Exclusive: Melinda Clarke Reflects on The O.C., Dishes on The Vampire Diaries and Nikita

9 05 2010

Last June I did a TDW series called “Teen Drama’s Villainous Characters,” looking at the villains of each series. Included in part three was The O.C.’s Julie Cooper. (Though, oddly enough, I forgot to include her in my Biggest Vixens series!) But a recent interview with Julie’s alter-ego, Melinda Clarke, reminded me that there was also something endearing about Julie. As Clarke told the Los Angeles Times last month, “Julie Cooper, though flawed and motivated by the wrong things, strived to be the best parent that she could be.” I thought today, Mother’s Day, would be an interesting day to reflect on that.

In my own exclusive interview with Clarke, we discussed Julie’s series-long transformation, where she thinks the character might be today and how Julie might be connected to Clarke’s character on The Vampire Diaries. Clarke also dished on her CW pilot Nikita.

TeenDramaWhore: Do you remember what your audition for The O.C. was like?

Melinda Clarke: Oh, yes. Actually, my first audition was for the role of Kirsten Cohen [who ended up being played by Kelly Rowan].

TDW: Wow, I don’t think I knew that!

Clarke: I was younger than the character. I was younger than both the characters, actually. But it was a regular role. In the pilot, Julie was only a guest star. I read for [Kirsten] but I was asked to come back for the other character. When I came in for the Julie role, I made sure that [executive producer] Josh Schwartz and the casting director knew that I grew up in Orange County. I was literally going to the audition and then driving to my mom’s house down in Orange County. And, of course, it was a completely different world. I did not grow up in the “O.C.” world. I grew up in kind of a liberal artsy family and on the beach, which is beautiful. But it definitely wasn’t the Julie Cooper world. And I just remember having so much fun with the Julie role. She was clearly just such a money-digging whore. To me, it’s so funny now to see The Real Housewives of Orange County because you realize it exists and that’s what Julie was. Julie was obviously the original housewife. Except they have a lot more plastic on their bodies than Julie did! Thank goodness. And I remember when I got the role, it went down to the last minute. The casting director, Patrick Rush–I had actually been in an episode of Everwood.

TDW: I know! That was one of my favorite shows.

Clarke: He was able to show a scene or two from that to the network, so they could offer me the role. I was up for the role but I got a role in Battlestar Galactica, the one that Tricia Helfer ended up doing. And of course she’s a perfect, beautiful, stunning swimsuit model who can act her butt off. She ended up doing that role but they wouldn’t let me out of the contract. When you audition for a show, you sign a contract. And they can decide between however many people they want. They weren’t letting me out of the contract to do The O.C. It was literally down to the last hour before they finally let me go so I could go do The O.C. And the rest is history. It turned into a great role.

TDW: It did. When did you realize that the show was a hit?

Clarke: There were a lot of different reasons why people gravitated to it. It was a good script. It was a great script.  We had Josh Schwartz writing great scripts. Great cast. We also had the advantage of being after American Idol on Wednesday nights. I think the first time we realized it was a really big hit was at a fan appearance down on one of the piers, I think down in Redondo Beach. We were each put into limos and driven up over the hill and down to the pier and there were thousands and thousands of kids and fans–and the show had only been on like a month or two. I think that’s when we all realized, “Woah! This is something that people are responding to. Very much so.” It was very soon.

TDW: When you look back on the show today, do you have a favorite storyline?

Clarke: The first thing that comes to mind is Julie living in the trailer park [in season 3]. Because it was just, would she do it or not? There’s one particular scene where Julie’s in cowboy boots, a cut-off jean skirt, a tank top, and a thong, chewing [tobacco] and watching Nascar …and Kirsten shows up [Episode 3.10, The Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah]. That was one of my favorite scenes of the whole show. And the first season, I remember reading a script where she has this little affair with Luke [Chris Carmack] and she picks up the phone and calls him very stealth-like [Episode 1.20, The Telenovela]. It’s that scene in particular where she says like, “Meet me at the hotel. Knock twice. I’ll be there. And Luke, this is a booty call.” When I read that, I was like “I officially love this show!” The lines [in the show] were just fantastic. It’s so about creating culture instead of reflecting it. We were creating pop culture.

