The fifth and final season of the popular series Eureka, currently airing on Monday nights on Syfy, kicked off by letting viewers know where the missing Astraeus and her flight crew has been and reinforcing the fact that things are rarely ever quite what they seem in this small, quirky town. After premiering as Syfy’s most popular scripted series in 2006, it has gone on to generate numerous accolades and a devoted following that loves the secret community of geniuses who conduct top-secret research in a place where anything imaginable can happen. The series stars Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Allison Blake), Joe Morton (Henry Deacon), Erica Cerra (Jo Lupo), Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo) and Niall Matter (Zane Donovan).
While at the recent NBC Universal summer press day, the show’s co-creator/executive producer/writer Jaime Paglia talked to Collider for this exclusive interview about how he feels the final season turned out, the decision to make his directorial debut, his favorite episodes from the entire series run, the musical episode he wishes he would have had time for, what the last day on set was like, the mementos he got to take home with him, how grateful he’s been for the fans, and the possibility of a two-hour movie or spin-off. He also talked about the half a dozen different projects he’s currently developing with different production companies and partners, the feature film work he’s hoping to do, and how he’d like to try directing again. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
JAIME PAGLIA: I’m so grateful for the experience. It’s been an amazing privilege to get to do this. To have the support from the fan base and reporters like you, who really embraced the show, it’s really such a unique experience. It’s surreal, when you start off with an idea over lunch, and then it blossoms and, all of a sudden, you’ve got millions of people who are invested in these characters that you were just thinking up, in your head. Having come from the feature word and sold a number of projects and getting to work with great people at studios where they didn’t get made yet, and they keep on threatening to make them, every once in awhile, this is my first foray into television. To have the first project that you decided you wanted to try to do, actually go forward, I know is a very rare luxury. I think there was a lot of serendipity involved.
The good news about this last season is that it’s our strongest season yet. I think that we’re really able to go out on a high note. Even though there had been a planned Season 6 that we didn’t end up doing, the network was gracious enough to give us one more episode to try to wrap things up. There were pretty insane time constraints on that, but I have an amazing creative team, with my partner and co-showrunner, Bruce Miller, Todd Sharp and Matt Hastings, who directed it, and the incredible writing stuff, just pulled together and said, “Okay, this is where we are now, and this is where we want to be. How do we get from here to there in 42 minutes? This is what we have left to tell, so let’s figure it out.” We didn’t stay up all night. We didn’t pull multiple all-nighters. I had a couple late nights writing. But, we broke that story in two days and I wrote it in three, and it was a really celebratory shoot, on those couple of weeks of our time together. I’m very gratified by the experience.
Was there a point where you realized that this was a show that you really could do anything with?
PAGLIA: I think, really, from the beginning we did. The beauty of the sci-fi genre is that it does allow you to pretty much do anything. The line that we never wanted to cross was science fiction and magic. We wanted to stay on the science fiction side of things. Everything we did, thanks to our great science advisor, we vetted and tried to make sure it was at least theoretically possible. Even if you’re pushing boundaries occasionally because you really have a great story that you want to tell, you don’t cross that line for the audience where they say, “Well, that can’t happen.” Then, they’re no longer in your world, invested in those characters. That ruins the experience for them. So, we tried to make sure that we didn’t do that. When you have a premise that basically, for us, was really always a character dramedy first, approaching every story was always about, “How would this story work, if you didn’t have any of the science fiction? On a character level, what’s happening with our characters that we’re invested with enough, so that if we didn’t have the science fiction tool at our disposal, we’d still want to watch this episode?” And then, the sci-fi just becomes the catalyst for what’s happening with those characters. Obviously, there are growing pains along the way, but it really was an amazing thing to have that giant toy box to play in.
PAGLIA: I can’t say that, when we started the show, that was my first aspiration. That was actually something that my co-creator, Andrew Cosby, was more focused on. When he left, after Season 1, it was more to pursue that, in his career. For me, I always have enjoyed that part of the process and wanted to do it, but the demands of my full-time job really didn’t allow for it. This last season, it was a testament to my partners that I make the show with – Bruce Miller, Todd Sharp, Matt Hastings, Robert Petrovicz, and our writing staff and crew. We were able to get far enough ahead on scripts to have the operation be so smooth that we could finally plan for it. I was going to do it last season, but we got just a little bit behind. We waited too long. If I had done it earlier in the season, it would have been fine. But, I could see that, towards the end, it was going to cause an issue. I either had the opportunity to direct an episode or write the finale, and I wanted to write the finale.
