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"American Gothic" Articles & Interviews

American Gothic
Shaun Cassidy
Gary Cole
Paige Turco


American Gothic

CBS retreats from devil

The political campaign to make entertainment more wholesome has already claimed one victim, the new CBS series American Gothic.
Network execs got mighty nervous after viewing the premiere of the supernatural series, which depicts a small Southern town where the sheriff just may be the devil himself. The opening scenes screened by CBS suits showed a crazed father smashing his seemingly possessed daughter over the head -- and then the sheriff (played by Gary Cole, right) arriving to finish the girl off by twisting her neck with a nauseating crunch. Before a gaggle of critics had a chance to view the premiere at a television-industry convention, the scenes were edited to make them less gruesome, and the sound of the girl's neck popping was taken out.
Leslie Moonves, CBS's new president of entertainment programming, acknowledged that the current political climate affected the executives' decision to tone down the show. "I can't deny that government pressure affects us," he said. Horror director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Dark Man), who serves as American Gothic's producer, told Variety that he went along with the cuts because he was "very sensitive to the violence issue."

The Triumph of Evil article, January 1996

"Although every drama on television deals -- in one form or another -- with issues of good and evil, nowhere is the struggle more literal than on American Gothic. The new CBS drama stays away from the conspiracy trend, opting instead to feature a far more terrifying premise, the appearance of the ultimate villain in human mythology: evil incarnate. Most horrifying of all is not that the combined forces of humankind cannot defeat this scourge, but that they don't even try. Most people on American Gothic blithely fail -- or refuse -- to recognize the wickedness that surrounds them.
Set in the rural community of Trinity, S.C., the show focuses on Sheriff Lucas Buck (Gary Cole), who could very well be the devil, manipulating the townspeople to bring out the worst in them. Series creator Shaun Cassidy credits his kids with the genesis of the series. "It all came about as a result of my own children asking me questions about why things are going on in the world that they don't understand," says the erst-while teeny-bop pop star. "How do you define evil? How do you explain it to them? You know, fairy tales are often used as a means of giving [kids] a kind of understanding. Viewed in a wrong context or in a radical context, a story like 'Hansel and Gretel' could be about cannibalism, and yet they're attracted to it and they want to know about it because they have fears that need to be addressed. And so do we."
Our desire to see and even experience evil is almost impossible to suppress, says Gothic's executive producer Sam Raimi. "People can't help but be interested because we all have the potential to do bad. We know that it's wrong but we are nonetheless curious about it. There's an interest in doing the 'naughty' thing and seeing what happens when others do the naughty thing. Maybe it's as simple as that. But in terms of the series, it's important that Buck be defeated often, and he will. In the good and evil stakes, sometimes good wins, sometimes evil wins. Generally, in most episodes, both will win something. This is a guy that I think people are going to want to see defeated and it's going to happen sooner than later. It won't be on a permanent basis, but he's not immortal. You know, you put a bullet in this guy and he's going to die. Killing him, though, has dark implications. There are consequences. That will be revealed later on."
And Buck also recognizes the consequences of murder. "Buck's business is not about killing people," explains Cassidy, who feels the series evokes shades of The Godfather. "If he kills someone, he's lost them. He'd much rather control them. What you have here is a character who's very powerful, who's revered by much of the populace. This is not a man who wants to be viewed as a villain. He wants to be viewed as a benefactor, someone who they can trust. That's how he views himself, and most of the people in the town are probably trying not to rock the boat. They're somewhere in between. They haven't been called upon to make a choice about him one way or the other, because they haven't crossed his path."
But once they do, Buck stays on their tail. "If you need money he'll be happy to loan it to you," says Cassidy. "But he's going to come knocking at your door at some point and say, 'Time to pay up.' "


American Gothic delves into the darker side of the Deep South. Judy Sloane talks to its creator, Shaun Cassidy.

Two decades ago, when Shaun Cassidy was starring in the television series The Hardy Boys at Universal Studios, he dreamed of the day he would have his own office on the lot where he could produce and write a myriad of projects. Quite an aspiration for a 19-year-old who had just become the teenybopper flavor of the year.

"I spent more time up in the producer's office than on the set of my own show," he recalls. "I was much more interested in hearing conversations between the writers and the networks. I was trying to write scripts for THE
HARDY BOYS, but they wouldn't take me

Sitting in his spacious modestly decorated suite, it's more than obvious Universal is taking him very seriously now. But his adolescent
vision-for-the-future took longer than even he
imagined, although his celebrity status, he admits, did assist him in opening doors. But it wasn't
until 1989 that Cassidy got his foot firmly in the door at Universal when he pitched them the concept for a series called OVER MY DEAD BODY.

"They gave me an hour script commitment because they didn't know what to do with me!" he laughs. "And I think to get rid of me they said, 'We'll just give him an hour episode commitment and he'll write something, and we'll have our staff rewrite it and we'll be done with him.' But they actually ended up liking the script a lot, and it gave me all kinds of new openings."

Cassidy went on to write a couple of television movies, one of which, STRAYS, was in the horror genre, pitting cats against man in the way
Hitchcock did with his feathered predators in THE BIRDS. This screenplay led to the most off-beat program to be seen on American television since TWIN PEAKS. Universal coupled Cassidy with Sam Raimi, the director of THE EVIL DEAD, to conjure up a dark and foreboding horror for CBS.

"I'd always been fascinated by southern Gothic literature like Tennessee Williams and Faulkner, and the idea of there being bodies buried in this pristine, beautiful, facade which the south is so good at protecting. I thought why not do the underbelly of a small town and use it as a forum in
which to explore good and evil."

The evil is personified by the character of Sheriff Lucas Buck, played with intense depravity by Gary Cole of Midnight Caller fame. Although written as an ensemble piece, the character of Lucas Buck garnered the kind
of attention that JR Ewing did when DALLAS premiered. It's a roll most actors would give their eye-teeth for, but Cassidy insists that he didn't
write it with himself in mind.

"I actually never even thought about it, only because I didn't want to act anything because I was writing. But you do play all the parts when
you're writing them, and they're all different aspects of personality."

As a producer on the show, Cassidy was privy to all aspects of the creative process, including the casting of his characters. For Lucas Buck, "the antagonist" around which the story flows, there seemed to be only one actor who filled the part.

"Gary Cole is a great man and a terrific actor," say Cassidy." He had the perfect balance between charm and malevolence which is needed in the character. He's a very masculine actor, sort of a guy's guy and yet different than anybody's idea of a Southern sheriff."

As the pilot began filming in Wilmington, North Carolina, Cassidy faced a new, and amusing, dilemma. In his many years of acting on television he would find himself constantly wanting to compose new dialogue for himself. Now he had actors confronting him with the same plight.

"It's God's little joke on me, isn't it?" he laughs. "The complete revenge for anything I may have done to other writers. I used to rewrite my
dialogue quite a lot, to the writers chagrin. I've had actor's call me and say, 'What about this line?' Most of the time they are pretty respectful, and
obviously, being an actor, I write for actors. One of my problems as an actor was that I would get scenes that people in a room with a typewriter had
written, and they had no sense of what the actor's objective would be, or what they were doing when they were saying these lines. They wrote all the
flowery dialogue, but there's no life going on. And people don't do that. There's stuff going on while there's a nightmare happening in your house.
There's a life beyond that, so I would approach scenes as a writer as I had as an actor, which helped the actors, and the actor's appreciated it."

