- Have you taken the TDW Survey yet?
- The CW has renewed Smallville. The Hollywood Reporter thinks One Tree Hill is “still on the bubble” while Life Unexpected and Melrose Place are “still unlikely.”
- TV Fanatic has an interesting post asking, “Is 90210 pushing the Adrianna/Gia relationship too hard?”
- E! Online spoke with Candy Spelling (widow of Aaron Spelling [executive producer]; mother to Tori [Donna] and Randy [Ryan], Beverly Hills 90210) about Shannen Doherty (Brenda, Beverly Hills 90210) being on Dancing With The Stars.
- All the remaining teen drama couples have been eliminated from E!’s Online’s TV’s Top Couples tournament.
- Leighton Meester (Blair, Gossip Girl) is on the cover of the April issue of Glamour.
- Meester may star in the film Monte Carlo.
- Glamour named Meester and Blake Lively (Serena, Gossip Girl) two of the 50 Most Glamorous Women of 2010.
- Green Lantern, starring Lively and written by Greg Berlanti (writer-producer, Dawson’s Creek) will be released in 3-D on. June 17, 2011.
- Glamour also named Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl) one of the Most Glamorous Guys of 2010.
- Gossip Cop, where I’m currently interning, busted a fabricated story from Star magazine, which claimed Matthew Settle (Rufus, Gossip Girl) and Kelly Rutherford (Lily) are together in real life. It’s totally not true.
- Josh Schwartz (creator, Gossip Girl; The O.C.) spoke with MTV about why his script for X-Men: First Class isn’t being used and also spoke about casting for Endless Love, which he’s working on with Stephanie Savage (executive producer, Gossip Girl; The O.C.).
- Crushable has a semi-spoilish interview with Schwartz about Gossip Girl and his other current projects. He also references The O.C.
- TVGuideMagazine.com gave jeers to Mischa Barton (Marissa, The O.C.) on last night’s Law & Order: SVU.
- Film.com has an interesting article on James Van Der Beek (Dawson, Dawson’s Creek) and his career.
- NPR has a review of Stolen, which stars Van Der Beek. The film will have a limited released March 19.
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Tags: 90210, Aaron Spelling, Adrianna, Beverly Hills 90210, Blair, Blake Lively, Brenda, Candy Spelling, Chace Crawford, Crushable, Dancing with the Stars, Dawson, Dawson's Creek, Donna, E! Online, Endless Love, Film.com, Gia, Glamour, Gossip Cop, Gossip Girl, Green Lanter, Greg Berlanti, James Van Der Beek, Josh Schwartz, Kelly Rutherford, Law & Order: SVU, Leighton Meester, Life UneXpected, Lily, Marissa, Matthew Settle, Melrose Place, Mischa Barton, Monte Carlo, MTV, Nate, NPR, One Tree Hill, Randy Spelling, Rufus, Ryan, Serena, Shannen Doherty, Smallville, Star, Stephanie Savage, Stolen, TDW, The CW, The Hollywood Reporter, The O.C, Tori Spelling, TV Fanatic, TV's Top Couples, TVGuideMagazine.com, X-Men: First Class
Categories : 90210, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The O.C.
- The CW has ordered another pilot, in addition to the five shows previously announced.
- Monday’s One Tree Hill (1.9 million rounded up) dropped a decent amount in the ratings compared to last week. This is a season- and (I believe) series-low.
- Variety says One Tree Hill has a “better-than-50/50 shot at returning.”
- InStyle has a short article on Sophia Bush (Brooke, One Tree Hill) at New York Fashion Week.
- Due to scheduling issues, Jana Kramer (Alex, One Tree Hill) and Robert Buckley (Clay, One Tree Hill) will no longer be participating in the Wilmington police fundraiser this weekend. Instead, James Lafferty (Nathan, One Tree Hill) and Mitch Ryan (Alexander, One Tree Hill) will and possibly others.
- Blood Done Sign My Name, a movie Lee Norris (Mouth, One Tree Hill) first told me about in August, starring him, Cullen Moss (Junk, One Tree Hill), Michael May (Chuck, One Tree Hill) and Susan Walters (Principal Rimkus), opens in theaters Friday. Star News has a review of the film.
- The CW sent out a YouTube interview with 90210’s costume designer, Frank Helmer.
- The contenders for the TV’s Top Couples tournament have officially been announced. They include: David/Donna (Beverly Hills 90210), Dylan/Brenda (Beverly Hills 90210), Chuck/Blair (Gossip Girl),Nate/Blair (Gossip Girl) and Ryan/Marissa (The O.C.).
- Alexandra Patsavas (music supervisor, Gossip Girl & The O.C.) is among BuddyTV’s picks to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol.
- I’ve never listened to This American Life before but I stumbled across an edition that had a segment about The O.C. that I really enjoyed. It starts around the 30-minute mark.
- Autumn Reeser (Taylor, The O.C.), who appeared on tonight’s episode of Human Target, has been cast in No Ordinary Family, which is being executive produced by Greg Berlanti (writer-producer, Dawson’s Creek).
- LOLing at this Blair Waldorf comparison to Suri Cruise, especially since Suri is the daughter of Katie Holmes (Joey, Dawson’s Creek).
- Holmes is included in an E! Online photogallery of stars at 18 years old.
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Tags: 90210, Alex, Alexander, Alexandra Patsavas, American Idol, Autumn Reeser, Beverly Hills 90210, Blair, Blair Waldorf, Blood Done Sign My Name, Brenda, Brooke, BuddyTV, Chuck, Clay, Cullen Moss, David, Dawson's Creek, Donna, Dylan, E! Online, Frank Helmer, Gossip Girl, Greg Berlanti, Human Target, InStyle, James Lafferty, Jana Kramer, Joey, Junk, Katie Holmes, Lee Norris, Marissa, Michael May, Mitch Ryan, Mouth, Nate, Nathan, New York Fashion Week, No Ordinary Family, One Tree Hill, Principal Rimkus, Robert Buckley, Ryan, Simon Cowell, Sophia Bush, Star News, Suri Cruise, Susan Walters, Taylor, The CW, The O.C, This American Life, TV's Top Couples, Variety, Wilmington, YouTube
Categories : 90210, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The O.C.
How does a writer get from King of the Hill to Dawson’s Creek and later Gilmore Girls to Californication? Who chooses episode titles? Do The Powers That Be buy into “ships”?
In our exclusive phone interview, Gina Fattore, who went from writer to co-executive producer in four seasons on Dawson’s Creek, gives her answers to those questions, sharing her personal journey in the world of television.
TeenDramaWhore: How did you first get involved with Dawson’s Creek?
Gina Fattore: It was very straight-forward in that my agent just called. I started out in comedy. The first show I worked on was a sitcom and the first episode of television I ever wrote was a show called King of the Hill. At the time my agent said to me, “You gotta write something with a girl in it. This King of the Hill script, not really working for you.” At the time Ally McBeal was on and it was during that moment when that was a really interesting show. I just decided that that was what I was going to write for my spec script, my writing sample. It seemed a good show to write but it was a one-hour show and I had never really written any one-hour shows before and I wasn’t consciously trying to move into drama. That was just the sample I chose to write. My agent showed it to this guy [Dawson's Creek executive producer] Paul Stupin, who was also a client of my agent. He said, “You know, I have this comedy writer and she wrote this drama script for Ally McBeal. Would you give it a read and just tell me what you think, what your thoughts are?” Paul read it and brought me in for a meeting and then hired me. Then four years later, it was like I had written a zillion episodes of Dawson’s Creek without ever really intending to become a drama writer.
TDW: Wow. Can you walk me through the process of writing an episode? Viewers don’t usually know all the steps involved.
Fattore: Right. We always thought it was funny back in the day when I would go online and look at the recaps and stuff like that people had done, because obviously the episodes start as an outline. They always start as some sort of prose document and then you have to turn it into an actual script and then they film it and then people out there on the Internet are always turning it back into an outline, which always amuses me.
