The star and executive producer discuss taking Jamie Sommers in the 21st Century
Struggling as a bartender and surrogate mom to her teenage sister, Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) didn't think life could get much harder. But when a devastating car accident leaves her at death's door, Jaime's only hope for survival is a cutting-edge, top-secret technology that comes at a hefty price.
With a whole new existence and a debt to re-pay, Jaime must figure out how to use her extraordinary abilities for good -- while weighing the personal sacrifices she will have to make. Ultimately, it's Jaime's journey of self-discovery and inner strength that will help her embrace her new life as the Bionic Woman
Also starring are: Miguel Ferrer as Jonas, the man who employs Jaime's boyfriend; Chris Bowers as Will, Jaime's boyfriend, who performs the operation; Will Yun Lee as Jae, the specialized operations leader; and Molly Price, as Ruth, Jonas' second-in-command.
Michelle Ryan and Executive David Eick recently sat down for a conference call to discuss the new Bionic Woman series.
Michelle, could you tell us about any of the crazy action-type scenes that you've done in the show so far?
Michelle Ryan: Well, I've had so many incredible action sequences. The stunt coordinators have really been coming up with some dynamic moves for Jamie. There's lots of flying, spinning kicks. They had me up on a harness yesterday and then I'm on another harness today doing these crazy stunts. Yeah, I'm an adrenaline junkie so I absolutely love it and as much as possible I'll do my own stunts. There's lots of punches, there's a whole big sequence with Antonio Pope (Isaiah Washington) and Jamie where he tries to bring out the animal instincts in Jamie. That's a really dynamic, really sort of hardcore fight.
You doing any building running and super jumping?
Michelle Ryan: Yes, there's lots of high speed running. There's lots of jumping, I think my dance training comes in very handy because I have good flexibility and I'm doing all these flying, spinning kicks. I think I'm looking really dynamic on screen and I'm just learning how to fight before I go on set, quickly preparing and then we're shooting it. It's moving very fast.
What do you make of the fact that the science fiction in this new Bionic Woman has gone from science fiction to simply science?
David Eick: There's actually a line in the script about that, how science fiction isn't fiction anymore. We constantly struggle in the writers room to stay current. It seems that more and more when you come up with a crazy idea you realize that reality is even crazier and you're actually being too tame. The risk you run is that some things are so hard to believe, even if they're true, they don't play as true. Striking a balance between what is scientifically possible but what feels scientifically believable is part of the challenge. We continue to walk that line.
Why do you think there's so many more sci-fi and fantasy shows coming on TV this fall?
David Eick: Well, certainly in the case of Bionic Woman it's sort of in its own category, because you're talking about a remake. So in addition to whatever the sci-fi or fantasy elements are to it, you're also remaking a title and that kind of puts it in it's own category and it gets attention for that. I've only worked in the last 5 years in what they call genre programming, it's not the limit of my experience or my appetite but where I've been for awhile. So you get a little myopic being in that world, you know what might motivate other creators or writers or programmers to also move in that direction. It does seem that during troubled times our storytelling turns to the allegorical. We characterize these times as troubling, coincidentally, and I don't think it's a coincidence that you're seeing a lot more escapist fantasy in storytelling.
Michelle, how hard was it to make the Jamie Sommers character your own?
Michelle Ryan: Let me just say that Lindsay Wagner (the original Jamie Sommers) was incredible and I'm not trying to be her, I'm just doing my own interpretation. I like the fact that they're bringing back this strong, female character, I feel it gives a great message. You've got Jamie making scrambled eggs and she's breaking the eggs, and you've got her on these missions and she's really scared before she has to use up all her energies. I feel like I just connected with the character when I first read the script, so I'm just doing it from the heart and I'm just hoping that people identify with Jamie is much as I do really.
David, you ever check the medical technology headlines? Were there ever any of those that you culled from to make them into shows for the Bionic Woman series?
David Eick: The answer is yes, although I've got a small group of guys on the writing staff who do that. It kind of hits the writer's room as just an idea. I don't know the specifics of where it came from or what idea came from what person. I couldn't give you chapter and verse what we've been inspired by other than there was a book we needed to read to learn all about groundbreaking technologies. One of the examples was some group had figured out a way to inject a nano computer chip into the larvae of a moth, so that when the moth became a moth you could use a little joystick to control where it went. They've got a great number of stories like that that kind of give you inspiration in one direction or another.
Will there be a bad guy in every episode? Will there be stories that run through the entire season?
David Eick: It's a hybrid in its form which is to say that every episode has a beginning, middle and an end. So you can ideally pop into the series midway through, get a sense of a clear story that is enjoyable in a narrative context but also for those fans following the show, they will also see that there is a larger story arc unraveled as the episodes continue. The bad guys of this world are of a variety that include what we call black science; in a classic science fiction context. Which is they take advantage of advanced technology for ill will. This organization... has been created to thwart that specifically. As often as not Jamie will go on a mission that is altogether her own. Where she's trying to investigate something that might reveal a mystery about her new way of being, her bionics, her life expectancy, whether or not she's going to be able to live a normal life and to what extent. So those stories will dovetail into those mission stories, and also even in those mission stories sometimes the organization will tell Jamie, "Here's your mission," and she'll say, "No."
Is there anything you could take from the original Bionic Woman series for this show?
Michelle Ryan: Well, apart from the two clips I remember seeing as a child I haven't really seen it but from what I can gather, it's a strong female character and that has this strength, I think that that's the theme of the original. I guess that's sort of what I can take from it, really.
David, what was the decision process behind the effects? Was there ever any talk of incorporating any of the slow motion effects or the sound from the original show?
David Eick: Sure, we talked about the slow motion thing in terms of what we didn't want to do. (Laughs) I think the goal is always, when you do a remake, to try and look for details to reinvent. Oftentimes the larger purpose or the larger scenes aren't that different, in that case evolved past where they were in the late 70s, by and large it's still about our female point of view. The perspective and action adventure drama, that aspect of it remains, but I think you're always looking for details to sort of spin in different ways. On Battlestar Galactica we got a kick out of the fact that we're keeping the spider pilot ships almost identical to what they were in the 1970s show, but making the Battlestar Galactica itself a complete departure. That kind of thing is fun to do. You pick places where you want to pay homage and where you want to really reinvent.
The Bionic Woman premieres Wednesday September 26 from 9-10pm ET on NBC.
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