One of the highlights of our trip to Comic Con in San Diego was getting to sit down with the cast and producers of “Jericho”. We were able to throw out a bunch of questions on the upcoming season and they delivered with a ton of answers. The interview consisted of series stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James and Ashley Scott. Also on hand were Executive Producer Carol Barbee, Co-Executive Producer Karim Zriek, Co-Executive Producer Dan Shotz and Co-Creator and Producer Jonathan Steinberg.
Carol Barbee : “We started shooting last week.”
Q: Is the whole seven episode arc written out?
Jonathan Steinberg : “The arc is about halfway through script wise. The new season has an ending of sorts at the end of the seventh episode.”
Carol Barbee : “Through episode seven there is an ending but it’s an ending that takes you to the next level and you’ll see what the next phase will be. We wanted to give the fans an ending at the end of seven that was satisfying but also takes you to the next level.”
Jonathan Steinberg: “It is a full story but not the whole story.”
Q: When did you first hear about the efforts to keep the show alive?
Carol Barbee : “Sean Daily, the guy who does the radio show actually started the nut campaign the Friday before they canceled us. He was doing it to say don’t cancel “Jericho” and so it started before and when they made the announcement that’s when it really happened in earnest. But we knew about it to begin with before we were ever canceled and then it just snowballed after that.”
Q: Did you feel like the nut campaign would make a difference? Or did you think it was a futile effort and maybe you should just start packing up your office?
Carol Barbee : “I think it made us feel better. So it felt good, but no I didn’t think it would get us renewed. Three days into it I got an email from Nina Tassler and she said we needed to figure out what we can do to make the fans happy so I knew something ‘more’ was going to happen but that remained to be worked out. We didn’t want to do a two-hour movie and I didn’t know we would get renewed, but I knew something more would come out of this.”
Q: What was different with this protest?
Karim Zriek : “We never felt there was closure to our show from final day of production and throughout editing. Soon as the protest started we felt the way it was organized and the way it was run it sort of differentiated itself from all the other protests we had seen or heard of. The CBS executives continued to call Carol, Dan and I and sort of fill us in on ‘you know what, it’s working we’re talking about it’ but it took a while, like three or four weeks trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Was it a miniseries? 5 episodes? 6 episodes? and finally they came to us and said 7 episodes and we jumped at it. “
Carol Barbee : “Plus, we were on for one year. CBS was very happy with us creatively by the end of the year and they were happy with what we were going to do the second year. I think it just came down to an old way of looking at numbers so I think everyone felt we had not told our whole story. We had not run our course and we hadn’t completely found our audience that was out there for us yet.”
Q: Has CBS given you any kind of expectations for ratings?
Dan Shotz : “It’s hard to tell because we don’t know when we will be on and obviously ratings differ from night to night.”
Q: Is it mid-season for sure? What if something in the fall gets canceled?
Carol Barbee : “If something comes off the schedule we hope to go in.”
What role do you feel the Internet had in mobilizing the save “Jericho” campaign?
Jonathan Steinberg : “It was two things. it gave them a really good argument. Five years ago if you didn’t have the ratings you didn’t have the ratings and there wasn’t really much you could argue. Now they had a very good argument. People watch online and on iTunes. On top of that of course the Internet helps them to organize. Within 24 hours of us being cancelled they were full speed. They organized faster than people who get paid to organize that quickly can do. I don’t think you could have done this 10 years ago.”
Q: Is CBS going to look at this and say we might not look at the ratings or the demo as much and instead look at the full picture and look at DVD sales, online viewing?
Carol Barbee : “I hope that’s true.”
Karim Zriek : “I think they will take that into consideration, but the networks are all still going by the Nielsen Ratings so that’s why you’ll see Nina Tassler say ‘we need to get more people to the tube for this 7 episodes’. There pushing for more people to come to the TV but will take the online viewing into consideration. “
Lennie James : “I don’t necessarily think the networks are going to be in charge of this because the fact of the matter is people are going to be watching their television more and more on demand. They are going to choose when they are going to watch it and what they are going to watch and it’s up to the networks to catch up with the viewers. It’s not up to the viewers to catch up with the networks. The water cooler moments are going to be huge life events and events you literally cannot miss the night it goes on. Everything else more and more people are going to choose their own way of watching and the networks are going to have to figure out a way to count it.”
Q: What are we going to miss out on in a shortended season?
Jonathan Steinberg : “Not much. It’s pretty chocked full.”
Carol Barbee : “What we did was pitch the story of season two that took place from three different points of views. What we are doing is telling the “Jericho” portion of that and just telling it in 7 episodes. If we get more episodes we’ll go to the next story. We have other stories we want to tell but right now those are for season three.”
Q: Will there be more web content during the hiatus?
Karim Zriek : “Definelty, doing new things for Internet content. We have a new messgaeboard that went up on Saturday as much as cbs.com will allow us to do and they’ve been great with us and working with us. We know that until we are on the air we have to provide content and the best way for us to do that is through cbs.com because that was our home base during this whole process. Comic Con helps hugely. “
Carol Barbee: “One thing they are doing this time that they didn’t do last time when we were on hiatus is they are re-running us on television and they are advertising us on television. When we premiere we have to hit it from two different places, the Internet and traditional tv.”
Dan Shotz : “One feature the fans have been going crazy over is the new “Jericho” production blog. Over on cbs.com we are blogging every day to the fans with different people from the crew, different actors sort of telling the fans what’s going on, what our days are like and the fans are going…… NUTS.”
Q: How as actors did the fan support for the show feel?
