Creators Tim Minear, Ben Queen and Producer Greg Yaitanes break down this high octane show
The new Fox series Drive premieres April 15 and April 16 with a special 2 night 3-hour event. The show follows a group of people on a cross-country road race. The creative team behind the series recently discussed what makes this show different than anything else on TV. With new technology and an interesting story, Drive could become the next TV phenomenon.
Tim Minear (Executive Producer, Creator, and Writer), Ben Queen (Executive Producer, Creator, and Writer) and Greg Yaitanes (Executive Producer, and Director) give viewers some insight into the show.
Drive -- as a title, might possibly stand for their motivation, the characters' motivation, as well as an actual physical drive. Can you talk about what, if anything, ties their goals together, other than getting to the finishing line?
Tim Minear: The game isn't just a race. It's also a web that starts to connect some of these characters together. And what we start to discover is that there may be connections prior to the race happening. But really they're all on this journey together. They're all in the same race together. And alliances will form, and romances will happen, and there will be betrayals. So they're really connected by the action. But they all have a reason why they need to win, but only one can.
Is the thing going to be entirely on the road? Is there a set anywhere?
Tim Minear: It's interesting; most of the action takes place on the road. There will be swing sets -- what we've discovered is that, because of technology, we can actually create a cross-country road race and shoot it all in Santa Clarita (California).
Greg Yaitanes: The series uses all cutting-edge, new technology to create these virtual environments. So we do all the driving work without ever taking the cars and people on the road. In order to end on schedule, we've created a whole new way of doing things, to do all the driving stuff so that we can always preserve performance and always keep the excitement. But if you see the opening shot of the first episode, one of the signature visual pieces of the show will involve all this car-to-car work that really nobody's seen on TV and even in film.
Can you preview this idea? Is there a conspiracy here? And why do you think so many shows have conspiracies behind them?
Tim Minear: Well, there's a conspiracy in the sense that the race is a secret. So the race itself, I guess you could say, is a conspiracy. And not all the participants in said race are there of their own free will. So there are different motivations for characters to be involved. Some of them are coerced. So in that sense there's a conspiracy.
Can you talk about you adjusted for the series since you shot the original pilot?
Tim Minear: We shot a pilot. Greg directed. Ben and I wrote it. And we've done some recasting. We went back and we actually rewrote the script. It's the same story. Essentially we're getting into the story a little bit differently. In the original pilot we started on the road, and we didn't really visit the worlds from which these people came. And in this new version we're sort of seeing the main players leaving the worlds that they come from at a moment of crisis, so we're more emotionally connected to who they are. But other than that, it's largely the same story. It was a real luxury for us because we got to really see what worked and what didn't work. And that's how we approached this re-shoot.
Usually we hear about how a second unit will go out and capture the overhead shots or the drive-bys. How were you able to accomplish this, even without doing the second unit, but having the great visuals that are in the show?
Greg Yaitanes: We still do some of the practical car driving. It's just that we take all the actors and do most of it on stage -- taking actors out on the road just -- our number one priority was preserving performances, and Tim and Ben's writing, and the acting. You don't want to miss those moments and be bogged down with a lot of technical stuff. So this allowed us the most freedom. And like I said, the way that we're doing things, elements of it have been seen in other places, but we've never put all these kind of ideas together.
You have spoken elsewhere about a technique that was used in film to allow you to sort of go in and out of the cars --
Tim Minear: He had this idea for this secret, illegal cross-country road race. And it seemed to me that this was a great and very broad canvas in which to tell a lot of stories. The question was could you make a show that took place partially in moving vehicles that goes across the country? Could you do that and have it not look bad? Because you want it to look good. Like it's easy to do spaceships because they're spaceships, but everybody has been on the road; everybody has been in cars. So you really want that stuff to feel real. So we were talking about War of the Worlds, which -- he liked the third act, and I just thought it missed entirely.
But there is a moment in there where Tom Cruise is escaping in this car with his kids, and Spielberg is going around the car and falling out of the car and going through the car. It's quite amazing. And so I went to Loni Peristere, who did our effects on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, and said, "Could we do this on TV with seven cars?" He said, "Sure." And then we hired Greg. And it's a combination of live-action roadwork with the picture vehicles, but every time you go up into a car and you see a performer, they're actually on a green screen stage.
