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EXCLUSIVE: THE CROSSING Season 1: Post-Mortem Interview with Dan Dworkin and Jay Bettie Regarding What’s Next After That Shocking Surprise

THE CROSSING - ABC’s "The Crossing" stars Sandrine Holt as Emma, Steve Zahn as Jude and Natalie Martinez as Reece. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)THE CROSSING - ABC’s "The Crossing" stars Sandrine Holt as Emma, Steve Zahn as Jude and Natalie Martinez as Reece. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

Welcome back! It is great to see such inquisitive interest in what is quickly becoming one of this year’s most addictive new sci-fi series. In the after-math of the apparent killing of DHS Agent Emma Ren (Sandrine Holt) at the end of tonight’s episode, it became imperative to find out her fate as well as get answers to a few more burning questions about this turbulent season of ABC’s THE CROSSING. For surely, THE CROSSING would not have dared to kill off one of its lead characters so early in the season! In an exclusive interview, creators and executive producers Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie shared what is coming up this season on THE CROSSING.

You left us with kind of a big cliff hanger with Emma on the floor and she’s bleeding out. How quickly are we gonna find out if she survives in the next episode?
DAN: Well, you will have full clarity on that within the next three or four [episodes], actually.
JAY: Yes.
DAN: It’s funny how people have interpreted that ending. Some people think she’s dead, some people think there’s a chance she’s still alive, which is good. But her fate will become clearer.
JAY: We need to allow time for Jude, for instance, to try to figure out for himself what happened.

When having cast somebody like Sandrine Holt — I was a little startled to realize that you might have just killed her off in this episode. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I thought she was the female lead.” So I was like, “That’s a big move.”
DAN: It’s a double-edged sword. In one way, it’s great because you have a big, established actress like Sandrine, who’s great. And if you pull something like that, it’s very surprising. Not to compare ourselves to GAME OF THRONES, but in the Ned Stark model.

But then it’s also not so great because you’re minimizing your use of a great actress like Sandrine.
JAY: I think what GAME OF THRONES did was show that you could be successful at killing off your main character and the show will continue and the audience can move on and can accept it. It’s nice to have the opportunity. Where narratively, you might really need the plot to turn that way or to turn against a character, that studios and networks are able to embrace that. And so will audiences.

It catches you off guard because I thought we were easing into the water with the show and then that happened. You’re like, “Oh. Maybe they’re gonna take this that direction,” and that’s a very big step to take. Even as a fan getting introduced to new shows, you’re like, “Wow. Did they just kill that person? What’s going on?”
DAN: I think it’s a pretty decent rule to follow as writers to never have your audience be too comfortable or to be able to predict what’s coming down the pike. That’s certainly a goal of ours as writers.

That is a jaw-dropper. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out for the next couple episodes. How quickly are things gonna ramp up as far as other characters being in the line of jeopardy?
DAN: Shooting Emma Ren’s character, it’s kind of a shot across the bow. Obviously, there’s some dangerous elements in our show and so I think it’s keeping the audience on their toes to know that some people might not survive this season. There are real dangers in the world of our show. I think it’s important to show that that can happen.

You’re also kind of establishing that the first wave people, including Paul’s lost wife, might not be that welcoming, which is kind of startling. You would think they would have wanted the other refugees to join them and have laid the foundation for them to arrive.
DAN: What you will come to see in a little more detail, especially in the next episode, episode five, is a deeper exploration of just that first wave, the Sleepers is the easy label we have for them. And you’ll see, like any group, they have diverse opinions as to how the new arrivals should be treated. We’re going to drill down a little bit on what their agenda is and what that means for the future of the new refugees as well as the future of the world.

So we’re gonna find out what’s going on with Agent Lindauer (Jay Karnes) then? He’s still a big mystery.
DAN: Episode five will be a heavy Lindauer episode.

Had you watched any of Jay Karnes’s work in 12 MONKEYS before you cast him for this role?
DAN: No. I didn’t even know he was in 12 MONKEYS. Quite honestly, I know him from THE SHIELD. I know him as Dutch. That’s where I first bonded through my television with Jay Karnes. Had you ever seen it?
JAY: No, I hadn’t. I didn’t know either. It was brought to my attention, but I hadn’t seen it.
DAN: I didn’t know until very late in the game. And now I don’t wanna even watch it because I’m afraid it’s a little too close to what we’re doing maybe

It’s not even close. You’d be fine. But when you get a chance at some point, it’s definitely worth watching to see his performance. A lot of fun.
DAN: Yeah, he’s awesome. All of the actors — we have an ongoing love affair with our entire cast — we love them all. But Jay is truly great. He’s a great guy. He’s very smart. Love him.

You’re never quite sure about Jay’s characters because he has one of those innocent faces. He could play the good guy, the hero, or he could play the deep, dark villain. It’s hard to anticipate when you see him on screen.
DAN: Yeah, it’s funny. Everybody has a different read on him as an actor. When we were casting him, I remember, we were talking about THE SHIELD. I remember, we were in Jason’s [Reed] office, our executive producer. And I remember going, “What about Dutch? What about Dutch for this role?” And people liked the idea, generally. When we were talking to our casting director and stuff, she initially kind of balked at that idea because she’s like, “No no no no, because he’s immediately a little bit too smarmy.” And I was like, ”Really? I don’t get that at all off of Jay Karnes. I feel like he can be actually very sweet.” So people have a different reads on him, which I think is a good thing.

