Exclusive Interview: 'Journeyman' Creator/Writer Kevin Falls and Director Alex Graves
Exclusive Interview: 'Journeyman' Creator/Writer Kevin Falls and Director Alex Graves
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
In conjunction with our 2007 Fall TV Guide, BuddyTV will be publishing exclusive interviews with the creators and showrunners of some of the hottest new shows this fall throughout the week.  Check back all this week for interviews with: Cane Creator Cynthia Cidre, Viva Laughlin Showrunners Tyler Bensinger and Stephen DeKnight, Chuck and Gossip Girl Creator Josh Schwartz, and Reaper Creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas.

Though they may not have a sci-fi track record, Kevin Falls and Alex Graves are nonetheless impressive creative talents whose new show on NBC, Journeyman, is one of the best of the fall season.  Created and written by Falls, and directed by Graves, who also serves as executive producer, Journeyman follows San Francisco reporter Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd, Rome) as he suddenly begins jumping through time at random.  BuddyTV spoke with both Kevin and Alex about the creation of the new show, how their experience with Aaron Sorkin on The West Wing helped them, and their thoughts on airing Mondays at 10pm beginning September 24, following Heroes.   Below you will find a transcript as well as the mp3 audio file of the interview.

Hi, this is John from Buddy TV, and we're talking to Kevin Falls and Alex Graves, the writer/creator and director of the new NBC series Journeyman. Hi, guys.

Alex Graves: Hi.

Kevin Falls: Hey, John.

Now just to start, where did the idea for Journeyman come from?

Kevin: Well, I was developing last year and my agent said to me, “What do you want to do this year?” And I said, “I have no ideas.” He said, “Well, how about a different genre? How about something like time travel?” I thought, “Well, that's different all right.” And I said as long as I get to do something that's grounded, and so I did it. We pitched it to ABC, which was at the time looking for something in the time travel venue. They passed, and we went to NBC, and they liked it and bought it.

And with the genre thing, because neither of you have really done sci-fi as a genre before this. So was it difficult to adapt to that style, or did you just try to create a new kind of sci-fi?

Kevin: I could only go with what my strengths were, which I think was doing some strong characters and learning the storytelling they did on a show like The West Wing with Aaron Sorkin, and do my version of what it would be, which is pretty much grounded in character-driven.  And when it came time, we turned it in and they were very happy, there was only one director I wanted, because I knew Alex was so good visually, and with the story and with actors. From the very beginning I knew he was the guy I wanted, and it all worked out.

Alex: Well, I think the other thing is, outside of just getting horrifically flattered, the thing about it that was fun was what was great about the script and great about shooting it was, and I think that Kevin McKidd would say the same thing, was that it was character-based. So instead of going, “OK,” and then we just hop in the time machine and we go, none of that's taken care of, we don't have any of that.  We have to sit there and go, “OK, so you're trying to explain to your wife why you disappeared for two days.” So it is really coming from, “What if this really happened?” And it's also coming from a place of…you know, everything that we grew up with that was science fiction, we're now living with except time travel.  So it's kind of funny to sit there with your iPod andyour iPhone, you know, and everything we have at our fingertips now and you kind of go, “What if this one thing happened to me, and how would it affect my life?” And that's been really fun to mess around with, and fresh.

And I guess for Alex, last year you directed the pilot for The Nine as well. I'm just wondering, what are some of the differences in directing a pilot episode, versus just coming into the middle and directing a regular episode of a show?

Alex: Well I mean, directing a pilot is like doing a movie without enough money and enough time, which is probably like making a movie. But it's a lot of fun and it's very intense, and yet there's a…everybody sort of on board to kind of go for it and nail it and get it on the air.  When you come in and you do an episode of a show, everything is about budget crunches, and is our drama affordable. How do you pull the show off in a strict number of days, and on a strict budget. And it's actually much more difficult to just kind of do a regular episode.

OK, and with this show, is it more of a serialized format, or are there standalone arcs for each individual episode? How is that going to work throughout the season?

Kevin: We have a little formula. We have a standalone to each episode, because we do want the viewer who tunes in to episode five to have full entertainment value. But there are serial elements that will be marbled throughout the whole season, we will certainly have arcs that last four to six episodes, coupled with something that we're doing that's much more long-range, which takes us to the end of the season. But we want to feel that there's a nugget within this candy bar, or nuggets that you can enjoy as a standalone, and I think that's what makes us unique right now.

And I'm just wondering, with time travel, because it's not real there's so many different ways to view time travel. For this show, do you have a specific, before you start, you've set down, these are the rules to our style of time travel?