Perhaps the most infamous scene to emerge from the series so far has the predominantly evil Sheriff incongruously whistling The Andy Griffith Show theme.

"I was writing a scene where a deputy walks into the sheriff's office and some little, seemingly irrelevant, dialogue is supposed to take place,
and I just flashed on The Andy Griffith Show. I said, 'We're in North Carolina, we've got the deputy coming in to talk with the sheriff.'"

It seemed a natural-but Cassidy explains his reasoning, "One of the problems I have with a lot of Horror type movies is that the characters in
the movie have no relation to the audience's experience of pop culture. Only everyone in the audience knows that you don't open that door, but for some reason the characters in the movie haven't seen The Amityville Horror, haven't seen Poltergeist and they act as though they come from a different universe.

"I wanted to have our lead character have the same awareness about the world he was in as the audience. Because the minute he starts humming The Andy Griffith theme it deflates the cynicism of the people watching, because they're going to go, 'Oh, there's The Andy Griffith theme', well, he's seen that show too! And because he's whistling this theme, which is part of our collective pop consciousness that is supposed to be completely unthreatening, and The Andy Griffith Show in its way was probably as extreme a version of Americana as American Gothic is in its way, there are dark parallels."

With the unique emphasis on doing an adult series in which the struggle for good and evil is predominant, there were occasions when certain
material was viewed negatively by the censors.

"We had a line in the pilot, 'Rack your balls,' which almost didn't get passed by the studio in the script," admits Cassidy. "Selena [a school
teacher by day and Lucas's seductress by night] goes up to the deputy, and he's lying on the pool table, and she says 'Rack your balls?' It was a
seemingly innocuous question, and they didn't want it to be put in the script. And I said, 'That's her humor, she's Mae West.' Most of what Mae
West said you couldn't get past the censors."

Despite the fact that the program was greeted with critical acclaim, it didn't muster the high ratings the network hoped for, and before the
season was over the show was unceremoniously yanked from the schedule.

"I was disappointed by that," admits Cassidy. "In looking at CBS's schedule now, and looking at their agenda in terms of what kind of network
they want to be, there really is no place for American Gothic."

But even though the show is done, it's not out. "There's talk of doing a series of movies, there's talk of a feature. It will have a life in some way, because there's a huge fan base for it.
The internet is a big support system for the show."

And for everyone who was left hanging when the program suddenly disappeared from their television screen, Cassidy promises that the final
twelve episodes will be airing this summer.

"Unfortunately, CBS picked from the tree along the way and ran them out-of-order, so I'm afraid that the episodes that have yet to air will be
somewhat confusing."

In his twenty-plus years of acting, both on television and the stage, singing, producing, and writing, Cassidy seemingly has no trouble singling
out which aspect has given him the most gratification.

"With writing there is this incredible satisfaction. You have an idea and then the first day of shooting where you actually show up after spending six months or a year, whatever the time frame is from idea to production, and see all these people have a job because you had this idea. It's really an amazing thing. It's like this domino effect of how you actually effect people's lives. As an actor you sometimes wonder, 'What am I doing this for?' Maybe you're doing it to enlighten other people, or to gain enlightenment for yourself. As a writer you're doing that too, and it's not that people come to your movie or watch your television show that hopefully benefit by what you've done, it's literally the workers, all the production people who are employed, and that's really neat."

There's many a slip between the final draft of a shooting script and the final version that is screened for the public, and most often they don't
even resemble each other. But, in the case of American Gothic, the original idea that emerged from Cassidy's brain is what was broadcast to the TV audience.

"Certainly in the pilot," acknowledges Cassidy. "It's an amazing experience and one that I will never take for granted, to see something
realized that you dreamed about. Most of the time it doesn't work out that way. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad, but it's definitely not what you had
visualized. The pilot is really what I had hoped it would be and in some cases more."

And with a TV pilot for Ice T in the works for NBC, and a two-hour movie for Fox that will be shot in Ireland, Cassidy hopes to employ many more workers and see his visions once again reach the screen intact.

Shaun Cassidy

An online chat January 15, 1998

ShaunCassidy: Hi everybody.

Moderator: Hi! Thanks for coming.

ShaunCassidy: I'm ready for questions!

Moderator: <Fizzbin> to <Moderator>: Is there any chance that American Gothic might be revived and tape more episodes?

ShaunCassidy: Always possible. Obviously, if it's successful on Sci-Fi that couldn't hurt.

ShaunCassidy: We've talked in the past about making a feature. I love the show and I would love to see it continue in some form, so you never know.

Moderator: <Zillah> to <Moderator>: I would like to say that I love American Gothic and was wondering were you got you idea for it???

ShaunCassidy: I was inspired by a Front Line episode I saw that dealt with a preschool child abuse case in North Carolina.

ShaunCassidy: It wasn't the story that intrigued me as much as the attitude of the people.

ShaunCassidy: They were living in this kind of living hell, yet everyone had such wonderful manners, they were all trying to keep on their best face.

ShaunCassidy: I thought, "what an interesting thing - this perversion being burried under the floorboards."

ShaunCassidy: It sparked something in me.

ShaunCassidy: Hang on a sec...

Moderator: Tech break. Hold on.

Moderator: :-)

Moderator: Don't worry.

Moderator: You can still keep sending questions.

Moderator: We're switching computers.

Moderator: We're experiencing technical difficulties

Moderator: please stand by.

Moderator: I will entertain you in the meantime...

Moderator: To ask a question, send a private message to the Moderator (me)

Moderator: You will not be able to speak out loud to the room.

ShaunCassidy: sorry about that

Moderator: <SusanneS> to <Moderator>: Is there a person you know that is based on Sheriff Buck?

ShaunCassidy: (laughs)

ShaunCassidy: Probably me on my worst day...or best, depending upon your perspective

ShaunCassidy: um....

Moderator: <LucasGal> to <Moderator>: Why wasn't the past life between Lucas and Gail explored and if there were to be more episodes would it be?

ShaunCassidy: What past life?

ShaunCassidy: In the pilot script, there was a reference made to Lucas and Gail possibly having had a relationship hundreds of years in the past.

ShaunCassidy: That reference was edited out and never aired...

ShaunCassidy: so you must have access to documents you shouldn't have, and I think I must alert the authorities immediately... ;)

Moderator: <Ironf> to <Moderator>: Did you do alot of consulting with the music on the series, or did you leave that part to others?

ShaunCassidy: I did do consulting but Joe LoDuca was the composer who had worked with Sam Raimi and Rennaisance on a number of other projects.

ShaunCassidy: So I got stuck with the guy.

ShaunCassidy: (laughs)

ShaunCassidy: Actually, I think he did a very good job.

Moderator: <Roar> to <Moderator>: What's happening with Roar, any news on its return :)

ShaunCassidy: Depending upon the success of American Gothic on the Sci-Fi Channel...perhaps Roar will be replacing it. (laughs)

ShaunCassidy: Seriously, there are five unaired episodes of Roar and I think they're the strongest of the bunch.

ShaunCassidy: Fox has them and plans on airing them sometime soon. When, and in what time slot, we're just not sure yet.

Moderator: <Raven> to <Moderator>: Does Shaun have any plans to pursue or re-kindle his musical career? I was in love with him as a was a tie between j\him and Leif Garrett :)

ShaunCassidy: (laughs)

ShaunCassidy: I have no plans to make any records in the near future...but check with Leif. ;)

Moderator: <Chessie> to <Moderator>: Do you have any other projects pending?

