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, Journeyman Creator Kevin Falls and Director Alex Graves, and Reaper Creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas.
A 26-year-old named Josh Schwartz burst onto the TV scene when he created The O.C., a critically acclaimed teen soap that was beloved by many viewers as well. Now in his 30s, Schwartz has created two new shows for this season: NBC’s Chuck and the CW’s Gossip Girl. Just as involved as ever, Schwartz is eager to prove he was no one-hit wonder, and with both his new shows are receiving quite a deal of praise and anticipation, it seems he most definitely is not.
Josh spoke to BuddyTV about both new shows, what he’s learned about making a TV show as a result of doing The O.C., and what fans of his previous hit can expect from his latest endeavors. Below you will find a transcript as well as the mp3 audio file of the interview.
Hey, this is John from Buddy TV and we’re talking to Josh Schwartz, the man who created The O.C. and who this year has two new shows, Gossip Girl and Chuck. Hi, Josh.
Hey, what’s happening?
Two shows this year. How do you even wrap your head around creating two new shows in one year?
It requires a lot of wrapping, head wrapping. But I’m really lucky, I’m working with a couple of really great writers. Stephanie Savage on Gossip Girl, who I worked with for a bunch of years on The O.C., and Chris Fedak who I created Chuck with. He’s a buddy of mine going back to our college days at USC.
And how involved are you in both shows? Is there one that you’re spending more time with?
I’m currently in the Caribbean on a hammock, drinking a cocktail with an umbrella in it.
So you’re just, you create the two shows, you go away and you’re reaping all the benefits.
If only. No, I’m heavily involved in both. Breaking stories, writing, rewriting. You know, in the editing room, all that kind of good stuff.
And is that difficult, to manage both shows? Do you feel ever that one show is getting less of your attention, and you feel like one’s neglected, while you’re focusing on the other one?
I sure hope not. I mean certainly, you can’t be everywhere all the time, and there’ll be times where I’ll be spending more time on one show than another. But you know I’m trying to do my best to be involved in both.
And whenever you create something as successful and beloved as The O.C., your follow-up projects are inevitably gonna draw comparisons. Already people are talking about how Chuck, the character of Chuck, is kind of similar to Seth Cohen, or how Gossip Girl is similar to The O.C. How do you respond to those kinds of generalizations?
I don’t, you know, I think they’re all sort of different. I’m sure that they do have similarities, as I’ve been involved with all three of those things, but people have their own comparisons that echo it. People enjoy The O.C., or people enjoy the character of Seth Cohen. Hopefully that will be incentive, and if they did not, I think they are separate enough that they come to these things.
With Chuck it’s a different kind of entity, because you’re balancing the comedy and the action. How do you balance those two?
It’s a fine line, a small target, and we’re constantly always gut-checking ourselves. We pitch the show as Alias meets The Office, and we’ll never out-Alias Alias or out-24 24, which is not the way the show is designed. But that being said, we still want to be able to deliver cool kick-ass action, and fun surprises and twists, you know in the spy stories.
But that the show is very much comedy, and an office-place comedy at the Buy More. And with Chuck’s life at home, and his romance and all that. So you know it’s a fine line, but it’s up in that we all work really hard on it, and pay a lot of attention to it. We just kind of know, we feel like we’re on track.
And do you have more fun writing one or the other? Like have you ever, do you enjoy writing the action sequences, or you prefer the comedy and let someone else focus on what’s gonna happen in the action?
Well Chris Fedak, who is the co-creator of the show, is a bit of an action movie savant, which helps. I mean the guy can literally recite Die Hard from minute one to minute 128, or however long it is, verbatim. But you know, it’s fun for me to stretch those muscles and be part of those action scenes. And the first story that I ever wrote were like James Bond stories in my little Mead composition books. So it’s definitely, it’s an exercise of that fantasy when I was a little kid.
And both of these shows, Chuck and Gossip Girl have the same music supervisor that you used on The O.C., Alexandra Patsavas?
How involved are you in that? Because a lot of the music in The O.C. was something that the fans really responded to.
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite parts, working with Alex and finding music. Both shows have very different musical templates. Chuck is set in Silver Lake. It has spies, so it has a a sound that sort of feels very indie L.A. And also stuff that also could double as spy score, whether it be LCD Sound System or Spoon or Hot Chip. You know, that kind of music.