This year, I got to do both. I got to write and direct an episode. When you write it and direct it, it’s a whole different thing. When you’re writing, there’s a point where you have to give it up to the director who’s coming in. Even if you’re the show creator and executive producer, and you have a great director that’s checking with you between shots to see if there’s anything you want him to do differently, it’s a different thing, when it’s your vision from the beginning. In one of the first prep meetings, for the episode that I directed – which I had sat in dozens of times for all of our other directors – and there’s that point where you ask the director, “What are you planning for this? What do you need? What cameras do you want to use? What lenses? What equipment? How do you want to design this particular set?” All of a sudden, everybody was just looking at me, and I was like, “Oh, right, that’s my job now!”
Honestly, I was so wanting to make sure that it went smoothly that I was completely over-prepared, in some ways. I talked to a lot of our directors, especially Matt Hastings, and got all of their war stories and how they approached things, and stole a lot of ideas and good tips from them, so that when I went in to do it, it was the most natural thing I’ve ever actually done on the show. It just felt absolutely enjoyable and smooth, and it was great working with our cast. They were amazing. And, our crew was supportive and made sure that we moved fast and on budget. We actually came in a couple hundred thousand under budget, on that episode. We managed to make it work. I was grateful for the opportunity. The network and the studio were supportive, and I definitely appreciated that.
PAGLIA: Yeah. I was going to direct more in Season 6. That’s one thing I’m sad about. Especially after the first experience, I was really looking forward to getting back into the director’s chair, on this show. But, I’ll definitely do it more on my next shows. I got that experience and feel very confident to be able to go into any other show and do it again. Nothing blew up, and I actually got it in on time and under budget. Colin [Ferguson] has been very gracious about it, too. He’s been saying that it’s his favorite episode of the season. I really do like it. I think it’s going to be one that the fans will remember. It’s very, very funny, and that’s a testament to the cast.
Do you have a favorite episode from the entire series?
PAGLIA: My favorite episode from Season 1 would be “Once in a Lifetime,” our finale. That was really where we hit our stride. As a writer, finding the balance between the real character drama and emotion and real honest stakes that had you crying, and the humor where you could laugh through those tears, became a benchmark going forward. I’ve gotten to write some amazing episodes. Conceptually, I really liked “Noche de Suenos.” I really liked Colin’s directorial debut, “Your Face or Mine?” I tend to like the smaller, more character-driven episodes. “Games People Play” was one that I really loved. And then, in these last couple of seasons, I think that “Liftoff,” that Bruce Miller wrote, was terrific. I had such a great time writing and making “Founder’s Day,” from the beginning of Season 4. And then, my favorite episodes right now are the ones to come. A couple more of them are going to be fan favorites. From this coming season, I think there’s “Jack of All Trades,” the one that I directed, and “Smarter Carter,” which is just hilarious, and the episode that Colin directed. They’re terrific, and really fun.
PAGLIA: I really wanted to write the musical episode. I got to do the animated episode for Christmas, and that was an enormous joy and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, just to get that delivered in time. But, I really wanted to do the musical episode, and we were going to try to do it this last season, but timing wise, you have to have extra prep time for choreography and all of the composing of the songs. Since I didn’t get to do that, Bear McCreary and I wrote a song for the finale, that seems fitting. I got to exercise that, just a little bit.
There’s been talk of possibly doing a 2-hour movie or maybe even a spin-off. Is that something that really could happen, or that you’d like to see happen, at some point?
PAGLIA: I think it could. Right now, there are no hard plans to do it. We had some serious talks about it, as we were coming toward the end. But, some of the other projects that I’ve been working on got picked up and are starting to move forward, and I just felt like there should at least be a little breather after this, so you don’t end up feeling like, “Oh, I still miss those other guys,” if you’re doing a spin-off series. If you’re going to do that, you want it to turn out to be Frasier from Cheers, instead of Joey from Friends. You don’t want people to end up missing the original. So, I think that, if the opportunity came around to do a feature, either for the channel or in its own right, in some way, that would be great fun to do with everybody again, but it’s not going to be happening immediately.
PAGLIA: Both. One of the things that has been great about writing the show is that you’re writing everything. We do the longer arcs, it’s a character drama, there’s a little soap opera aspect to those storylines, there’s a lot of humor to the show, and there are big visual effects and big action sequences occasionally, so I feel like I’m prepared to do anything. The shows that I love, like Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy, are different, but they’re fantastic. I’d love to write those. They’re great shows. One of the other shows that I’ve been developing is much more on the dramatic side of the spectrum. It’s much darker and more on The Walking Dead side of things, in terms of tone, than Eureka. It takes a different kind of energy to write that stuff, all the time, and I can’t help but crack jokes occasionally. If I can’t have a witty comeback, here and there, I tend to miss that a bit. So, I have a feeling that, even if it gets dark, there’s always going to be an undercurrent of dry humor to it. I’ve got about half a dozen things that I’m developing now with different production companies and partners. I’m working on some things with my producing partner, James Middleton, who developed The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the last couple of Terminator movies. He’s brilliant, and we’ve got some things that we’re working on that cover the range of that spectrum. It will be interesting to see which one of them ends up going first.