ShaunCassidy: Yes, I'm working on two right now.

ShaunCassidy: One is a one-hour pilot that I'm writing and exec producing with Wes Craven.

ShaunCassidy: And the other is a one-hour romantic comedy pilot that I'm working on with Rennaisance, the fellows I did American Gothic with.

ShaunCassidy: They're both very different in tone and also very different from anything I've done before, so I'm excited about both.

Moderator: <Ely> to <Moderator>: How have you been able to find such talented child actors on such a consistent basis? (example: Caleb and The Father)

ShaunCassidy: I don't know...I look for kids who don't want to be actors.

ShaunCassidy: Both Lucas Black and the young man who played The Father in Roar had little to no acting experience before working on our shows.

ShaunCassidy: So they hadn't developed any bad habits and were very natural.

ShaunCassidy: I thought that in both cases it was very important that they be able to hold their own against adversaries as powerful as Lucas Buck and Longinus.

Moderator: <Valhalla> to <Moderator>: Is the team-up with Mr. Craven a horror series pilot?

ShaunCassidy: It's a horror-mystery, with a great deal of black humor.

Moderator: <Annatto> to <Moderator>: What gave you the inspiration for Roar, and how do you feel when reviewers compare it to Hercules/Xena?

ShaunCassidy: Well, I expect they didn't watch it very closely if they thought it was at all comparable to Herc and Xena - I'm a big fan of all of those shows, but tonally we were going for a very different feel.

ShaunCassidy: I would say that Roar was closer to Star Trek in its tone than Hercules.

ShaunCassidy: Ultimately, I think that hurt us as a summer series. The expectation on the part of the audience might've been for something lighter and more fun.

ShaunCassidy: That said, I'm very proud of the show and I hope it ends up having a future.

Moderator: <captain> to <Moderator>: Why do you like to use supreme evil as your main characters?

ShaunCassidy: So much fun!

ShaunCassidy: Supreme Evil...sounds like a new burger!

ShaunCassidy: (laughs)

Moderator: <Cynic-Guy> to <Moderator>: What were your long-term plans for the major characters on A.G.? (If you had any...)

ShaunCassidy: Kill 'em all! Slowly and mercilessly!!!

Moderator: <Fizzbin> to <Moderator>: When did you first realize you wanted to try your hand at creating shows?

ShaunCassidy: I've been wanting to write and produce since I started acting. When I was 18 and doing a show on this lot (Universal) called the Hardy Boys, I probably spent more time in the producer's office hanging out with the writing staff than I did on the set.

ShaunCassidy: It was always much more interesting to me. I love acting but as an actor you are interpreting someone else's work.

ShaunCassidy: I like being there at the origin of the process, and then seeing it through until the end.

ShaunCassidy: I used to rewrite a lot of my own dialog, which did not endear me to the writers...

ShaunCassidy: eventually, some of them - particularly our exec producer - liked what I was doing. He gave me encouragement.

Moderator: <SusanneS> to <Moderator>: Who would you want to play in American Gothic?

ShaunCassidy: Lucas, of course.

Moderator: <Jana2> to <Moderator>: I LOVED the Hardy Boys, any chance of a reunion show?

ShaunCassidy: Here's my theory on reunion shows:

ShaunCassidy: I am convinced that the reason they do so well is that people are really interested in seeing how the actors have aged.

ShaunCassidy: If Parker and I were ever to do a Hardy Boys reunion, I'd like to see it open with both of us wearing 300lb fat suits and skin-head wigs.

ShaunCassidy: ...just to hear the collective "gasp!" across the country!

ShaunCassidy: "Oh, those poor boys..." ;)

Moderator: <Wolf> to <Moderator>: What would you say was the biggest difference between working with Heath Ledger as opposed to Gary Cole?

ShaunCassidy: Gary didn't carry a sword.

ShaunCassidy: far as I know...

ShaunCassidy: Seriously, Heath is a lot younger than Gary, was much greener, but I would have to say that both of them were both great partners to have.

ShaunCassidy: They were both very professional and both very good at what they did.

Moderator: <Bion> to <Moderator>: Mr. Cassidy, do you have any really helpful advice for me (who is also trying to get a show started)?

ShaunCassidy: Wow.

ShaunCassidy: Where do you live? What kind of show? leads me to ask so many questions, I don't know how to answer.

ShaunCassidy: my general advice for aspiring writers is:

ShaunCassidy: write a great spec script of a show you know and love, and then try and use that as a tool to get an agent.

ShaunCassidy: .

Moderator: <SusanneS> to <Moderator>: Do you prefer writing comedy, romance, thrillers or something else?

ShaunCassidy: I love great characters.

ShaunCassidy: I love characters who have a duality about them.

ShaunCassidy: Most of the characters I write have a sense of humor because I try to write smart people.

ShaunCassidy: And when you're dealing with dark situations, humor can really lighten the load.

Moderator: To ask a question, type "/msg Moderator" followed by your question..

Moderator: <MarkW> to <Moderator>: You're going to be a father again in March. Do you know yet if it's a boy or a girl?

ShaunCassidy: How do you know that, is the better question!?!

ShaunCassidy: Moderator, find out how MarkW knows...

Moderator: <Devero> to <Moderator>: Will we see you in front of the camera, as an actor, again?

ShaunCassidy: You never know. It's not a road I'm pursuing right now, but I enjoy it and if I get some free time and the opportunity presents itself, I might be persuaded.

ShaunCassidy: Of course, I'd have to lose that extra 300lbs I've gained since the Hardy Boys...

ShaunCassidy: I didn't really have the time to do cameos in AG or Roar.

ShaunCassidy: .

Moderator: <gypsy2wice> to <Moderator>: since AG was such a dark dramatic show, with some humor at times, can you name one really funny blooper?

ShaunCassidy: Hmm...

ShaunCassidy: Thinking....

ShaunCassidy: David Icke just left - he was on the set all the time.

ShaunCassidy: I was running the writing staff in LA - he would've seen much more of that on the set than I would've in dailies.

ShaunCassidy: I know they had a lot of fun, but nothing specific comes to mind right now.

ShaunCassidy: There was a 2-part finale to the show that I wrote that Gary was in a coffin, he was supposed to have been dead...

ShaunCassidy: and Ben and Dr. Peele come and dig him up...

ShaunCassidy: and his line was "well, if it ain't the Hardy Boys."

ShaunCassidy: I seem to remember Gary having a hard time getting that line out. I can't imagine why... ;)

Moderator: <Queri> to <Moderator>: Have you read any of the Virtual Episodes for American Gothic and are you now going to sue us?

ShaunCassidy: No, I promise I won't sue you.

ShaunCassidy: ..unless you have money.

ShaunCassidy: Just kidding.

ShaunCassidy: I have not read them, but I've heard about them and I've heard that some of them are very good.

ShaunCassidy: Truth is, I shouldn't be reading that kind of thing because, technically,

ShaunCassidy: I'm not supposed to read unsolicited material.

Moderator: <Annatto> to <Moderator>: Would you like to make movies as well as TV shows?

Moderator: <Annatto> to <Moderator>: Would you like to make movies as well as TV shows?

ShaunCassidy: Not at this point - I really like what I'm doing now.

ShaunCassidy: Writers don't have as much control in the motion picture business.

ShaunCassidy: Movies are more of a director's medium.

ShaunCassidy: If I ever started directing, that might be the time.

