NBC has a new series this fall called “Journeyman.” The fantasy/romance TV series stars Kevin McKidd as Dan Vasser, a journalist who has the ability to travel within his lifetime in the San Francisco area. Dan has a wife and a son in his present life. For reasons yet unknown he can go back in time and help people in trouble.
Kevin Falls is the creator and executive producer of the show. He is a four time Emmy winner with credits that include “The West Wing” and “Shark.”
ComingSoon.net jumped at the chance to interview both of these men in a conference call to learn more about the men and the series. It was easy to tell the men apart because Kevin McKidd was born in Scotland and has an accent that is quite recognizable.
Q: I see that some intense personal relationships play a big role in the show. Can you talk about the importance of Dan and everybody in his life?
Kevin Falls: Yeah, it’s not a triangle. It’s a rectangle. And certainly Dan has to balance not only his beautiful wife in the present, but he has this fiancée who died at the apex of their relationship. So, he is straddling these two women that he loves in a very epic manner. If that isn’t an ingredient for a Soap I don’t know what is. Couple that with the fact that the Jack character, played by Reed Diamond, was also at one point dating Katie, Dan’s wife.
Q: I guess that gives you (Kevin McKidd) a lot more to play with than in just a sci-fi aspect?
Kevin McKidd: That’s why I think the audience will connect with the show if we have done our job well. The sci-fi audience should connect with the show because of the intrigue with great plots and twists and the devises that we can use with the time travel element. The thing that tones it down and gives it a sense of reality is the interpersonal relationships between these quite complex and very human and flawed people. That’s what attracted me to the project and hopefully that is what will attract the audience.
Q: Do you think that will bring in more women to watch the show?
McKidd: I think so. I’ve seen how the show is going to be marketed and NBC is doing a beautiful job. You are going to see some magazine spreads in the next couple of weeks. They are really going to hit the triangle hard between Moon (Bloodgood), Gretchen (Egolf) and Kevin. We’re not going to shy away from it. I think that is what gives it a specialty apart from a lot of the time travel shows that have been done in the past.
Q: Some of the scenes in “Journeyman” appear to be physically demanding. What was one of the hardest physical things you had to do in “Rome?”
McKidd: On “Rome” there were so many hard days, but probably the hardest sequence we shot was in episode ten of season one with a big gladiator fight. That was physically very hard, but you get to play out these boyhood fantasies of being a gladiator.
Falls: To add a perspective, we are doing this conference call in my office at Fox Studios. Kevin is wearing a tuxedo. That’s for the scene we are doing to today.
McKidd: It really is night and day from “Rome” to this show, but it can be pretty physically demanding.
Falls: It’s getting to be physically demanding, and Kevin, of course, has strength there. The scene we are shooting today is very romantic and Kevin, when we had our first meeting he told me something that surprised me. I loved what he did in “Rome,” and he said, “I confess, I’m a romantic. I love the romance.” When you see episode three, which we are shooting now, and he is wearing the tux, it is really beautiful and fun and tense, all at the same time, and Kevin delivers in every way.
Q: This is for both of you. If you could, like in the show, would you want to be able to travel within your lifetime and go back and see how things could have been different or changed?
McKidd: I think I am intrigued with the small things, but hopefully I haven’t taken too many wrong turns. I think about the show and people that are maybe taking the wrong path need to be nudged back onto the correct path in their lives. I am a very lucky person playing this part with a great team for NBC, so hopefully that kind of points to that I haven’t made too many mistakes.
Falls: We’ll find out (he says jokingly).
McKidd: I don’t think I would want to be burdened with this affliction that poor Dan Vasser has had, no.
Q: What about you Kevin (Falls).
Falls: I wouldn’t change anything, but I think I would love to go back and observe some of my early years, but then, I could probably just go back and watch the movie “Superbad” and that would pretty much be my life.
Q: This is for Kevin Falls. What was the genesis of this for you? And then, for both of you, how did Kevin McKidd get involved? Was it a long process or were you reaching out specifically to him, or what?
