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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Exclusive: Executive Producer Paul Stupin Revisits Dawson’s Creek

15 11 2009

With the Paley Center’s “Dawson’s Creek: A Look Back” panel and the release of “Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Series,” I’ve been on a DC high the past week and a half.  Imagine my delight in finding someone who was not only just as enthusiastic but also chock full of insider stories only true fans like TDW readers could appreciate. And when you combine that with the fact that this guy is also partly responsible for introducing Beverly Hills 90210 to the world, well, that pretty much makes him a teen drama god.

After reading all the DC and 90210 goodness executive producer Paul Stupin shared with me, you’ll never want TDW’s stroll down memory creek to end!

TeenDramaWhore: How was the Paley Center panel?  How did it come about?

Paul Stupin: It came about for two sets of reasons. The first was that there are a  lot of die-hard Dawson’s supporters and fans out there that could support such a event. And the second key element is Sony is planning to issue this monumental all-seasons of Dawson’s DVD collection.

TDW: Yeah! It came out yesterday and I went to three different stores and finally found it!

Stupin: I just think it’s the coolest thing ever. So it was a good opportunity to call some attention to the DVD collection while at the same time having an event for the fans. It was really fun for me because when I did Dawson’s, I look back on it as a very special and rewarding time in my life and to be able to talk about it and see some cast members and see Kevin [Williamson, creator] again was just a blast.

TDW: I’m sure. I wish I could’ve been there!

Stupin: Yeah, you would’ve liked it!

TDW: Oh, I’m sure. Well let’s go back even further, to 1997-1998, and Kevin Williamson comes to you with this idea to make this semi-autobiographical show. What made you come on board?

Stupin: Well, that’s not exactly how it happened but I can tell you. I had read an early draft of this film that he wrote. At the time, it was called Scary Movie but that was going to turn into Scream and they used the original title for something else. I had read a draft of that and I had really responded to the writing. One of the things I loved about it is not only did it have some smart thrills and chills but it also had this great sort of teenage/20-something dialogue. I just loved his voice and I loved the different perspectives that he had brought to the horror genre so I pushed really hard to his agent for Kevin and I to sit down. Originally, I wanted to run two areas by him. The first area was sort of a younger X-Files-esque kind of show and the second one was just a really smart, young ensemble sort of show that could tap into younger characters’ voices. I had ran programming at Fox, so the idea of doing a family show was kind of not on the board because Fox had Party of Five. So we started to talk about potentially doing a show about a number of younger characters who live on the same street. Then Kevin sort of went away and came back and sort of pitched to me a bunch of characters living on the same creek, which, of course, was semi-autobiographical. What made that so interesting is that it specified the idea and made it something unique and took us to a place I had never seen before. And the other thing that made that original pitch so exciting was the characters. He pitched to me the characters of Dawson [James Van Der Beek] and Joey [Katie Holmes] and Jen [Michelle Williams] and how that triangle would work. And then as we were talking about that, we came up with the idea of incorporating another character into the mix who could be a confidante for Dawson and that’s how the character of Pacey [Joshua Jackson] originated.

TDW: I think you really hit it when you said the show was unique. There are a couple of specific things that people are still talking about today and they really want the inside details of how it happened. I know you guys went over a bit of this at the panel but I’d love to hear it from you yourself.  So if we can just go over a couple of different storylines, I’d love to hear what you guys were thinking and the genesis of those. So the first one is in season 2 when we have Jack [Kerr Smith] announce that he’s gay [Episodes 2.14 & 2.15, To Be Or Not To Be… & …That Is The Question].

Stupin: I think there were two reasons for that. The first reason is it was a great way to integrate in a gay character on our series and to do it from the perspective of the kids we’d come to know and love on the show from the get-go. So the thought of involving Joey in a relationship with Jack and seeing that relationship take a completely unexpected turn and then understanding the emotional impact it would have on Joey’s character, and what it would do to Dawson and Pacey–all that seemed really interesting. And at the time, the thought of integrating a gay character and following that journey seemed really powerful and a way to tap into a whole set of emotions that would make our show even more memorable. One of the things that I love about Dawson’s is that it sort of wore its heart on its sleeve. Not only did it capture the voices and that sense of teenage yearning and teenage love and first-time love, and the power and the strength of all that, with love comes heartache as well in many stories. I think it enabled us to tell a really emotional and powerful story for a character that we’d really come to enjoy in the form of Jack. So that was one element to it and I think for Kevin it was a very personal story as well, and it was a way to again put a whole different perspective on the teen ensemble drama in a way that it hadn’t been done before. The second element to it was the fact that when Joey started that relationship with Jack, it was not going to go on forever. The key relationship in our series was what was going on between Joey and Dawson and Pacey, so the Jack character, that romance, was ultimately going to come to an end. And I think there was the thought of what a powerful way to see the relationship head south when the character starts to realize an insight into his own sexuality.