That’s true of some of your other casting as well. Natalie Martinez and Georgina Haig both played sci-fi heroes and villains in different shows. So it’s interesting you picked these dualities of actors to portray such interesting roles on your show as well.
DAN: Again, with those two, similar to Jay, we weren’t familiar with Georgina or Natalie’s work in other sci-fi. We were familiar with Natalie — we worked with her briefly on one episode of the show Jay and I did a few years ago called MATADOR, and she was great. Then we’d seen her on a show she did called KINGDOM, which was about MMA fighters, where she was great. And then, Georgina was someone who I wasn’t even familiar with. Someone else brought her up.
JAY: I think we had both watched FRINGE, but she appeared in a later season that I don’t think we realized.
DAN: I watched a little bit of FRINGE, but not a lot. She was not someone that we knew was even in it. Similar to Jay Karnes, I guess. That was a surprise to us that she had been a pivotal sci-fi character before. But it’s nice that these actors have all played different roles, villains and heroes and regular people alike. I think we always like to explore long arcs with our characters. They may start out good people and they may turn bad and they may be redeemed in the end. You want the freedom to be able to explore that with your actors. So it’s nice.

Sophie’s (Georgina Haig) gonna obviously play another pivotal role, as we saw her paired up with Reece at the very end. So where’s that journey gonna take them?
JAY: I don’t want to get too much into it, for fear of spoiling stuff, but we can say that Sophie obviously, at this stage, is keenly interested in Reece, not only for her ability to heal Leah, but we will find out, for her ability to heal more than just Leah. What Reece represents as a potential curer to the many things that ail humanity. So that’s gonna inform the journey that Sophie’s going to take. It’s gonna give her a lot of drive in the series.

Another character you’re building up is another female character who we’re not quite sure if she’s a villain or a hero at this point is Hannah (Kelley Missal). She seems so innocent but at the same time, as we learned in this particular episode, she’s not that innocent. She was a collaborator. So how is her journey gonna develop?
JAY: You’ll find out more about what happened to her as a collaborator. I think she, in spite of having a little bit of a checkered past, has come here looking to start over and to leave that behind. Obviously, that’s complicated greatly by Luke threatening to expose her, who she is. All that will be brought to light and we’ll see whether or not the refugees can accept who she is in this new place or if they’re gonna carry a grudge about the role she might have played as a collaborator in the future.
DAN: I remember very early on, we were discussing with the other writers, we obviously wanted something exploitable to be in Hannah’s past and we weren’t quite sure what we wanted it to be. One of the writers came up with the idea of collaborator and we immediately seized on that, just because it’s so loaded. If you are a collaborator … I thought of the Middle East. I remembered hearing reports of like Hamas executing people publicly for their purported collaboration with Israel. And that’s brutal. So that informs how a population can turn against their own if they are suspected of collaborating with the enemy. At the same time, if you’re in war and you will do anything to survive, to protect yourself, to protect your family, can you really be judged for that? If because of that, that leads you to collaborate. What would you do? You have to put yourself in that person’s place. So it raises all these interesting questions.

What’s next for Jude and Reece? Is the friendship over? Is the collaboration between them, working and aiding each other, over? Or have they gotten past that after this episode, when their kids are finally returned?
JAY: Their relationship will continue to evolve in unexpected ways. The idea is, they’re always going to be kind of separated then and always be drawn back together. That’s what we set up in the pilot and I think they’ll never be too far apart from one another. The way they feel about each is going to continue to evolve with the circumstances that we present in the show. Again, that’s speaking in hugely vague terms, I know, but we don’t want to spoil anything. But there’s interesting stuff that will happen between them, for sure.

This particular episode actually was what I call a “love letter” to parenthood. It showed the lengths that both Jude and Reece would go to protect their kids. But the surprising take on it was just showing that the moments of levity and lightness, like the fishing scene or the scene where Jude speaks with his son at the end and they’re disputing whether or not Reece would be girlfriend material, those things just brought a lightness and a fun-ness to a very harrowing situation, actually.
DAN: We definitely feel like it’s important to inject levity an humor into stuff like that. It helps inject a human element. In the case of the Reece story specifically and, in episode four, it helped to give her layers beyond just Apex-kidnapper character. It showed you that she didn’t really want to hurt this kid and that she actually was able to bond with him to some degree and that’s reflective, maybe, of the relationship that she has with her own daughter.

Tonally, it was interesting for a thriller science fiction show. Is that something we can expect more of, to see more of that kind of pause in the dramatics, just for those moments of lightness?
JAY: Oh, for sure. I think humor is very effective, especially in our show, which has such large sci-fi concepts, to ground things. Some of those sci-fi concepts can take your show into the realm of fantasy. We always want to bring it back to the human element so that people feel like everything’s truly possible in our world.
DAN: A consistent kind of humor layer will be due to Jude and Nestor (Rick Gomez), obviously. They’re not a comedy duo or anything, but they do have that relationship and that banter where you can’t help but kind of smile when watching them. And you have actors like those guys and it would be kind of dumb not to lean in that direction sometimes, when you’ve got Steve Zahn and Rick Gomez. They’re really good at that. There’s a sweetness about them, so why not lean into that every once in a while.

We haven’t quite seen Jude’s son interact with Leah at all. Is that something we might see this season?
JAY: I guess you could say you might, but you might not. I would say: you might not. Obviously, we have a pretty enormous cast and a lot of stories going on. In an effort to not spread ourselves too thin, there’s only so many relationships we can really feature during the course of Season 1. So that might need to wait until Season 2.

What would you like to tease about what’s coming up this season that fans can anticipate?
DAN: That’s always a tough one. You’re gonna spoil your show a little bit if you’re not careful. I will just say: “Hold on.” Because when we get into this last two thirds of the season or so, things start to evolve in ways that I don’t think much of the audience is going to expect or see coming. So I would just say, it ramps up to a very interesting, dynamic place and these characters. If you’re into the characters, just wait and see where they go.

To see the ultimate fate of Agent Run and how Jude and Reece find a way to keep working together, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of THE CROSSING on Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

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