Collider Goes to the Set of DEFYING GRAVITY Part 2

     August 25, 2009

Defying Gravity image (14).jpg

And now the conclusion (here’s part one)… As if it wasn’t all enough to impress, Julia appealed to my filmmaker soul and invited me back into the building that held the production offices but now into the warehouse part of it. There they were in the midst of filming and mist of a fog machine as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of coming from the beaming sunlight. They were filming one of the last scenes with Sturla Gunnarsoon (Rare Birds, Beowulf & Grendel) directing. It was the set of Major Tom’s (the name being a nod to a famous song): a bar where some of the flashbacks will apparently go to. You may think of this as minor but flashbacks will play an important part for this series as they run parallel to the present timeframe of the story. A lot of the crew of the Antares/main cast of the show was there. It took them the entire day to film from various angles what will probably be a minute of footage on television when it airs. I just loved it all. Read my report after the jump:

Defying Gravity image (12).jpgMy two interviews with Ron Livingston (Band Of Brothers) and Malik Yoba (New York Undercover) wouldn’t come until closer to the end of the day when that scene mentioned above wrapped up. Before that I spent the rest of my 8 hour day on-set watching the filming at Major Tom’s, scattered with two other interviews. These were with the show’s executive producers: James Parriott (Ugly Betty) and Michael Edelstein (Desperate Housewives).

Well, first came James Parriot in his office that hovered one floor higher than the rest of the production office. I had what turned out to be a thirty minute interview with the man and he didn’t disappoint (here’s the audio). The true length of it didn’t reveal itself until I reviewed the recordings back home. I wish I could have conversations everyday with people as eager about telling stories on the screen. I could certainly relate to his passion and admired what he had done as the creator and his views of where this show was coming from, what it was and what he was planning into the undeclared second and third seasons. I did get one spoiler that I just can’t release. I included that part of the interview in the published audio file but it’s severely cut and censored. For any person who loves hearing stories around a campfire, you’ll love the true story James told me about a call he got from an astronaut. I will say this: if James ever wants to make one of my dreams come true, he can call me from his office or set. That would basically be my equivalent of getting a call from an astronaut.

When he was finally available, the second coming arrived for me and I got to ask Michael Edelstein some questions in his office across from James’ with whom he worked with on Threat Matrix (here’s the audio). I had read once he dressed up like a squirrel on the set of Desperate Housewives. I was a little hurt he didn’t apparently think I was worth it. Then again he was just recovering from a stomach bug he recently had. As he ate in his office leaning back in his chair, he contained some great insight about producing the show with James’ vision. The true fascination Michael had in the project was evident. For someone that didn’t have anything to do with the writing itself, unlike James Parriot, he seemed to care a great deal more about the relationships and drama such as on Grey’s Anatomy which James worked on than exploiting the sci-fi landscape. He talked me through from the moment he found the 2004 docudrama “Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets,” and connected that with his space fanaticism. I also got a tidbit about when a big chunk of the mystery is unveiled in the first season; more specifically, around what episode number. Don’t hesitate, click for the audio file. I’ll wait. You’re back? Okay, let’s continue. Consequently when my questions were tapped out, I asked Michael Edelstein if I was the best interviewer he had come across. I figured it was my first ever set of interviews without many future opportunities on my horizon and with some of the most amazing people ever. So, why shouldn’t I have asked for the record? I knew he would rank me below the “best” but I personally just wanted to know how low he’d go.

Defying Gravity image (4).jpgI waited for Ron Livingston outside the trailers as he was busy speaking with a small group of people from Omni Film thanking him for his involvement. They took some pictures with him and he seemed so willing to do it near the end of an already long day. Talking to Ron Livingston (click here to listen to the audio) had the same aura as talking to an all-American hero after he invited me into his trailer. He was so gracious and I found him to be quite a sincere guy. He was an excellent host too actually offering me a seat and settling down his stereo system. Ron plays Maddux Donner, the flight engineer responsible for the spaceship. He’s intelligent and forceful but his emotional conflicts are quite deep. He’s from Iowa and now playing a space pilot, but only after having worked up the ladder from an office to being in World War II and then selling me on Sprint. Keep in mind, everything I just wrote after and including the part about Iowa was about Ron, not Maddux. See! …All-American hero. There’s something in the way he speaks that makes you think of someone that has seen action in his life. It was quite an honor to meet Ron and the things he had to say, especially how he dissected various science-fiction projects to compare them and just to hear about how he thought of it all. His research into the space program had been done before filming and he had the chance to witness a space launch. He admitted observing one may not have necessarily prepared him but anyone can admit it’s a nice perk. He noted how painstaking figuring the gravity-issue was and how it’ll probably be one of the things that will pay off the most. I got chills imagining the possibilities for a television show.

Defying Gravity image (7).jpgIt was in my last interview that I met Malik Yoba (click here to listen to the audio) in his trailer. As the Antares’ commander, Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba) harbors the mission’s secret goal and is responsible for his crew. Though a dedicated father and husband, Ted’s marriage is complicated by his attraction to another astronaut. Malik had been dying to talk to me all day, I heard. I had gotten nods for my Bluetooth microphone from James and Ron but I think Malik may actually remember me for introducing him to it. He was busy himself with his camera during the interview but nonetheless gave me a good idea of the actor he is, the role he plays and the man he is in real life. He had some insight into various topics and the vision that attracted him to the project. I also grew some new respect for him. I always considered him an often overlooked individual for many projects. Now I consider him an overlooked person. I think it’d be cool working with him. He mentioned that he chooses his roles carefully because they represent him as an individual and his faith. I felt that gave this show an impressive standard.

The pilot episode was still being edited and re-tuned at the time of my visit so I didn’t get a chance to watch it. I only read a half-page synopsis; poor me. From everything I read and otherwise saw, I am absolutely expecting one of the most exciting shows in a while. It has the quality and the quantity for large-scale entertainment. I’ve been promised drama, technology, scope, story, action and after talking to Malik and another cast member, Zahf Paroo (Battlestar Galactica) outside on the lot, you can throw away stereotypes and obvious storylines. This is meant to be more female-friendly than other sci-fi shows. The show may be taking baby-steps in not going where no one has gone before by staying in our solar system. Tet at the same time they’re still going where no real one has gone before. Most importantly for the producers and cast, they are going where no show has gone before and that’s the whole point for them.

Defying Gravity image.jpgNow normally in an article, you wouldn’t get details such as the name of a publicist but I wanted to take this opportunity to actually thank Julia Frittaion for her tour, conversations and helpfulness during the day. I also wanted to blast out my gratitude to Stephen Geaghan, James Parriott, Michael Edelstein, Ron Livingston and Malik Yoba in the order I interviewed them. I don’t want Malik feeling bad I interviewed him last. I’m sure he believes he’s always meant to go first. I say this jokingly, knowing he can take one.  In truth I wasn’t expecting to interview even half the people I did but it was all a delightfully appreciated surprise. I hung on to every word just wanting to know their thoughts. Nothing was disappointing. Everything was valued. I can say I met some of my heroes and some new ones. This personal perspective I’ve taken on this set visit may have turned into an anthology rather than an article but it all had to be said. All the talented I met probably forgot me or were just relieved the second I left the room. Nonetheless, I admire and respect this journey they’re launching.