So this is a combination of some live-action work and some green screen stage work. And the way that is accomplished is the background plates are not just rear-screen projections. They do 360-degree plates. They put cameras all the way around a camera car on the highway to get the environment. And that way when they go in and do the background, the comps, they're able to move anywhere in a virtual environment. And this way, you can go into a car. You can go around and see what's in front of the person. You can move across into moving traffic and then into another car, and it's another car on a green screen stage. It's all very technical.
I noticed product placement there for Google. Is there anything unique that Google Earth is doing for the show, or is it just wallpaper?
Greg Yaitanes: Tim and Ben have added a mysterious place where we see the racers being tracked, and it's like if we took Google Earth to the next exciting level.
If the race is a secret, how come people from all walks of life know about it?
Greg Yaitanes: Ordinary people are coerced into the race so that anybody from any walk of life could be called upon to participate.
Can you take us into one or two of these characters and tell us why they're in the race?
Tim Minear: Sure.
Ben Queen: Well, Mr. (Nathan) Fillion here plays Alex Tully, who, when we meet him, he's a man living in Nebraska. He owns a landscaping company. And at the beginning of the show, his wife is kidnapped, and he's basically told, "Win this race or she'll die." For instance.
Tim Minear: Yeah, he's expecting probably to find her at the finish line. Alex, of course, has a past, which will be revealed over the course of episodes. So that past will figure prominently into why he was chosen, who chose him, and, you know, why he is actually in this race.
Melanie's (Lynskey) character is a young mother who has given birth, and she's getting ready to leave the hospital, when she's contacted. And what we discover with her character is she's terrified of her husband. She's afraid, and she doesn't want to take this baby home to him. At the end of this race is the possibility of winning $32 million. And with this money, she can be free and save her child. So she's got a reason to be in this race. Every character has either a desperate reason or a mysterious reason that will be revealed over the course of episodes.
Greg Yaitanes: There's a reason that they're being chosen, as well, to participate. There's something that each of them can do or --
Tim Minear: And it's not always necessarily the thing that seems apparent on the surface.
Ben Queen: And although the show is about cars, we wanted this to be about real people and real cars. Melanie is in a minivan. The John and Violet characters are in a Taurus.
Tim Minear: A classic. They don't make them anymore.
Greg Yaitanes: It's not about getting there fast. It's about getting there smart.
Tim, are you actually going to be able to film this entirely on the road, or are you going to have to resort to kind of putting a couple people in a car and having somebody crank the scenery or, you know, against one of those weird-looking film backdrops to make it look real?
Tim Minear: As Greg was saying, the green screen technology has advanced to a place where you really can't --
Greg Yaitanes: You really can't tell that you're not out on the road. One of the most important things was that the driving looked real and that we could create all these different parts of the country without ever leaving our backyard.
Tim Minear: We find locations around town - just like you would on any other show, like on Angel, for instance, or The Inside. Any show that you do - you find locations that double for some other place. But as far as the driving stuff, we were on the stage two days ago, and we shot, I think, 12 pages.
Greg Yaitanes: 13.
Tim Minear: Things actually go faster with this green stuff, and it looks real. In fact, because of the advance of technology, more driving, not less, makes this show actually affordable to do.
Okay. The cops haven't figured this race out yet?
Tim Minear: The way the race works -- did you ever see that Michael Douglas movie The Game? There's a certain element of that to it. There are monitors along the way; some police are in the pockets of some of these people. Part of the game is, if you get pulled over -- like Melanie's character gets pulled over in the first story -- you can't explain what you were doing. If you start to tell the police what you're doing, then you're disqualified. It's also structured in such a way that if you were to go to the police and try to rat this thing out, they would laugh at you.
Without giving away who it is, if this is part of the mystery, are any of these actors playing the organizers of the race? Will we meet the organizers?
Tim Minear: We will meet the organizers. It's not as simple as there's just organizers. There are actually two tiers to what's going on behind the curtain and how that works. There really is a whole other world to explore with other characters who are interacting in a different way, but -- I don't want to say manipulating the people in the cars, but that are either allied or working against certain teams in certain cars. So sometimes the powers that be might seem benevolent or they might seem bad -- a little bit like God, but not with as much power and also not imaginary.
Drive premieres April 15 and April 16 with a special 2 night 3-hour event on Fox.
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