Are you looking to stay on cable?
PAGLIA: Not at all. I think that there are phenomenal shows being made on network and on the cable channels. I’ve got some things that I would love to do at HBO or Showtime. I’ve got some things that would be perfect for Fox or NBC. And then, there are some things that are more suited to a sci-fi channel outlet. Half of it is luck and timing. That’s why it’s always important to have lots of things that are in the works. You just never know which one is going to go forward. Separate from the pilots and creating new series, or executive producing and shepherding other writers, is the potential to actually go in and consult on a show that I love or run another show that’s going to pilot, that they need to have someone come in and run. There are opportunities that are available now that weren’t when I was doing this show. It’s exciting to have those possibilities. So, I’m basically having lots of meetings and I’m writing and I’m waiting to see what happens.
Are you also working on any features?
What was the last day on the set of Eureka like? Was it more difficult than you expected, or was it happier than you expected it to be?
PAGLIA: It was actually a little happier than I expected it to be, but there were definitely a lot of tears. Jordan Hinson (who plays Zoe Carter) comes back. After each actor finishes, you wrap that actor. On a single episode, you say, “That’s a wrap,” on that actor. This was the first time that we had done, “That’s a series wrap.” When Jordan was wrapped, she was really emotional. When we cast her, I think she was 13, just turning 14. She was just a child, and she grew up on this show. There was something about seeing her emotional reaction to it that got everybody very teary-eyed. But, it was really celebratory. I was there until the bitter end. I think we wrapped at 3:30 in the morning. I walked all of our sets and said goodbye. We had this amazing cast and crew where I knew everybody by name and had a relationship with all of them, and I got a chance to celebrate with them. We hoisted many drinks and toasted and said, “Well done!”
It’s something to be proud of. Not a lot of shows get to go seven years. It’s five seasons officially, but after you split Seasons 3 and 4 in half, it’s seven years on the air. Especially with as much content as there is now, and with as many outlets that are creating shows, it’s not as often that shows get to go beyond three or four seasons, if you get past a pilot or even a first season. I know that this was a unique experience. I’ve always knows that. I really honestly never took it for granted. It’s always been such a pleasure to go to work, and we had a group of people that felt the same way. It’s not a job. It really is a privilege. We’d do it for fun, if somebody gave us the opportunity, so the fact that we get paid to do it is just an amazing bonus.
PAGLIA: I got a couple of little mementos. I got Carter’s baseball bat from the mantle. I got the sign for Eureka Support Command from “Founder’s Day.” The studio and my producer sent me a couple special things for my directorial debut. Everybody was very, very generous and thoughtful.
Is there a gadget or piece of technology from Eureka that you wish you could have for yourself, in real life?
PAGLIA: The teleporter, even though it’s completely not safe, at this point. We’ve pretty much established that it doesn’t work very reliably. If I could avoid having to get on the 405 or an airplane ever again, and I could just be someplace, I’d do it in a second.
This show had great ratings for Syfy, but that’s much less of a tangible thing then getting to directly interact with fans at Comic-Con. What has that experience been like?
PAGLIA: It’s the best. It really is. Our first time at Comic-Con, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t been down there before. You’re taken over in a limo and you come out in the back area for the artist’s entrance and you go through the tunnels and there’s a phalanx of security guards around you, and you’re like, “They’re actually here for us?” You go in through the back door, so you don’t get a chance to see everybody until you’re stepping onto the stage, and then there’s thousands of people losing their minds and flash bulbs. It’s completely surreal. We’re just so grateful that the fans care enough to actually come and be a part of that, and ask us questions and follow the show and be invested in the characters. There’s really nothing that I’ve enjoyed more, except for the experience of working with our cast and crew. Going to the conventions and getting the chance to talk to fans is an amazing privilege. It takes awhile before you realized, “Wait a second, I’m getting messages from people in Australia, the U.K., India and Japan. People around the world are actually invested in this.” And then, you get to be in the same room with a concentrated number of them, and you just want to say, “Thanks.” I love it! We’re going to be going to a couple more conventions, and I would love to go back to San Diego again for Comic-Con this year.
Eureka airs on Monday nights on Syfy.