CCI: The Knight Rider Panel

"I wish I was driving K.I.T.T. this morning" exclaimed actress Deanna Russo, who had trouble making it to Comic-Con International in San Diego on Thursday. In fact most of the "Knight Rider" cast were delayed due to traffic on the way down from Los Angeles. "I know they left at like 4:00AM, " said executive producer Gary Scott Thompson to a patient crowd. "They're on their way", he assured them.

Just then Russo called Thompson on his cell phone and he put it on speaker for the crowd. "We're here but Justin and I just got stopped by a train," said the actress, referring to the train tracks outside the convention center steps.

While waiting for the cast to arrive the audience was given a first look at the upcoming season of "Knight Rider." The extended trailer for the new season included a more "Bond"-like Michael Tracer (Justin Bruening) working with a "CTU"-type team. The trailer was filled with action sequences that included K.I.T.T. "transforming" into what Thompson referred to as "Attack Mode" K.I.T.T., for which the audience applauded.

Moderator Josef Adalian of Television Weekly asked Thompson the differences between the new show and the original, and how the new show has changed since the back-door pilot aired in February. "We loved the original series but when we sat down we thought that he needed a team behind him in order to make the car work, prepare missions and set up everything," answered the producer. "We wanted to give him some help so he wasn't just a guy stuck in a car. Which in the original, that I loved, worked fantastic but it's twenty-five years later and the audience is a lot more sophisticated now and they need more. So we tried to create our own version of "Knight Rider."

Thompson said there would be new elements in the show that were not in the pilot including a base of operations unofficially called the K.I.T.T. cave. He went on to explain the new mythology of the series. "The most interesting thing about the original series is that it was about a man who could not go back to his past. Michael Long was shot in the face. They reconstructed his face and he became Michael Knight and could never go back to that life. I wanted to create that type of mythology. In the two-hour pilot you saw that Mike Tracer was in the Iraq War. Well there's more to that. We created a whole story about what happened to him, where he went, what he was doing, what he remembers or doesn't remember and how that affects Mike Tracer now."

"One of the things that we're going to do with the show is watch K.I.T.T. evolve, learn and learn from this group of people. Then we'll find out why K.I.T.T. is learning later on," continued Thompson. He also confirmed that Val Kilmer would return as the voice of K.I.T.T.

The cast finally arrived including Russo; star Justin Bruening, Bruce Davidson ("X-Men") and new cast members Paul Campbell ("Battlestar Galactica"), Yancey Arias ("Kingpin") and Smith Cho ("Blades of Glory").

The panel began to take questions from the audience and Bruening was asked about acting opposite David Haslehoff in the pilot. "It was very surreal. It didn't really sink in until I was standing on set next to him," said Bruening. He added that it wasn't until Haslehof said to him in a scene, "I'm Michael Knight," that he "freaked out a bit."

Thompson said that he had recently met with Haslehoff to talk about the show and the prospect of him making an appearance again. "He's really busy and we were already eight scripts in when we met, we've been picked up for thirteen episodes, so it's possible it could happen down the line," stated Thompson. "We both agreed that there is no reason to bring him back unless we can do something special with him and have him extend to the new mythology."

Thompson continued to say that they hope to do twenty-two episodes this season and that it would be great to get a second season because they have lots of ideas about where the show can go from here.

Finally the group was asked about merchandising, as the first series had been very successful with it in the '80s. "I want my action figure to come with a Kung-Fu grip," said Campbell. To which Bruening replied, "I want to be anatomically correct".

"I just want legs," said Davidson to a confused crowd. The Academy Award Nominated actor went on to explain that his figure from "X-Men" didn't come with any legs for some reason and that he had to prop him up in a cup in order to stand him up straight.

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