ShaunCassidy: But for now, I'd like to just keep doing what I'm doing.

Moderator: <Selena2> to <Moderator>: Some of the scenes in AG are pretty steamy...I bet you cut out a lot of "steamier" scenes...are there director's cut videos of AG?

ShaunCassidy: You mean for sale or in my office? (laughs)

ShaunCassidy: If they were for sale, I'm sure they'd make a bundle.

ShaunCassidy: I think there may have been some out takes of Gail, Lucas and Selena that might've been "not ready for prime time."

Moderator: <Valhalla> to <Moderator>: Would it be possible for you to finish off some of your story arcs formatted for TV in novel format, perhaps?

ShaunCassidy: It might be. Again, right now I'm working on two new shows and I couldn't begin to find the time to write a novel.

ShaunCassidy: But I really appreciate everybody's interest and their own creativity where AG is concerned.

ShaunCassidy: .

Moderator: <Saoirse> to <Moderator>: Do you consider the (primarily underexposed) actors of Roar to be discoveries? They're all wonderful performers.

ShaunCassidy: I think the only actor I can really take credit for is Heath Ledger. Not that I can take any credit for his talent, only for giving him the opportunity to be seen.

ShaunCassidy: The others have all done quite a bit of work and Lisa Zane is actually pretty well known.

ShaunCassidy: I obviously care a lot about acting and actors and I'm very proud of both of the casts I've been involved with.

Moderator: <Ely> to <Moderator>: There is a group of people who have joined together who are campaigning for the return of ROAR, called KTL...can you offer those of us who are a part of it any words of encouragement?

ShaunCassidy: As I think I said earlier, I feel our best episodes are yet to air.

ShaunCassidy: When they do, if they cause any kind of stir in the ratings, I think it would behove everyone to go back into production with the show.

ShaunCassidy: The studio would like that, the actors would like it and I would like it.

ShaunCassidy: But, ultimately, it's out of my hands.

Moderator: We will have to finish up soon. Please send your final questions to the Moderator now...

Moderator: <captain> to <Moderator>: Which episode of AG scared you the most?

ShaunCassidy: And to Ely: As soon as you hear about it coming back on, tell as many people as you know, or can find, to watch. And if you like it, let the network know - write them, e-mail them, send farm animals to their homes...

ShaunCassidy: captain: the pilot. I never knew how we'd get through it! ;)

Moderator: <RoaRioR> to <Moderator>: Do you have any news about ROAR in Australia, we have only seen 5 episodes and now our TV station {ten} have decided not to show the rest on a regular basis ? :(

ShaunCassidy: Sorry...

ShaunCassidy: They may be reluctant to commit to a show that is no longer in production...

ShaunCassidy: but like I said, if the remaining episodes were to air and do well here, I have no doubt the show would resume in Australia.

Moderator: <Wrenne> to <Moderator>: Did you borrow the effect of "Someone's at the door" written in blood on the back of the door from "The Shining"?

ShaunCassidy: REDRUM?

ShaunCassidy: Oh, the idea of "Someone's at the door" for me was much more frightening because of the history it invoked (i.e.. the rape of Caleb's mother) than the actual special effect of blood on the door.

ShaunCassidy: As far as "borrowing" that idea, you'll have to talk to the effects people.

ShaunCassidy: (laughs)

Moderator: <Ziggy> to <Moderator>: What DID the blood from Merlyn's eye mean?

ShaunCassidy: That she was in mourning for her own life...and that there was still some kind of supernatural life there.

ShaunCassidy: If anyone's interested - that was not a special effect. It was done with makeup and a small pump that was affixed beneath Sarah Paulson's eye.

ShaunCassidy: I thought it was the most powerful moment in the pilot.

Moderator: <sadieb> to <Moderator>: When you first conceived AG, did you have any actors in mind or did the casting just fall into place?

ShaunCassidy: I didn't have any actors in mind. I'd hoped to go with as many unknowns as possible because when you're trying to create a world it's difficult to suspend disbelief when you've got familiar faces running around everywhere.

ShaunCassidy: Gary, obviously, had been a television star, but he'd never been seen in this kind of role.

ShaunCassidy: I think he's a brilliant actor and I think in many ways Gary was rediscovered in this part.

Moderator: <editor> to <Moderator>: What is your conception of Lucas--a fallen angel, the devil himself--or something else?

ShaunCassidy: Sociopath.

ShaunCassidy: Very charming sociopath.

ShaunCassidy: I don't think it's important whether Lucas actually is the Devil or not.

ShaunCassidy: All that matters is that he BELIEVES he can wield that kind of power.

ShaunCassidy: It's his unwavering belief in himself that gives him so much authority.

Moderator: <Devero> to <Moderator>: How far into the future did you have your storylines Planned for American Gothic and Roar?

ShaunCassidy: Roar we actually have scripts that have yet to be shot.

ShaunCassidy: They ordered six more scripts at the end of the thirteen episodes, which we initially viewed as a good sign...

ShaunCassidy: AG, we were just working so hard to keep up - because we made 22 episodes - I was lucky to get the last one written.

ShaunCassidy: And after that, I needed a vacation that I'm still waiting for...

Moderator: Thank you so much for spending the time to chat with us!

ShaunCassidy: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

ShaunCassidy: Thanks for the smart questions.

Moderator: We're going to make the room unmoderated now!

Moderator: (remember, catch American Gothic on Friday nights)

ShaunCassidy: PS, my wife and I are having a baby - and we'll find out what it is when it gets here!

Shaun Cassidy: Spectrum Article: May 1998

Miller: Last week when I spoke with you briefly, you said that you were "writing like a maniac." Can you say anything yet about your new project?

Cassidy: I'm working on two, actually, at the same time. One [Hollyweird] is a horror mystery to shoot in Hollywood that I'm doing with Wes Craven, and the other one is a romantic comedy -- albeit sort of a dark romantic comedy -- that's going to shoot in Philadelphia that I'm doing with Renaissance.

CM: Are these pilots or separate films?

SC: They're both pilots for series. The romantic comedy is for NBC, and they other one's for Fox.

CM: I guess that answers one of the other questions I had for you, which is that in light of how your two recent series have been mangled by lack of network support, especially CBS's treatment of American Gothic, had you given up on network television? I guess not.

SC: No I haven't. My theory about television generally these days is as long as you keep trying to do something that's different and original, there's no failure. Gothic was really embraced by the critics, Roar was hit-and-miss. But none-the-less, even though Roar ultimately in my opinion wasn't as successful creatively as Gothic, we did do some things in that show that were as unique and original as anything on television. And I think, given the time to grow and find its audience -- preferably in winter as opposed to summer, which was when we came on -- that show would have found its footing and its audience as well.
My theory about TV generally is that if you keep something -- anything -- on long enough, it'll find an audience. It's just there're too many channels on now, and there's too much going on, and the fact is, the last dramatic hit was ER, and that's like four season ago. It's really, really difficult to catch fire unless you're given a chance. A show like The X-Files, going into its fifth season, was [originally] not a hit.

CM: Oh yeah. It had poor ratings its first season. The second season was mediocre. It wasn't until the third season that it started to find its footing.