Falls: For the genesis, here in June I go and have lunch with my agent and he said, “What are you going to develop this year? What have you got?” I said, “Nothing.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you do something different, like a different genre?” I go, “Like what?” He says, “ABC’s been looking to do a time travel show.” So, I thought if I could do it in a very grounded way I would love to do it. I came up with the pitch for “Journeyman” and went into ABC and they promptly passed. Then I went to NBC, and to their credit, they got the show from the very beginning and held me to its original vision. How Kevin (McKidd) got involved was interesting in that I had watched the first couple episodes of “Rome,” and I’m telling this for the first time. I didn’t watch it much after that. Then, we were cast contingent way back when, and we had to get an actor. The usual list of suspects, some very fine actors, came across the board. Robert Ulrich, our casting director, popped in this tape of “Rome” where Kevin, you watch the woman fall off the balcony after you thought she was the mother of your child. The executive producer and I were so blown away and all we wanted was Kevin. We called NBC and NBC said we love Kevin McKidd. He’s fantastic, but I don’t know if we see him in this. They really did like him. Everyone in town wanted him for his talent. They just didn’t necessarily see him in this. We went back and we looked at other actors. Alex and I said, “You know what; we’re going to call Kevin Riley personally one more time.” We call him up and said, “This guy’s the bomb and we think he is great.” At the same time, Kevin was looking at Kevin McKidd’s picture on IMDb and he was all gladiatored up. He says, “You know what? I think this guy is the real deal.” He calls back and said, “Let’s do it.” It was one of those things that happen in your career. We knew he was good. I’m not just saying that because he is sitting in this room. We just didn’t know that he was great. The first day, he tumbles off a plane and has to shoot an ultimate scene in the pilot. Alex Graves turns to me and says, “My God, we’ve got ourselves a movie star.” I don’t know Kevin if you are just passing through. I don’t know what is going to happen with “Journeyman” but I know that Kevin is going to go on and do great things.
Q: It’s uncanny how believable Reed (Diamond) and Kevin are as brothers, visually and physically.
McKidd: It’s funny how on the first day of prep that we instantly hit if off. He’s such a great guy. He really is. He looks more like my brother than my brother.
Falls: Tell the story about how Reed used to watch “Rome” and what his wife said.
McKidd: Reed told me the first day that he used to watch “Rome” with his wife. They were a fan of the show. Reed sat up in bed one night and said, “I’m going to play that guy’s brother one day. You watch.” Within a few months he had met Kevin and Alex for the show and that was it. For me, coming to the show, I have never done a pilot season before, so all this is very new to me. Because of “Rome,” I think, there were a lot of pilots that came my way this year, which I am very thankful for. I read “Journeyman” and loved it. Then, I met Kevin and Alex and I thought they were such fantastic and obviously hugely talented and also just great people. When you look at doing a show that could run for many years you want to know who you are in bed with, people you are at home with, and enjoy each other’s company. You become a family. I knew that straight away. It’s been a fantastic experience ever since that moment.
Q: It sounds as though Reed may have had a master plan when it came to the two brothers’ characters. It’s uncanny how much they resemble on the show.
Falls: It just so happens with what we are shooting now we actually had to cast younger actors, because he time travels and he goes back and he actually sees himself as a boy. We are casting the young Dan Vasser and the young Jack Vasser. Those guys are strikingly close to looking like our two leads. Alex and I really want to do that. We like the fact that they are going to look alike if they are siblings.
Q: This is for Kevin Falls, but also for Kevin McKidd, if you’ve got any thoughts on it that would be great. Kevin, do you have any thoughts on the notion of the extraordinary abilitiesthe abilities to change the life of the hero here and that concept of a hero? There seems to be a number of heroes in series this fall. I mean American television always has a lot of them, but this fall. Some have these extraordinary powers. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on why now, and how your hero fits into this sort of line up.
Falls: There’s been lots of speculation as to why now. These characters have popped up. Everyone has talked about maybe it’s escaping from the dark dramas and not only the shows that are on, not all season, but what is going on in the world today. I can let others speak for that. Like I said I had simply ran out of ideas. There was no master plan, but with Kevin’s character (Dan) we wanted to approach it from a place of reality because Alex and myself don’t believe in time travel. We wanted our character to reproach it, we are mixing today the first episode after the pilot, which we are very excited about. We think it is better than the pilot. It will really speak as to what the show is each week. He is going to get an MRI in the first scene. Even Dan and Katie, in spite the wonderful parlor trick of hiding a ring in the backyard, they are still trying to get their heads around what the hell is going on. There is going to be an approach of there is something wrong with me, as opposed to what power is doing this. Eventually he will trip on that, but he is a very real person who still has to keep a job, a wife, and be a father to a child. We wanted to really speak to the idea of the ultimate emotional workplace affair when they are talking about the dead fiancée coupled with the ultimate job on the road and how that impacts a family at home.
