Opening Up The Dresden Files
Star Paul Blackthorne and Executive Producers/Writers Robert Hewitt Wolfe and David Simkins discuss their innovative new show.
The Dresden Files tells the story of Harry Dresden, played by Paul Blackthorne, who is a regular guy with an irregular life - he's a wizard, a practitioner of magic, who uses his unique abilities to solve the cases that come through his Chicago storefront office. The Dresden Files is a supernatural detective series based on the best-selling novels of Jim Butcher.
We recently had a chance to sit in on a conference call with Blackthorne, as well as executive producers and writers of the series, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and David Simkins.
Paul, do you see this as a Rockford Files of the voodoo set?
Paul Blackthorne: I hadn't looked at it that way. No. I'm not sure that I would say that that's the case. I think Harry Dresden is heavily involved in this magical sort of realm but of course the real world, too. He's trying to reconcile them both. I guess like Mr. Rockford he'd really rather put his feet up on the beach and rest a bit.
Do you see him as a reluctant sorcerer?
Paul Blackthorne: I see him as absolutely the reluctant hero. Yes, completely. Whereas most people enjoy the idea of saving the day, it's really rather a trouble for this fellow to do so. Given that he's imbued with such powers to do so he feels that he should. Saving the world, it's a bit of a drag sometimes but somebody's got to do it.
David, what is it about you that makes you always attack the dark side?
David Simkins: (Laughs) It's not that so much. I have to say if you have checked out my IMDB you will find a lot of genre material there. I began my career as a feature writer. I had some minor success there early on and then, like many feature writers, I found myself in the wilderness for a few years. Then I landed a job on Brisco County for Fox. I wrote the pilot. In that environment I met a lot of people... through those relationships, the way the industry was going back then... I just found myself drifting into those kinds of projects.
How closely do you plan to follow the Jim Butcher books?
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: We love the books, they're a tremendous amount of fun. The truth is that when you adapt anything you tend to have to write more toward the television media. Jim's terrific and his books are great but they also tend to be very, very big and they play a lot like action movies in a way. I really like the books. Aside from Storm Front which was the original pilot... the entire stories are basically created by the writing staff.
How did you approach the casting for this project?
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: Paul is sort of understating the casting process a little bit. We actually did see a lot of people. We knew that this show would really live or die based on finding a really great Harry Dresden. When Paul walked in the room, to be honest, I don't think we knew his work particularly at all. I knew him from Lagaan, a Bollywood musical he did. He played the villain.
Paul Blackthorne: I didn't sing any songs, though.
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: That's true. He just did a terrific, terrific audition. It really was not us in any way going, "You know who we really should look at is Paul Blackthorne." If we had been smart we would have said that but we weren't.
Are fans going to get to see recurring characters?
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: You will absolutely get to Bob and Bianca again... oopps, that might be a giveaway. There are a couple of characters in the pilot that we'll see again.
Knowing that the fan's want to know more about the Harry Dresden character, have you created an arc that you'll carry through the rest of the episodes?
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: Yeah, absolutely. There are definitely all kinds of fun pieces of Dresden's back story, history, and continuing and evolving relationships with the people in his world. Those definitely run very strongly through all of the episodes. There are a couple of episodes which are heavily about that kind of thing. There's definitely a storied first 11 episodes.
Paul Blackthorne: Everything to do with his back story is the reason why he's doing everything today.
Does the final episode of the story arc take us into another season? Is the story now building to something that will launch further seasons?
David Simkins: I would say yes and no. I'm not a real fan of the cliffhanger... these shows, and the way these mysteries of the week are sort of being developed, I just want the audience to want to come back because this is a fun hour of television. This is an interesting character or there are interesting stories. I kind of don't feel like we should have to tease an audience in that way. I guess my point of view is that this should really be a great party that you will want to come back to no matter how an episode ends.
That said, we are structuring a bit a of a bookend in terms... of Harry's back story and Harry's present day story. There is a bit of an answer to something which is set up early in the run. There's also a bit of a question asked as well.
Since you guys are leading into Battlestar Galactica are you going to try and match the intensity of that show?
David Simkins: Well, in the first episode we've got three suicides... I'm kidding. The answer to that is, "No." Battlestar is it's own successful beast. I don't want to say that this is a romp or a farce, it's not. There is humor. There is emotion. There is some aspects of tragedy to it but for the most part, this should be a fun, sort of welcoming, entertaining, charming, somewhat upbeat hour of television.
Are there any concerns being scheduled with that kind of show?
David Simkins: Not from my point of view. I actually think it's a pretty good pairing. If this was solid hours of a Battlestar-type show, I think that would be a bit too much. Not to say that we're light and frothy side and that Battlestar is the main course of grimness, the two shows do go together well and I think Sci-Fi was smart in putting us on Sunday night and moving Battlestar to Sunday night. I think we're in a really good position. I'm happy with the placement.
Robert Hewitt Wolfe: I think that they're both shows that have some really interesting and fun genre aspects to them, and some really solid, human elements to them. Yes, our show is lighter than Battlestar but I think that there's still gonna be a lot of people who will enjoy both shows despite the little bit of a gear shift.
The Dresden Files will premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel January 21 at 9:00 p.m. ET.