After an improbably strange build-up that saw its chances of reaching the air go through as many ups and downs as any project in network pilot season, NBC’s incoming adaptation of DC Comics “Wonder Woman” is currently in production with actress Adrianne Palicki in the lead. And while the show hasn’t officially gotten the pick up for a run on the network next fall, the man behind the pilot has a better than solid average of taking shows to series. David E. Kelley wrote the “Wonder Woman” pilot in addition to creating more hit shows than almost anyone on TV including legal serials like “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal” and the current NBC hit “Harry’s Law.”
Kelley did his first bit of publicity on “Wonder Woman” this week to cap off a wide-ranging discussion with NY Magazine’s Vulture blog. And if hardcore comic fans have thought the choice of Kelley a little strange considering his “working business woman” take on the heroine, the writer explained that he himself was sure the project wasn’t for him either.
“Well I first said no, for all the obvious reasons,” he explained in the interview. “It’s not really what I do; it’s not a genre that’s in my wheelhouse. But then I started thinking about, What if there were such a person in today’s world and what must it be like to be her? And I was imagining the sense of social isolation that she must feel, that she indeed would probably be a rather complicated beast. When I started thinking about all the complications and potential layers to this superhero, I just got more and more intrigued. It was also something I was a little bit afraid of. That’s good, too. Any writer should get out of his or her comfort zone, and this was way outside of mine.
“So I took a deep breath and decided to go for it. I did not truthfully commit to doing it until I wrote the script. I was going to try writing it, and if I failed on my own terms, I would say no. If I thought, Yeah, this is something I believe in, then I’d turn it in. And it was something I ultimately did get behind. It was hard, but I had a good time writing it. And Warner Bros. and DC both responded very positively – and off we went.”
Kelley went on to speak to “Friday Night Lights” star Palicki’s casting in the title role. “After writing this script, I remember looking at several people and going, ‘Yeah, now good luck trying to find her,'” the writer said. “She’s got to be strong, smart, emotionally accessible – and oh yeah, an Amazon! Good luck. I remember speaking to DC, and saying, ‘We may have to compromise on the physicality. We need to go with the best actress. And if the best actress is five-foot-five, we have to be open to that, because there’s too many layers for this character to also demand that she be nearly six feet tall’ And then lo and behold, in comes this girl named Adrianne Palicki.
“I had seen her on ‘Friday Night Lights’ and I always liked her work, but I didn’t get a sense of her stature. I guess he was sitting down in a lot of the scenes. So she stood up, and we met – eyeball to eyeball – she smiled … and I knew during the course of the conversation that this was Wonder Woman. I just knew it. I had an instinctive feeling that this was her. So then she read. And she was. And she is.”
The pilot also stars Elizabeth Hurley, Carry Elwes, Tracie Thoms and Pedro Pascal. It will be executive producered by Kelley and Bill D’Elia (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice”) and directed by Jeffrey Reiner (“The Event”). Wonder Woman is from David E. Kelley Productions and Warner Bros. Television.