TDW: You were. You guys definitely left a mark.

Clarke: And there was a scene, I think in the same episode, when Caleb [Alan Dale] shows up late at night with the flowers and I say, “Is this a booty call?” And he goes, “What’s a boo-tee…call?” “When you show up unannounced with the crappy carnations from Ralph’s with the idea that I might just want (blank).”

TDW: Yes! So funny.

Clarke: And the last season, Marissa [Mischa Barton] gave me a lot to do emotionally. It was definitely an incredible arc for me as an actress to start with this woman who was so superficial but, of course, she’s not just one-dimensional, she’s multi-dimensional. Starting in her pink Juicy sweat suit outfit and then by the end she’s graduated from college and moving on with her life. She’s a survivor. And I miss her.

TDW: Julie was obviously very affected by Marissa’s death. Did you have any reservations about how that would go over with the fans?

Clarke: Oh my goodness, everyone was shocked. From what I understand, the official story is that they just felt like they couldn’t do any more to this character or any more with the character. She had been through hell and back. She’d been through so much. What more could they write? Or at least that’s what I heard. I don’t really know if it ended up being the best idea. It definitely gave me a lot to do, which was fantastic. I think the last season was really interesting. I don’t know. I think the show could’ve gone longer than it did. It didn’t even finish a full fourth season. But I don’t know. You’d have to ask those involved. There’s a lot of different reasons why people think it ended. We were also moved from Wednesdays at 9 after American Idol to Thursday at 8 against Friends. And then we were moved to Thursday at 9 against CSI. It’s a little bit tough to keep up with those.

TDW: As you said, the show ended with Julie getting her degree [Episode 4.16, The End’s Not Near, It’s Here].

Clarke: Which I actually have as a prop!

TDW: Oh, wow, you got to take that home?

Clarke: Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone what it actually says, what she got her degree in.

TDW: I would love to know!

Clarke: It wasn’t ever part of the script but the prop guys had fun with it. It says she got a degree in psychology but she also double majored in paranormal studies.

TDW: That’s really funny. So, if you had to guess, where do you think Julie is today?

Clarke: Well, let’s see. They did the “years in the future” thing, so I think, chronologically, she’d still be getting her degree.

TDW: True.

Clarke: But if you wanted to start from there, she’s probably…she’s probably still unmarried and dating when she wants but being a good mom to her son, who would have to be somewhere around 10 now or something like that. I think she probably opened her own business and has been very successful with it. I don’t know if she was able to do anything with her degree or not. Oh my goodness, maybe she’s a psychic now, like John Edwards!

TDW: You know, that would make her a great fit for The Vampire Diaries. You could just go right over.

Clarke: Kelly Donovan’s basically Julie Cooper now! But [unlike Julie], she’s drinking away.

TDW: On The Vampire Diaries, you worked with Paul Wesley [Donnie] and he appeared on one episode of The O.C. [Episode 1.05, The Outsider].

Clarke: Yes, it was very memorable.

TDW: Did you meet him back then?

Clarke: No, we actually met in Atlanta back in January. He’s good friends with Ben McKenzie [Ryan]. We said hello and I definitely remembered him, even though we never actually met. So we got to meet in Atlanta in 20 degree weather at night.

TDW: Ooh, that sounds fun.

Clarke: Yes. It is absolutely fun. It was an extreme winter in Atlanta this year.

TDW: Now you’re back in California, I hope.

Clarke: Yes. I was in Atlanta for two weeks, came home for a while, went back for another week, came back for a while, and then went back for two more weeks and them came back for a while and then went to Toronto for three weeks. So this California girl has definitely learned I can survive in cold weather but it’s not my favorite!