TDW: Going back to the Dawson-Joey-Pacey relationship, I read in Jeff Stepakoff’s book “Billion-Dollar Kiss” that Greg Berlanti–whom I adore–was the one to suggest putting Joey and Pacey together. I was wondering how accurate that story was in the book.

Stupin: Well, at the top of every season, we’ll sit and we’ll talk about [our plans]. We take a couple of weeks and we talk about each character and where we were going and what the sort of macro-issues were that we want to cover over the course of that particular group of 22 episodes. And Greg was definitely a part of that and the thought  of telling sort of a whole Joey-Pacey romance did in fact come out of that, absolutely. But I think you can go back, you can look at the pilot and you can look at the chemistry–and I did, in looking at the pilot last week–you can look at the chemistry between Joey and Pacey and you just know they’re sort of two peas in a pod and sooner or later that element of the triangle is going to get explored. So it’s definitely true what Jeff had in the book but I think that Greg was building from the seeds that were established in the original conception of the show, to tell you the truth.

TDW: Right.  Going to a more somber note: this probably came early on for you guys given how you plan the season but a lot of people were really surprised and devastated when in the 5th season Mitch [John Wesley Shipp] died [Episodes 5.03 & 5.04, Capeside Revisited & The Long Goodbye].

Stupin: Yes.

TDW: I’m wondering what the idea for that was. We never knew if it was casting reasons or storyline-dictated.

Stupin: It wasn’t really casting issues. The thing with Mitch was every year we would figure out a way to have 1 or 2 sort of emotional stories between Dawson and his mom and dad. In the first season we had all that great stuff with her affair with a newscaster. That was just sort of natural. The second season we have the story with mom and dad trying the open marriage, and it’s arguable as to how memorable that actually was. It seemed like such a fresh idea. I’m not sure that it translated quite as well as the idea initially seemed. And then after that, when the inter-relationships between the teenagers grew ever-more prominent and people became much more invested, it felt like the parents–though still important–were not quite as much a part of the storylines. So that’s when we would always try to include them, to have them in different things, to have great sort of Dawson-mom, Dawson-dad scenes but I think we were straining a little bit. And I think that when we got to the point of deciding the fate with Mitch, it seemed like we weren’t using him altogether that much in the series, in the seasons. We were using him but we weren’t using him in a huge way. There weren’t any financial or casting considerations. It really did come from the creative angle, in terms of how would it affect Dawson’s character if in fact this happened to his dad, and exploring that, and exploring the unexpected tragedy of it seemed like another way to really heighten the exploration as to who Dawson was, so that’s basically where that came from. And I remember talking to John Wesley and mentioning that the one thing that this would provide is that it was going to take the Dawson-father storyline to a really heartbreaking sense of conclusion and, at that point, we weren’t using him as much as we had in the past.

TDW: How does that contrast, then, to the decision in the series finale [Episodes 6.23 & 624, All Good Things… & …Must Come To An End] to have another death and this time it be Jen?

Stupin: It was so interesting last week; it came up that in a way it was a great book-end for the series. It frankly never occurred when we were talking about the beginning or the end of the show but one could argue that the series began with a catalyst and that was the arrival of Jen. And the series ended with a catalyst as well, and that was the departure of Jen. And the one thing that I think that it did is it really brought a sense of emotional resonance and power to that final episode, because one of the things with a final episode you want to be able to do, you want to be able to end a series in a satisfying and emotional and interesting way. And if we essentially had the last episode in history for Dawson’s Creek, we could talk about and we could explore issues of mortality involving some of our characters. Then when we talked about it, if we were going to be dealing with the characters’ mortality, she seemed like the most natural character in which to explore that.

TDW: Going back to the catalyst idea, it could be extended that that was really what it took for Joey to finally make up her mind between the two boys.