SC: Yeah. People have too much to do, and there are too many choices on television, and that's why the ratings on all the networks are declining year after year after year.
You know, I don't have any negative feelings toward CBS or Fox. CBS, with what they were trying to do that year -- I mean, they were trying to be very bold and daring, and we believed that they were committed to trying to go in a different direction, and that's why we chose them. We had an option with Gothic of going to Fox or NBC, who both wanted the show. We chose CBS because they needed us the most. They had the most holes. And I didn't have a track record for getting series on the air, so I needed to go where I thought we had the best chance of getting on the air. I don't know, had we gone to Fox or NBC, if the show would have made it on the schedule. Even in hindsight, maybe CBS was the best place for us. But the fact is, new management came in, and they said, "No, no, no. We're happy with our Murder, She Wrote audience, and we don't know where to schedule this thing."

CM: Well, we thought Gothic was the best new show in the '95-'96 season, and then in 1996 CBS had EZ Streets --

SC: Another Universal show.

CM: Yeah, which we thought was the best new show on the air. Both of them not only did not find a huge audience, but fans had to search the schedule diligently to find out when -- or if -- they were going to be aired any given week. But I'm glad you're plugging along with new series.

SC: I am. Every experience is a learning experience. You have to try to cut the suit to fit. If you're going to go into business with a network, you have to know what the network is selling, you have to know what their other shows are, and you have to think like they do. It doesn't mean you sacrifice your own vision and creativity, but you want to be able to sell the show as well as execute the show. My job is to help Fox do that on this thing I'm doing with Craven, and as far as NBC goes on this romantic comedy, in the last few months I've been watching Seinfeld and Friends a lot, because I want to know totally what these guys are doing.

CM: I'd like to talk about your writing, which has a real literary quality to it, a literary sensibility. I seem to recall reading that on your own you read through the Stanford University reading list, or something like that.

SC: Columbia.

CM: How did that work out?

SC: Well, when I was eighteen years old I was doing a show called The Hardy Boys here, and I didn't go to college. So when I got through with my first television series, and all of my friends were either in college or just getting out of college, I didn't want to be the only kid in the room who couldn't keep up with the literary conversations. So I was reading an article in Esquire that said that Columbia was the last university in the country that had this freshman required reading list of like a hundred books. No matter what your major was, you had to be literate. And that meant you had to go out and read Moby Dick and The Communist Manifesto and Machiavelli and everything -- just sort of a broad, general knowledge primer. And consequently, because I had some time on my hands, and I was a new father, and I wasn't working -- I'd made a couple of bucks -- I put myself through school reading. And I read all those books.

CM: You realize that most college graduates -- despite what may be on the reading list -- do not end up reading everything.

SC: [Laughter] Subsequently I found that out. And a lot of my friends came back from college, and they weren't all that much brighter than when they left, as far as I was concerned. [Laughter] But when I got into my early twenties, I had a real desire to learn. Again, I was fortunate. I'd made some money, and I was able to kind of semi-retire through my twenties. I tell a lot of people that I basically stayed home during the eighties. I did some theatre here and there, but I didn't work much. I got very interested in writing. The little theatre acting I did was with some really good playwrights, and if you work in theatre the playwright is king. Like television. Unlike the movies. In movies, the directors run the show, and the writers can basically stay home. They're lucky to get on the set. But in TV, if you're a good writer, and you have any kind of management skill, you can end up running a show.

CM: In addition to the basic education you were getting from these novels, were you learning things about screenwriting that you were applying? Or do you see it as two disconnected items?

SC: I think they're disconnected. The other career that I was really interested in as a kid was architecture. I really think screenwriting is more like designing a house than it is like writing a novel. It's very structural. There is a formula, and your job is to try and tweak the formula and deconstruct the formula to keep things fresh. But you have to start with knowing what the formula is in order to do that.
I was having a version of this conversation with my wife this morning -- about why events lead you to a certain place, and how did I end up doing this. Why am I maybe good at some things where maybe other people aren't? I didn't go to school for this thing. But the fact is, I had had a lot of different careers, and I've had -- I've gone through some twisted experiences, and I do have a dark side. I always have. I had one when I was eighteen years old, but I was playing a different character then. I was playing the boy next door; that was my job. Not that that isn't in me, too, but I have an appreciation for the malevolent and the sadistic [laughter], and I have a dark sense of humor.

CM: I think that's obvious in your work, especially on Gothic. On both Roar and Gothic, was your scripting input limited to the credited episodes, or were you doing final rewrites on other's scripts?

SC: There are entire episodes -- more of Gothic than Roar -- but there are entire episodes of Gothic that I would write where my name wouldn't be on them. Robert Palm and I did the bulk of the writing on Gothic. We'd split it up. Sometimes I would take an entire show, sometimes he would take one. Of all the people who were on staff, the writers who probably had most to do with the show after Palm and myself would be [Stephen] Gaghan and [Michael] Perry. The only script of all the Gothic episodes that was mostly other writers besides Palm and myself was the "Damned If You Don't" episode, which was Gaghan and Perry. It was their first script for us, and we hired them based on that. And that was a really good script, but it -- you've obviously watched the shows because you've written very well about them, and I agree with most of your feelings about them -- but the "Damned If You Don't" show, like most of the other shows, was kind of this unique animal. It was more of an anthology episode. It wasn't really about our characters; it was about this other family, and [our characters] sort of stepped in and messed with them. But [Gaghan and Perry] were really good writers, and they wrote very good characters, and they had this sort of Southern Gothic feeling to their writing, and Gaghan is from the south. He'd been a writer at Esquire. Mike Perry's from Worthington, Ohio, and Ohio is the serial killer capital of the country. [Laughter] He had this sort of funny twisted sensibility -- he'd written this comedy about Ted Bundy coming back. I guess if you've experienced tragedy, you have to either find a sense of humor about it, or you die. These guys found a sense of humor. I've embraced that now, and the two shows I'm working on have a lot of humor. One is sort of the black side of love, and the other one is sort of sending up Millennium and Profiler. It's a comedic take on these people that are so in tune with the macabre.

CM: From what you said earlier, I gather you didn't agree with Fox's strategy to begin Roar as a summer series.

SC: No I didn't. I agree with them in theory that summer should not be surrendered to reruns. I think from that point of view they're right. I just don't think that Roar was the kind of show that should have debuted in the summer because ultimately Roar is not a popcorn show. It's a thinking-man's adventure show. It's closer to Star Trek in tone than it is to Hercules. And that was my intention. But maybe they thought they were getting Hercules.

CM: How many episodes were actually shot?

SC: Thirteen have been shot. There are five yet to air. I would say that four of those five are the best episodes we've made, because we did get better.

CM: Definitely. Did Fox jump ahead and show the end of the series?

SC: No. They jumped, like, two episodes, and I think I may have said, "Look, if this is going to be the last one, put on 'The Eternal.'" Because it did have something of an ending.

CM: So that wasn't episode thirteen.

SC: No. As it turns out the thirteenth one isn't really an ending, either. There is an ending -- Longinus meets an end of a sort.

CM: Is there a chance the others will air? Fox has told us it's a possibility, but I'm skeptical.