A typical episode of a show like Dawson’s back in the day, we’re in a room. We have ideas and we know what the larger arc of the season is. It’s either a 12-episode arc or a full-season arc. Within that framework, ideas will be pitched or presented. I didn’t write this particular episode but let’s say it’s prom. And you know in that particular episode it’s going to be promo. It just gets more specific as the week goes on and if things are going well, you might spend the week trying to break a story and figure out what each individual scene is going to be in the show, who’s in the scene, what’s the dramatic purpose of the scene and how does it move the story forward. You just spend a week getting it all outlined and then someone gets the assignment. You probably know going into the week that this is your assignment. You’ve probably been given [notice]. “Oh, here. Episode six is going to be yours. Here’s the heads-up.” So, especially if you know it’s your episode, you want to show up there prepared with ideas. Ultimately, the decisions all lie in the hands of the showrunner, the head writer, who’s going to decide and sign off on every single one of those scenes. Then once you’ve got your basic story in outline form, it has to be approved by the network and the studio, depending on who else is involved. Then once you have that approval, you go off and begin writing the script.
TDW: So when you’re not actually the person with the “written by” credit on an episode, you’re still responsible for generating ideas for it?
Fattore: Yes. That’s an interesting question. Different shows do it different ways. Most of the ideas, I think, on any given show are coming from the showrunner because he is the ultimate authority on what is going to end up going in the show. But if you have a group of writers–we had only four on the last year of Dawson’s Creek to as many as maybe 12 or 15 back in the glory days when the economy was different– you know your job is to show up every day and have ideas and ways of executing the stories that everyone has in mind for the larger arc. There aren’t a lot of serialized shows left on TV anymore. A lot of the crime shows, those people show up every day with lists of, “here’s stories about crime” but it’s harder on a serialized show because ultimately whatever you’re pitching has to track with what happened the episode before. But, yes, if you’re on staff, you’re definitely expected to show up with as many other ideas as you can. If you have a good idea in the room, you’re more likely to be given the assignment. If it was your idea originally, the showrunner might say, “Okay, this is going to be yours.” You get to go off and write that.
TDW: Focusing specifically on the ones you did write, a bunch of them happen to my favorites and some of the most memorable ones of the series. Going chronologically, the first one is The Longest Day [Episode 3.20], which has just such a fascinating frame to it, the way you tell the story repeatedly from all these different angles and it’s not until the end that the whole picture becomes clear. How did you come up with that?
Fattore: That is very funny because I was just telling that story to someone recently because I do remember it quite well. It was very exciting. At that point, in the overall arc of the season, the next thing that needed to happen in episode 20 was Dawson [James Van Der Beek] finds out about Joey [Katie Homes] and Pacey [Joshua Jackson]. That was the one thing that we had. In a traditional Dawson’s Creek story structure at that time, we’d start out and say, “How are we going to tell that story?” Probably we would put that event at the end of the third act. First act, establish the problem. Second act, talk about the problem further, because nothing ever happened on Dawson’s. There wasn’t a lot of action. But then third act, you would want the conflict to come to a head. So we were talking about the story and the most traditional possible way and I think it was [writer-producer] Greg Berlanti–at that time he was sort of the showrunner; he was an upper-level writer–who said, “How can we make the third act break the first act break?” So, essentially, we started talking about that. The idea of seeing that moment where Dawson finds out about them became the first act break.
People always mention Rashomon, the Japanese movie, which, frankly, I’ve never even seen. But the structure we came up, having three characters we would follow through the day, allowed us to have that moment everyone wanted to see before the first commercial break. I can’t remember exactly what the second act is but it takes that scene a little bit further and shows you a little bit more and then the third act, you understand finally what it is Dawson knows and how he already knows. To this day, it is one of the best creative experiences I ever had because it was just so much fun to do as a puzzle. It was really exciting. Telling stories is often about, what is the information you have left out? What have you not shown the audience? When you show it to them, it makes an impact. It’s a really great memory to think about that episode.
TDW: It really just has double the awesomeness, because we had been waiting for that story to climax for so long and then you added the unique storytelling on top of it.
Fattore: Yes. It was a question of, “Well, how can we have this thing happen but have it fill up that whole hour of television? And that was where it started from. My hat is really tipped to Greg Berlanti on that one because there were a bunch of us in the room that day or that week trying to figure out the story but it was his inspiration that kind of led us down that road. The whole thing was a really fun experience because it was kind of the only time in Dawson’s Creek history that I had such a warm reception to a script. Everybody really liked it and it was a great experience for me.
TDW: Continuing with that season, the season 3 finale was the first of several finales that you wrote. That one was True Love [Episode 3.23]. The title alone is nice because it harkens back to the name of the Pacey’s boat. It made me wonder, though, how episode titles are chosen.
Fattore: Usually the writer, when you’re writing the actual episode, has a shot at coming up with the title themselves. Like when you turn in your draft to the show runner, on most shows, you probably give it a title yourself based on what you’ve written. I am obsessed with the movie The Philadelphia Story [which has a boat named True Love]. I think it was probably Greg Berlanti writing one of those early episodes in season 3 that involved Pacey’s boat and I was just joking with him about The Philadelphia Story because it is one of my favorites. I think he used [the boat name] based on me joking with him about it. Then we all worked on the finale of season 3. I honestly don’t remember in that specific case who came up with the episode title but I would venture to guess it was probably Greg Berlanti who did. It could’ve actually been a title that we sort of knew all along because we knew we were going to end up having the boat be a big part of the whole year.
TDW: It was. And then the next season, season 4, you also wrote that finale, Coda [Episode 4.23], which is just cleverly named given the structure of a television show. But the final scene also mirrors the season 1 finale [Episode 1.13, Decisions].
Fattore: That episode [the season 4 finale] [writer-producer] Tom Kapinos and I wrote together. When he and I would do that, he would write the first act & the fourth act and I would write the second act & the third act, because he likes to begin things and he likes to end things. He doesn’t really like to do the middle of things. But the scene you’re referring to is a really long scene between Dawson and Joey in his bedroom.
Fattore: Tom wrote that. That’s 100 percent Tom. I can’t take any credit for that. But for me, with season 1 of the show, I always tried to go back and reference it. I watched it over and over to keep in mind. Not every TV writer is like that but I like to re-watch things and keep it in mind. When you’re desperate for ideas, you can find inspiration anywhere.
TDW: Then the season 5 finale [Episode 5.23, Swan Song] you wind up with everyone in the airport.
Fattore: Yeah, that one I probably don’t remember quite so well but again, Tom and I wrote it together. He would’ve written the beginning and end. I wrote the middle. It’s so funny the things I remember now after all these years. I do remember there was a Jen [Michelle Williams] and Jack [Kerr Smith] scene in the airport that I was happy with and proud of. That was another thing I did–over the years I wrote a lot of little Jen-Jack moments that I was very happy with. It was fun. So obviously everybody was going on a trip or not going on a trip; that’s the whole point of the airport. But it’s kind of a dead zone in my memory. You hit upon one I really don’t remember that well.
TDW: Jen finally relented and was going to spend the summer with her parents. Jack stumbles across the guy in his fraternity who was secretly gay. Then Joey and Dawson had one of their confrontations.
Fattore: Of course.
TDW: And Pacey got onto the airport speaker system to profess his love for Audrey [Busy Philipps].
Fattore: Yes, it’s all sort of coming back to me now.
TDW: I understand it’s hard for you when you’ve done so much work since then.
Fattore: It’s funny because back in the day, I had a pretty amazing recall of the episodes. And to be honest, it’s funny what you asked about the episode titles because I often refer to the shows by their number. Like The Longest Day is 3.20 to me. I think it’s because the titles do change. The first draft might be called something and then there’s a legal clearance issue so it may change. But obviously we do the episodes in order and every episode has a number that never changes. So for me, it was always like, “Oh, episode 3.15 [Crime and Punishment] and 3.16 [To Green, With Love] is Joey paints a mural.” I just have it in my head based on the numbers and not what the actual titles of the episodes are.
