Earlier this summer, Spike TV debuted the new TV series “Blade,” based on the successful “Blade” film franchise. Heading up the move from film to television was David Goyer, who wrote the three films and directed “Blade: Trinity.” Clearly, as the vision behind the films, there was no better person to bring “Blade” to the small screen. Goyer serves as a writer and executive producer on the show.
Last week, I spoke with Goyer by phone about the series, the mythology behind the show and it’s chances for renewal. Plus we found out if Goyer has any plans on returning to comics and got some updates on two film projects – “The Flash” and “The Dark Knight.”
Hey David, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Now, so that we get off on the right foot, I need to be totally honest and up front with you and tell you that before scheduling this interview, I had not seen any episodes of “Blade” yet. I admit to having been prejudiced prior to investigation and simply thought the show wouldn’t interest me because never before has a television series based on a film that I liked ever held my interest. I’ve generally found them to be, well, let’s just say “not so much.” But, having watched a handful of episodes — the two-part pilot, the second and ninth episodes — I have to admit I couldn’t have been more wrong about the show. You absolutely have a fan in me now.
Wow, that’s cool.
And I promise I’m not saying this because we’re doing this interview, it’s because I was pleasantly surprised by the stories your team has crafted and the depth of the mythology that permeates the show. I want to talk about that mythology, but before getting there I want to talk about the adult level content of the show. Now, I realize being on Spike TV allows you a lot of latitude creatively, but even keeping that in mind I’ve been shocked by what you guys have been able to do on the show thus far. There’s plenty of action, violence and sex on that show. Has there been anything Spike TV has said absolutely no to?
A couple of things, but the really refreshing thing was when we were doing the pilot and the first couple of scripts, one of the executives said, “We’ve been running the first few scripts past the standards and practices people and they have not rejected anything and we think you’re not pushing hard enough.” Basically, you’re not doing your job well enough if there aren’t some things they’re not pushing back on. Fortunately Spike – even considering the type of network they’re trying to build – they knew they had to make a splash. One of the exciting things about doing the show on Spike is that we can get away with a lot more than we could on regular network television and that just seemed appropriate for “Blade.” Sure, we can’t show full frontal nudity and we can’t say the “F” word, but pretty much aside from that we’ve been able to do everything. A lot of people on the Internet were saying it would be really watered down when compared to the movies, but that went away by the second episode.
Yes, the violence and grittiness are there and even the language is there, and I’m not just talking in terms of swear words. In the second episode there’s a line that goes, “God’s off playing with himself.” Really, very little shocks me anymore, but when I heard that my ears perked up! I was quite surprised a line like that made it onto a TV show, even on Spike. So, what has been tried that Spike said absolutely not to?
Well, you know, there was something that I pulled. Every episode we film additional material for DVD release. The DVD episodes will be R-Rated, which will be kind of fun, so we film alternate dialogue and will have full frontal nudity and things like that. There was something in the final episode in which one of Marcus’ familiars is banging another familiar and the girl was completely naked and we knew we couldn’t do that, but Blade ends up dispatching her and she’s totally naked when it happens, so it’s pretty extreme.
So, you said no to that?
I thought even for my tastes it went too far.
But it made it in there?
It’s going to be in the DVD release.
Speaking of DVDs, any idea when the show will be released on DVD?
No, not yet. We’re working on them, but that’s largely going to be driven by whether or not we get a second season. If you premiere a second season you want to release the DVD of the first season at the same time.
OK, let’s talk about that. What is the status of a potential second season at this point?
It is legitimately on the bubble. It’s gotten decent ratings, although we were hoping they’d be better, but the other issue is Spike had no clear idea of what to expect. In terms of scripted material, they’re really a new network and nobody ever came to Spike for scripted material before. It’s kind of like the wild west right now. We’ve been in discussions and I think it could honestly go either way.
I’ve actually been shocked how good the reviews of the show have been, by and large. They’ve been better than the movies, which surprises me because I thought we’d be just killed by the press, but they generally like it.
I’ve noticed the same thing in looking over reviews of the show prior to our talk today. One common observation or comment seen in those reviews has been how progressively better the show has gotten through the season.