Ashley Scott : “Amazing! I’ve been doing TV for 7 years now and the whole roller coaster was sad. You work with these people for a year that you fell in love with and you fall in love with the show and then it’s taken away from you and in a way that there is no ending. To have these people kind of stand up and see the faces behind the force of what we are doing is really amazing. It’s incredible, I’m so proud of people putting themselves out there and shocked.”
Lennie James : “There’s no other way of describing it other than incredible. It was truly an incredible thing and no one knew it was going to happen and no one knew to a certain extent even though we were doing all the things Karim was saying about the Internet we didn’t know because there is no way of measuring it and no way of getting the feedback from it. Just the effect the show was having across the Internet and that people were talking to each other kind of internationally and the effect the show was having not just in America but around the world. And all of those people at the end of this kind of took us by surprise with their passion for the show, but also took themselves by surprise as people kept joining the fight. There’s a point where you say it’s losing steam but then a whole new bunch of people joined the fight. People ask us if we are proud if we won the battle and to a certain extent we had nothing to do with bringing “Jericho” back. Nobody here had anything to do with bringing “Jericho” back.”
Ashley Scott : ” I bought nuts.”
Skeet Ulrich : ” I bought nuts.”
Lennie James : “I know we all bought nuts and that was great, but beyond the nuts it was the fans of this show that brought this show back and that’s an incredible testament to the show. I am incredibly proud to be a part of a show that the fans stood up for and humbled by their love of the show.”
Skeet Ulrich : “It was incredible. Certainly I think Lennie is right, it’s very humbling and it does put a face on what we do. I’ve always been proud of the show; for the simple fact that when people talk about “Jericho” they talk about issues so much larger than the show. About different cultures, politics and their beliefs and I think that is part of what has driven this ‘fandom’. For whatever reason we have been able to cross cultures and reach people in a way that obviously has been enough to affect us sitting here and it’s an incredible experience. I honestly didn’t think it would amount to us coming back because you hear about it all the time with different shows and people fighting for a show and to actually see it effect a networks decision making process is mind-boggling. I will never forget that phone call.”
Q: Robert and Jake seem to have formed a bond but are they also watching each other?
Skeet Ulrich : “Yeah, I think there is a bond and they are definitely watching each other. We see that early on in the first scene we shot coming back. There is still a mistrust and yes it’s a unique bond and I think we all have a different bond after shooting at your neighbors and being in the trenches. I think all the relationships are a bit heightened given what happened.”
Q: Is Jake the “man” in town now?
Skeet Ulrich : “I don’t want to give to much away but by leading the fight on the battle field I think there is a certain amount of expectation for Jake. Whether he can rise up to them is left to be seen. But yes, the attempt is there.”
Q: Is there going to be the super conspiracy mythology or more of the character driven storylines?
Carol Barbee : “Both. With a focused story it really comes down to scenes between Jake and Hawkins and the bigger mythology. They have a mission that has to do with the bigger mythology but it’s taking place in town so you get both.”
Lennie James : “Also, in the journey of the bond between Jake and Hawkins their new mission is very much about the larger mythology but on their journey it’s about two guys who have this forced trust for each other. In all the adventures they have had before they don’t really know each other. They haven’t shared anything other than I have to get this job done and over the course of the new mission part of the journey is about these two guys investing in each other and that being seriously challenged in the final episodes.”
Q: Anything going to develop between Jake and Emily?
Skeet Ulrich : “Yes, certainly. As I said all the relationships become a bit more heightened and certainly that one is a bit more charged and does develop further.. a lot further.”
Q: Is the whole cast back?
Carol Barbee : “Yes, everyone is back but Gerald McRaney.”
Q : Is Jake’s past in San Diego going to come back into play?
Jonathan Steinberg : “Further back.”
Carol Barbee : “You hear a lot about where he was and what drives him.”
Jonathan Steinberg : “You saw pieces in season one. It will be further back into his experience working with contractors in Iraq.”
Jonathan Steinberg : “No, a little bit more immediate than that.”
Carol Barbee : “Actual people.”
Q : Can you give us any spoilers?
Skeet Ulrich : “No, we can’t give out any spoilers.”
Jonathan Steinberg : ” There is a lot to give away. Let’s put it that way. We took 22 episodes worth of mythology and big story about the world and the government and crammed it into 7 episodes in a way that I think is pretty organic. The end of this season these people will be in a far different place then they are today.”
Q : What can you tell us about Esai Morales?
Carol Barbee : “He plays Major Beck. He comes in as the face of the Cheyenne Government. At the end of episode 22 there is a new government that has formed in Cheyenne, Wyoming and they are combing through the western part of the country bringing stability and keeping the roads safe. Esai Morales comes to town and he is the head of that force in Jericho and he’s in charge of bringing peace and stability, but it’s not easy because the fights between New Bern and Jericho aren’t over.”
Q : Is Easi Morales a “good guy”?
Jonathan Steinberg : “ummmmmm, he’s a good man. Also, he’s in a charge of hunting Hawkins and the hunt for the bomb. A lot of the backbone of this season is the hunt for Hawkins and the bomb. “
Q: Are there going to be any other merchandising opportunities for Jericho?
Carol Barbee : “Yes, we are talking with CBS about a graphic novel, video games and action figures but the graphic novel seems like the first thing we would do. We are thinking of focusing on a certain character that comes into this season but that deal has not been worked out yet.”
Q : Are we going to get to see Heather in season two?
Carol Barbee : “YES! She is back. Lots of Heather.”