TDW: That’s so interesting. There’s been random fans I come across that do know the episodes just by the numbers and it blows my mind.
Fattore: I realize that it sounds crazy. One of the executives from The WB used to tease me about it because it makes you sound a little crazy. But around here, around the office, there’s always about 5 different episodes in play. There’s one that’s shooting that day, one that’s prepping that day, one that’s in editing, one that’s being outlined, one that the first draft is being read by the showrunner. If a TV show is running successfully, there should be about five or six episodes in play at any time. To keep track of them all, it always just seemed easier to me to remember the numbers.
TDW: Wow. Well, I have a couple more episodes. In season 6 you have Spiderwebs [Episode 6.08], which is when No Doubt performs. I’m curious to know if you find it limiting or easier when you have a central event that everyone has to be at.
Fattore: That’s a very good question because a lot of times with TV, I think it is easier when you have something that’s so specific that you have to work around. I don’t remember when exactly that idea of the tie-in with the concert came up but in terms of what we knew we had to do–we were going to showcase the concert and we needed to get everyone to go to the concert–in a way, that is an easier assignment. Anything that narrows down your options is easier because you’re just like “This is what we’re doing this week. We’re gonna get those kids to a No Doubt concert if it’s the last thing we do!”
TDW: That episode really showcases Jensen Ackles [C.J.].
Fattore: Oh, yes! He’s on Supernatural now!
TDW: Yeah, he’s gone on to have a great career with that.
Fattore: He was a really nice guy, I have to say. I like people who just show up and know the material and they’re really professional. I didn’t know him all that well but he was a good guy so I was not surprised that he went on to do other things–with Dean [Jared Padalecki] of Gilmore Girls!
TDW: I do have a Gilmore Girls question a little later one . The next episode on my list is another one with unique storytelling and that’s Castaways [Episode 6.15]. You have a unique location, limited characters and a balance of tension, seriousness and fun.
Fattore: You’ve hit on my mom’s favorite episode of Dawson’s Creek that I ever wrote! Again, that was a really good experience for me. It was kind of a gift from Tom Kapinos. There’s some old 80s movie that involves being trapped in a department store. I had never actually seen the movie but we were just sitting around one day joking about it and the idea of Joey and Pacey being trapped in some sort of department store. It just seemed like, especially after all the years I had worked on the show and all the episodes I had written at that point, it was like a little present to me that I would get to do this and have it sort of be like a play. It was fun to write. Tom gave me little notes on it that helped me get the fight scene to a place where I was really happy with it. They shot it and they did a great job. I think it ended up being the Kmart where we actually shot it. I was really happy with the way it turned out.
TDW: The last one is Joey Potter and the Capeside Redemption [Episode 6.22], which, to me, is like a series finale but it wasn’t actually the series finale.
Fattore: I would agree with that. That’s how it was always intended, as a series finale. We knew at a certain point, I guess, that [creator] Kevin [Williamson] would come back and do his two hours of TV but we were operating under the assumption all year season 6 that it would be the last year of the show. From the beginning of the season, what we were doing was ending the series. That was a cool experience to have as a storyteller, to say, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to figure out a way to end this series.” We intended it to work, obviously, without anyone ever seeing the other [episodes, 6.23-4, All Good Things…Must Come To An End] and, again, that was a funny one because Tom wrote the beginning and the end and I wrote the middle parts. By that point, that was just the way that we did it. The end was so memorable. He wrote this huge voiceover for Joey. The song that plays at the end of that episode–maybe it didn’t make it on to the DVDs because all the music got changed–it’s one of my favorite songs and Tom ended up using it in the show. It was very meaningful to me at the time.
TDW: What song is that?
Fattore: It’s a Hollies song; The Air That I Breathe. It’s from the early 70s maybe or the late 60s. It was always one of my favorite songs from when I was kid and we didn’t usually use a lot of old songs. We used very much the more contemporary music. At the time, the “chick rock,” they called it.
TDW: In one of the episodes, it might’ve been True Love, Jen makes a joke about that. It was a very meta comment. She says something like “soon to be out-of-date contempo-pop songs plays” in the background of their lives.
Fattore: Oh, yes. That sounds like a Kapinos kind of thing. It really has been a long time since season 3.
TDW: Joey Potter and The Capeside Redemption was directed by Michael Lange, who I interviewed a few weeks ago. I was wondering, now that I’m also speaking with you, what relationship, if any, does the writer have with the director?
TDW: In TV its kind of interesting because the directors just come in and do an episode here or there. If you’re a writer and a producer on the show, you’re there the whole time for every episode and you’re involved in the conversations that are going on usually for all the episodes. But it’s a lot of fun if you’re allowed to participate in the filming. We always had to get on the plane and go to Wilmington to meet the director. Michael Lange also did one of my other episodes. 4.04 [Future Tense], actually, he did. When I was early in my career, just starting out, you can learn so much if you’re just sitting there in the chair next to the director, watching how things get from the script to actual film. That helps you with your writing immeasurably because you realize what can be accomplished in the time that we have. TV is like making an independent film. Every Dawson’s Creek episode was shot in seven days. We had, you know, not tons of money. The visual style of The WB was very conservative, so it’s not like the directors were doing amazing things visually. But Wilmington is a very pretty place and I always felt Dawson’s as a show looked great, compared to a lot of the shows that are shot mostly on stages.
TDW: You did a lot of episodes but several of them were key Joey-Pacey episodes. Did you find yourself getting into them as a couple or did you end up liking a particular character more than another?
Fattore: When you get a job on a TV show, you didn’t create the show. It’s not your voice or your vision. When I got the job on Dawson’s, there were already 35 episodes of the show in existence. All of season 1 and all of season 2. I watched them all and tried my hardest to make it my own and learn how to write it. Greg Berlanti would tease me sometimes because–I realized it I guess as we were doing it–there’s a lot of parts of my life that are sort of similar to the Joey Potter saga. I did grow up in a fairly small town. I did get very good grades. If you remember the snail episode from season 1 [Episode 1.10, Double Date], Joey was clearly established well before I worked there as the kind of girl who needed to get an A+. She was really a perfectionist when it came to her school work and she clearly saw that as a way to get out of this small town and go to a good college. In some odd way, that was exactly who I was as a person. I grew up in a small town and all I ever wanted to do was go away.
As writers, what we all had in common with the character of Dawson was that Dawson was essentially a writer. I know Dawson was a filmmaker but Kevin Williamson was a writer and that was his vision of his own teenage years. It was easiest for me to relate to Joey as a character and also Dawson. That’s how you find your way into something you didn’t create. You figure out where it intersects with your own life and your own concerns and issues. And it’s always been my own personal theory that to have succeeded on Dawson’s Creek and not get fired, it was crucial that you had a really horrible experience as a teenager. Because I think that anyone who was happy as a teenager couldn’t really understand that show and couldn’t really write it because it was about teen angst. So if you were a person who really thought it was awesome to be a teenager and you went to parties and had fun and no angst about it, probably you were not going to succeed writing that show.
TDW: With identifying with Joey and Dawson, does that mean they were also your romantic preference?
Fattore: No. You know, it was always funny to me at the time the way people got so invested in that stuff. I do love old movies, especially romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s. Joey and Pacey had really been established from the get-go as this bantering duo that argued with each other and writing them was always very fun for me. When you look at season 3, I wrote an incredibly large number of episodes and the main arc of that season was about Joey and Pacey coming together as a couple so I think people thought [I favored them]. I’m sure if you go back and ask everyone who worked on season 3, it wasn’t like I was pitching things that were particularly, “Oh, we have to do this with Joey and Pacey!” We all just got the assignments that we got and at the end of the year, I had all these assignments that seemed to involved those stories. I think it was easier for me to write–not easy but it was fun for me to write–because of my love for those old, traditional romantic comedies, like It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, Holiday and all those movies which are about bickering people who discover they’re really meant for each other. That was a story I found interesting and fun to tell. It was so fun to hear what the fans were saying about it at the time, to look on the Internet and see what people were saying, because when you’re writing it, you just process it differently, I think. You’re not really rooting for anybody. You’re just doing your assignment.
