND - Season 1 | ©2016 Freeform/Katie Yu

Burkely Duffield in BEYOND – Season 1 | ©2016 Freeform/Katie Yu

BEYOND is a new series on Freeform. Burkely Duffield plays Holden, who lapses into a coma at fourteen and wakes ten years later. Not only does he have to contend with a world that has changed dramatically, but Holden has a definitely sense that he was in a real and “other” place while he was gone that has an effect on his present life.

BEYOND premieres on Freeform tonight. The network is making the entire ten-episode first season available at the same time on the Freeform app, Freeform.com, Freeform on Demand and Hulu.

Tim Kring, one of BEYOND’s executive producers (he is also known for being the creator of HEROES and TOUCH) gets on the phone to talk about the new show.

ASSIGNMENT X: You are often drawn to the subject of children with unusual powers and their relation to the world around them and to their sometimes very surprised parents …

TIM KRING: Yeah. How about that, on [BEYOND], too. In this respect, probably more coincidental, since I did not write and create the show.

AX: Was the subject matter a draw for you to come aboard as executive producer?

KRING: Yeah. I’m a partner in a company called Imperative, and Adam Nussdorf, who wrote and created the show, was a writer that I had met with a couple of times. I actually didn’t hire him on my last project, and that probably turned out to be a good thing, because he went off and wrote this spec script. And when he did, he sent it to me. I think the actual line that you’re looking for is probably more from him to me than me to the material. In other words, I think he was admittedly influenced by things that I had headlined. And so maybe that’s more the direction that this lineage goes.

AX: How would you describe BEYOND?

KRING: Well, it has a supernatural premise, but it is at heart a kind of coming of age family thriller and adventure. The character of Holden is really a unique character, in that he’s lost a dozen years of his life in a coma, and there were those ten years or so, the most formative years, when you really begin to know who you are as a young man, and all of those were spent in a coma. And so when he wakes up now a fully-grown man, there’s a bit of a Rip Van Winkle quality to that that I think is really the engine of the show. It’s really watching and experiencing him experiencing life as an adult for the first time without the benefit of all those years of learning. And while the show has a deep mythology and a lot of twists and turns and a lot of tension to it, I think that a lot of – the heart of the show comes from his own struggle, a journey of discovery of who he is as a person after missing a decade of his life in a coma.

AX: Is the coma induced by something supernatural?

KRING: That’s certainly the implication in the pilot. There is a moment in the pilot when he is overcome by something supernatural.

AX: Does Holden actually go to a different realm, or is it our realm with differences?

KRING: We come to discover that it is a place that can be journeyed into again. The question that’s so big that we endeavor to tackle in this show is probably the biggest question that faces our existence on the planet and that is what lies beyond this life, what is there beyond this life, and is there an afterlife? Is there a place where the soul goes? So we try to answer that in a unique way with this show.

AX: How did BEYOND get off the ground? Adam Nussdorf brought the script to Imperative, and you brought it to Freeform?

KRING: Yes. We got the script, we shopped it around to a couple places, and Freeform was interested. There are relationships there. I happen to know Karey Burke at Freeform from years ago, when she was at NBC, and all of it was pretty simple conversations once we got it to them. And I think the script really did speak for itself. It has the kind of nostalgic quality to it that feels very familiar, and yet it’s kind of a fresh take on an Amblin kind of tone. And I think it just fit with where Freeform, in kind of reimagining their brand, I think it fit really well with what they wanted to do.

AX: Given that BEYOND has what you call an Amblin tone, did Freeform pick it up before or after STRANGER THINGS kind of blew up on Netflix? I mean, do you think that may have helped you?

KRING: No. It’s one of those things where we were well into production – in fact, we were probably close to wrapping production on the entire first season – when STRANGER THINGS just showed up. STRANGER THINGS is one of those things that literally just came out of nowhere. Nobody had heard of it or knew of it or knew it was coming [laughs] – it just suddenly was there and people were talking about it. So no, this predated that.

AX: Do you think that comparison helps you, though?

KRING: I actually think, yes, there is some context to STRANGER THINGS with this that I think we can’t help but be lumped into a conversation about that, and I think that’s fine. It gives you a context to look at this show in.

AX: Do you think there’s maybe more of an appetite right now for a time when things didn’t feel quite so dire altogether?

KRING: Look, this show is about family and it’s about right and wrong and about good and evil. So I think in that respect, there is kind of a simpler world.

AX:  Is BEYOND shot in Vancouver?

KRING: Yes. The show is made in Vancouver. So yes. I guess you could say that the afterlife is in Vancouver [laughs].

AX: Are you there with the show in Vancouver, or are you producing via telecommuting?

KRING: I’m not there very much. That’s the beauty of not being an on-hand day-to-day producer of a show. I get to be in Los Angeles.

AX: Who is your hands-on producer?

