EMERGENCE, which has its first-season finale on ABC on Tuesday, January 28, is a combination of future tech science fiction and family drama. In the series created by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, a little girl named Piper (Alexa Swinton) enters the life of New Jersey small-town police chief Jo Evans (Allison Tolman). Piper quickly endears herself to Jo’s teenage daughter Mia (Ashley Aufderheide). Jo’s ailing father Ed (Clancy Brown), and even Jo’s skeptical ex-husband Alex (Donald Faison). Piper demonstrates superpowers – which are the product of the fact that she’s actually an artificial intelligence within a flesh and blood body.
Juan Alfonso is one of EMERGENCE’s executive producers. Previously ABC Studios vice-president of Drama Development, Alfonso left to work at alongside Butters and Fazekas’s F&B Productions.
ASSIGNMENT X: And had you worked with Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas before, on KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD or on MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER?
JUAN ALFONSO: On KEVIN and AGENT CARTER as a studio executive. This is my first time working for them.
AX: Are you more a writing executive producer or a making sure trains run on time producer?
ALFONSO: I’m more making sure the trains run on time and cheerleader.
AX: Do you feel like you’re getting to express more creativity as an executive producer, rather than as a studio executive?
ALFONSO: Absolutely. It’s like somebody took the handcuffs off, and I get to really get in early, really go deep on the things that matter, and try to make a difference.
AX: What matters to you in terms of producing EMERGENCE?
ALFONSO: I want the viewer to deeply feel for these characters. I want the viewer to really root for them and be worried for them and care about them. And I know if we’re doing that, we’re doing a good job.
AX: What has been the most challenging aspect of making EMERGENCE?
ALFONSO: The complexity of the storytelling, merging both the science-fiction thriller and conspiracy aspects of it with the family story, with the emotion of the family story. And getting that balance right is something that Tara and Michele always are looking to do.
AX: In terms of mixing the CGI and the practical effects, has that been a challenge?
ALFONSO: No. We have an incredible group of people that do our CGI, but we’ve tried to do as many things in practical as we can, because it still has that authenticity to it. Your eye can still detect the stuff that looks fake, so we try to do as much as we can practically. You don’t have to try to rush things at the end [in post-production].
AX: Are Alexa Swinton and Ashley Aufderheide still under the age where they can only work for so many hours a day?
ALFONSO: That is certainly a challenge, where we only have them for a certain amount of hours a day, and it’s always a puzzle to try to get the schedule right, where it works for the kids and everything else.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about the back part of EMERGENCE Season 1?
ALFONSO: It’s going to be that incredible conclusion where you’re both incredibly satisfied, and absolutely dying to know what happens next.
AX: So you’re ending on a cliffhanger?
ALFONSO: Oh, yeah.
AX: Do you have a good feeling about a Season 2 pickup?
ALFONSO: I have a good feeling about a pickup. But it is television – you never know.
This interview was conducted during ABC’s party for the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.
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Article: EMERGENCE executive producer Juan Alfonso gives the scoop on Season 1