Over the last couple of years, The CW has had a tremendous success rate with their pilots. Last year, The CW gave renewals to every single show on their slate. This means a lot less room for new pilots this fall, especially when you consider Supergirl‘s move from CBS taking one of the slots. In addition to the quirky romance No Tomorrow, The CW has brought together Executive Producers Jeremy Carver (Supernatural) and Jennifer Gwartz (Forever) for Frequency, an adaptation of the 2000 feature film starring Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, a ham radio and time travel.
During this summer’s Comic-Con, the cast and crew of Frequency got together to discuss the adaptation process, how they got involved with the project, and what they love about the show.
Why did you change the father/son relationship in the movie to a father/daughter relationship in the show?
Jeremy Carver (EP): We actually did one version of this where it was father and son. The CW asked: is there anything you would change? I wanted to change it to a father/daughter. For me that was the biggest challenge as a writer and I felt it offered the most dynamic relationship possible. Everyone has this idea of Daddy’s Little Girl, that cliche, and what I love about this show is you can see she’s anything but. The idea that she’s the same age as her Dad adds a real…dynamism? Dynamism? Yeah. We’re doing it. I’ve already said it. It’s out there.
What other changes have you made from the movie?
Carver: The TV show characters are different than their movie counterparts. In the most basic sense, the father character isn’t quite as straitlaced and choir boy as he is in the movie. There’s a lot of mystery to this guy. What was the son character and Raimy’s character (Mad Men‘s Peyton List), she doesn’t quite worship her father in the same way that the son did in the movie. She stands on her own two feet. This is an ever-changing family dynamic. To me that was a wonderful thing to explore week to week. These two, because of the circumstances at the end of the pilot, are forced to work with one another in what would ordinarily be a wish fulfillment scenario: you get reconnected and save the life of your father. But there’s a lot of crap they have to work out with each other. I like that. It doesn’t immediately turn into a buddy-cop show. It’s a very blue collar approach to genre, family and crime that has been pretty exciting in the writer’s room.
What’s it like playing yourself twenty years in the future?
Mekhi Phifer (“Satch”): It’s interesting. I look a little older than I would like to. I go from between 30 and 32 to 50-52. Obviously, they have to have a time jump. I do look a little older, I hope I don’t look as old in real life. I feel like I’ll still have a youthful exuberance, and not be so…as old as they have me looking. It’s not bad, I feel like I’m growing older with grace. But it’s just fun. You can’t take yourself too seriously. We get paid to play. I just have fun with it.
How did you get involved with this project?
Peyton List (“Raimy Sullivan”): I wish I had a more interesting story about how I came across it. It was pilot season, and one of my closest guy friends and I read a lot of the same scripts, so we look out for each other. He called me, look, I’m interested in doing a CW show and I found this one script and it’s amazing, would you take a look at it? It was the Frequency script. I read it with him in my mind. I read that character, and picturing it, I was like, that’s a beautiful role for you. It’s really really great. And he’s like, yeah yeah, what about the girl? Me? It totally did not register because I was thinking about him. That was Riley. So Riley got the show, and then it was like, well, what are the odds? What are the chances? At least go and audition and try, but I’m not going to tell him because I don’t want him to get his hopes up but then by some miracle they cast me.
Riley Smith (“Frank Sullivan”): I was sent three pilots by The CW and the minute I read Frequency, I thought this is the role I’ve been waiting for. Coincidentally, like in our show, the butterfly effect changes the future. What we realize is that one move can change everything. What I’ve realized is all the things that went my way or didn’t go my way, led me to find this pilot. I had just done a pilot with Fox six months before this and it didn’t get picked up. As an actor, sometimes you go through this and you’re like: Why? Why did this not happen? Then you get something like this and you realize, well, this is what I’m supposed to do.
It’s hard to find a lead that’s flawed. When I read the role, this is me. This is the guy. I love the network. It’s a great home for a show like this. For me it was a no-brainer. I went into a general with Jeremy and Jennifer Gwartz. I kept telling myself, be cool, be cool. Don’t be too needy. By the end I’m like, begging, I love this show, I want this role. Fortunately they felt the same way. During the meeting I actually said, you’re going to get the best girl in town for this role of the daughter. You’re going to get anyone you want. And they said, really? You think? I only know one girl and I’ve already called her and sent her the script. They’re like, who? You guys know Peyton List? Jen produced her in another show. I saw them look at each other and a lightbulb went off. I walked out of that general and called Peyton: get ready, you’re going to get this. Hopefully I’m going to get this and we’re going to do this. In a couple days that was the case.
How do you know Peyton?
Smith: We’ve been acting partners for ten years. A lot of people didn’t know that. We’ve put in so many countless hours that no one’s ever seen before. Things that we didn’t get, things that didn’t go, and we’d never worked together on TV or film. For her screen test, we worked three hours, just on her network screen test. When we went to do the pilot, you normally have to create a bond really quickly with a costar. That was already built into Peyton and I’s relationship. I think that really helped the show.
We’re you familiar with the movie before getting the script?
List: I read the script before I saw the movie. I don’t know how I possibly missed the movie. I started asking around, and everyone’s seen Frequency. “Where were you?” I have no idea. I read the script and was fascinated by it. How did they make this a movie? I think I rented it on iTunes. It was great. The stakes felt really high. I was invested very quickly in what happens in that father/son relationship. I’m really really hoping that people are equally interested in a father/daughter relationship.
Smith: I had seen it back in 2000. I remembered the plotline but I had forgotten everything in between so this script was very fresh to me and new. Peyton bought me the DVD. That was her thank you gift to me, the movie. I was about to start shooting the pilot when I started watching it. During the first ham radio scene in the movie, the lines are very similar to what we’re doing in ours. Nope, not going to watch it. Because I don’t want to do Dennis Quaid. I want to do Riley Smith. Once we were done shooting the pilot, I watched.
Is it weird playing Peyton’s father?
Smith: Yeah. All of our friends who know us are like, huh? You’re in your late twenties. Yeah, it’s a confusing storyline. But once you see the show it makes sense. It’s cool. It’s unconventional. I’ve never played a parent before and all of a sudden I’m a parent to a 28 year old.
What attracted you to this show?
List: The script is so different from everything else that is floating around. Sometimes during pilot season, you get these recurring themes, they’ll be like it’s a medical drama, medical dramas are really hot right now, so there are tons of those floating around. With this one, you couldn’t quite nail it down if it’s a character drama, because you’re seeing this really intimate relationship, and seeing these people at their most vulnerable and raw. It feels very character driven, but then there’s also this mystery they established in the film, but because we’re doing it as a show, we can draw it out and make it way more complicated. Jeremy Carver’s a genius, it’s actually a little bit intimidating because I have no idea where it’s going. It makes it really exciting, because it makes me feel like a viewer, but a little bit further ahead.
Smith: It has so many different elements that different audiences can gravitate toward. At the core, it’s really a character-driven show about these two people, and there’s so much heart. But the sci-fi and time travel elements come into play, and there’s obviously the execution of the stylized way they’re doing the show.
Frequency premieres Wednesday October 5 at 9 PM on The CW.
[Cube image courtesy of The CW, other images courtesy of Zap2It and Collider]