TDW: Were you already familiar with Kevin Williamson’s work on Dawson’s Creek and the Scream movies?

Clarke: Yes. I was fan of Dawson’s Creek. I was always very impressed with the characters on that show, their development and how smart he made the characters. Their conversations, their situations. They definitely had a very talented cast and a lot of them have moved on to do really amazing work.

TDW: I always saw The O.C. as the next step in the genre after Dawson’s Creek.

Clarke: There were things that Dawson’s Creek did that were a little more cerebral and The O.C. was a little bit more humorous. Very intelligent humor.

TDW: Right. I think the Dawson’s Creek had a philosophical intelligence whereas The O.C. had wit.

Clarke: Wit. Exactly.

TDW: With The Vampire Diaries, I have to ask: are you Team Damon or Team Stefan? Or, you can be Team Kelly, too!

Clarke: It was fun to work with Ian [Somerhalder] because there’s a looseness to him, to his character. He definitely brings a lot to the character. It’s not just lines on the page. And I think Kelly is similar to that. We don’t really know why Kelly is such a bad mother, why she does what she does, like drinking, and where she’s been. They definitely didn’t explain that so that leaves a lot to be explored in the future if she comes back.

TDW: That’s what the hope is. That we’ll see you again next season and delve into that.

Clarke: I’m not dead yet! I don’t think they have any intention of killing her. But it was definitely a little bit of a taste or a tease to have this character around to make her son’s life miserable but then ultimately leave town as a sacrifice, realizing she doesn’t make her son’s life any better.

TDW: You were cast in the pilot Nikita, which is also on The CW. So if Nikita is picked up, would you be able to do both shows?

Clarke: Technically, yes. Legally, yes. They’re both on the same network. It would probably be more of a scheduling situation. It would be up to the powers that be, the producers on Nikita, the producers on The Vampire Diaries. They’re such different characters and they don’t conflict as far as characters go but you would have to be within certain parameters. It’s more of a scheduling thing.

TDW: For those that aren’t familiar with the original La Femme Nikita show or even for those that are, what will this show be about?

Clarke: Well, Nikita was a runaway girl with no life, who was forced into becoming an assassin. There’s been different versions: a French film, American film, Canadian television show. This version is an updated version. Nikita is now not within the Division. She got out. She’s now played by Maggie Q. Brilliant casting. People may remember her from Mission Impossible 3. So she’s now out of the Division and she’s trying to make things very difficult for the Division. And we’ll also be focusing on the new young recruits who are trained to be assassins for the Division. But they’re essentially held against their will. They have to become an assassin or die. There’s a new young nikita and her character is played by Lyndsy Fonseca. People will remember her from Desperate Housewives but she’s now in Hot Tub Time Machine, which is a very cute movie. I think she’s in Kick-Ass, too. So she’s a hot actress right now. She’s our second lead. And my character is Amanda, one of the operatives and mentors within Division. She’s definitely not going down to the bar drinking shots. She’s a very strong and calculating and tough woman.

TDW: So are you doing action stunts?

Clarke: I would expect so. I would expect every single person on this show would have some action. It seems very alien [to the network] but there’s a lot of younger characters who will fulfill the CW demographic. I think the character of Alex, Lyndsy’s character, is supposed to be 19 years old. But there’s a lot of action, so I think young men will like it, too. Not just the young ladies.

TDW: Are you feeling confident about a series pick-up? Have you guys heard anything yet from The CW?

Clarke: Maybe I’m just jinxing everything by even talking about it. But, no, we don’t know. I have the highest of high hopes. Whenever you do a pilot and the network’s studios put money into the pilot, you’re going to hear positive feedback because they wouldn’t want to spend the money unless they’d like to get it on television. So hopefully this isn’t speaking before I should be talking about it but I think The CW is really behind it and I hope it does end up on the network, that they give us the chance.