TDW: At what point did you get the co-executive producer title?
Fattore: After season 4, Greg Berlanti left the show and went on to develop and do Everwood. Tom Kapinos took over as the showrunner and the head writer at the beginning of season 5. My original contact had been for two years, season 3 and season 4. When I came back for season 5, Tom became executive producer of the show and that’s when I became co-executive producer. That was my title for seasons 5 and 6, which just means you have a lot more responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the writing process. That was my big promotion between seasons 4 and 5.
TDW: About two years after Dawson’s ended, you had Reunion, which I was a big fan of.
Fattore: Well, that was not my show. I was just a co-executive producer on that show, which was created by a guy named Jon Harmon Feldman, who funnily enough worked on season 1 of Dawson’s Creek and season 2 of Dawson’s Creek. That was just a weird coincidence. He created Reunion and then he hired me to work with him on that show. It was just funny to meet him because we both worked on Dawson’s Creek but at different times. But, yeah, that was a show that not a lot of people saw. It was only on for a short time.
TDW: It left us with so many cliff-hangers! Do you think your experiences with Dawson’s Creek, which had a long run, and Reunion, which had a short run, prepared you for Gilmore Girls?
Fattore: You know what, what really did prepare me for Gilmore Girls was the Dawson’s Creek experience of actually ending a show. I had done that last year on Dawson’s, where we always knew it was going be the end of the series. On Gilmore Girls, I worked on the very last year and that whole year we weren’t certain that the show would end because there was talk about Lauren [Graham, Lorelai] and Alexis [Bledel, Rory] possibly renewing the deals and maybe the show would continue in some form. But we had to prepare in case the show was ending, so for me, it was an interesting experience to have again, from a storytelling standpoint of finishing something. More often, the more typical TV writer experience is just to be canceled. You come into work one day and it’s like “This is the day” and you’re canceled. There’s no sense of completion and there’s no ability to finish telling the story that you started telling. That was one of the reasons I took that job on Gilmore. It’s an interesting creative experience to have.
TDW: Were you executive producer on that?
Fattore: Nope. Still co-executive producer. I’m not as successful as you think I am!
TDW: Oh, goodness. Well, I want to give you the credit anyway.
Fattore: I really appreciate that. That’s good to know because, of course, in Hollywood how you’re perceived is really more important than who you are as a person.
TDW: I don’t really know if this question applies as much anymore but did you feel pressure coming into a show that was so established, had been nominated for many awards…
Fattore: Yeah. It’s a very unusual experience to come into something that late in the game. [Creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino is like a legend. That was her show and she wrote and directed so much of it, even more than a usual showrunner. Not all showrunners direct their work. It was her world for 6 seasons. That’s more than 100 episodes. I had to sit down and watch 6 seasons of Gilmore Girls because I wanted to do my homework and I had really only been an occasional viewer of the show over the years. It was daunting because so much of it had already been put down. It’s so far along in its history and that means everything has already been done and there’s that frustrating feeling of, “Oh, this would work!” but no, we’ve already done that already.
TDW: From there, more or less, you went to Californication.
Fattore: Yes, that is exactly what happened. That year when I was doing Gilmore Girls, Tom Kapinos, who had been my old friend from Dawson’s Creek, was essentially doing a pilot and that pilot got picked up March of the year I was doing Gilmore and that was the time when we weren’t sure whether Gilmore would come back. It was looking like Lauren would walk away and the show would end. But he had said to me all along that he wanted me to come work with him if his show got picked up. Frankly, I was pretty much hoping at that point that Gilmore would end. There’s a part of me as a TV writer that wants every show to have a fair ending and not sort of continue in some other form with the stars doing limited commitments or changing it up in some odd way. It’s always nicer creatively if something can just end in the moment in its original form.
TDW: You know, that really applies to me and some others fan who look at One Tree Hill that way right now. This season, two of its main cast members didn’t return and there’s three new ones.
Fattore: Right. I heard about this.
TDW: Not everybody agrees but I think it should’ve ended last season with the cast still “intact.”
Fattore: Obviously the networks have a lot say over these types of things and Gilmore in its seventh season was still doing well, as far as I know. I’m not a big follower of the ratings. Every show I’ve ever been on, they just tell you when you’re canceled so I feel like you just keep doing the job and when the ratings are so bad that you’re canceled, they’ll come in and tell you you’re canceled. But Gilmore was still doing well at the end, at least by WB–I’m sorry–CW standards.
TDW: It’s interesting that you went from King of the Hill to Dawson’s Creek, which is very different in terms of audience, theme and content. And then you went from Gilmore Girls to Californication, which is also very different in terms of audience, theme and content.
Fattore: That’s true.
TDW: Is that a weird transition for you?
Fattore: It’s funny because most people that know me think it’s weird that I work on Californication because I’m not the sort of person who really watches a lot of that stuff. Like I said, I watch a lot of old movies and they’re Turner Classic Movies and they’re mostly rated G. But Tom is my friend and the experience of working on Dawson’s together was very bonding. TV is like boot camp. You’re making 23 hours of TV. We did that every year on Dawson’s for four years in a row. The experience of making TV is so collaborative. So, really, when you’re taking a job, I feel like it’s almost less about the material and more about the people. Who’s doing it? Who wrote it? What are their creative goals? What are they trying to accomplish? And I have to say, it’s so cool to work on a Showtime show just because there’s such a reverence for the writer, a real respect. They really let the writers and the showrunners and the creators of the show have a real vision and do what they want to do without a lot of interference, and that’s a real gift and a blessing to anyone who’s trying to be TV writer because it just gets exhausting when you work in an environment where you get many, many, many notes and not just from the network but from actors and studios, too. So just imagine everything you write, you’ve written maybe 12 drafts of it before it even reaches the TV screen. It’s just very exhausting and it burns you out and it zaps your spirit so you just end up losing whatever joy you had originally in the job.
TDW: So how’s your spirit right now? What are you up to right now?
Fattore: That’s a good question. We’re just starting season 4 of Californication so we’re in the earlier planning stages, which is fun because you just have, like I said, so much freedom on a cable show to do whatever you want to do with the characters and that’s what we’re doing right now. I’m not a big multi-tasker. I try to focus on one thing at a time. All my years on Dawson’s Creek kind of led me to that. TV is very all-encompassing. Once you’re going and you’re in the middle of the season, you just start living completely in the world of that show.
TDW: It’s been about ten years since your first Dawson’s Creek episode. Besides making you feel old, how does that otherwise make you feel?
Fattore: It’s funny because I still every day work with Tom Kapinos. We met on season 3 of [Dawson‘s]. We had never met before. There weren’t enough offices so they forced us to share an office. We’re both kind of shy, like most writers, and I think we didn’t speak for like the first week or so and then we eventually became friends. For me, there were a lot of really stressful experiences, especially during season 3 when there were a lot changes at the last minute but it was really learning to write, learning to write TV. Instead of going to film school or taking a class, they paid me and I got to make these little films. It’s very unusual in TV to be writing something and not be rewritten substantially. Season 3 early on or parts of The Longest Day were probably written by Greg Berlanti. Obviously I was getting rewritten at various points. But it’s such an amazing feeling to have your work produced, to have millions of people see it. I just have nothing but warm feelings for that time. We joke about it and laugh about it and, you know, I’m not proud of every single episode I wrote but if you’re going to write hours and hours and hours of TV, not all of it is going to be great. Some of it is going to be at a certain level. And honestly, I’ve watched a lot of these other teen shows come on and I am an old fogie but I have to say I think Dawson’s was different and special because it was emotional. Almost all these other shows that I’ve seen–like I tried to watch Gossip Girl and I didn’t get very far with The O.C. I feel like there’s something about being a teenager and the friendships that you form when you’re a teenager and that they’re so important to you and capturing the essence of that is what I think Dawson’s captured so beautifully. It wasn’t about sex and partying and all of these sort of Gossip Girl-type things. Obviously all of these shows are different in different ways but I always look back to the moments, especially in season 1. Frankly, people, I think, like to be glib and cynical but I think when you’re teenager, you don’t want to be glib and cynical about your friends or your love life or what you think at the time is your love life. I think Dawson’s had something there that really captured people’s attention and the actors obviously really caught on at the time. It was able to convey this genuine teenage angst and this emotion that people make fun of but is real. I know I felt it and I think most teenagers felt it.