Alex: Yeah, there are. I don't think you can write it without kind of laying out your rules. But you know, we have very specific rules that Dan is learning along with the audience again, and you're really going through his point of view.  And at the same time, you're also learning what you don't know about it very specifically. So our rules and mythology are as much about what you know, as what you don't know. Because we really don't want to be a gigantic mythology show, we want to be a character-based drama.

Kevin: And you're gonna learnt he rules just as Dan Vasser, Kevin McKidd's character, learns these rules, and sometimes you're gonna find out that the fence is electrified. And then you learn that I can't do that anymore, and so we're gonna explain the rules not in one episode, it's gonna take a few episodes for Dan to get his sea legs.

Alex It's also fun, because you learn something new every week.

Yeah, and you've mentioned Kevin McKidd several times. I'm wondering, when the role is for a San Francisco reporter, how do you get a Scotsman whose last role was as an ancient Roman?

Alex: Well, because when you're going for the lead in your show, you go for the best actor you could possibly find. We were talking, we kind of entered talking about Kevin. And to our shock about three weeks later, we were sitting at a table, having breakfast, hiring him. It all worked out with the support of the network and the studio.  Everybody kind of fell for Kevin, and it got worse and worse, and he read the script and he fell in love with the script. I mean honestly, we're all here because the script was so good for the pilot. McKidd really loved the script, I presume he heard good things about us, and we really thought he would be the perfect guy because he brings, I mean, in case you hadn't noticed, we're like the presidents of the Kevin McKidd fan club. But he brings, he's obviously a really skilled actor, and his career shows that. His dark secret is that he's incredibly great to work with and he's a wonderful guy. But the other thing that he brings to the show and even much more so in the series is his imagination.  He's a really interesting actor, and he's always making these great choices and moments and seeing things, and brings such a humanity to the dilemma of time travel. He just really filled out the picture, and just makes it a great meal.

Kevin: He's a movie star doing a TV show, and we're very lucky to have him, we won the lottery.

Definitely. And I'm just wondering, working on The West Wing for all those years, that both of you did, what did you learn about running or creating your own show, from working with someone like Aaron Sorkin?

Kevin: A lot. You want to go first, Alex?

Alex: Well, I think that… I mean one is, to work on West Wing is to learn the deepest respect for Aaron and also Tommy Schlamme. But we learned, I think, that there was nothing, there's no series that was for us - I mean speaking personally, I wouldn't put this on anyone else - but I don't think there was a harder series to try to make every day.  And so it was sort of like the greatest graduate school you could go through, and then you kind of come away from West Wing kind of ready for anything. And just nothing really rattles you after that, because there was just no situation, there was not high or low you didn't go through making West Wing.

Kevin: Yeah, and the premium on storytelling, and also not feeling like you had to adhere to a formula, that there were no rules. He hated it, Aaron Sorkin hated it when you talked about a structure, or words like “A-story” and “B-story.” You couldn't even use them without him getting upset.  It was liberating in a way that we just wanted to tell the best stories in the most compelling way, and it wasn't just enough for him to tell you a story that goes from A to Z. But that it went underneath and went deep, and moved you and made you laugh, and made you think. I think we both want to bring that to this show, even though the genre is so different.

Alex: You know, the one other thing which is worth mentioning is just that the atmosphere on West Wing, for all that's been written, was really like the best idea wins. I think that we've been able to bring that on here and it's been well-received. There's a lot of really smart, talented people on the show, but the best idea wins.

OK. And just finally about your time slot, because I think it's a vote of confidence from NBC to put you on after their big hit from last season, Heroes. How do you feel about being on after such a high profile show?

Kevin: Well, you know for the longest time we were the little engine that could. We were flying beneath the radar, we're cast contingent. Of course, Alex is so powerful he even took the cast contingency off. We had him before we had Kevin, because of Alex, we got Kevin. We kind of snuck up on people, we were the show that people at NBC thought, “Well, this is coming nicely.”  And then we're in New York, and Alex and I are walking to the upfronts and we get a phone call, on the way to Radio City Music Hall we get a phone call from the studio saying we are following Heroes in that time slot. Everyone thought it was going to go to Bionic Woman.  I got suddenly that we weren't under the radar any more, we had this big target on our backs. But we're so glad and honored to be there. Heroes is a wonderful show, and their audience is smart and cool. We couldn't be happier, and we just, we don't want to blow it.

Alex: So we couldn't feel happier, and we couldn't feel more pressured.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. In a good way, it just makes us want to do a good job.

-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of NBC)