THE PASSAGE and THE ORVILLE are both genre shows on Fox Networks, but the commonality would seem to end there. THE PASSAGE, in its first season on Monday nights, is based on a trilogy of novels by Justin Cronin. In THE PASSAGE, an experiment designed to help human health has had catastrophic results, leading to a breed of vampire-like Virals. Ten-year-old Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney) is infected with the virus, but unlike the adults, she has no bloodlust, only some very special abilities.
THE ORVILLE, in its second season on Thursday nights, is the creation of Seth MacFarlane, who also stars as the title spaceship’s captain Ed Mercer. The series is a more humorous take on the STAR TREK vein of interstellar adventure.
What THE PASSAGE and THE ORVILLE have in common is executive producer Liz Heldens. Heldens created THE PASSAGE’s television incarnation, and now consults on THE ORVILLE. She previously created and produced the series MERCY, DECEPTION, CAMP, and the telefilm SALVATION.
ASSIGNMENT X: How are you dividing your time between THE PASSAGE and THE ORVILLE?
LIZ HELDENS: I read scripts on THE ORVILLE, and I talk to the writers, and I talk to Seth sometimes, and I just am kind of a consultant on call for that show right now. But that show is so much fun to write on. It’s a great show, I love it.
AX: As creator and star, Seth MacFarlane is obviously there at THE ORVILLE all the time …
HELDENS: They’ve got it all handled, for sure.
AX: So you’re more hands-on on THE PASSAGE?
HELDENS: Yeah. THE PASSAGE takes up the lion’s share of my time.
AX: Do you have to do a mental reset between the two? You look at THE ORVILLE, and you’re like, “Well, where should it be funny, where should it be serious,” and you look at THE PASSAGE, and it’s more, “Where should it be serious, and where should it be terrifying?”
HELDENS: THE ORVILLE – I meant it when I said it’s so fun to write for. Those characters are so human and specific and funny that that’s a really fun world to play in.
AX: Does that make you want to put any more humor into THE PASSAGE?
HELDENS: We try [laughs]. It’s not the easiest show to write jokes for, but we try. There are moments of humor between Wolgast [Amy’s human protector, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar] and Amy, for sure. Brianne Howey, who plays [the Viral] Babcock, is hilarious. She can really sell a joke. Jamie McShane, who plays [the original Viral] Fanning, is also really funny. So every once in awhile, we get a line in, but it’s certainly a different ball of wax.
AX: Was there a lot of discussion as to what the Virals should look like?
HELDENS: Yeah. We thought about it a lot, and we went through a lot of different permutations. We really wanted to be able to see the human being behind [the monster]. What Justin Cronin describes in the book is terrifying, and amazing. But if we did that on television, it would all be vis-effects and CGI, and you wouldn’t be able to see the person, and so that was a decision we made as we moved forward with our process.
AX: Was that to make it something that was manageable both for the budget and the production schedule?
HELDENS: No, it’s a creative decision. I really wanted to be able to see the human being there, so we went with practical makeup. It wasn’t really a budget consideration. I just wanted everybody, when you’re watching the show, to remember that was a person once.
AX: In the series THE PASSAGE, we see the Virals talking to each other, and sometimes to humans, in mindscapes, where the Virals look like the normal people they were. Are the mindscapes in the books as well?
HELDENS: No. In the book, they can communicate with one another, but that was a device we made up that we love, because it lets us look at the human beings without the creature makeup, it lets them have conversations, and it gives them voices.
AX: And does it also make the Virals a little more sympathetic, so that we’re more invested in what happens to them?
HELDENS: I think so. Well, the sympathetic characters are sympathetic, but we meet a couple of Virals that are horrible. They were horrible as people, and they’re horrible as Virals, so …
AX: THE PASSAGE has extremely high production values. Is it difficult doing something with such high production values, or once you have the machinery in place, is that easier, once you have the sets, and the idea that you’re going to be doing certain types of shots …?
HELDENS: Yeah. Jason Ensler is our producing director on the show, and he’s I think made a beautiful ten episodes of television, but yeah. You have to think about production, and you have to think about, what are your standing sets, what is this season going to look like, how can we do it? So we’re just biting it off in pieces that are manageable.
AX: Without getting spoilery, is there anything you can say about the season finale of THE PASSAGE?
HELDENS: I think fans of the book will be very satisfied with the end of the season.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about THE PASSAGE and THE ORVILLE?
HELDENS: Well, THE ORVILLE is just a great show that you can watch any time, anywhere, with your kids, without your kids. I love it. And THE PASSAGE – this season just gets more intense.
This interview was conducted during Fox Networks’ party for the Winter 2019 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: THE PASSAGE: Creator Liz Heldens chats about Season 1 and THE ORVILLE Season 2 – Exclusive Interview