I think that as well. The television I like has really deep mythology and I like shows that are serialized. When I dabble in television, that’s the only kind of show I’m interested in doing. As is the case with a lot of those shows, if you have a deep mythology and it’s a bit more of a slow roll out, it takes a while to build. That was my experience when I watched “The Wire.” After watching the first few episodes I felt it was kind of slow moving, but then I really got wrapped up into it.
So, part of it is that and the other part of it is when you’re doing a new show, particularly a show on a television budget and schedule, trying to do what we’re doing, it’s a learning curve. It took us honestly about five episodes before we could figure out the best way to do these episodes and how we could maximize the fighting and stuff. If you were to compare the 10th episode aired with the fighting from the second or third episode, it’s a full letter grade better because we just figured out how to do it better.
Yeah, there’s definitely a noticeable difference from the second episode I watched and the ninth episode.
I think that’s a great episode. It’s intense and has some cool action in it, but we could not have done that ninth episode as episode two or three because we just weren’t quite up and running well enough yet. The final three episodes, they just completely rock.
Now, you and noted comics writer Geoff Johns wrote the first episode together. You guys have written a number of comics together in the past, so how much fun was that for the two of you guys to get back together?
He’s a good friend and we just work really well together. We also co-wrote along with another writer from the show the season finale for “Blade.” It’s really fun and the plot thickens. I love it.
What can you tell us about this final three-part storyline?
We did some things that people might not have thought we would do. We definitely went for it. It’s big! Somebody mentioned in one of the reviews that he liked the fact that you get the sense that almost anyone could be killed at any time in this show, which we’ve tried really hard to do. All I can say is nothing is sacred and nobody is safe.
Well, will Krista ever catch a break in these finals three episodes? You guys have really put her through the ringer thus far.
It gets pretty intense for Krista. [laughs] Now, there have been some complaints that a couple of the episodes weren’t as focused on Blade. We always intended these 13 episodes to be one big story and we were trying to paint interesting villains. When the first episode aired, people were like, “I don’t care about Chase or Marcus.” Well, now they all love them. Part of the reason why is because we took the time to develop them. The last three episodes are pretty firmly Blade centric, but I think one of the reasons why people will dig them is because some really great, apocalyptic stuff happens in the last three episodes.
Let’s get back to the mythology for a little bit. How deeply planned is it because we’ve heard a lot about the different House’s interact and feel about each other. How deeply planned is that stuff?
Some of it is planned broad strokes, but we’ve designed it in such a way so that we can – well, not change our minds, but certain things can evolve. There’s something that happens at the end of this season that we had intended all along, but we sort of shifted gears slightly based on reaction to things. There are sort of loose plans in place, certainly for the next two seasons. There are a couple of characters we wanted to bring in this season that we weren’t able to because it took us longer to tell certain stories and there are other characters that have shown up that will come back. So, it’s fairly well planned.
Basically, you have a lot of flexibility.
What was it about this show that convinced Spike they needed to be in the “Blade” business?
They thought it was a good match for their audience. They liked my take. It was a good marriage. I’ve had shows that were good shows on the wrong network. This was just the right show for the right network. What I was interested in doing fit with what they wanted to do. I liked the idea of kind being in the wild west and being the first show on a new network. I knew certainly more people would watch a “Blade” show on a network like NBC, but it would end up being so watered down from what people come to expect from “Blade” that I think people would have rejected it.
Now, once you watch the show you discover it kind of defies definition. The show really isn’t just a vampire show. It’s not just an action show, either. And it’s not a sci-fi show, but it has sci-fi elements. The show is very much a hybrid in terms of the genres it plays in. Now, keeping all that in mind, there’s an audience out there that eats up anything related to vampires. Do you think that “Blade” satisfies that “thirst” (sorry for the pun) vampire genre fans have?
I don’t honestly know. I always wanted to make a show that hopefully was one you could just watch as a Blade show, but that would be maybe a little smarter and intricate than people might think it is, which seems to be the case.
When we started out the fan response on the boards was about 50/50 negative/positive. We knew that would somewhat be the case because someone other than Wesley was playing Blade. His mark on Blade was so indelible that no matter who we cast, they’d be compared to Wesley. We also knew people would say the action wasn’t as good. Well, of course it’s not – we make these for two million dollars an episode and we make the movies for $65 million. Of course the action isn’t going to be as extreme as the movies. We knew that was going to happen, but with each episode – and not that the fans or boards are the be all/end all – if you go on the boards now the reviews are 90% positive. That makes me happy because I had hoped that people would progressively get more and more into it.
