Recently, Hank Steinberg, creator of The Nine, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with BuddyTV for an interview and answer some questions about his new show, The Nine. The Nine is about nine survivors of a 52-hour hostage situation in a bank. The Nine struggle to grapple with their lives after the event, and will forever be linked by what happened inside that bank.
Hank Steinberg is best known as the creator and showrunner of the CBS hit drama Without a Trace. He also wrote the highly-acclaimed HBO film “61*”. The Nine airs Wednesdays at 10PM ET/PT on ABC.
How is The Nine different or similar to Without a trace?
Hank: There are certainly a number of similarities between the two shows. Long hours and the grind of working on a TV show makes the experience more or less logistically the same as on Without a Trace, but creatively The Nine is very different than Without a Trace. Without a Trace was close-ended every episode, it was a procedural. This, The Nine, is a serial drama that focuses on the characters.
The characters on Without a Trace were all very morally similar. We made The Nine very different, about the character’s lives and the aftermath of this terrible event they shared.
How different was it going into The Nine, which had a lot of hype, as opposed to the beginning of Without a Trace?
Without a Trace had the…benefit, I guess you could say, of flying under the radar. With The Nine, on the other hand, there was a lot of buzz, a lot more expectations. However, I know what I’m expecting now. I’ve done this before, gone through the beginning of a new show and all the trappings that come with that.
Was there a lot of pressure going into the production of The Nine, especially before the season started?
It’s a completely different kind of pressure than it is working on an established show. Everyone is very anxious. The cast is working in a vacuum. There’s something different about these shows, different expectations. It’s exciting, of course, but there’s a lot more anxiety and expectations, this being my second series and after the success of Without a Trace. When the ship left the port, once it premiered, that’s when it gets very different. We all get to see the fruits of our labor and there’s feedback and it all becomes worth it. It’s a new endeavor, more entrepreneurial.
You’ve assembled a great cast, a real who’s who of veteran TV actors. How is it working with them?
They’re all terrific actors and total pros. They know the rigors of shooting and being on set. They get it, they know what it’s like to be on a successful show and a non-successful show. So they have a really good perspective going into the whole thing and it’s been a relief, very easy to work with them.
How did you and your sister come up with the idea for The Nine?
Well, us being New Yorkers, we were both very moved by the events of 9/11. So, questions like, “How do you get back to your normal lives?” “How did this terrible event inspire those people involved?” You realize that, at any given moment, your life can be completely changed by a singular event. “How do you deal with it and what do you do in the aftermath?” We were very interested in these questions. I think these are universal issues. “What would you do with a second chance in life?” That was the inspiration.
How did the networks react when you pitched the idea for The Nine?
They were actually pretty psyched. I was giving my pitch to ABC and before I could finish, Steve McPherson (Head of Entertainment at ABC) said “Stop, we want it.” And the rest is history.
Do you think their reaction would’ve been the same five or six years ago, before serial dramas were so common?
I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. You know, someone had to take a chance on 24.
When did you find out about getting the post-Lost timeslot? Did you know while filming?
We didn’t know exactly where we’d be for awhile. We did know that there were a lot of opportunities to get on the air, looking at the fact that ABC’s three big shows were going to be spread out on different nights, we knew that we would be after either Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, or Desperate Housewives. The main thing is that there were lots of opportunities. But, when we found out for sure that we’d be on after Lost, we were all very excited.
How often do you look at the Nielsen ratings? Did you check every week for Without a Trace?
Well, with Without a Trace, by the third and fourth year in the show’s run, we pretty much knew where it’d land every week, so we didn’t pay much attention to it. For The Nine, yes, I do look, and I have to see how we’re doing. At this point, it’s imperative to find an audience and, also, keep it. We’re not greedy, though. It doesn’t have to be top 10, but just enough to where we can all feel comfortable and keep making the show we want to make.
Did you guys film the stand-off in the bank in advance?
No. We film each bank flashback for every separate episode.
Do you ever go online and read the fan forums and see what the viewers are saying about the show?
My girlfriend does sometimes, but she only shows me the positive ones.
Before you go, can you give us any teasers or spoilers for upcoming episodes of The Nine?
There will be surprising revelations about Lucas and his relationship with the hostages that you’ll get to know. And, everyone will get to know a lot more about Eva.