Stupin: Yeah, I think a little bit. I think the interesting thing was the series sort of ends twice. It ends in the episode before then [Episode 6.22, Joey Potter And The Capeside Redemption] where we get the sense that finally Dawson and Pacey are going to be friends and Joey did actually get to Europe. And I think that had a sense of closure. Then we took it another step and went to a sort of even more sort of larger-than-life ending of exploring who she was going to end up with. I think that was the big question: who was she going to end up with? And I think that that was handled pretty well, too. Like I personally love the thought that what this show was really about was not the romance of Dawson and Joey but about the strength and depth of that friendship and how that friendship was going to exist forever.

TDW: So if you had to answer the question, in your heart of hearts, do you think Dawson belongs with Joey in a platonic, friends soulmates sense and Pacey in the romantic soulmate way?

Stupin: In my heart of hearts, I think we ended it the right away. I think that what she did have in the romance with Pacey was as powerful as the friendship with Dawson. And I think that we were able to come up with a sense of satisfying closure for both of them. ‘Cause I will tell you, weirdly enough, when I was looking at The Sopranos–I’ll weirdly liken it to the conclusion of The Sopranos, at least from my weird perspective, because I was a fan of that. I like to think, in my mind, that Tony Soprano is still out there–maybe it wasn’t going to last forever, but maybe he’s still out there with his family, still dealing with the issues and still dealing with all the balls he was juggling. And in my mind, I like to think that Dawson and Joey are still out there in our alternate TV universe, still communicating with each other and still sharing the inner-most aspects of their hearts and still dealing with their friendship as adults, and that Joey and Pacey still have that romance. Because I feel like what we were able to come up with was, for me, an emotionally-satisfying conclusion for both stories which doesn’t let anyone down. And I know there are people who think Dawson and Joey should’ve been together romantically and I totally understand that point of view but I think we did the right thing.

TDW: Well, as a Joey and Pacey fan, I completely agree with you!

Stupin: Well, I can tell you this: that decision wasn’t made until the last hour was being shot and so if you look at the first hour of that final two-hour, I think at that point we were leaning toward her ending up with Dawson and so there are a few, I think, little cues–for the life of me I don’t remember exactly–that were set up to lead us in that direction and then, frankly, in the last hour, when the last hour was being shot–because it wasn’t shot as a two-hour; it was shot as two separate 1-hours–that when we came up with that conclusion, it caused us to shift things around a little bit. So I’ll tell ya, we were undecided up until the very last minute ourselves.

TDW: Wow. Well, switching gears slightly, you spoke about Dawson and the way he would communicate with Joey. Going off that, both Kevin Williamson and James Van Der Beek are on Twitter these days. I was wondering, had the service existed when the show was on the air, how do you think Dawson would’ve used it, if he would’ve used it? As I said, They’re both on it now, and Dawson was very much a storyteller.

Stupin: Well, I think Dawson might’ve used it to express his emotions. I think he might’ve used it as a shorthand way of communicating with both Joey and Pacey. It’s certainly easier to communicate things to someone by Twitter than it is necessarily in real life. He might’ve, at some point in our storytelling, he might’ve used it to express something that he might not have been so willing to express in person.

TDW: When you look back on the show and the television landscape then and now, what do you think the show’s legacy is?

Stupin: You know, I think for me it’s–well, first of all, I’m so proud of the show. I think the characters were amazing. I think their stories were amazing. I think the quality of the writing, the quality of the direction was–of course I’m biased but I think it was just top-flight. And I really do think it took the young adult teen genre and elevated it from just a niche kind of show to something universal and iconic. I think adults could look at it. When we were doing it we never looked at it as just a teen show.  We looked at it as just a smart, interesting, relationship show that happened to deal with teenagers and though our core audience was teenagers, it was written for everybody, for people in their 20s, their 30s, their 40s. And I really think it managed to transcend all of that and bring an element of quality and exploration to the genre that really took it to the next step.

TDW: Do you have a favorite episode or storyline?