TDW: I agree and I think that was beautifully put. My last question was going to be asking what you thought the legacy of the show is but I think you really hit that already.
Fattore: I think about this stuff a lot, which is probably kind of sad but a lot of my career has been spent writing this kind of thing. I do try to watch these other shows because I think, “what are they trying to do?” And obviously all the writers I worked with on Dawson’s, we talked about this stuff all the time. Dawson’s was, originally from Kevin’s pilot, simultaneously funny and emotional. There are moments in that pilot that really are quite funny and there are moments where, like, Joey’s predicament just struck home for everyone involved. That idea that you like someone and he doesn’t like you back is so primal to every teenager. I guess that’s my weird way of saying that I am proud of it. And it’s always nice to talk to someone who has seen and understood and appreciated the work because it was a long time ago now but obviously it lives on.
Come back next week for another exclusive interview!
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Tags: ...Must Come To An End, Alexis Bledel, All Good Things..., All Good Things...Must Come To An End, Ally McBeal, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Audrey, Busy Philipps, C.J., Californication, Castaways, Coda, Crime And Punishment, Dawson, Dawson's Creek, Dean, Decisions, Double Date, Everwood, Future Tense, Gilmore Girls, Gina Fattore, Gossip Girl, Greg Berlanti, Holiday, It Happened One Night, James Van Der Beek, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Joey, Joey Potter, Jon Harmon Feldman, Joshua Jackson, Katie Holmes, Kerr Smith, Kevin Williamson, King of the Hill, Lauren Graham, Lorelai, Michael Lange, Michelle Williams, No Doubt, One Tree Hill, Pacey, Paul Stupin, Rashomon, Reunion, Rory, Showtime, Spiderwebs, Supernatural, Swan Song, The Air That I Breathe, The CW, The Hollies, The Longest Day, The O.C, The Philadelphia Story, The WB, To Green With Love, Tom Kapinos, True Love, Turner Classic Movies, Wilmington
Categories : Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The O.C.
- Leighton Meester (Blair, Gossip Girl) and Kelly Rutherford (Lily, Gossip Girl) attended the launch party for a new H & M clothing line.
- Meester may star in the film Oranges.
- The Chicago Tribune has an interview with Eric Daman (costume designer, Gossip Girl).
- High Society, The CW’s new reality show focused on Tinsley Mortimer who cameo-ed on Gossip Girl last season, will debut on March 10.
- Butchered, which features Cari Moskow (Patty, One Tree Hill), will be available on DVD tomorrow.
- In many foreign countries, when writing the date, they put the day before the month. That makes tomorrow 9/02/10 for them. Hee hee.
- E! Online has a brief interview (no pun intended) with Kellan Lutz (George, 90210) about his Calvin Klein underwear campaign.
- Jennie Garth (Kelly, Beverly Hills 90210) was on The Wendy Williams Show. Inside TV has a great clip of her discussing her first 90210 kiss, which, as we know, was with Ian Ziering (Steve, Beverly Hills 90210). The show’s official site has some more info on her appearance.
- Also, check out these clips for more on Garth’s current campaign for heart disease awareness.
- Daniel Cosgrove (Matt, Beverly Hills 90210) will appear on Brothers & Sisters, which is executive produced by Greg Berlanti (writer-producer, Dawson’s Creek).
- The Boston Herald has an interview with Kerr Smith (Jack, Dawson’s Creek).
- MTV has an article on James Van Der Beek (Dawson, Dawson’s Creek) and his film Formosa Betrayed.
- Van Der Beek will be on Jimmy Fallon tomorrow night.
- MTV also has a great article on Dawson’s Creek and what made it so good.
- The Wendy Williams Show also a first kiss bit with Tate Donovan (Jimmy, The O.C.) from last week.
- Dawson’s Creek and The O.C. are included in an article on shows that had strong ratings and critical acclaim at first but then lost them over time.
- Fascinated by this article about a study on birth control education, where college students were shown an episode of The O.C. (circa Theresa’s pregnancy in season 1) or a news program on teen pregnancy and the reactions were compared. They found that “a fictional television drama may be more effective in persuading young women to use birth control.”
- The Boston Herald also has an interview with Donovan.
- Though it was interesting that Henri Lubatti (Henri-Michel, The O.C.) guest-starred on Chuck tonight, since both shows were/are executive produced by Josh Schwartz.
- McG (executive producer, The O.C.) is working on the Charlie’s Angels remake. Aaron Spelling (executive producer, Beverly Hills 90210) was responsible for the original show.
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Tags: 90210, Aaron Spelling, Beverly Hills 90210, Blair, Boston Herald, Brothers & Sisters, Butchered, Calvin Klein, Cari Moskow, Charlie's Angels, Chicago Tribune, Chuck, Daniel Cosgrove, Dawson, Dawson's Creek, E! Online, Eric Daman, Formosa Betrayed, Gossip Girl, Greg Berlanti, H & M, Henri Lubatti, Henri-Michel, High Society, Inside TV, Jack, James Van Der Beek, Jennie Garth, Jimmy, Jimmy Fallon, Josh Schwartz, Kellan Lutz, Kelly, Kelly Rutheford, Kerr Smith, Leighton Meester, Lily, Matt, McG, MTV, One Tree Hill, Oranges, Patty, Tate Donovan, The CW, The O.C, The Wendy Williams Show, Theresa, Tinsley Mortimer
Categories : 90210, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The O.C.
- Jennie Garth (Kelly, Beverly Hills 90210) is working on a new campaign to spread awareness about heart disease.
- Came across a wonderful interview with Tiffani Amber Thiessen (Valerie, Beverly Hills 90210) from 2006.
- Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl) and Ed Westwick (Chuck, Gossip Girl) participated in the Celebrity Beach Bowl yesterday.
- Jerry Rice, who cameo-ed on the season premiere of One Tree Hill, was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.
- Greg Berlanti (writer-producer, Dawson’s Creek) will executive produce No Ordinary Family for ABC.
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Tags: ABC, Beverly Hills 90210, Celebrity Beach Bowl, Chace Crawford, Chuck, Dawson's Creek, Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl, Greg Berlanti, Jennie Garth, Jerry Rice, Kelly, Nate, No Ordinary Family, One Tree Hill, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Valerie
Categories : Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill
- Found this pretty cool take on recreating fashion styles as seen on Beverly Hills 90210 in the early 90s.
- The CW sent out a press release about its schedule for the rest of the TV year: as previously reported, we’ve got One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected beginning January 18, but now we know repeats of LUX and Gossip Girl will air Wednesday nights until March. Also, as previously reported, LUX takes OTH’s spot on March 8 so new episodes of GG can air. 90210 returns with its new episodes the next night, March 9. Then on April 19, LUX is finished and we’ve got new episodes of OTH and GG through the end of the season.
- PEOPLE.com has a poll asking whether Adam Lambert should guest-star on Gossip Girl or other shows.
- Blake Lively (Serena, Gossip Girl) will star in Green Lantern, whose screenplay was written by Greg Berlanti (writer- producer, Dawson’s Creek).
- Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl) will be among the presenters at the Golden Globes on January 17.
- There are brief mentions of Gossip Girl and The O.C. in this fun interview with Josh Schwartz (creator of both).
- You can see Rachel Bilson (Summer, The O.C.) on How I Met Your Mother this Monday.
