Friday, October 5, 2012

On Writing with Joshua Jackson (aka 'Mythology is Not a Four Letter Word')...

It's no secret I don't exactly respect shows that choose to live week to week, rather than properly arc out emotional growth, if not full-on story points for its characters. I just feel it's taking the easy way out to write situationally, rather than to evolve characters and overarching stories. Also, I don't feel it does the actors any favors to not be able to properly seed performances with something deeper than a reaction to whatever wacky occurrence happens that week. But often when I explain my preference, I get looks of disdain. I get it: the majority of the country just wants to flip on something familiar and comfortable and which doesn't require much thinking before, after, or during the viewing. It's why CBS has remained on top for as long as it has. But maybe I'm also just harsher explaining my opinions, but I refuse to believe I'm alone in this line of thinking, even if I'm in the minority. For a slightly different perspective on the same points, allow Joshua Jackson to plead the case. Though he makes the case that serialized television is superior work for an actor, it's for all the same reasons I have for a writer or a viewer. Once you read his take, I think you'll understand how intelligent programming inspires and attracts intelligent talent!

"It's the actor in me; the plot points are less interesting to me than the emotional journey that the characters go on," Jackson explained.

"So I like mythology shows, but only because the mythology serves to give you a bigger playing field for your characters to live in. And ultimately, any good serialized show is a mythology show. Even Mad Men is a mythology show-- Breaking Bad-- because they all have their own rules and their own story. And as that story broadens and broadens and broadens, if the characters live by the rules, it’s incredibly satisfying because you come to know them in a much more three-dimensional sense than you get to know characters who either don’t learn or don’t change...That’s why serialized storytelling is so interesting to me. 

"The most exciting thing-- and it’s not unique to Fringe, but any show...when you’re trying to create the ticking-clock scenario that you need-- or at least it’s thought that you need (I’m of two minds on this)-- to keep people interested for 42 and a half minutes, a lot of times you’re creating scenarios that don’t have either the weight that we want them to have or are unearned. You know, if a character is constantly running around going 'Panic! Panic!! Oh God, panic!!!' eventually, you’re gonna go, 'Wow, that guy is an asshole.' So I always have a bit of trouble with that. But this season, we have an earned reason why everybody is constantly under tension. Right? The scenario of the fifth season is the tension. We are constantly under threat. So we don’t have to build in false beats just to get to the place of 'Uh-oh!' because the uh-oh is already there. 

"I think the hardest job in television is the CSI guy who, in episode 752, is still like, 'Wait a minute! You mean the bullet passed through here?' And as an audience member, I’m going, 'Yeah. And you’re a ballistics expert. And you were last week. And you were 15 weeks ago. You guys don’t need to talk about this anymore. Yes, the bullet passed through here and went there!' If the characters aren’t learning...And it’s the nature of the beast. If you have Peter, who's Mensa level IQ being like, 'Hold on, hold on, hold on... Are you trying to tell me...?' It doesn’t work. Or you have the most kickass cop on TV not drawing her gun in time or not quite seeing something that’s right in front of her. It’s tough as an actor, because you go 'I don’t quite know how to do [that]. I don’t buy it, so I don’t think the audience is going to buy it either.' 

"Well this year, we don’t have to do all that extra work, because the tension is set inside. It’s built. It’s literally baked into the cake."

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