TDW: I do, too. When you were cast in The Vampire Diaries, there were a lot of comments from people who were happy but who also want you back on their screen more permanently, not just guest roles.

Clarke: I like the ensemble situation [with permanent roles]. It’s nice to be able to have a life with my daughter and still work.

TDW: Right. And it means we’re seeing you regularly. We’re not waiting for the next guest role.

Clarke: I did one episode of Entourage last year but it was probably one of my favorite things I’ve done in a long time. It was a great scene with Jeremy Piven. I played myself. It was a brilliant thing. It was a fictitious version of Melinda Clarke. They had me come out of the Paramount lot and, of course, there’s these huge posters for my own television show. [The character] is a spy by night and a mom by day. I just thought that was very clever. I love that show. I would love to do a show like that more often. The industry is recovering from the single worst time in history. From the writer’s strike to the potential SAG strike. The lack of material. All of these things. The numbers of everything have gone down in every way, shape and form. It’s just a matter of finding the right thing and I’m really happy Warner Bros. and McG are producing Nikita and Danny Cannon from CSI is directing.

TDW: I forgot McG was doing it! He executive produced The O.C. as well. So it’s kind of like a little reunion.

Clarke: And, of course, he produces Chuck and Supernatural, [the latter of] which is on The CW, too. It all sounds like a wonderful recipe and I feel like Warner Bros. is behind it. Very much so. But you never know. You never know. Some great pilots never get on television. It’s a shame. But I think they feel good about this. And if it doesn’t go, you go after the next thing. Maybe I’ll go to Atlanta, Georgia more often.

TDW: Last question: There have been a few Twitter accounts claiming to be you and they’re not you. Can you just state for the record whether you’re on Twitter?

Clarke: I am not on Twitter in any way, shape or form.

TDW: Good, thank you.

Clarke: In fact, Kelly Rowan sent me a text not too long ago saying, “Did you know you and I are having conversations on Twitter?”

TDW: Yes! I saw that! There were two accounts that talked with each other, claiming to be you guys.

Clarke: We had a good laugh over that because neither one of us have the time for Twitter. Maybe we should. But I haven’t ever done anything like that.

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index

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News Roundup: 90210, One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek

17 03 2010
  • The CW has a new promo featuring all their shows. Be sure to check out their site for all the other new video content this week.
  • Last night’s 90210 (1.8 million viewers) rose slightly in the ratings compared to last week.
  • At work today, Gossip Cop and I busted Life & Style for a manipulated story about Tori Spelling (Donna, Beverly Hills 90210) and hubby Dean McDermott.
  • TVGuideMagazine.com has a short post on Jason Priestley (Brandon, Beverly Hills 90210) hosting TODAY earlier this week.
  • Kristin has an article on and video footage of Shannen Doherty (Brenda, Beverly Hills 90210) rehearsing for Dancing With The Stars.
  • Zap2it and Moveline have interviews with Brett Claywell (Tim, One Tree Hill) about getting the ax from One Life to Live.
  • Julie Bowen (Aunt Gwen, Dawson’s Creek) will star in Conception, alongside Gregory Smith, who starred in Everwood, which was created by Greg Berlanti (writer-producer, Dawson’s Creek). Six degrees…




Exclusive: Dawson’s Creek Scribe Gina Fattore Shares The Creative Process

14 02 2010

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.

TDW: Yes.

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!

TDW Interview Index





Random Thought

13 01 2010

After doing the Random Thought where I speculated on reasons for The CW’s mid-season scheduling, I realized it would probably be helpful to examine each of the current teen dramas and their chances of renewal.

As you’ll see below, there’s pros and cons for each show–ones that I believe are enough to warrant either renewal or cancellation. I honestly believe it could go either way. The bottom line, then, is we really just have to wait til May, when The CW officially announces their 2010-2011 schedule.

