After watching Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller “Minority Report,” “Godzilla” writer Max Borenstein had a vision of his own: a television sequel that centers on the Precogs following the dismantling of the film’s Pre-Crime unit.
“I loved the film so much,” he told a packed ballroom at Comic-Con International in San Diego. “I kept thinking, how do you evolve it, and not just do the same thing? We’ve all seen shows copy the plot of ‘Minority Report,’ which is all about stopping murders before they happen. In the movie we follow the police, who have an infrastructure in place to do that, but at the end of the movie that infrastructure collapses. The Precogs are sent into a type of witness protection to live in secret so no one can find them or else they will be taken advantage of -- that’s the last we see of them. When I finished the movie, I remember thinking ‘That’s the show.’ I want to know what happens next as they become real people.”
“I never would have thought of that,” said Kevin Falls, Borenstein’s fellow executive producer on the upcoming Fox drama. “I would have had a lame version. That’s why Max is the genius and I carry his bags.”
They were joined for the discussion, and a 20-minute preview of the “Minority Report” pilot, by stars Stark Sands, Meagan Good, Wilmer Valderrama and Laura Regan, and executive producer Darryl Frank.
“I think the things we responded to that Max brought in was his humanizing the Precogs,” Frank added. “That hasn’t been done before. Also, the ability to reinvent the procedural cop show using future tech and future crime to tell interesting stories.”
Starring as the Precog Dash, Sands said it was exciting to go into an already-established universe and create a new character within it. “There’s a responsibility that comes with that,” he said. “You don’t get to completely invent things, but you do get to live in a world and imagine what it would be like to have a superpower. How can you live your life seeing those things [horrible murders] and not want to do something about it? It’s also a lot of fun to work on something with Steven Spielberg’s name above the title.”
He added that there is a challenge in humanizing someone who has abilities like Dash’s. “My character grew up ‘floating in the milk bath’ and then he was sent away into basically witness protection,” Stark explained. “He doesn’t interact with humans often. He doesn’t get sarcasm, he doesn’t get jokes. It’s fun to take the baby chick and watch him grow over the course of the series into a more fully realized human being.”
Borenstein said that before tackling the pilot they created a “world bible,” written by a consultant from the MIT media lab who asked experts in many fields, “Where’s the world going to be in 50 years?”
“That’s the same thing that Steven did in the movie,” he said, noting that the characters in the movie had smartphone-type devices, used “swiping” technology, and walked around as advertisements tailored to them played -- technology that in 2002 still seemed futuristic, but 13 years later is reality. “We’ve assembled a whole vision of the world that, for the writers, is so exciting to play with. How is it funny? How does it work? How does the technology not work, and how does it impact the characters?”
Valderrama, who plays a cop named Blake, is looking forward to seeing the futuristic technologies on the show. He said that as cool as all of the technology was in Spielberg’s film, it’s important to remember the TV sequel takes place about a decade later, and the technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. “I can’t really talk about it, but Steven Spielberg [who also produces the series] created and pitched an idea for a weapon that can assist the police,” he teased. “It will blow your mind.”
Frank said Spielberg is very involved in the show. “Forty-eight hours after he wrapped ‘BFG,’ he was in a room with us breaking stories and suggesting props,” he said. “He sprinkles his pixie dust on everything. It’s the first movie he directed that’s being turned into a show. He wants us to do justice by it.”
Good, who plays Dash’s police partner Vega, said Dash’s innocence brings out a different side to her character’s normally tough demeanor. “There is a tenderness there that people don’t get to see,” she said. “and Dash brings that out of her. Just him being himself breaks her shell, and they both just want to protect each other, ultimately.”
The Dash/Vega relationship won’t be a romantic one, however, at least not at first. “We certainly don’t plan to do it,” Falls said. “We didn’t want it to turn into a romantic two-hander, although if it turns out to happen down the line, that’s something else. There’s a great chemistry between the two characters, but it’s not romantic.”
Valderrama hinted there could be some romantic tension between Vega and his character Blake. “There is a little bit of history there, and you’ll see it play out across the season,” he said.
Dash isn’t the only Precog on the show: Regan plays Agatha, and Nick Zano is joining the cast as Dash’s twin brother Arthur. Borenstein said Arthur is more of a bad boy, and while Dash has visions of murders, Arthur sees more names and facts about the future victims. They’ll complement each other, but Arthur will bring a “Sherlock Holmes vibe.”
Falls divulged just one spoiler about “Minority Report.” “You will see a scene in the pilot that reveals that ‘The Simpsons’ is still on television [in 2065] and is celebrating their 75th anniversary,” he said, to laughter from the audience.
The show will also try to comment on social issues, both present and future. “The fun of it is always using the prism of the future as a way to think about today,” Borenstein said, adding that could be in big, thematic ways or in smaller, fun ways, like showing “selfie drones.”
“What we hope to do is create a future that people want to live in and come back to week to week and is fun,” he said, “but is also engaging and interesting and has the same kind of grounded-ness and depth that the real world does, so there’s that access point to the future.”
”Minority Report” premieres Monday, Sept. 21, on Fox.