SC: I wouldn't count on it. Although I'm in business with them now again, so I may have a little more pull over there. I don't know. The fact is, it would be tough for them to justify running it in any kind of slot with any kind of promotion. I'm sure they'll air somewhere just because it's cost-effective to air everything they've ever paid for. But it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to put it on in a place anyone's ever going to see it or care about it. And even if it does well, it would be very expensive for them to get back into production. So I'd say the odds are very long and slim that it would go back on.
I'm proud of that show, too. I was working with some people on the show who had a different vision of the show than I did, and there was some conflict there. For me it was an exercise in earnestness. And I don't think television does that really well. I don't think I do that really well, either. Because I think the audience now has gotten to the point where it's very, very difficult for them to be swept away in the illusion of what they're watching. I think everybody -- our generation and younger, certainly -- knows they're watching a TV show all the time. Even if they go along with the ride and get swept up emotionally or whatever, they're still aware they're watching a TV show. I think, generally speaking, they're too media-conscious. And that's why you see so many shows alluding to other media. Lucas Buck whistling [the theme to] The Andy Griffith Show got a lot of attention -- "Well isn't that cool? Isn't that wild?" Well the fact is, that kind of thing is being done all over the place now, and I'm actually a little sick of it! [Laughter] Okay, we all grew up with TV shows, but let's make something new now.

CM: The American Gothic question we've been asked probably more than any other is this: Why was Dr.Crower written out of the storyline? At Jake Weber's request? Yours? Or was his exit intended from the beginning?

SC: It's funny. I watched the pilot -- I hadn't seen it in a while. I watched it on Sci-Fi [Channel], and I thought he was really good in it. And I asked myself the same question. I said, "What happened with him?" I thought he was so good in the pilot. And I don't think it was him, the actor. I don't even necessarily think it was the writing. I think the character of Buck just was so dominant. And CBS had this argument from the get-go: "Who's going to stand up to him? Who's going to be the good guy? Who are they going to root for?" And I kept saying, "You don't get it. The audience ain't going to be rooting for anybody but Buck. Not that they agree with what he's doing all the time, but he's just too charismatic a figure for anybody to compete with. You could bring in anyone you want, they're going to look flat by comparison. And if we bring in somebody that overshadows Buck, we're committing suicide." Not that I even thought that was possible, but if by some act of God that happened, then we're doing a different show anyway. So I think that was a no-win part trying to go up against him. I think the way you win in that part is doing what Jake did in the beginning, which is you play kind of messed up and neurotic and not perfect -- very imperfect. A man striving to be good is more heroic to me than a guy who's just written as "good guy." And that's what he was, but they didn't buy that. They thought he was weak by comparison, so "let's get a real square-jawed good guy," and they hired a guy who looked a lot like Gary [Cole].

CM: Yeah. Dr.Peale ended up being just a blander version of the role of Dr.Crower, and it didn't seem to work.

SC: I didn't want to say I told them so, but -- [Laughter]

CM: In the Spectrum 8 article we compared American Gothic -- especially the early episodes -- to C.S.Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

SC: I read that book a lot before I started writing [Gothic].

CM: One dominant theme of American Gothic is free will, and Lucas seems sometimes to endorse it and other times ridicule it. Is this the result of the various writers? Which view did you intend to dominate?

SC: The illusion of free will, and I think I'm quoting one episode when I say that. He liked to give people the idea that they had free will, but he knew better. He would advocate free will and encourage it and so forth, but there was always the idea that you were being given this free will as a gift from him! [Laughter]

CM: Not only was Crower corrupted by Lucas, but Gail was, too, which certainly was a shock. Was this direction intended from the beginning?

SC: Not necessarily. I had a pretty clear idea of where I wanted the show to go in the first thirteen, character-wise. But when you hire actors, and you hire writers, they all bring something to the party. Some of them are going to take you in different directions. If you fight that, you're going to be in trouble. The dynamic between Gail and Lucas ended up being one where I didn't feel, or other people didn't feel, that she was going to be able to beat this guy. Not that she wasn't a strong, intelligent woman -- she was. But again, whatever you want to say, this guy was just too much for her. The only person who could ultimately beat Lucas was Caleb because Lucas was in Caleb. And also that actor, Lucas Black, had -- not that the other actors weren't all really good actors; they are, I think -- but Lucas Black has an innate honesty to him. There's nobody more real than that kid acting, in my opinion. I just think he's a miraculous kid. He had such an inner integrity and sense of character and strength that even Gary, at his best, standing in a room with that kid, was on an even playing field, and we all felt that. Which is an amazing accomplishment, because any other kid wouldn't necessarily have been able to pull it off, but he did. And I always felt he was the protagonist. But they kept saying, "Make the doctor the hero." I said, "The kid's the hero. The kid is the star of the show. Gary's the bad guy."

CM: Did you know American Gothic would not be back for a second season when you wrote the season finale?

SC: I had a pretty good idea. I wasn't sure, but I figured, I'll write it, and if it's over, it is, and if it's not, I can run with this ending.

CM: Where would a second season have gone?

SC: Um, I think that -- well let's see, I'm trying to remember where everyone was left --

CM: Merlyn is apparently in Caleb --

SC: A negotiating tool with the actors, leaving everyone sort of half dead. [Laughter]

CM: One thing we wondered was whether the end of that last episode returned the story to the status quo, which of course is what most television does.

SC: Back to the beginning.

CM: Yeah. Or have we moved to a new level?

SC: I think we've moved -- no, I know we've moved to a new level, because, hopefully, if anyone was paying attention, they figured out what the dynamic was here, in that in order for the son to become the father, the father's got to die. And the fact that Merlyn may or may not have been dead, or in Caleb, or whatever, may have meant the kid would be stronger now. And he may have been emerging more as the hero. I always felt that if Caleb got into his teens, all of the issues that fathers have with their sons anyway would be played out on a much grander, more Gothic playing field. When you've got son-of-Lucas, you know, "F--- you, I'm going to take the car tonight. Stop me!"

CM: I've never read any comment from you about American Gothic's carrying on the "Twin Peaks tradition" in television -- probably better than any series to date. Was this for PR reasons wanting to distance your show from the other, or have you never seen much of a similarity between the two series?

SC: I never watched the show. That was one of the most incredible things. I was not a fan of the show. David Eick, who I worked very closely with on the pilot, was saying, "How cool, very Twin Peaks, very Twin Peaks." And I said, "I gotta tell you, I loved Blue Velvet, I like David Lynch a lot, I never watched Twin Peaks." But I guess a lot of other people did!

CM: Well, when you were interviewed on Tom Snyder's show, your description of American Gothic could have been lifted as Lynch's and Mark Frost's description of Twin Peaks. That's how uncanny it was.

SC: Well, taking a small town and turning it on its ear -- I think in that sense they're similar -- I've since learned a lot about Twin Peaks, and I've seen parts of episodes I guess in reruns. They seem to be doing a lot about nothing a lot of the time -- the dramatic Seinfeld. Very art schooly, and isn't this cool, but what's really going on, figure it out. To me, and maybe I'm misguided here, I thought Gothic was much clearer. There were questions that were unanswered, but there were a lot of questions that were answered every week. And I don't think we ever did anything just to say, oh let's do that because it'll look cool and let them figure it out. There was a method to the madness. And again if you watch the last few episodes, a lot of things that may never have been questions, like Buck's name and a dollar bill and temple -- "Oh, that's cool."

CM: That was one of our questions -- the whole idea of "the temple and the buck go together," and the dollar bill as a symbol of that relationship -- was this designed from the beginning? It just seemed too perfect to be stumbled upon later.