McKidd: I am a big sci-fi fan personally and I have been since I was a child. What I really loved about this is that Dan, as you say, he is a hero. I don’t consider him that or play him that way. He gets in positions when he has to overextend himself and do extraordinary things. I’m attracted to characters that aren’t extraordinary from the out set, but actually are pretty normal and maybe flawed. Dan is a flawed guy. He has a gambling problem in his past and has had some dark moments. I’m really attracted to the idea that he does have this power but he isn’t actually in control of it. It’s very erratic and it happens at times and he starts to realize that there is more of a plan to this. He starts to almost second guess when it may, or may not, happen and see the patterns. But, the patterns shift and change. I think that is what is exciting for the audienceto see a guy who has a part he isn’t actually in full control of at any moment, but he learns to deal with his affliction, as it is the power.
Q: Is the audience not going to understand how the power/affliction works that Dan has because Dan himself doesn’t understand how it works? How are you going to play that out to the audience and how do you think the viewers will respond to it?
Falls: We are going to be like Dan. I think that is the strength of the first few shows. It’s Dan trying to figure out what is going on coupled with the fact that he has no control over it. In order for him to get back to the present he has to finish a leg of his mission or the procedural, as we call it. We want him to be grasping for answers and ultimately as we get into the second part of this season we will address more of the bigger mythology of the show. Actually in the first ten tell you why Livia is a time traveler and what her story is. As far as what is the power that is something we are not going to reveal, certainly in the first part of the season. That’s not to say our characters aren’t going to be wondering what the hell is going on, they have to be. What I didn’t want to do because other shows have done it, whether it’s “Lost” or “Invasion,” it’s chasing the mythology as opposed to dealing with, what is to us an intimate story. What’s going on and impacting his life. Because we have these stand alone stories with each show, I’m hoping that that in itself is compelling and that people will be satisfied with that. But, I totally get that the audience is going to want to know and we have to deliver at some point. I just don’t want that to be at the end of each episodethere is a clue to get closer to the meaning of it. That’s just not a show that I want to do, but yet, I feel like we owe it to the audience as to what the power is and what is causing it. I’d rather at first just deal with it in a very real way.
Q: Do you consider it more as a hero with a power, or is it more like a guy who is having this weird circumstance that he is having to deal with?
Falls: I think he is dealing more with an affliction. I never thought of it as a power at all.
McKidd: I think that what Kevin just said is I’m enjoying it in a way and I think what people like in a drama is that because we don’t Dan is always going to wonder why is this happening, but he is thrown in each episode into someone else’s life and he has to solve or find out or piece together what it is and he has to use his instinct to become more tuned and adept at finding out what he needs to do. Those stories are so important that he himself as Dan Vasser doesn’t quite have the time initially to look back and to keep going as to what this is about and why this happening is because the mission he is put on is so immediate and there’s such a ticking clock on each one. I think that is what will carry the audience along with Dan. This is a phenomenon that he doesn’t know what is going on and the audience doesn’t know what is going on so they are both in that same knowledge base and in it together. That’s the fun of the show and the exciting adventure and aspect of the show.
Falls: We would like people to tune in an episode because they hear the show is good and be satisfied with what they saw. Listen, we reward the viewers who watch it from day one because there is a lot of fun stuff in there that you will follow. But I do believe that you can turn on the TV and watch episode four and have a satisfying hour of entertainment. What I like about “Lost” and “Heroes” is these guys did it great and they set the bar high. We just want to try something a little different and see if people cotton to it.
Q: Is there a time travel element of the story that allows you to do one that is completely based in a sort of normal reality to our own experience?
Falls: We get to sometimes, but not in every episode to where we will visit people who have common problems and relatively speaking a rather normal life and yet in episode four Dan is transported to a spot where a character, a D.B. Cooper character, lands on his parachute. You think you are going to be following the D.B. Cooper of them all, and you will, but what is connected to that story is something that is happening in Iraq, which is that he is trying to get somebody out of Cambodia, an interpreter that helped him in the Vietnam War. Because of that we get to draw some parallels to the people that we may be leaving behind as we start, hopefully, a withdrawal out of that country. It allows us to speak in a different context and not to mention go back into the newsroom where Dan can actually get a piece of information he needs that only his father has. He gets to go back and see his dad who he lost at age six and have a conversation with him–with the father not knowing who he is, which is really the heart of the show. While that is going on in the margins someone takes a shot at President Ford at the St. Frances. Even if we don’t go there this stuff is all living in the margins of the show. It’s allowing us to tackle some subjects that we used to do on “West Wing.”