ONE TREE HILL (Average number of viewers this season: 2.5 million viewers, rounded up)

For: Of the three teen dramas, One Tree Hill has the highest ratings almost every time there’s new episodes. Cast and crew say they feel reinvigorated and have contracts for an eighth season. The network feels confident enough about it to use it as a launching pad for Life Unexpected.

Against: Fans remain split on the quality of this season. There has been a marginal drop in ratings and the show is going on eight years. At some point, someone’s going to say enough’s enough. The network could say the show has run its course and/or they want new blood. They may be more willing to say that this year, if space on the schedule is limited and an old show needs to go so they can bring in more new shows and/or focus on their younger ones. The cast and crew could say the show has run its course and/or they want to try new things. Creator/executive producer Mark Schwahn is working on a new pilot, Nashville, as well as another project for The CW.


GOSSIP GIRL (2.2 million viewers)

For: Buzz is as high as ever, with countless publications willing and ready to report on the shows and its stars. Cast and crew reportedly have contracts for a fourth season. An additional season increases the likelihood of a syndication deal and, of course, a better deal at that. The show has become a “signature” for The CW, one that they still promote heavily, which is an indication of their investment in it.

Against: Fans and critics alike have complained of a drop in quality this year. Ratings are dropping as well. Several cast members have shown an increasing interest in focusing their careers on film and music.


90210 (2.2 million viewers, rounded up)

For: Critics are responding better to this season than the last one. Critics, cast and network have said having Rebecca Sinclair take over has helped. Matt Lanter (Liam) has said he’s pretty sure they’ll get another season–and more. The cast and crew likely have contracts through a fourth season. Canceling it after two seasons would be the equivalent of The CW admitting they were wrong about the viability of a Beverly Hills 90210 spin-off and/or that they weren’t the ones capable of making the idea work. After they bragged about it so much before and during the initial launch, it would be a big embarrassment. A third season would (arguably) allow them to say they successfully created the next installment in the 90210 franchise, one that lasted for a respectable three years.

Against: The show was among the lowest-rated of 2009 for any broadcast network and critics consider it to be largely unsuccessful compared to the original.


Since this is a teen drama site, you’ll notice I didn’t include Life Unexpected, The Vampire Diaries, Melrose Place, Smallville and Supernatural. But for the sake of completeness, here’s my take on those: for LUX, it all depends on the ratings the first 13 episodes get and whether critics love the later episodes as much as they did the first few. Even if the ratings are low and critics turn negative, however, they may still want to give the show a proper season in hopes people will come around if given more time. The Vampire Diaries is a surefire renewal, as it has ratings, buzz and critical acclaim. Melrose Place is in a similar position to 90210 but with two differences: worse ratings and only 1 season. The CW could say the ratings gave no choice but to cancel but they could also renew, citing strengths (as they usually do) by spinning some of the numbers. And like with 90210, giving up too soon would be a sign of a defeat, that their grand plan–especially after Heather Locklear’s involvement–didn’t work out. Some question whether Smallville and Supernatural will get renewals since they’ve been on for quite some time already, but the network has remained positive about both shows and their futures. In two interviews, both less than a week old, Dawn Ostroff maintains she’s very pleased with Smallville this year but the exact future remains to be seen. She made similar comments about Supernatural.

The network technically has 10 spots to fill: two shows per night, Monday-Friday. Renewing all the shows mentioned above, plus America’s Next Top Model, makes 9. Most networks want to bring in more than one pilot. If The CW feels that way, they’ll either have to give a show–either new or old–a limited season or they’ll have to cancel one (if not more) of their current shows.

