Following a presentation of the pilot for the new “Bionic Woman” series from NBC, stars Michelle Ryan (Jamie Sommers, the titular Bionic Woman), Katee Sackhoff (her predecessor, the evil Bionic Woman) and Mark Sheppard (father of Wil, Jamie’s boyfriend and the doctor that gave her the implants after a horrific car accident), along with producers David Eick, Jason Smilovic and Glen Morgan talked about the show to attendees of the San Diego Comic Con last Saturday morning.
The pilot was well received by a capacity crowd that had lined up outside the cavernous Ballroom 20 long before the doors were even opened. Faces familiar to science fiction fans, particularly fans of “Battlestar Galactica” (also produced by Eick) elicited loud cheers for the gathered fans as the pilot was shown, specifically “Galactica’s” Sackhoff. Michelle Ryan’s initial appearance as the main character however went without such a surge.
Once the pilot was completed and the guests were introduced, attendees corrected their previous inaction with a loud and lengthy round of applause for the British Ryan.
Eick spoke first, talking about the impetus to make a new version of “The Bionic Woman” rather than “The Six Million Dollar Man.” “I think Universal Pictures is still pursuing ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ as a feature. I kept reading that Jim Carrey was going to do it,” said Eick, noting that that version of the project seems to have stalled out. “I think they’re looking at that as a franchise of it’s own.
“We were talking a couple of years ago, without a title,” continued Eick, “Could you do a show about a woman who is empowered and cover not just who she was at home or who she was at business, but both? This took several turns and we looked doing it as a sort of anti-hero like a Tony Soprano or [‘The Shield’s’] Vic Mackey. ‘Are the rules different for girls?’ sort of became the rallying cry.”
When that particular take bore no fruit, the producers continued brainstorming. “Could you do the story of a woman in a contemporary sense who is struggling both to realize her potential and an individual and as a professional of sorts? ” Eick asked, rhetorically.
Eick continued, “The title had been kicking around some of the other companies in Universal.” Eick said he had a conversation with an executive at Universal and came up with the idea to graft the story they had been developing to the concept of “Bionic Woman.”
Eick said the series will “tell the story of a woman discovers her potential as a hero while grows into a young, adult woman and find the ways and parallels in which one can come at the cost of the other.”
“What might we see in the first part of the season?” showrunner Jason Smilovic asked, prompting producer Glen Morgan to pipe in.
“She runs fast,” Morgan deadpanned.
“Really fast,” parroted Smilovic, getting a laugh.
“Jumps high,” Morgan said.
“Very high,” added Smilovic.
Smilovic continued, “It’s basically a journey of self discovery. We’ll see Jamie Sommers walk a fine line between being a human being and being a bionic woman and learning how to keep those two separate and how to get those two components to work together in tandem with one another. It’s very important that the character learns….not to overwhelm her humanity. There are various people who are going to be pulling her in various directions. Some people are going to want her to be more of a machine and some people are going to want her to be more human. That’s going to be a big part of our show.”
When asked what drew her to the character, Ryan said, “When I first read the script, I just loved the fact that it was a young strong, feisty, vulnerable woman. The character has so many layers it was almost like a journey of self-discovery.”
“It’s a lot more fun,” added Sackhoff, who plays the villain in this series. “Starbuck, every time she does something, she’s up against herself and she’s got tremendous guilt,” she said, referring to her “Battlestar Galactica” character. “Sarah Corvis loves being evil. It was so much fun, I keep saying over and over again that the characters that I play are allowing me to not go to therapy.”
Asked about shooting the climactic melee on a rainy rooftop, Sackhoff said “I kept texting my manager, ‘I hate rain towers…and stiletto heels.”
“It was absolutely brilliant working with Katee. She has so much energy,” Ryan added. She also said that several critics noting sexual tension in the fight scene.”
“If they had their way, we’d have been wearing white t-shirts,” joked Sackhoff.
“I’m a really lucky guy, as an actor,” said Sheppard, when asked about his part as Dr. Andros. “I’ve had characters written for me to play that are just extraordinary. Anthony Andros has a very different agenda from most of the other people on the series. We’ll just have to see how that works out.”
It was noted to a negative audience reaction that the part of Jamie’s deaf sister, Becca, played by Mae Whitman, had been rewritten and recast. Lucy Hale will now play Becca as a non-deaf “budding hacker” who may be able to reconnect Jamie and herself with their parents.
The producers also made it clear that such relics of the original series as Fembots, Sasquatch and brainwashing women with shampoo would be left to the original series where they belong, but would not be opposed to having Lindsay Wagner, the original Jamie Sommers, appear on the show.
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