Q: Does Dan Vasser understand and follow the rules?
Falls: The rule is he can only travel around in his own lifetime. We won’t go deeper than, or past, the seventies. He travels within the Bay area or anything linked to the Bay area. In the first episode he finds himself in a plane in the seventies, but it is in route to San Francisco. That connection is always to San Francisco. The rule is that he is kind of given a mission and he can’t stray off that. If he tries to do something that is off what he is supposed to do, there are blow backs. So, he learns rules the hard way as he goes.
Q: Are the missions sort of thematic in terms of things that are going on in his own life?
Falls: Sometimes they are. There are themes to certain episodes, but I should also say that a lot of the things that he is doing in the course of the season there is a reason for it. We will ramp up to it by the third of the season if we are so fortunate to get that far. There is a method to our madness. It’s one of those things where you can watch each other episode and enjoy it for what it is, and yet, they collectively each have something going on.
Q: Kevin Falls, how comfortable are you finding yourself in the world of time travel and the sci-fi genre after doing “West Wing” and “Shark?”
Falls: It’s liberating in some ways to do something so different and it is the toughest thing I have done too. I thought trying to dramatize farm subsidies and saving social security on “West Wing” was hard. Time travel is difficult. The challenge is to tell these stories which are a lot of fun, but you can put something down over here and you can screw something up over there. We want to make these episodes clear for the audience so people aren’t scratching their heads going I’m totally lost.
Q: For the other Kevin, how are you adapting from doing European films and projects compared to the speed in which an American show is produced?
McKidd: It is fast. . . I’ve done a lot of filmmaking, micro budget movies that I’m proud of in Europe in minimal shooting days. I think that has given meand has made it easier for me than I thought. Everybody said it is eight days that is crazy. It is long hours, but I am not going to complain about that because I knew what I was going into. All the years of moviemaking and flying by the seat of your pants and using your instincts has really helped me and helped keep me, hopefully, at an all time high on a tough schedule.
Falls: We’re killing him. We are going to loosen up his schedule because he works so hard as you will see on the screen and we do have to lighten up his schedule. He’s got to see his wife and kids one of these days.
Q: This is for Kevin McKidd. Rumors are starting that there is a possibility that you may get to play Thor. Is this true and how interested would you be in taking on that role?
McKidd: It is semi true. I didn’t know about it either until I heard the rumors. I called my agent and the last I heard was I think they want to go with somebody much younger, a nineteen or twenty year old for that role. Although they may be switching their sights, the other main male character in that movie I think I am in consideration for. It certainly is by no means in the bag. To be honest until I read a script I don’t really know so this is all still information coming out. It could be fun, but it depends on what is on the page. It all starts and finishes with the script.
Q: Do you watch any other time travel shows to get inspiration, like “Quantum Leap?”
Falls: I swear to God, I have never seen “Quantum Leap.” I know there are some similarities but I only hope we can be as successful as they were, but I never saw it.
McKidd: I actually watched “Quantum Leap” a lot when I was younger. It was huge in the U.K. “Quantum Leap” really isn’t a time travel show in the sense that each episode the lead character transforms completely in the eyes of whoever is around him. I remember there was one time he played an African-American boxer. That was really the thrust of the show as opposed to any kind of traveling back and forth in time. The more I think about it is an easy pitch to kind of latch on to “Quantum Leap,” but if you look at the format “Quantum Leap” wasn’t a time travel show it was a transformation show. It was about a lead character who became a different character or person, which this show isn’t like that at all.
Q: Can you tell us what the complications are like to go back and forth between the two different loves from different years? Are there any repercussions because of that?
Falls: Yeah, that is the heart of the show. What separates it from other shows that have done this is that he does love both women. He really loves his wife and his son and doesn’t want to change it. He loves Livia because she was taken from him not like a divorce, or he got dumped, or he dumped her. Their relationship ended at the apex of it. They were going to get married. So, how could you not still have some feelings if you run into this person again? That is the real complication of the series. We talked to executives who work on the show and people who have seen the pilot. We find people who are identifying with the changes week to week. The actresses are so strong and Moon is wonderful and they have great chemistry in that pilot, but when you watch Gretchen in episode one, she is great in the pilot too, but you see this is really more her episode. That was the hardest thing to do to cast these two people because if that teeter-totter tips any way the show can fall apart. I’m happy to say that after five episodes it is a toss up.
“Journeyman” will premiere on NBC on Monday night, September 24th at 10/9c.