Fans, bloggers and critics will spend the next several months speculating on which shows will get renewed. There might be stronger indications as time goes by as well as some early announcements, but sometimes a decision in the bottom of the ninth, so to speak, can change everything (as it did with The CW and 7th Heaven/Everwood in 2006). Nothing is 100 percent official until the upfront in May, when the network presents its new schedule to advertisers.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m hedging my bets so I’m not wrong. I truly won’t be surprised if any of the teen dramas are renewed or canceled. I wish I could give you a better indication of what will be. The truth is, if you told me Gossip Girl was canceled for the reasons I listed above, I’d say it makes perfect sense. Likewise, if you told me it was renewed for the reasons I listed above, that would make perfect sense to me, too. The same goes for One Tree Hill and 90210. These are the things countless executives at the network will be going back and forth on for the next few months. They’re also privy to information we’re not–such as the exact costs of making each show, the profits they’re making and the quality of the pilot options as well as the quality of the plans the current crews have pitched to them for next season.

In the meantime, if you want a show to get renewed, I encourage you to watch it when it airs–not online and not via DVR. You can also contact The CW via its Web site to let them know what you want to see next season. Many times a strong fan campaign has made all the difference.

Hang in there. We’ve still got a ways to go.





Life Unexpected

21 12 2009

Tonight I had the opportunity to watch the first three episodes of Life Unexpected, courtesy of the The CW, which sent me an advanced copy.

The show centers around 15-year-old Lux (which is why the show was formerly known as Life UneXpected), a young girl who is seeking emancipation after spending her life being bounced around foster homes. Since she was never adopted, she needs the signature of her birth parents and sets out to find them. She does (in seemingly record time, mind you) and both are understandably shocked.  All three are then thrown for a loop when the judge, instead of granting emancipation, makes Lux’s parents temporary co-guardians.

For months critics have been raving about the show, saying it is reminsicent of The WB, where substance and heart were favored over style and shock.

They were right.

Life Unexpected has the wit of Gilmore Girls and the emotional complexity of Everwood. Less than 20 minutes into the first episode, tears were already welling up in my eyes. I was moved several times, in fact, but also giggled and chuckled a ton, too. That’s not to say there aren’t any cliches or weak points but as we know from watching the teen dramas, those are to be expected. It’s not surprising executive producer/writer Liz Tigelaar started out working for Dawson’s Creek and it seems she learned well.

Shiri Appleby (Rene, Beverly Hills 90210) stars as Lux’s mother, who is in a romantic relationship with her radio show co-host, played by Kerr Smith (Jack, Dawson’s Creek). It was hard at first to see Appleby as a mom but perhaps that is the point: her character Cate is only 32 years old, making her a teenager when she got pregnant with Lux. Smith, who has thankfully dyed the grey out of his hair, is definitely in a supporting role, one whose future on the show I question despite the press materials. He’s included as if he’s here for the long-haul but it seems to me that Cate and her babydaddy Nate, played by Kristoffer Polaha, are destined for each other in the end. It’s also worth noting that this will be the third show on The CW right now with a main character called Nate.

Lux reminded me of One Tree Hill’s Sam (Ashley Rickards), the foster child Brooke (Sophia Bush) takes in in season 6. The two characters may not look alike but their personalities are strikingly similar. Cate has shades of Brooke as well and at times the plot felt very familiar. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth watching. The three episodes held my attention throughout and I’m eager to see what other angles of this story–which easily could’ve been depicted entirely in a 2-hour movie–are explored throughout the season.

I highly encourage you to tune in on January 18, when Life Unexpected premieres after the new episode of One Tree Hill. I’m honestly worried about the ratings the show will get both that night and in the weeks to come since, as I mentioned above, this show sooooo isn’t a CW show. While I personally think that’s a good thing, other viewers may not. Here’s hoping there’s enough people out there clamoring for the days and ways of the WB.

I have to note, though, that Life Unexpected won’t be covered extensively on this site since it is not a teen drama. I will continue to include it as I have thus far: when there’s something relevant to Smith or Appleby or some other teen drama connection. But, again, I really hope you’ll watch it.