KRING: David Eick is running the show. David’s probably best known for BATTLESTAR [GALACTICA], and Dave and I worked on TOUCH together, and I’ve known David since he was a studio executive. He’s extremely seasoned, he really knows the whole Vancouver/L.A. run.

AX: How did you come to cast BEYOND’s leads?

KRING: We found them in the casting process. We wanted basically unknowns, you could say. Partially, we’re all sort of believers that TV makes stars, and not the other way around, and it’s always great to find an actor that the audience doesn’t have a lot of association with, so that they don’t have to overcome an initial hurdle with watching someone in a part. But Burkely is enormously appealing as a person, and it comes through. He has a kind of innocence to him that really fit with the idea of a character who had lost this many years of their life. So he was sort of perfect casting.

AX: So he has sort of a balance of innocence and integrity?

KRING: Yes. He’s got a real sense of genuineness and a kind of boyish curiosity to him, but he’s still kind of a hunky leading man at the same time [laughs]. It’s a rare combination.

AX: And do you have fun with “This was happening ten years ago when you were last awake, and it’s morphed into this now,” like mobile phones, or streaming video?

KRING: Yeah. Part of the fun of his journey is really putting a mirror up to some of the absurdities that we all live with now, and the things that we’ve gotten used to so quickly that are sort of gentle reminders to the audience of just how quickly life has changed. When you think about how the iPhone is only ten years old, what we were doing all those hours of the day before we could stare at our screens in the palm of our hand [laughs]? So there’s a lot of commentary on some of the absurdities.

AX: Was there any observation that you particularly lobbied for?

KRING: No, but the writers’ room had fun with all of the little discoveries. What I like about the show is that it has a sort of wholesome quality to looking at some of these things. It really is about what happens to someone when they have to discover how to flirt with a girl for the first time who’s actually a woman and not an adolescent. And that kind of humor that’s in it and the kind of sweetness is really very universal and in some ways a little bit of a throwback, and I think that’s part of the appeal of the show, is that it’s got a modern engine. In other words, it’s got that pacing that modern shows have, kind of a high intensity style of filmmaking, but there is this nod to a nostalgic tone that is we all recognize from the early Amblin films. And I think that’s going to feel very comforting and nostalgic to the audience.

Jack Coleman stars as Noah Bennett/HRG in HEROES REBORN | © 2015 Christos Kalohoridis/NBC

Jack Coleman stars as Noah Bennett/HRG in HEROES REBORN | © 2015 Christos Kalohoridis/NBC

AX: Is working with Freeform any different than dealing with NBC or Fox or the other broadcast networks?

KRING: Well, they’re a little smaller and so it’s a little less corporate-feeling in that way. But I think the really interesting thing to note is how eager they are to take a chance on something like this, all the way down to the director of the pilot who hadn’t directed a pilot [before], and they took a real chance on him, and he delivered something that was unique because of that. In other words, it wasn’t a cookie-cutter choice. Lee Krieger is his name. He was the director of [the feature film] THE AGE OF ADELINE, a really talented director, but was not a pilot director, and not one of those guys who you know is going to come in on time, on budget, and give you all the coverage that you need. He wasn’t that choice – he was an out-of-the-box choice, a real stylistic filmmaker. And I think that choice really paid off in spades. He delivered a beautiful pilot and set the visual tone for this show going forward.

But with Freeform, all the way to the way they decided to market this show and to air this show and this choice to distribute it by releasing all ten episodes at the same time online I think is a very bold choice, and really shows how aggressive they are with understanding the audience wants to watch shows in the way they want to watch them.

AX: How did you feel about the way HEROES REBORN wrapped up?

KRING: Well, when you make a show like that, I was adamant about that show being a thirteen-episode event series, and having a closed-ended quality to it. I had always felt that one of the issue with HEROES was the ongoing nature of it was difficult to sustain, so I really loved the idea that this was a thirteen-episode event series, and when it was over, it was over. I don’t know that the audience ever really understood that that was the initial plan from the very beginning. So I think that it got a little confusing for the audience as to whether it was a reboot of HEROES, or whether it was just an event series. As much as we tried to say it every time in the press, I think that message may not have completely come through, that it was always intended to come to an end. So in terms of how it wrapped up, I feel a little remorse that I think a lot of people didn’t understand that it was supposed to wrap up when it did. We actually really felt very good about what we accomplished with the thirteen episodes.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about BEYOND?

KRING: Well, it is a roller-coaster ride that, once you log on, I think you’re not going to be able to guess where it goes, and I think that’s the most fun about the show, is that as all of this heart and character work, it’s a real journey for the audience. It is a wild ride. You have to buckle your seatbelt, because it leaves you every week, or at the end of every episode, with wanting to see what’s going to happen next. So I think it’s going to be a pretty enticing and fun ride if you log on from the beginning.

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ArticleExclusive Interview with BEYOND executive producer on Season 1 and chats the end of HEROES REBORN

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