Executive Producer Jennifer Levin Talks BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Mapping Out the Story, DNA’s Role in the Plot, Romance vs Action and Keeping Fans Happy

     April 18, 2013


Returning this week with only four new episodes until the season finale, The CW drama series Beauty and the Beast promises twists and turns, romance and big reveals, as the action and danger ramp up.  In “Heart of Darkness”, Evan (Max Brown) confesses his love to Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) and admits that he tipped off Muirfield to Vincent’s (Jay Ryan) whereabouts while Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) finds evidence that someone in the department is a mole who was working with the vigilante.

During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, executive producer/writer Jennifer Levin talked about how she originally came to this series, just how carefully things have been mapped out with the story, the fan outrage over the Vincent-Alex story, how they determined who would learn about Vincent, whether Evan will regret his decisions about Vincent, how much the mutating and changing DNA will play a part in the remaining story, continuing to balance the romance with the action, and leaving fans happy.  Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

beauty-and-the-beast-kristin-kreuk-jay-ryanCollider:  How did you originally come to Beauty and the Beast?  Was it an idea that was brought to you?  Did you have any hesitation about taking on a remake?

JENNIFER LEVIN:  CBS Studios brought us the title.  Mark Pedowitz at The CW really wanted to do a show with Beauty and the Beast, so they brought it to us.  We (Levin and producing partner Sherri Cooper) had worked with CBS before, and they said, “Do you want to do this?”  We thought about it.  We had never done genre stuff.  We had never done any mythology or anything.  But, we really liked the themes that Beauty and the Beast brought out.  So we said, “Okay, we’ll give,  it a shot!”  They didn’t have any preconceived ideas.  It didn’t have to be like another show.  It didn’t have to be about the fairy tale.  So, we wanted to do something really grounded and real.  They were also looking for more procedural shows, so that was going to be a version of a procedural show for them.  As you can tell, we’ve gone a different way from that.  As the season has progressed, we’ve moved away from those stand-alone episodes.

Was this a show that was very carefully mapped out, so that you knew when to ramp up the action or when you’d focus more on the love story, or has it just been a very organic process?

LEVIN:  We knew certain things were going to happen.  We knew we wanted to bring in an old love of Vincent’s to challenge them early on.  We knew that we wanted Tess to find out.  We knew certain things, but we certainly didn’t have it all mapped out.  We were figuring out who they were, as a couple, and exploring them, as a couple, so a lot of it was much more organic. 

Were you surprised by some of the fan outrage over the Vincent-Alex storyline and relationship, or did you expect that?

LEVIN:  Oh, we expected that.  It meant to us, “Oh, my god, they care about Vincent and Catherine!”  To us, it was a good thing.  It felt like a real, grounded problem.  It felt like this would really happen.  It also indicated that people really cared about them being together.  We totally understood it and almost predicted it, but we were happy about it.  It was way better than them being like, “Wait, we’d rather have him be with Alex.  She’s cool!”

beauty-and-the-beast-jay-ryanAt what point is it decided that someone new will learn about Vincent, and how many of those reveals were about necessity versus things that came up in the story?

LEVIN:  My husband worked on Alias.  With that show, it was really hard for them to keep that secret going with her roommates.  So, we talked early on about having this be about a girl in the city who’s in love with a beast, and that she might have a friend who knew.  It wasn’t about keeping it hidden all the time from everybody.  And Tess and Cat are so good together.  That one was one we wanted to do.  When it happened was out of necessity because we had a whole bunch of other stuff to get to.  And the Evan one just came organically.  It felt like he’s too smart not to figure it out and not to know.  The question was about figuring out his motivation, what the consequences would be and what action he would take.  But, it felt like he had to know.  We were also just excited about a scene with Evan and Vincent, which you will get, sooner rather than later.

Regardless of his motivations, Evan tells Muirfield where Vincent is.  What are the ramifications of that, and will he regret that decision?

LEVIN:  Yes, he does regret it, totally.  In the episode, he realizes that he might have been wrong about Vincent.  He did it for the right reasons and the wrong reasons.  He does genuinely believe that this vigilante is a force for ill, so he’s worried for Cat.  But of course, there’s also the aspect of jealousy because he’s in love with her.  But, he definitely does regret it. 

When you brought in Edi Gathegi to play a villain, did you really think about the level of villainy and how bad he would outwardly be?

LEVIN:  Always.  It’s about, “Is it a black villain?  Is it a white villain?  Is it a grey villain?  And with a grey villain, how do you make him bad, but good?”  We always want to find what the motivation is and why they’re doing what they’re doing, and not just have them be pure evil.

Will viewers start to get more answers about the mutating DNA by the end of this season, or is that a bigger story that you’re setting up to play out over a possible Season 2? 

LEVIN:  His mutating and changing DNA becomes a real story in this last bit of episodes.  It’s important now, and we do go to that.  That will be an issue for the two of them.  

beauty-and-the-beast-jay-ryan-kristin-kreukAs you ramp up the story and make the dangers more real, is it difficult to balance that out with the love story, or do you feel like the remaining episodes have a good balance of that?

LEVIN:  I think that they do.  We always go back to, “Okay, what if this were real life and he were just a regular guy?”  We do try to go back to what feels grounded and real to us.  In real life, it feels like your relationships are always an active part of it, particularly when you’re dealing with whatever the case is, whether it’s Tess finding out or whatever it is.  The only way it felt hard to balance was just in our time limitations.  We just have to work harder to keep it under 42 minutes. 

Do you think fans will ultimately be happy with the remaining episodes, or will they be left with a bittersweet feeling?

LEVIN:  They’ll be psyched!  We have an episode called “Date Night,” where Vincent and Cat get to go on a date that’s not in his apartment.  So, we’re trying to give fans as much as we can, given the limited number of episodes we have left, and I think they’ll be really happy. 

Beauty and the Beast airs on Thursday nights on The CW.

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