SC: When I came up with it, it was 104 temperature one day, and I was working on the last two episodes, and I just, like -- "This is great!" And maybe it was subconscious. I mean, money is the root of all evil. And Steve De Jarnatt, who worked on the next-to-last episode, he came in with all this stuff about, "Have you ever really looked at a dollar bill?" The snake -- we did this whole thing with the caduceus, I think it's called? -- the snake on the medical symbol. He said, "Look at this dollar. And the eye there." Apparently there are whole cults that are built up about the Masons, and what's on the dollar bill. And the snake flag used to be South Carolina's -- "Don't Tread On Me," or whatever -- I can't remember it all now, because it was so much stuff. But it was just food for people on the Internet, you know? [Laughter] And I just thought, well there's something interesting. And you know what? Maybe it's all bull----, or maybe it's real. And that's the stuff I love, is that it could be. Well who knows? If people turn off the TV and went and pulled out their dollars in their wallets, and looked at them in a new way, well that's kind of neat.

CM: Did you have anything to do with the American Gothic novel?

SC: Only in that I said to the writer, whom I spoke with once -- he'd read all the scripts and watched all the shows, and he said, "Which one should I do?" -- and I said, "I don't know, but if you try and do anything following what we've seen, you're probably going to get in trouble. Why don't you just try and do a prequel?" And I haven't read it.

CM: Recently, the Japanese released American Gothic on laserdisc..

SC: It's a huge hit in Asia. And Europe.

CM: Will there be a U.S. edition?

SC: I don't know. Maybe if it does well on Sci-Fi.

CM: Have you received any response from the Sci-Fi Channel yet about how it's doing there?

SC: I talked to them before it aired, and they were thrilled to have it. And a lot of the critics were really excited it was coming back on. And for a show that hasn't been off that long, it's gotten a lot of new press.

CM: I thought I read somewhere that you didn't care for the "Potato Boy" episode, which I -- and others -- have praised as one of the best of the series. What is your opinion of the episode?

SC: Here's where I'm coming from. I do like the episode. The script was the best script we had. Michael Nankin wrote the perfect script. It was just this incredible piece of art. It was about as arty as we got on any of the episodes, but in my opinion it wasn't pretentious. It was really pure; it was beautiful. It was like a poem. Nothing against the director; I just don't think that the episode was executed as well as the script was, so ultimately for me it was a disappointment. But in the mix, I think it's a great episode.
One of the things I'm proudest of with all these episodes is they're all totally different. There is not one like another. Again, this goes to my general feeling about TV, is that if you just keep shooting for the high bar, there's nobility in that. Even if you don't make it every time, at least you're trying to do something that's different. And when you hit it, it's great.

CM: Both Roar and American Gothic have strong elements of religion infusing them. Are you simply addressing an area that television has rarely done well, or was it already of particular interest to you?

SC: When we started I think it was more taboo, and now, with Touched By an Angel, and Nothing Sacred, and others, it's become very conventional. Religion, and good and evil, and big, big, big themes like that, are only interesting to me if they're played out in human ways. And one of the problems with Roar sometimes is that we played big themes on a big playing field. And that's when you fall into pretentiousness. You have to keep your sense of humor about this. God has a sense of humor! [Laughter] Lucifer has a sense of humor. Why shouldn't television writers have a sense of humor! And the characters that are in the television shows. Not all of them, but some of them. As long as there's one person going, "Hey wait a minute, this is bull----," then you can get away with just about anything.
Anyway, point being, when you're dealing with a show thematically that's about good and evil it's going to have religious overtones -- the Bible is a very violent document, a very beautiful document, there's great mythology in it, there's great wisdom in it. You couldn't shoot it because you couldn't air it on television. So that's sort of the playing field. In Roar we got into some of that because of the time in history -- all that stuff was new, you know. And it shouldn't have had this great reverence yet. If you look at it realistically, this new idea comes on the scene, and some people are going to embrace it, and some people are going to be terrified by it. They want to crucify it, or shoot it down, or whatever. And the character of Catlin in Roar was a really interesting character because she was a closet Christian at a time when that was a very dangerous thing to be. And her reasons for being a Christian had nothing to do with religion. It had to do with, "This is a guy who is saying things that appeal to me."

CM: I assume her faith was intended from the beginning, and not added later as a way to make an interesting scene or episode.

SC: It was something that was thought about from the get-go, because she'd been a slave, she'd been around the Romans. She'd seen the good and bad sides of Christianity. More people have died in the name of religion than any war. I'm not a big fan of religion for that reason. But I am a true believer in God, and I have great faith, and I think that a spiritual connection with something is a really important part of our experience. That doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the church.

CM: One more writing question. Both of your series have been filmed outside of the LA/New York axis. As both a producer and writer, how does that work for you? How much time do you spend on set, and how much time in LA writing?

SC: I'm almost always in LA writing. David Eick, who happens to be sitting in my office right now, did a great job on Gothic, because he was our producer there. I'd be on the phone with him often about, "What's the intent of this?" or talking to a director. Fortunately, for all of us, he did a very good job there. Australia was more difficult. When there's a problem there, it's tomorrow here, or yesterday, or whatever it is. And it's too late, basically! [Laughter] You find out about a problem three days later. That was really hard. We had a director/producer who was there, Jefery Levy, who directed "Spear of Destiny," which I think was the best directed episode we did, and another episode that has yet to air that's also really good that, if there is a finale to Roar, it's probably this episode. But it's just an impossible thing. The trade-off is you get great production values, certainly in Roar. I mean, Roar was as good-looking a show as I think has ever been on -- it was beautiful.
The next two shows I'm doing, one is definitely going to shoot here in town because I've had it with that! And because I think there's a Hollywood that I know that I want to shoot that hasn't been seen before, which is not the Raymond Chandler Hollywood, or even the Palm Springs swimming pools/Beverly Hills thing. But it's the idiosyncratic, kitchy, strange, Tim Burton-esque Hollywood. This is a sea of people who have come from other places, and having grown up here, I always felt like a man without a country, because I felt like I was the only one who was actually from Los Angeles. LA's like Vegas, in the sense that people come in to score and get out, except so many of them don't get out. They end up in other careers, or they end up as tragic figures -- you know, the would-be Marilyn Monroe is a manicurist in Van Nuys, the Montgomery Clift is a realtor in Studio City, or whatever it is, and you've got a lot of broken dreams here. And that's dark, but it also can be funny.

CM: So have both of these new series definitely been picked up for the fall season, or are things still up in the air?

SC: I have a very good track record so far. Every pilot I've ever written has become a television series. That's not to say [laughter] I can't be slapped right back down! The one I'm doing for Fox is definitely shooting as a pilot; I haven't written the script yet. The other one I've written the script for and am in the middle of re-writing, and there's this big penalty if they don't shoot it as a pilot, but there's a possibility they wouldn't. They like the script a lot, so I think we have a very good shot. But even if you make a pilot, you don't necessarily get on as a series. Both pilots should be shooting in about a month.
I would say that the Fox one has a better chance of making it on the fall schedule because of the combination right now of Wes Craven and myself -- I mean, Wes is as hot as he's ever been because of the Scream movie, and my doing something in this genre is appealing because of Gothic. And I have a real good relationship with them. Whatever you can say about Fox, they actually really did like Roar. And they liked where it was going. They admitted that they screwed up by putting it on in the summer.

CM: The series was accused of not being good enough for the fall schedule. Fox wasn't saying that, but others were saying it about the show.

SC: It wasn't true, though. They planned it as their big thing. Because they had nothing to turn down. There was no pilot made. They decided when they bought the idea that they were going to use this to break into summertime. But I said to them from the get-go, "This isn't a little popcorn show. This is a show that people are going to want to think about." And they were like, "Yeah yeah, great great great. X-Files. We make smart TV." I said, "I know you make smart TV. But during the summer people are out in their boats or at camp; they're not sitting in front of the TV set necessarily. In the summertime, they're not going to want to think about this regular cast member who may or may not have killed Christ. They'll watch Baywatch."