- Melinda Clarke (Julie, The O.C.) will appear on The Vampire Diaries, which only adds to the following…
- How did I not know Kayla Ewell (Casey, The O.C.) was on The Vampire Diaries, which was created by Kevin Williamson (creator, Dawson’s Creek) and also stars Paul Wesley (Donnie, The O.C.)? Kellan Lutz (George, 90210) spoke very fondly of their (now long ago) relationship when I interviewed him in ’08. On The O.C., Ewell starred alongside Cam Gigandet (Volchok, The O.C), who was also in the Twilight films with Lutz and, of course, Nikki Reed (Sadie, The O.C.) and Jackson Rathbone (Justin, The O.C.). Six degrees…
- There’s an interview with Kerr Smith (Jack, Dawson’s Creek) in the new issue of Soap Opera Digest.
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Tags: Adam lambert, Beverly Hills 90210, Blake Lively, Cam Gigandet, Casey, Chace Crawford, Dawson's Creek, Donnie, George, GG, Golden Globes, Gossip Girl, Green Lantern, Greg Berlanti, How I Met Your Mother, Jack, Jackson Rathbone, Josh Schwartz, Julie, Justin, Kayle Ewell, Kellan Lutz, Kerr Smith, Kevin Williamson, Life UneXpected, LUX, Melinda Clarke, Nate, Nikki Reed, One Tree Hill, OTH, Paul Wesley, PEOPLE.com, Rachel Bilson, Sadie, Serena, Soap Opera Digest, Summer, The CW, The Vampire Diaries, Volchok
Categories : 90210, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The O.C.
What’s better than a dad? A superhero dad. And, yes, my friends, they do exist. Look no further than John Wesley Shipp. Not only did he play a bonafide masked crusader in The Flash as, um, The Flash but he was also the most kick ass dad Capeside ever had on Dawson’s Creek.
Shipp and I discussed Mitch’s most memorable scenes, the heyday of soap operas and his independent film work.
TeenDramaWhore: What was it like living and filming in Wilmington? It’s so far from Los Angeles where most things are filmed.
John Wesley Shipp: You know, it’s funny. Not just in terms of where to work but at different points in my career when I’ve really wanted to have an experience, I’ve noticed that if I really hold it in my mind, the experience will present itself. Right before Dawson’s happened, I was thinking, you know, I’m sick of living in L.A., the land of perpetual glare. I sure would like to do a series somewhere that had seasons. I’m from the Southeast, so close to my family, which is all in Atlanta, would be nice. Not a series like The Flash, where I’m killing myself every day, practically opening a vein with each episode. But something that had some interest and was cool. Dawson’s Creek presented itself so it’s kind of what I asked for. At least in the beginning, the parents had vital storylines. Of course, they were subsidiary but they were independent and intersecting with what the kids were experiencing. That was fun. It was fun for a couple of years and then it was fun again at the very end. But in terms of working in Wilmington, Wilmington’s a cool town. I love the fact that the water–which Dawson’s Creek used very effectively–was almost a character in the series. It was very effectively used. It’s very much a part of the landscape. And the town is sort of like traditional, small town, historical society, Southeastern coastal town meets Hollywood. And then there’s the beach culture. On one side, it’s all new, the Outer Banks, cool places, houses to rent, condos. The other side, which is on the Cape Fear River, is older, historical. They had downtown candlelit carriage rides to view the houses that had been restored. There’s a river culture. There’s even a little sophistication in it. They had this wild club there for a while. They have cool cigar bars and eateries and restaurants down on the river. So I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. I also think that given the fact that the show exploded the way it did and we had such a young cast–and I know it was a pain in the ass for them being separated as the years went on–I think the production probably benefited from the fact that we weren’t in L.A. or we weren’t in the fastest-track place, because those kids became international stars overnight. Even as intelligent and well-intentioned as they were, it probably would’ve been very heady stuff for them had we been, say, in L.A.
TDW: Let’s throw New York into the mix, because you filmed in New York City, too, when you were on Guiding Light.
Shipp: Yeah, I lived in New York City for 14 years. I love New York City. I started my career there and I had my first success there. When I was living there, I was living there the way you’d want to live there. I had a great apartment on the Upper West Side overlooking the river and I had a house on six-and-a-half acres in Woodstock to go to on the weekends. So that kind of was the ideal way to live in New York. Then I went back in 1992 for a year when I did Dancing with Lughnasa on Broadway and a stint on All My Children. I don’t know if it was my youth or my success that I remember fondly or if it’s entirely New York but I’m actually wanting to move back there. L.A. can be very oppressive. There’s many opportunities about L.A.; I don’t want to be a whiner about it. But it is a one-industry town and everyone is in the motion picture industry. Everyone has a script in tow and everyone is an actor and everyone is a producer and everyone is on the hustle, getting this project made–you know what I mean? It can be a bit mind-numbing. Plus all that sun. New York is, as they call it, the great teeming metropolis. It’s teeming with life. Everybody does something different and nobody is particularly impressed with what you do because everybody is so busy carving out a piece of the rock themselves, a piece of that island for themselves. It’s just such a melting pot and it’s exciting. You walk out onto those streets and you’re alive. So many different people from so many different worlds. I think for an artist or an actor, it’s probably much healthier creatively to live in New York than L.A. But I’ll only speak for myself.
TDW: If you came back to New York City, would you want to do Broadway again or another soap? One of the ones that’s still here, anyway.
Shipp: I don’t know about daytime. Daytime seems to be in a pretty tough spot at the moment. I wonder, and I’ve heard speculation, about whether there will be any daytime dramas left in 5-7 years. Certainly I would like to do theater. I’m attached right now to the production of a little play with the Firebone Theatre Company called Song of the Bow. I’m attached to that and they’re looking at production next September. I’m also, after our phone interview, talking to a producer from Atlanta. He’s actually in New York right now checking out theater space. They’re taking the play from Atlanta to New York in January and he’s talking to me about the possibility of whether it would be a good fit for me. I would love that. I would love going back to New York doing a play. I think it would be the best thing for me right now so we’ll see. We’ll see if it holds true that what I hold in my mind happens. Of course, first choice, I’d really like to do an interesting series in New York because (whispers) that’s a lot more money. We’ll see what happens.
TDW: What was your reaction when you found out Guiding Light was going off the air after 72 years?
Shipp: Well, the Guiding Light I knew, from everything I had heard, no longer existed. They weren’t shooting in a studio anymore. It was practically students with handheld cameras in driveways.
TDW: That was very much my understanding of it as well, from what I’ve read and from watching it.
Shipp: I would watch it. It would be on at the gym and I’d look up. I just thought the production values had flipped. I was at a Guiding Light Emmy party at Krista Tesreau’s on August 29 in L.A. I have some pictures up from that party on my Facebook page. It seemed like ancient history. I left that show, what, 25 years ago? A quarter of a century. It was exciting. Guiding Light was a great time and it was a great time to be in daytime. That and when I went over and did the story on As The World Turns with Julianne Moore and Steven Weber. It was a time when the youth explosion, the numbers, the ratings were way up from what they had ever been before. As a consequence, the networks and Proctor & Gamble were putting money in. I went to the Spanish Islands on location. I went to St. Croix on location. Of course we also went more regionally. I don’t think they did even local locations anymore. We went up to Connecticut, Kent Falls, where we did the whole Laurel Falls Kelly-Morgan wedding and story. It was an exciting time. If you were going to do daytime, the early to mid-80s was the time to do it. I was very fortunate to work for Douglas Marland on both Guiding Light and As The World Turns. I had the best of the best in my daytime experience.
TDW: So if that was so wonderful, what 10-15 years later made you switch not only to primetime but a teen drama?