I’ve done a couple of comic conventions and the response has been quite good. At Comic-Con International we had a pretty big room. You can tell when people are into something or aren’t and people were into it. I just feel good that I like the show. I’ve certainly been involved in shows that I didn’t like the end product, but I like this. I like that it’s smarter than people thought it would be. My hope is that it’s violent and smart and that within the boundaries of television there is some good action.
Getting back to episode 9 again, I actually think that episode is quite moving and gutwrenching. I’m proud of that because Blade is such a comic book, arch-character. If we can actually move people in the way we did, I think that’s cool. The best example of a show like that – and please know I’m not even remotely saying we’re that show – is “Battlestar Galactica.” It’s such a B-property. When the show was first announced, I said it would be a joke. But, it’s just a fantastic show and I was proven wrong.
I’d have to say the biggest thing “Blade” suffers from are guys like myself who have this prejudice going into the show who think, “Oh, there’s no way it can be as much fun as the movies were. It’s just some show over on Spike.”
|David Goyer in 2004 on the set of “Blade: Trinity.”|
I agree. People think it’s like the “Highlander” show or the short-lived “Crow” show.
And it really is much more than those shows. You’ve built a deep mythology. Marcus as you main baddy is a great character, Chase is wonderfully sexy and evil and you’ve really lucked out with both Sticky and Jill Wagner as Blade and Krista Starr. They work very well together. Were they both your first choice?
Honestly, no. For Blade we saw tons of people. We got a lot of grief on the boards asking, “Why didn’t you cast Michael Jai White?” We saw Michael and he was good. People would say, “But he’s a better martial artist.” Of course he is. He’s a great martial artist, but particularly in television you have to go with performance first. For the hard core martial arts fans they will always be dissatisfied because Sticky is not a martial artist. But television is first and foremost about characters and getting sucked in by a character from week to week and getting sucked into their drama. Michael Jai White gave a great audition. Ultimately we thought Sticky’s take on Blade was different than Wesley’s and that that was better. That he wasn’t trying to ape Wesley. You’ll notice as the show progresses he starts to fill in his own skin more. In the later episodes, it’s become his version of Blade. We didn’t have anyone in particular in mind for any of the roles, we just auditioned people. There was pretty much a general consensus on everyone we cast.
In the pilot I think Sticky was much more channeling Wesley, but in the ninth episode he’s clearly his own guy.
Absolutely. He watched the movies and we told him to not be Wesley, to be your own person. If you look at the latter episodes you can see he’s in his own skin.
Let’s talk about some subjects outside of “Blade” as we wrap up. Is there any chance of you getting back to writing comics?
It’s funny, I recently had lunch with Brian K. Vaughan and he asked me that very same question. Yeah. I’ve got a window here – my next movie isn’t being released until January so I’ve been thinking about doing something.
Something at DC or Marvel?
Geoff is at DC and I like working with Geoff. I don’t have an exclusive with either company, but the editors I’m closest with are at DC so it’ll probably be something at DC.
I’m sure the “JSA” fans would like to see the two of you guys back together.
It won’t be “JSA.” Too many damned characters! [laughs]
Allright, do you have a specific character in mind?
There are a couple of different ones. I will say if I ever do anything at Marvel I’d love to do the Hulk one day. At DC, we’re talking about some specific characters, yeah, and I’d be interested in doing the Demon at some point.
Let’s get a couple of updates on your other film projects. Last I read regarding “The Flash,” you had finished the script and were working on revisions in advance of sending it off to the studio. Where is that now?
Everyone at the studio has read it but the head of the studio. I’m doing one last pass revision and he should be reading it after Labor Day.
Allright, how about “The Dark Knight?” Chris Nolan’s finished with “The Prestige” and Heath Ledger has been cast as the Joker. I’m guessing the two of you and screenwriter Jonathan Nolan will be getting together pretty soon.
That’s already been done.
Has the story already been completely worked out?
It’s gone into Jonathan’s hands and it’s now out of Jonathan’s hands and now in Chris’ hands.
Have you had a chance to look over the final product and make some additional suggestions?
Yup. It’s really further along than people may think.
Allright, that about does it. Thanks, David.
Look for an interview with “Blade” himself, Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones here on CBR later today.
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