Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW - Season 1 - "The Mystery of Blackwood Lodge" | ©2019 The CW/Dean Buscher

Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW – Season 1 – “The Mystery of Blackwood Lodge” | ©2019 The CW/Dean Buscher

Teen detective Nancy Drew has been part of the culture since her first adventures were published as novels in 1930. Actually created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, the Nancy Drew books have been written since then by numerous authors all using the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.

Nancy Drew has been adapted for both the big and small screens before. The CW has now launched its new NANCY DREW series on Wednesday nights, starring Kennedy McMann as the eponymous sleuth. Nancy is currently working as a waitress at a restaurant in her native small town of Horseshoe Bay. She’s trying to stay out of trouble, but when she and four of her friends become suspects in a murder, and there are ghostly doings afoot, Nancy must return to her detective ways.

Larry Teng is a co-executive producer on NANCY DREW. He directed the pilot and three other episodes, and is the “directing producer” for the series, meaning that he helps the other directors achieve the right look and tone for their segments. Teng, originally from New York, has previous producing/directing credits that include MEDIUM, GRACELAND, SUPERGIRL, and ANIMAL KINGDOM.

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you particularly fond of Nancy Drew before you got involved in the show?

LARRY TENG: If I’m being honest, I wasn’t particularly fond. I read it as a kid. But my SUPERGIRL experience taught me how important it was to work on things that my kids could watch. And when I worked on SUPERGIRL, my daughter especially took to it so well that it was one of those things where I really had the opportunity to help create and define a female icon for her. So for me, that was really the main motivation of wanting to do this show.

Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW - Season 1 | ©2019 The CW/Frank Ockenfels 3

Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW – Season 1 | ©2019 The CW/Frank Ockenfels 3

AX: There’s a Gothic element to this version of NANCY DREW, with the ocean and the cliffs and the waves, not to mention the ghost. Did that appeal to you?

TENG: It’s definitely my style. I love the dark. At the same time, I wanted my John Hughes movie. And I kind of got both. So I feel really lucky about that.

AX: You also dealt with ghosts when you were working on MEDIUM. Was that experience in any way relevant to your NANCY DREW experience?

TENG: It was a hundred percent relevant. A lot of what I learned from working with [MEDIUM creator/executive producer] Glenn Gordon Caron and Patricia [Arquette, who starred as the title character, Alison Dubois], and the way we went about portraying Alison Dubois, and the storytelling style that we chose that was truly subjective, I brought that, and I wanted to sort of do that with Kennedy and the character of Nancy. To me, the fact that it feels extraordinarily experiential for the character of Nancy is what makes it work.

AX: And the stuff in the restaurant, is that the teen fun, your John Hughes movie?

TENG: Yeah. And I think they’re becoming adults, they’re navigating a grown-up world. I think that’s part of all their journeys. The restaurant is a place where they can all come together and go through those motions as a group. Again, we’re using the stories as an excuse for them to get together and to reveal more about themselves.

AX: Are you the permanent directing producer on NANCY DREW, or did you just set the tone on the pilot and you’re moving on?

TENG: I am the directing producer currently. I say that because I’m there for the first thirteen episodes, and then I have an overall commitment to [The CW’s parent network] CBS that I have to fulfill. But the goal right now is to create some creative consistency, and to make sure these guest directors coming in adhere to and understand the tone of the show that we’re going for.

AX: What do you and the show runner actually say to the guest directors to give them an idea of the tone? Do you say, “Just look at this earlier episode and absorb it,” or do you say anything more specific?

TENG: I think it’s important that we’re always looking to protect the character of Nancy, first of all. And so on a script level, a lot of that is to make sure that she’s a hero, to make sure that she’s in charge of her own decisions, to make sure that she doesn’t need a man bailing her out. Those are some tweaks we made during the pilot process, too. These directors are told to not over-cover [to not shoot too much “coverage,” or different angles of a scene], because to me, performance is a thing I think is overlooked a lot. So our whole mantra, philosophically, when it comes to shooting is, “Fewer set-ups, more takes.” And so they’re taught to do that. We try to be, and we want to be, very cinematic, and so we like to shoot wider, but I trust the guys that we have on our roster a lot, and I think there is definitely enough between the pilot and the second episode that they can look at and understand what we’re going for.

Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW - Season 1 | ©2019 The CW/Kharen Hill

Kennedy McMann as Nancy in NANCY DREW – Season 1 | ©2019 The CW/Kharen Hill

AX: Is The CW supportive of the wider shots? Because somebody might be watching it on their phone, which would make the people really tiny in the images.

TENG: I think they are. We use [The CW’s series] ALL AMERICAN as an example, because they shot that two-to-one aspect ratio, which is a little wider now, and so we fought for that, we made a case for that, they agreed to it. But they seem to be okay with it so far. We’re not trying to redefine the network, we’re just trying to move that needle five percent, and trying to get people to absorb a different aesthetic than they’re used to.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about NANCY DREW the series?

TENG: Even though it’s a modern-day telling of a very iconic character, I think the elements that make Nancy Drew Nancy Drew are going to be very satisfying, I think they’re going to be there from week to week, and I think this is going to be a really wonderful female hero for people to follow.

This interview was conducted during The CW’s party for the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article: NANCY DREW: Exclusive interview with producer and director Larry Teng on Season 1 of the new mystery series

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