Shipp: It was what was offered. I mean, I had been through The Flash and that was disappointing in many ways. It was handled so badly by the network and that’s not just my opinion. That’s the network’s opinion. We had a number of things going against us for that show, even though we were a critical hit and the industry really dug us. But we had a network that had the oldest demographic so all of our in-house advertising fell on deaf ears. Plus we debuted in the fall and then we were off for baseball because CBS had the World Series that year. So we went on and off then we went back on. Then the Gulf War broke out. Then we went back on and George H.W. Bush threw up in Japan so we were preempted again. Then they moved our night. So it was impossible to find an audience, although it’s doing well now on DVD. It was released in 2006. So after that I went back to New York and did the play Dancing at Lughnasa on Broadway and a series of guest shots and TV movies and things like that. And then Dawson’s Creek presented itself. The interesting thing about that is they had already shot the 20-minute pilot presentation. I believe at the time they were auditioning for Mitch, I was in Moab, Utah with David Carradine, Lee Majors, Cathy Lee Crosby and Michelle Greene doing a movie called the Lost Treasure of Dos Santos. What a cast, huh? It was a riot. But, anyway, then I heard about this project. They were deciding to go in a different direction with the father and they sent me the pilot presentation. If you can think back to before Dawson’s Creek exploded on TV–and as a result of it, so many spin-offs and so many teen dramas and so much saturation and copy-cat shows to the point where it became something of a cultural joke almost–if you think back before Dawson’s Creek, there was nothing like it. I mean, yeah, you had Beverly Hills 90210 but it was completely different in tone. The kids were beautiful and–ours were, too–but theirs were popular and sexy and with it and hip, slick and cool and, let’s face it, didn’t have the brain power of our characters. What was interesting about Dawson’s is that it was not slick. The kids were not hip, slick and cool. They were a little bit on the outside. Joey Potter [Katie Holmes], that whole story–not exactly your typical teen queen there with the problems in her family. Pacey Witter’s [Joshua Jackson] father being a drunk. And that Michelle Williams [Jen] character being a real outcast at the beginning. And even Dawson [James Van Der Beek], his mom cheating on his dad and experimenting with an open relationship. There really was nothing like it. And, also, I noticed the language that these kids were using. I thought, wow! We were even criticized for that. We’re writing up to the youth audience; we’re not writing down to them. Why would you criticize that? Isn’t that a good thing? You mean the dialogue is too smart? That’s a criticism? But, anyway, how did I come to do it–I didn’t really look it as a teen drama. Now, when [creator] Kevin Williamson left the show [between seasons 2 and 3] and it became more and more of that and the parents were increasingly de-emphasized, that led to my leaving. At the end of the four seasons and the kids were going to be going to college, I saw the handwriting on the wall. We would be standing in the background with Lily and waving at Parents Day and I really had no interest in doing that. So when they wanted to renegotiate our contact, I set my price really high. Then they started production on the fifth season and two weeks into production, the WB shut them down because they had no story and that’s when Paul Stupin came to me in L.A. and said if we gave you the money you were asking, would you come back and kill the character? I kind of budged my heart for a minute but I have to tell you, it was a great decision. It was the perfect time to leave Dawson’s Creek. I did indeed get two beautiful episodes that made me feel like the previous four years had been about something. You know what I mean?
TDW: Yes. Those episodes [5.03, Capeside Revisited & 5.04, The Long Goodbye] are just incredibly moving. For a show that was, at times, a lot about sadness, those really stand out as sadder moments and turning points for Dawson, his mom, for the way that it affected his relationship with Joey. We got that in that episode after Mitch’s death. We see how his death has affected everyone as there’s those flashbacks or re-imaginings of Mitch with each of the characters.
Shipp: And imagine for me–what a sendoff?! And what a tribute to Mitch. I mean, I really got to tie up each relationship. I got a retrospective of what Mitch had been and, as you say, what he had meant to everyone and went out on a real high note. It worked out really well for me.
TDW: The other scene [in episode 2.05, Full Moon Rising] that stands out in my mind–and I was talking about it to someone just a few weeks ago; they were watching the series for the first time–was the scene where you’re in the kitchen with Dawson and he’s kind of confronting Mitch about having an open marriage and Mitch kind of breaks down and says, you know, “I was never taught what to do if my wife had an affair.” And the way that you just delivered that line was just heartbreaking.
Shipp: Honey, thank you so much. I loved that. Kevin Williamson wrote that episode. I didn’t even have to act it, you know what I mean? Just the idea of this man and those words. You can barely even say them. I think I even heard you choke up trying to say them.
TDW: Yeah, it’s true.
Shipp: “My dad taught me how to do this, he taught me had to do that but he never taught me what to do if my wife cheated on me. I never knew to ask.” I mean, I can barely say those lines now. So beautifully written and so incredibly vulnerable, particularly for a male character on television. I love that scene. I love that episode.
TDW: Did you keep up with the show or its storylines after you left?
Shipp: Not at all. I never saw it after I left. And it’s not that I sat down and made a conscious decision and it’s not that I had a resentment about the way things went down, because it was totally a collaboration. They needed something from me and I wanted something from them and we both got it. But, having said that, when you’re such an integral part of a family–and that’s what you become and it’s also an impact of being in Wilmington because we only really had each other. So on the weekends, you’ll be going out on boats and going out to Masonboro Island, we’d throw the football around, ride around on wave runners. We did everything together so it was very much a family and to know that your family was going on without you, it was too sad for me. I really had to make a clean break. It’s interesting. They had asked me to come back recently. AFI–was it in AFI?
TDW: The Paley Center. They had the panel.
Shipp: They asked me to come and be a part of it but I couldn’t do it. I think James did it and Meredith [Monroe, Andie].
TDW: Yep. It was James, Meredith, Kevin, Paul Stupin and Busy Philipps [Audrey].
Shipp: They had actually asked me to do it and I wish I could’ve. That would’ve made me feel like a part–it would’ve completed something for me to be able to do it. But I’ve been up in San Jose. I’ve been very busy and I just got back from doing an independent film in Ohio that I’m very excited about and had another, a comedy with Jodie Sweetin, play to really good notices at two film festivals, one in Wilmington. And another film I had premiered in New Orleans at the New Orleans Film Festival in the last several months so, you know, I’ve been busy. But one thing James had said–they said something about the death of his father and he said “I was really sad because I wouldn’t get to see John anymore” and that’s the way it was. I was literally killed off. When you leave a show, you leave a show. And it was accentuated by the fact that we were sequestered in Wilmington. So, no, I never saw an episode after I left.
TDW: Well, I can tell you that, in the series finale, Gale [Mary-Margaret Humes] actually remarried.
Shipp: Yeah, I knew that because I keep in touch with Mary-Margaret. But do you know that I just found out–and I mean a couple of months ago–that Jen died, right?
Shipp: I just found that out, like two months ago.
TDW: If you have the time, I really recommend picking up the complete series and watching the last two seasons. The emotion that we talked about earlier was there for Jen’s and maybe that goes back to the fact that Kevin Williamson returned for the series finale after he had been gone for so long. You really had his voice, his emotion and his rawness that he would put into things.
Shipp: I’ll tell you, those are good words to describe it. It seemed to me that–this goes back to the pilot presentation when I first watched it–this had a sound and a look and a feel that was unlike anything that was on television. It’s difficult now to imagine as there’s been so many copy-cats and spin-offs and it’s been run into the ground. There was a rawness amidst the sophistication. There was a bumpiness, a sense of dis-ease about the emotional lives. And also I always felt that Kevin really was Dawson, I think. I haven’t had this discussion with him. I could be wrong. But I thought we were seeing all of this life on the creek through the eyes of Dawson, which were Kevin Williamson’s eyes. I felt for James after Kevin left because I really felt that Kevin is the only one that really gets Dawson and I’m sure that was difficult for James after Kevin left. It was much easier to write for Pacey, much easier to write for Joey. To a lesser degree I think it was easier to write for Jen. I don’t really think they quite knew–they experimented with different things. But it was easier to write for Pacey and Joey. But the more awkward unique perspective of a Dawson was Kevin’s voice. I mean, my god, Greg Berlanti is a wonderful writer and oh, god, the man–I just blanked on his name–who wrote my last two episodes was just brilliant and some of the best stuff I had. But I do feel the show suffered from Kevin’s awkwardness and the lack of the Kevin’s awkwardness. There was something really awkward in the writing of Dawson that Kevin really got that we missed after he left.
TDW: Going back to you and your storylines, did you think the show gave a realistic portrayal of parent-child and husband-wife relationships?
