Photo by Chris Reardon/Syfy
We spoke with Emily and Mark Stern, EVP of Original Content for Syfy, about the idea for the show, Stephen King's involvement, and strong female characters.
Q: Talk a little bit about the idea for the series?
MARK: Well on the network side, [it] came to us from Pillar, Segan, and Shepard, the guys who did The Dead Zone. And they had a great pilot from Sam [Ernst] and Jim [Dunn] that we really thought was great. They're great characters, great dialogue, really interesting concept that felt could do a companion to Eureka in that it was a small-town show about [where the supernatural] comes in, but really from a complete different perspective. So if Eureka is a very sci-fi driven, science-driven type of idea where this town goes crazy with all these different conventions, it's almost like the Stephen King alternative to that. Not the dark, grim, horror Stephen King version, but maybe more The Green Mile, Stand By Me Stephen King version of that, where it's about people who have these abilities that are starting to express themselves with supernatural abilities, yet they don't know about it. So Audrey comes into this town, Emily Rose’s character comes into this town, and starts to uncover some of these powers.
EMILY: Yeah. They wrote it and kind of spun the characters off of The Colorado Kid, which is just this small little novel by Stephen King. When I read it, I was like, "Okay. Where is my story in here?" What's fantastic about Stephen King's novels, period, are his characters. So what's great with what Sam and Jim have done is they've created this place, this really small, interesting town that's sort of like a magnet and has drawn Audrey to it. So what's fascinating for me playing Audrey is just this journey that she goes on, this character that has a lot of things that she's trying to figure out about her own self, and when she comes to Haven, it's an intriguing place where these people are dealing with things that they don't know how to grapple with. And it's really neat to see how they have taken it from this little novel that's so intriguing and brought it to the town of Haven. It's quite remarkable.
Q: Was it always thought of as a companion piece to Eureka?
MARK: When we read it, it was. I don't think it was conceived that way, and actually, I think in its original iteration it was called Sanctuary, which was a little bit of a problem for us, since we [have another show] called Sanctuary. So they reworked it, actually. And there is a Haven, Maine in Stephen King…
MARK: Yeah. That so it fit really nicely in for them.
Q: It seems like a really good time right now for strong, female characters on television, especially those in law enforcement. Can you talk about this trend?
EMILY: Yeah. I'm really excited and honored to be playing this part. It's so rare that you actually get to find a really well-written kind of female lead… The great thing about Audrey, what I love about her and what I insist on keeping about her, is just her relatability, the fact that you could know this girl. Audrey is an orphan, and she literally is trying to discover the mystery of her family. And that's been the hardest thing for me to relate to, honestly. I have a family. I have a home base. What is it about this woman who literally doesn't have anywhere to go, and her entire life she's being put through the system. When she gets out, she puts herself into another system of the FBI and within that structure sort of finds a home.
And I think what's so great about playing a female lead, especially in law enforcement, is that these women do exist. They really do exist, and they're really quite interesting. And they're fascinating, and I think that's why, you know, entertainment has been featuring them, is because what is it to be in this strong position, but yet also be playing the nurturing that comes along with being a woman? And that's actually a duality what's quite essential for the character or Audrey, especially in the town, is that through her discovery, through her discovery and her investigation of what's going on here, she has these one-on-one relationships with people. And it's the fact that she's a woman and that she can connect to these people that really, actually, ends up helping them, ultimately.
MARK: And she has this really wonderfully well-drawn relationship with two very different guys in this show that are from very different sides of the tracks. So you've got this character Nathan, played by Lucas Bryant, who is the town deputy, and then you've got kind of this rogue, pirate character played by Eric Balfour named Duke, and so they've got a rivalry, and in any small town, there's a lot of backstory.
EMILY: There's history.
MARK: There's a lot of history. So that's very interesting, too, to see how she interacts with both of those guys. What I like about it, it's not a traditional love triangle in that kind of cliché way. It's actually allowed to breathe on its own, and I would say that without a question, Haven itself is a great character. The town is a great character. The way it's drawn and written is wonderful. So I think it's kind of a combo platter of all those different things
EMILY: Yeah. That's what's been so great about shooting in Nova Scotia. I don't know if you guys know, but we're filming out in the middle of nowhere -- it's not the middle of nowhere. It's beautiful.
MARK: You can see it from here.
EMILY: Yes. Exactly. And we're filming in this very small fishing lobster town. And talk about having some real-time research on what it's like to be a big city girl going into a small town where there's "a" restaurant and "a" post office, these very singular things where you come into this town and everyone's like, "And you are?" And you're like, "And I will be here for the entire summer. So nice to meet you. See you later." But it's so interesting because every place you walk into, everybody knows everyone. Everyone knows everyone, and you walk in and they want to know your story, and then you have that sense when you walk out that they're still wanting to know your story. So it's been a really, really fun experience. I went to Lunenburg when we were filming there, actually, and I was like, "We can't film anywhere else. This place is perfect. It is Haven." It's absolutely beautiful. And it's eye candy, that town. That's what I keep saying.
MARK: Which I think is also exciting for us on the network side because it will look unlike any other show.
MARK: I think any other show on television, certainly any other show in our era. And that includes shows like Eureka that have a very distinctive, Northwest feel. This is real Maine, and not like Long Island doubling for Maine. This is Nova Scotia doubling for Maine. Let's just say it's a closer double.
Q: How procedural/closed-ended is this versus how arced is it?
EMILY: I think it's both.
EMILY: It's both. It's something where there's--you're going to have your weekly story so that the viewer can turn on Haven and actually be drawn into a story that's happening, but I think the deeper arc and the deeper story of Audrey and the backstory between Nathan and Duke and that whole who they are is--and especially Audrey's story, why she's been brought there, what's going on with her, her history, you're going to want to--you're going to want to keep watching because that's a mystery that's going to be unfolding and worth being around for the end of. Every week is something different that she's encountering in this town, sort of like real life. Every week in a small town is every different. There's a story every week. Something's going on. So it's kind of that feel.
Q: How much of this is based on The Colorado Kid, and was there any sort of conversation at Syfy, of what would happen if Eureka and Sanctuary had a baby?
MARK: That's a messy thought. No, we didn't talk about that. You know what? The story of The Colorado Kid and picture of what happened in The Colorado Kid is basically a theme throughout. It's a backstory kickoff for what's going on, and Audrey's going to find her actually involved in that in some strange way. So I think these guys have done a really great job of incorporating it into a larger franchise instead of being like we'll stick Stephen King's name and put it on this without any connection whatsoever. I think the bones of The Colorado Kid are definitely buried in this larger franchise.
EMILY: Very true.
Q: How involved is Stephen King in the project?
MARK: Well, these guys have a relationship with him dating back to The Dead Zone, and I think he's aware of it. He's given his blessing to it. I think they're keeping him in the loop in terms of the scripts and the footage and the cuts episodes. But he's not in a day-to-day oversight.
Q: Is he going to be writing any episodes?
MARK: Not this season.
Q: What's the one thing you think that is unique to Stephen King's writing that you want to make sure is in this show every single week?
EMILY: For me, I think it's literally the grittiness of his characters. The reason you can take the leap of faith with Stephen King when it comes to the paranormal or the things that happens in the world that he creates is because the characters that he writes are accessible. And so these characters that come out of The Colorado Kid, out of that book, the two newspaper guys that will be in the town, they're so real and likeable, and you want to talk with them and you want to get to know them, that what happened as a result of living in this world, you will buy and you'll believe because you're connected with the characters. So for me it's just really important to create a reality to Audrey that in no way distances her from anybody else or the viewer, like that you could really know this person and that you could really feel the emotional stuff of what she's going through. And I think that's actually the really important thing to hang on to through the series, honestly.
MARK: I would agree with that. He has this amazing ability to juxtapose the normal with the extraordinary so that just when you're lulled into "I know this town. I know these characters," he hits you with something unbelievable and, as Emily said, is very grounded and believable because the rest of it is well-seated and you believe these characters, well-drawn. And I think this show really should capture that. As I said, I think we're really gearing toward more of the extraordinary and the wonder than maybe the horror and the disgusting, but there will be some disgusting things in this show. Deliberately, hopefully, disgusting. And there's going to be some weird creepiness to it, as well. I think it's about embracing the whole many different aspects of his writing as opposed to just what people think of in terms of The Shining or Needful Things.
Q: Do you have a sense that your fans from Uncharted are going to be following you?
EMILY: I love them, and yes, they will. Very excited. My Uncharted fans, which that's so weird to say out loud. But they are the best of the best, and they have already been tweeting me like crazy and contacting me and posting on their boards, "Did you hear that Emily's in a new show? It's going to be great." And "We're so excited. And what do you have?" I'm like, "Keep watching. It's great." You know, I'm so fortunate. I'm so fortunate to have a fan base from a different story that gets to see a different side of the character and actually wants to join me on whatever journey of these different characters I'm bringing about, and they're already taking the Internet by storm in that way. So yes. Very excited.
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For other interviews check out:
Haven's Producers Know How It Will End
Warehouse 13 Interview with Executive Producer Jack Kenny