Exclusive: Dawson’s Creek Actor and NU Professor David Downs

30 07 2009

The back-story: I never had David Downs as a professor while I attended Northwestern University, but the one time we shared a room together, I instantly recognized him.  We were at the 2006 Stage and Screen Writers Panel, where successful alumni come back to give advice to undergrads. We were both there to see Greg Berlanti, a writer and executive producer for Dawson’s Creek.  As I chatted with both of them, it became clear where I knew Professor Downs from–Dawson’s Creek episodes! (Just for fun: here are two photos from that day.)

Downs starred in five episodes as Mr. Kasdan, a teacher at Capeside High.  He also appeared in five episodes of Everwood, another show by Berlanti, and one of Scrubs (Downs taught both Berlanti and Zach Braff).  I recently interviewed him about his role on Dawson’s Creek, as well as his knowledge about the television and acting industries in general.  I hope you’ll agree that he provides a unique perspective.

TeenDramaWhore: What classes do you teach at Northwestern? What are the biggest lessons about the entertainment industry you want students to take away from them?

David Downs: I’m retired. I taught the three-year acting course at NU.  Truly, the entertainment industry never entered into the classwork. I was teaching acting.  For theatre.  We worked on great drama from the Greeks to the present.

TDW: You’ve been the professor for well-known Hollywood players such as Greg Berlanti and Zach Braff. You even got a special thanks in Garden State.  Are you able to easily identify students with bright futures like theirs?

Downs: Believe it or not, I never spent any energy trying to discern who might make a celebrity path in the entertainment industry.  I was always focused on acting, on learning what great drama and great theatre had to teach students–whether or not those students pursued performance in their post-class lives.

TDW: Dawson’s Creek fans will recognize you from the show as Mr. Kasdan, a teacher at Capeside High.  How did that work, considering Northwestern is in Chicago and DC filmed in Wilmington?  Did you audition for the role, or did it stem from a connection you had?

Downs: In the summer of 2001, Greg Berlanti invited me to stay with him in LA to write a play.  One evening he looked up from a script he was working on and he said, “Wanna be in Dawson’s Creek?”  The studio saw the episode and decided to include me in other episodes that season.  During the year, I flew to Wilmington from Evanston (Illinois) for a few days each time I had an episode.  It was a great experience.

TDW: In your role, you had a few memorable scenes with Joshua Jackson (Pacey) and Katie Holmes (Joey).  Do you recall what they were like?  Did you forsee their careers exploding (especially of late) the way they have?

Downs: Katie was the first of the regulars whom I met.  I went into the make-up and hair trailer and there she was.  She was lovely and gracious and unassuming and welcoming.  Joshua was a great jokester and yet was always professional when the camera was rolling.  I also loved scenes with Michelle Williams [Jen].  These were hard-working young people thrown quickly into celebrity.  I think filming in Wilmington helped to keep them sane and grounded.

TDW: Are you still in touch with any of the cast?

Downs: No.  but a recent alum, Meghan Markle, was just cast as a new regular for the upcoming season of Fringe.  I gave her a photo taken of me and Joshua in 2001.  It would be fun to visit with him and her sometime.

TDW: Teen dramas have come a long way since the Dawson’s Creek era.  Are you familiar with the newer shows like Gossip Girl and the 90210 remake?  Do you see changes in the genre?

Downs: Aha.  I haven’t seen any of GG or 90210.

TDW: Will we catch you on-screen again any time soon?

Downs: Hah!  I always get email from friends who catch me on a rerun of Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy.  I don’t audition but every once in a while I’ll get that call, Wanna be on my show? and I always say yes. So you never know.

YouTube Clips with David Downs: Self Reliance and  The Graduate.

Don’t forget–come back this Sunday for another exclusive interview!






Site of the Week: The WB.com

12 01 2009

The WB may be long gone (and I’m still in mourning) but it lives on thanks to the internet.

On TheWB.com, you can watch a few of our teen drama faves including The O.C. and One Tree Hill.  And as an added bonus they also have awesome shows like Everwood, Gilmore Girls and Friends.

The site has been one of the best kept secrets for the last few months…until now.

You can read more about it here.

Try it out and tell me what you think in the comments!








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