Stupin: You know, I’m so biased. It’s like trying to pick if you have 120 kids which one’s your favorite. But I think for me there are certain sort of moments that I love. There’s certain episodes, like the pilot because it introduced us to that world, and I remember so much of it almost like it was yesterday. The first season-ender when Joey went to visit her dad in prison, I loved that. I loved the detention episode [Episode 1.07, Detention]. A lot of them are some of the original ones. But then I think I love the episode when they graduated high school [Episode 4.22, The Graduate]. I thought that was just sensational. I love the one-hour ender as well as the two-hour series finale ender. I think there’s so many. The episode where they studied and it was an all-nighter [Episode 2.07, The All-Nighter]. The episode where Joey had to enter the beauty pageant [Episode 1.12, Beauty Contest]. I just love all of those.

TDW: Well, conversely, do you have a big regret or something you wish you did differently?

Stupin: Yeah. My biggest regret would probably be, as I think about it–and it was a mistake we made–was the character of Eve. Remember that character?

TDW: Yeah. You guys even have a joke about that in the episode before the series finale.

Stupin: Yeah. I don’t think the first episodes of season 3 really were as memorable as the other episodes. And I think that whole notion of “Is she Jen’s sister? Is she not?”–I don’t think that was that effective. I don’t look back on that run of episodes as my favorites.

TDW: Yeah, I think the fans do agree with that.

Stupin: Yeah, but you know what, we turn it around.  In the middle of that season we turned it around with–

TDW: With Joey and Pacey.

Stupin: Yeah, with Joey and Pacey. And that certainly helped get us back, I think, to our roots.

TDW: Going more to your history, I know you played a bit of a role with the creation of Beverly Hills 90210.

Stupin: Yes, I did.

TDW: What influence, if any, did that show have on Dawson‘s Creek?  If you learned anything from how viewers took to what was really the first teenage show, as Dawson’s Creek is largely considered the next step in the genre.

Stupin: Well, two things. And it’s an interesting question. The first thing: when I hired Darren Star to write 90210, I felt as if his voice was just so unique in terms of his ability to write characters and come up with dialogue and wit that seemed like it would be a particularly good fit if he put into teenager characters’ mouths. So in a way I think that when I read Kevin’s voice, I felt some of it was the same in terms of being clever and sharp and smart and pop culturally-savvy. I felt like I had found another voice who was capable of taking the genre to the next step. So I felt like both Kevin and Darren brought originally a really unique sense of humor and sharpness to their creation of characters and dialogue. So I think there was a similarity there. The one issue that I took away from 90210, that was very effective in 90210, was the mix of issue-oriented episodes and personal inter-relationships. Though, when we jumped into Dawson’s, we veered away from doing the issue-oriented episodes and explored further just all of the great inter-relationships.

TDW: Going further ahead to the rest of the genre and the teen dramas that are on today, do you think Dawson’s Creek influenced them?

Stupin: I’m sure it did, though I can’t say–you know, again, I’m biased. I don’t know. In my mind, I’m undecided as to what the next real step in the genre is after Dawson’s. I’m not sure what it is. I haven’t watched enough of the shows. I hold, of course again I’m so biased, but I hold everything up to the prism of Dawson’s. I don’t know if any of them that have come since have quite represented that cultural milestone that Dawson’s did.

TDW: Do you think Dawson’s Creek would fly on The CW today? Because it’s so different than what The WB was.

Stupin: Yeah. I’m not sure. I’ve often thought would I be able to sell Dawson’s today? Would I be able to pitch that as a series and get it going, and I’m not altogether sure. Because now, when you look at Dawson’s, we sold it off the strength of the characters and off of the strength of Kevin’s voice being so fresh. Now, I think that the networks are looking for slightly higher concepts. So I’m not altogether sure that a Dawson’s would be able to sell today.

TDW: I have to ask, then, why do you think the 90210 spin-off sold?

Stupin: Oh, I see, are you talking about bringing able to bring it back, for instance?

TDW: Well, no, not for it to be a spin-off. But the 90210 concept today is working.

Stupin: Well, I think the 90210 concept–everyone, myself included, has fondness for that original show. The thought of sort of putting two new outsiders into that world and bringing the  show back is a great way to hook people into a whole new group of characters, and I think it was a great idea. The thing with Dawson’s is I don’t know if bringing the world of Dawson’s Creek back with a bunch of new characters would generate quite the excitement. Because I think when you think about the show, you think about Dawson and you think about the very unique 3 characters, the 4 characters we had, and the actors that played them. And I’m not sure if it was brought back again–I certainly wouldn’t want to redo it with a new Dawson or a new Pacey. So the question would be could we go back to Capeside with a whole new group of characters, and I’m not sure we would be able to put together a new group of people as memorably as we did originally.