Shipp: I don’t know about realism. I think realism is overrated. I would say it gave an interesting perspective. One thing I will say is with the explosion of information with the Internet and the sophistication of kids–I mean, my nine-year-old niece and twelve-year-old nephew have their computers in school and their this and their that and they’re so much more aware of the world and what’s going on–that I sort of think that the parents, adults, have a much wider ranger of possibilities. They’re not locked into authoritarian roles in modern society. In other words, in the 40s and 50s you started wearing suits and you got a corporate job and the dad was the head of the house and the mother was the nurturer and the father was the provider and everybody knew what their roles were and everybody got old very soon. I sort of think after the 60s and 70s and all that, and certainly today, there’s a much wider range of possibilities and, in a sense, the kids are growing up faster and the parents aren’t growing up as fast, getting old as fast. So they’re meeting in the middle. Does that make sense? I know what I’m trying to say. It’s that consequently you have a lot of more options. What I enjoyed was when Kevin would turn the–and he did it many times–he would turn the father-son relationship on its head. Another thing we were criticized for. I read things saying what kind of parents were these, what kind of role models, blah, blah, blah. But what I enjoyed was the intentional flip-flopping, the parent becomes the child and the child becomes the parent. I think that was interesting writing. Is it realistic? I don’t know. Again, I think realism is overrated. If I want realism, I don’t have to ever turn on the TV. I just live my life. But I think it has to be true but it doesn’t have to necessarily be real if there’s a sense of truth in it, and I think there was. I was tickled to death that Dawson goes out on his first date and I’m more comfortable talking about it than he is. I tell him, “Have fun, play safe.” And he’s all “For chrissake, dad!” You know, coming in and finding his parents making love on the coffee table, he’s totally grossed out and disgusted by that but I thought that was great. I loved that. It certainly was more fun for me as an actor than if I had to come in and be “the dad,” you know what I mean? I mean, who was Mitch? What did he do for a living? Who was this goofy, kind of lovable, sensitive, lost character? There was a certain wisdom that he had, simple wisdom. Certainly he wasn’t the stereotypical patriarch of the family and I was glad ‘cause that would’ve been boring as hell.
TDW: Are you recognized for the role at all when you walk down the street?
Shipp: Oh, yeah. Constantly. You know what I’m most amazed about? And my mom has picked up on this, too. The amount of times I get recognized for Guiding Light. I wouldn’t even recognize myself from Guiding Light! But the two things I get recognized the most for are, of course, Dawson’s Creek and The Flash.
TDW: Are you back in touch with any of the Dawson’s Creek cast or crew?
Shipp: Yeah. I never was out of touch with some of the people. Mary-Margaret and I, in fact, our friendship if anything has grown deeper since the show. We’re very close. We’re constantly in touch and she kind of plays the mom role and gets the gang together every now and then. I haven’t talked to Katie in years but she and I have messaged. She sent a message through an agent at the premiere of a movie but she’s got her own thing going on now and that’s consuming her. I’ve actually seen Meredith several times and her husband. Michelle, of course, has been in New York. The person I’ve most consistently been with–and I keep up with everybody through her–is Mary-Margaret.
TDW: One of the films–I think you already mentioned it–that you’ve been working on is Port City.
Shipp: Yeah, that was the comedy with Jodie Sweetin at the festival in Wilmington.
TDW: Well, coincidentally, that also stars Matthew Laurance and Barabra Alyn Woods, who also played parents on teen dramas.
Shipp: Oh, yeah.
TDW: Matthew was on 90210 [as Mel] and Barbara was on One Tree Hill [as Deb].
Shipp: It’s like, where do teen drama parents go to die? Port City. (laughs) And then this last film that I did–I just got back a couple of weeks ago from Ohio where we filmed it–was a company out of Chicago called Glass City Films. It’s a wonderful script called Separation Anxiety, in which a young man either falls to his death accidentally from an icy dam or commits suicide and we don’t know which. His two best friends, one female and one male–there’s also some sexual tension there that we find out about–and his father, who is me, spend the movie trying to make sense out of his death based on what we need to believe. Interestingly enough, the father needed to believe it was suicide, which I immediately found interesting. He saw his son as kind of a drifter, where his life was just sort of a series of accidents. It was intolerable for him to think that at the end of his life, it was just one more accident. He needed to believe that it was an intentional act that he set out to accomplish and accomplished. Now isn’t that an interesting perspective? That’s not something I’ve ever seen, where his father needs to believe his son committed suicide. We fight it out, the three of us–me and the two best friends. Most of my scenes are with the girl who–that’s a complicated relationship so I won’t go into it but it’s more than just best buddies with her and my son. We spend a lot of time hashing and thrashing that out and what we need to believe and finally come to an accommodation where I’m able to go bury my son. It was a good group of people, a talented crew and cast. I can’t wait to see it put together.
TDW: Where we can we actually see you next? Is Port City going to get a wide release or is it just doing festivals?
Shipp: I don’t know. Karma Police, which debuted at the Dallas Film Festival the year before last, is out on DVD and on I think–I can’t keep up with these sites–Blockbuster Online or Netflix, so I know it’s out there. Grotesque, my little short film that I’m so proud of, we banged out in New Orleans last year in about a week. I play a priest with a dubious past. That’s online and the trailer for that is in my Facebook videos and there’s a link to the actual 29-minute version. And then Separation Anxiety will also do the festival market.
TDW: Do you like the festivals better than a major motion picture that’s in theaters everywhere?
Shipp: No. I would rather it be straight to theaters. Again, it’s a matter of what’s offered. I will say one thing–and it’s not just my particular insight–but there’s a lot more creative freedom the less money there is riding on a project, you know what I mean? The more money, the more hands in the pie. The more sets of suits that have their handprints on the script and the edit and the this and the that, the more of a business it is. I understand that. It’s wonderful and spontaneous and creative working in an independent film atmosphere but make no mistake: I would not turn down an A film that would be set for a major release.
TDW: I hope to see you in one soon! And I’d really like to see Port City.
Shipp: You know, it’s funny. I was kind of worried about it because it’s sort of a screwball comedy and my character’s really a jerk, a goofy filthy jerk and that’s not necessarily been my trademark but all the feedback I’ve gotten is “Wow! What a great departure! You should do more comedy!,” which my brother has been telling me for years because he knows how innately ridiculous I am. But I’ve managed to shield the rest of the world from that.
TDW: Hopefully not for long!
Shipp: I’ve actually taken off the last year, for all intents and purposes. Those projects that I mentioned came to me of their own volition. I’ve not been interviewing. I’ve not been auditioning. My dad came up to San Jose to pastor a new liberal church out here that’s been facing some difficulty and then he had heart surgery. Well, I came up to San Jose and they ended up losing their music director and my background is music. I was an opera major at Indiana University in Bloomington before switching my major to theater and I’ve studied keyboards since the age of 5 so I grew up with music of the church and for the last year, that’s been my primary occupation–rediscovering my love of music and my spirituality in a very inclusive and liberal atmosphere. It’s been great for me being of service to my parents, who are now back in Atlanta. My dad’s doing fine. And I agreed to stay on at the church through Christmas, the Christmas Eve service. So I have two more Sundays to plan musically and then I’ll be flying to Atlanta to be with my family and probably re-engage my career full-time beginning in February.
TDW: Mary-Beth Peil was an opera major as well.
Shipp: Yep. She has a glorious voice. A wonderful woman. People who only knew who her from Dawson’s Creek have no idea who that woman is.
TDW: I interviewed her, via e-mail actually, last month and I would’ve loved to hear her real voice because I know her Grams voice isn’t actually hers.
Shipp: No, she’s young and sexy and funny. You just wouldn’t know her with her hair down and all that. And she tends to be play those severe, more matronly parts because she’s good at it. She’s on a series now, isn’t she?
TDW: Yes, The Good Wife with Julianna Margulies.
TDW: Alright, well, I’m glad we were finally able to connect.
Shipp: My pleasure, Shari. It’s been great talking to you.
Come back next week for another exclusive interview!
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Categories : Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill