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21 May 2006 @ 04:00 pm
Frank Spotnitz Interview RE: The Upcoming DVD Release  
Wow Long time no post eh? I hope this place will be busy enough once Night Stalker comes out on DVD in just over a week!

But either way I wanted to post this interview with Frank Spotnitz to get this community active once again.

from dvd.monstersandcritic.com

With Night Stalker - The Complete Series making its way to DVD on May 30th, Frank Spotnitz, the developer, producer and a writer for the show, took time to discuss the upcoming release, and how the show was both similar and different from the original television hit.

Night Stalker delivers a fresh twist on the classic series by following Carl Kolchak - now played by Stuart Townsend who is a bit of a departure from Darren McGavin performance in the original show. Townsend’s Kolchak is an obsessive crime reporter who is searching for person or thing responsible for his wife’s murder.

Although Kolchak is accused of the crime, he is convinced it was committed by something much darker than a simple human being and he also discovers that his imagination is no match for the evil that lurks in the dark. Paired with skeptic reporter Perri Reed (Gabrielle Union), Kolchak stops at nothing to get his story and uncover the supernatural side of the night.

The DVD collects all six episodes that aired on television, and comes with four bonus episodes that never aired. Other special features include a “making of” look at the show; deleted scenes; audio commentaries, and a script printer (DVD ROM) for episodes that were never filmed.

Like Kolchak, Spotnitz knows a few things about the darker side of the night and the supernatural. He is an award-winning writer and producer whose credits include The X-Files, Millennium; Harsh Realm, and The Lone Gunmen. He was the co-author for the story of The X-Files: Fight the Future feature film in 1998. Spotnitz has won three Golden Globes for Best Dramatic Series, a Peabody Award, and three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Dramatic Series.

M&C: The original Night Stalker series and its TV movies has a huge “cult” following. What were some of your reasons for wanting to remake the classic Night Stalker series, and were you concerned about receiving criticism from fans of the original cult series?

Spotnitz: Doing a remake is always risky, but especially when the title is as beloved as “The Night Stalker” is to so many people - me included. I signed on to do it because of how much I old movies and especially Darren McGavin’s character.

M&C: What were some of the things you did to separate the new series from the past, and what were some of the things (if any) you kept in for fans of the old?

Spotnitz: It was only after I got into the development process that I began to see how many problems there were with doing this as a weekly TV series. Why did Kolchak, alone out of all reporters in this city, keep bumping into supernatural stories? Why didn’t even one of them make the newspaper? Why wouldn’t the police investigate what Kolchak was saying? And what was the larger “mythology” driving the series?

The answers I came up with led me to the conclusion that it was better to come up with an entirely new approach to the series, rather than trying to do a faithful revival of the old one. I knew that a lot of old “Night Stalker” fans would be put off at seeing a younger man fill Kolchak’s shoes. But I came to believe it was better to take a fresh approach, rather than trying to mimic McGavin’s Kolchak. After all, no one could hope to do Darren McGavin better than McGavin himself.

M&C: The new series seems to have a slicker feel to it (almost like a Michael Mann film) with its use of the L.A. skyline and night shots. What were some of the reasons that you moved in this direction, and how do you feel like this fresh look helped separate the two Night Stalker series? It is almost like you are making L.A. its own character in the show. Were there other steps taken to set the two series visually apart?

Spotnitz: That’s no coincidence. I got very excited about high-definition video cameras and location shooting when I worked with Michael Mann on “Robbery Homicide Division” for CBS a few years back. Not only are the images from these cameras visually stunning, but the detail they pick up at night makes you see the city in a new way. With a title like “Night Stalker,” it seemed the obvious choice to take advantage of what technology had to offer. I actually wrote the pilot – and the subsequent scripts – with high-definition video in mind. I felt they would help make everything feel more real, which would make the shows even scarier.

M&C: Thee narration and the team up of Stuart Townsend’s Carl Kolchak (a believer in the strange and unnatural) and Gabrielle Union’s Perri Reed (the skeptic) have shades of The X-Files. Was this something that was done on purpose or just something that seemed to naturally fit the look and feel that you were going for with the series?

Spotnitz: It was sort of unavoidable. Chris Carter put the believer/skeptic dynamic at the heart of “The X-Files” – it was what drove the entire series. I knew I needed a skeptic character to challenge Kolchak’s beliefs, but in this case I ended up creating three of them – not just Perri Reed, but to varying degrees also Jain McManus, the photographer, and Tony Vincenzo, his editor. That was certainly an important component of the show – a skeptic forces the believer to explain himself and make the fantastic seem credible – but the real heart of this series was the theme of good vs. evil. The question increasingly becomes whether Kolchak – a man suspected of murdering his own wife – can be trusted. That was why the pilot ended with the reveal that Kolchak had that strange mark on his wrist, and that was the direction we were clearly headed in at the end of the “Source/Sea” two-parter.

M&C: Like the visual look of the new Night Stalker, the main character Carl Kolchak seems different than the original series. Darren McGavin played the character as a mid-forties man that was more of an outsider and disheveled. Stuart Townsend’s take on the character seems younger, and in touch with his surroundings (even if he believes wild theories for every story). Was this an early decision to change some of the character and bring him more up to date, or was this something that Townsend did on his own to distance his performance from McGavin?

Spotnitz: I originally thought I was going to do a more faithful adaptation of the series, and would try to cast someone closer to McGavin’s Kolchak – say, Ted Danson or John C. Reilly. But I eventually came to believe it was a mistake to base this series on an older man whose best days were behind him. I really wanted a character with ambition - who could seem more physically vital and dangerous. Stuart’s charm and good looks played the double edge of this new Kolchak perfectly – sure, he’s likable, but is he a good man?

M&C: What were your reasons for casting Townsend in the Kolchak role? The actor is drastically different than McGavin and at times his performance seems to draw closer parallel to Fox Mulder from the X-Files. Were you concerned that Townsend wouldn’t be able to step out of McGavin’s shadow or that fans would continue to see the character as a version of Mulder?

Spotnitz: This Kolchak is really a very different character altogether from McGavin’s. I can see why, at first glance, people would compare Stuart’s Kolchak to Mulder, but as the series progressed, I think it became increasingly obvious how different they were. Kolchak is much more aloof and unreadable, and it would be hard imagining him having a relationship with Perri Reed like the one people wanted Mulder to have with Scully. I suspect that if the series had lasted longer, those “X-Files” comparisons would’ve faded away.

M&C: The series gets continually better as the DVD goes along, but came out amid several shows that were geared to supernatural or alien themes. Do you feel like Night Stalker would have been able to find its audience if it was given more time?

Spotnitz: You never know, but I would like to think we would’ve found and built an audience if we’d been given more time or promotion. I think this show had a very strong visual signature and a very clear -- and scary -- storytelling voice. I’d like to think this series will age well.

M&C: With the release of the DVD, is there any chance fans of the series might see it return to television – in either a new series or as television movies (which the original Night Stalker did after it was canceled)? Is this a project you would like to continue with or is finished in your eyes? Do you have any regrets with the series or anything that you would have changed?

Spotnitz: You never know… I would say the chances “Night Stalker” would come back are remote, but I would love to do it. I had a fantastic time working with these actors, and there are many more stories we could tell, if given the opportunity.

M&C: Finally, what can your fans expect from you next? Are there any new projects on the horizon that you can give us a hint of what is to come?

Spotnitz: Next up for me is a pilot for Spike TV called “Amped.” I’m continuing to develop new series for Touchstone Television and working on movie projects, so I will definitely stay busy.