TDW: Right. You know, they say lightening strikes once.

Stupin: Right. And you know, I’m afraid you always run the risk of–when you make a sequel to a movie that’s not as good, it kind of reflects negatively on the original movie.

TDW: I completely agree.

Stupin: And I like to think of all our episodes as being so special, I’m not sure it’s something you could bring back.

TDW: Well, my biggest disappointment right now is that Dawson’s Creek is no longer on any channel in America.

Stupin: Really? You know, they gotta get on that! Wasn’t it running like forever in the early morning hours?

TDW: It used to be on TBS. When I was in high school, it used to be on at like 10am. And then they pushed it to 4:30am, 5:30am and then it just faded away there and now it’s not on at all.

Stupin: I’m not sure what the design is on that because I always like to know that Dawson’s is out there.

TDW: I know, I know. It saddens me that it’s just not in repeats anywhere anymore in this country.

Stupin: You know what, those things tend to be cyclical. Maybe in the future you’ll be channel surfing one night. Knowing you, you’ll know way before then but maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

TDW: Fingers crossed.

Stupin: Exactly.

TDW: Well, let’s bring it back and finish on today. You’re with Make It Or Break It on ABC Family. Just looking at your career over the years, what is it about Make It or Break It that you’re here now?

Stupin: Well, what I love about Make It Or Break It is I’m a big fan of the genre, having originally developed 90210 and then developed Dawson’s. When I left to become a producer, I never really thought that my first real success would be in the same genre as 90210 because I actually never thought that lightning would strike twice in that genre for me as quickly as it did. But after I ran Dawson’s, you know, for six years, I developed a real love for the genre. And the thing that I love about Make It or Break It is the idea. It’s a fresh idea, it’s a fresh world. And it provides a pretty unique prism in which to explore sort of teenage relationships in a really unusual way. I mean, these girls aren’t normal teenagers. They’re elite gymnasts and there are rules against relationships as they’re pursuing their passion. How do they deal with that? And how do we deal with the same elements of teenage love and relationships and heartbreak but from a whole different perspective? And I love that about it, and I also love the relationships between the main characters and their parents and their parental figures. I think they’re a really organic element to the show and give us an opportunity to deal with really unusual family situations as well. So that’s why I love it. And also the gymnastics is just really cool. It’s a lot of fun just to see the gymnastics.

TDW: Oh, the gymnastics is just phenomenal to watch.

Stupin: So I think that Make It Or Break It is just such a special show. We’ve done 10 episodes and I think it’s just starting to get its sea legs. I think it has a huge successful life in front of it, I hope.

TDW: Well, best of luck to you on that!

Stupin: Thank you!

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index





Reader Submission

10 10 2009

SaneN85 submitted the following:

While commenting on the news of Greg Vaughn being let go from GH, I made a comment about the connection between him, BAG, and Jonathon Jackson. This had me thinking about the many connections that you can find to the main teen dramas. I’d think it be fun to have like a weekly post naming one celebrity and challenging the readers to find how they connect to the shows, some actors would have multiple connections. For instance, let’s say Angelina Jolie…..

Angeline Jolie starred in Gia with Elizabeth Mitchell, who starred on Lost with Matthew Fox. Matthew Fox starred on Party of Five with Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Neve Campbell starred in Scream with Rose McGowan, Jennifer Love Hewitt starred in I Know What You Did Last Summer with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Rose McGowan replaced Shannon Doherty on Charmed, and Sarah Michelle Gellar starred on Buffy with Michelle Trachtenberg (Gossip Girl). This doesn’t even mention that Rose McGowan starred in Jawbreaker with Rebecca Gayheart (who played Dylan’s wife on 90210). There are at least 2 more ways I can connect Angelina to our favorite dramas. I work at Blockbuster part-time and have an overwhelmingly silly amount of knowledge regarding actor’s careers. I just thought this would be like a fun weekly quiz.

I think Sane’s idea is great and we’ll start doing it under the name Six Degrees of Teen Dramas.  Starting today, each Saturday I’ll post a new person.  From there, it’s your job to connect that person to at least one of the teen dramas.  Here’s the first one:

Will Smith

Ready, set, go!








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