And then with Gossip Girl because it’s in New York, and because of the sort of target audience, I guess, we’re embracing pop music in a different way than we were on The O.C., and we’re hoping we can discover new pop artists, much in the same way that we were able to with indie artists on The O.C.
And from working on something like The O.C., what are kind of the dos and don’ts that you learned about making a TV show that you’re putting into practice for these two?
Well, I learned so much. I mean The O.C. was the first thing I ever did, and I’d never really had a job before I had The O.C. A real job, anyway. And so there’s so many lessons, just in terms about breaking stories and working out stuff, and having real team play.
And also how to just run a show and be involved, and have to kind of fight for the things you really believe you need to fight for. I don’t know, there’s just so many things that I learned day-to-day on The O.C., that it was an amazing learning experience. It’s really fun to have the opportunity to kind of take those lessons and apply them here.
And kind of in a similar fashion, when you started that, you were just 26 and your first real job. Now that you’re in your 30s, do you find like your attitudes or preferences have changed?
I find I get winded more easily.
You don’t have as much energy as you used to as a young kid?
Yeah exactly, I need a nap, I’m not the whippersnapper I once was. No, sorry?
Have your attitudes or styles or preferences changed? Do you find your writing is more mature, or you don’t like the same things that you liked back when you started?
If it has, it’s not something I’m totally cognizant of. I don’t try to spend too much time kind of tracking that sort of thing. I mean I suppose in some ways I’ve evolved, in some ways I will never evolve. But I enjoy many of the same things that I did a few years ago, certainly some musical tastes have changed. Certainly there have been times working on Gossip Girl where I feel like, “God, am I too old for this?” And then we do a field hockey catfight, and I’m like, “I’m not too old for this at all.”
One of the things I was wondering, watching both of these shows. Obviously Chuck and then in Gossip Girl, there’s a character named Chuck. Is that a coincidence or was that by design?
Pure coincidence. I was already kind of developing Chuck when I accepted the Gossip Girls I read the books books, and that character’s name is Chuck. So the two characters could not be any more different, but a strange coincidence.
Yeah, very strange. Because we were also, as we’ve been putting together our fall preview, Pushing Daisies has a Chuck, Back to You has a Chuck. Chuck’s everywhere.
Well the good news is, I mean the idea with calling him Chuck was that he’s an everyman. It’s like he could be anybody. It felt like a slightly quirkier take on like a Joe, an average Joe. So the fact that it has become a little bit more ubiquitous, kind of speaks at that anonymous everyman flavor of calling him Chuck. How’s that for rationalization?
That’s a perfect rationalization.
And with Gossip Girl, whose decision initially was it to have Kristen Bell do the voiceover? And will she continue to do that throughout the season?
She will continue to do it. I think there was a bunch of names of people who might we go to, and Kristen was the first person we jumped at, and it worked out. We were thrilled and I guess she was, she read the script or she read the books, I’m not sure. But she was really excited as well, and she’s awesome. She’s, you know it’s voiceover, but it brings a really distinct kind of flavor to the show. The way she delivers it, and we couldn’t be happier that she’s doing it.
I have to agree. When I watched the pilot, the first time you hear Kristen Bell’s voice, you just kind of like light up because…
She’s got a great voice, and she does it with a real kind of fun, and she’s such an intelligent performer. You get that sense from her doing voiceover, I think she’s great.
Yeah. And finally I guess, I have one more question for O.C. loyalists. Will there be any sort of Easter eggs, or any nods to them in any of your new shows?
There is. There’s one that’ll be kind of big, that I can’t announce yet. But there will be a small, there’s an Easter egg thing. Seth Cohen was a fan of a movie called Yakuza Prep, which was a fake Yakuza movie. Sort of like our version of Battle Royale. And Yakuza Prep, it was like a fake artwork that was in his room, and Chuck has the same poster.
That’s definitely something that a lot of O.C. fans will appreciate.
He does not have a toy horse in his room, no.
No, but does he celebrate Chrismukkah?
No, sadly. I think we would probably, I’d probably sue myself.
Probably. But thank you very much for talking to us, Josh, and we’re all very excited about both shows. Actually, they’re both very good pilots.
Thank you very much. Your site kicks ass, I’m honored to be a part of it.
Well, we’re honored to have you be a part of it.
-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of the CW)