CM: That about covers it. Is there anything else you wanted to mention that we didn't touch on?

SC: I don't think so. Glad you liked "Potato Boy." I'm eager for people to see it [on the Sci-Fi Channel]. I love the show, and I'm glad that you like it so much, and I guess your readers do. I'm proud of Roar as well. And I hope that you keep coming back. I'm really excited about both of these shows I'm doing. I feel completely schizophrenic because they're totally different.


Gary Cole

 Gary Cole enjoying his 'Talladega Nights'

By Daniel Fienberg

LOS ANGELES - From ineffective bosses to uninspiring vice presidents, Gary Cole's roster of motley characters prepared him well for playing a pot-dealing, deadbeat dad in the new comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

"It was pretty clear to me what they created - any bad choice and any irresponsible way of looking at things was the best way to go," Cole notes of the character conceived by writer-director Adam McKay and writer-star Will Ferrell. "Anything that was wrong, short of violence, was a good choice for Reese Bobby. Anything that was not nurturing, was uncaring and was short-sighted was the way to go."

Cole's "Talladega Nights" character is both a warping force and a mentor. On one hand, his drunken advice "If you ain't first, you're last," crippled the development of son Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), a talented but self-destructive NASCAR driver. On the other hand, Reese returns to Ricky's life in time to help resurrect his career, with the help of some planted drugs and a cougar. No stranger to playing over-sized characters in movies like "Dodgeball" and "A Very Brady Sequel," Cole gets laughs from Reese's paternal failings, but never goes into caricature.

"I played it for real," Cole explains. "There's no comment from me about the character. They wrote a very real character even though it's broad in a comic way. The center of the guy is a very real, flawed person. You kind of have to start there to get anything - comedy has to come from some kind of reality or some level of reality. Sometimes it's very broad, but it still comes from somewhere that's truthful."

And if playing the character from a truthful place wasn't working, Cole could just tap into his scruffy facial hair for inspiration.

"All my performances are hair-based, it seems," he laughs. "Wigs have been very kind to me."

He continues, with a modicum of seriousness, "We arrived on a really good look. They threw a beard on me at first and that looked like makeup, it looked like a beard. So we had a little bit of a progression. We started with a cowboy hat and shaved and then they threw a disco wig with a moustache that was not great. And they threw another wig on that was more mileage and had some gray in it. And then I just didn't shave and then they built a moustache on top of that, so it looked like he just crawled out from under a rock."

Cole is talking from the set of "Forever Strong," one of two independent films he's shot in Utah this summer. One of the industry's busiest character actors, Cole has moved fluidly between regular television gigs (TNT's "Wanted," most recently), voice-over work ("Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law," most notably) and film parts. He says that when he's recognized, 90 percent of the notice comes from his turn as Bill Lumbergh in the 1999 cult film "Office Space." But he admits that if there's a formula to finding that kind of phenomenon, he hasn't found it.

"The more you do it, you realize that the philosophy is that you show up, you do it, you do the best you can and then you walk away," he says. "Everything else is up to somebody else in terms of how they digest it, what they think of it, whether it's good or bad. You move on to the next experience. There's no point in `What if-ing' everything. I've been around long enough to know that you just move on and if it works, that's great, that's gravy. If it doesn't? So what. The next thing will work."

© 2006,

Gary Cole interview from 2004, about playing a lead singer in a rock band

From the SCI-FI/Fantasy section of the TV. Guide
October 21, 1995

Devil in Disguise by Glenn Kenny

By now, most viewers have gotten over the initial shock of CBS’s American Gothic (Fridays,10 P.M./ET) and its very anti-antihero, Sheriff Lucas Buck, embodied with creepy enthusiasm by Gary Cole (Midnight Caller). The actor wearing the badge of the sheriff who brings as much terror as possible to the town of Trinity, SC., Clearly
relishes his work.
"I loved the script for the pilot; I decided I wanted in before I finished reading it," Cole recalls. "It was very unusual, well written, and there was a lot of specificity to it, which I liked." No
compunctions about playing a stone-cold villain? "Ultimately, roles like that can be the most interesting to play," Cole notes. "And besides," he adds slyly, "he is very likable."
Cole is quick to point out that Buck’s brutal actions in the premiere do not represent the character’s standard modus operandi. "Shaun Cassidy {Gothic’s creator} has talked with me about how Buck does his handiwork—he won’t be getting his hands dirty that much. Manipulation is his thing, getting people into certain positions and
situation and standing by as all hell, as it were, breaks loose."
Cole is also interested in exploring the character’s peculiar charm. "Although he’s evil, he comes wrapped in a nice package. There is a real southern vibe there, in that Buck is kind of a bizarre, folksy street philosopher, imparting his ‘wisdom’ to the people he meets. What’s going to be a challenge is keeping the character in focus but not repeating ourselves. We’re already taking steps to insure that. In an upcoming episode, the spotlight is on Buck’s nemesis Crower (Jake
Weber). I’m trying to control what he does, of course, but from the background. I think for
the show to really work, Buck has to step outside the picture sometimes so we can get more of a sense about Trinity." 

Cinescape magazine
Xpose Magazine
TV Guide: Oct 21 1995


Paige Turco

Paige Turco Interview from Stuff Magazine 2003

Paige Turco plays a plain Jane in the new CIA spy series The Agency. But we’ve got startling photographic evidence that proves the role is just another cover-up.

Stuff, 2/20/2003
By Stuart Matranga

Upon scoping out CBS’s new spy thriller The Agency, you may have a tough time recognizing Paige Turco. On the show, the Massachusetts-born actress with sexy credentials (before this role, Paige played the delightfully accommodating lesbian on NYPD Blue and the orgasmic older woman who drove Scott Wolf to drink on Party of Five) has somehow been cast as a mousy forgery expert. A forgery expert? That, sir, is a fraud. Paige is so hot she could steam the serial numbers off a ten-spot. But with her obvious assets, it can’t be long before The Agency reassigns her to a job that reveals more of her true self. And then we’ll all be watching.

STUFF: So you’re a Catholic-school vet. Any coming-of-age stories that involve flannel skirts, heavy petting and gallons of booze?
PAIGE: No, I was really good. We did have this movie theater that we’d go to. Our parents would drop us off, and we would pay our money and simply go out the theater’s back door and hang out. Do you remember that button that said, my mom thinks i’m at the movies? That was kind of our story.

More, please.
Oh, I almost got kicked out of school. I’d sneak out, get into a car with a bunch of townies and drive to Roxbury, where we drank beer and hung out. That’s as bad as it got.

Wow. Let me regain my footing. How bad do you get when you get bad now?
I’m a good girl.

Except when…
My favorite sexy thing to do now is salsa dancing. It’s safe sex, really. I go to the Conga Room in L.A., Jimmy Smits’ place.

I love Jimmy Smits!
And the Copa in New York. It’s amazing. I am a sensualist. I like feeling a man’s hand on the small of my back, a man who knows what he’s doing—leading, but not pushing, anticipating but not being aggressive. Oh, my God! A good salsa is better than sex.

You should talk to a therapist—or a caterer. So what makes a guy a good dancer?
A guy who can control me. Because of my dance training, it takes a lot for me not to lead. It’s a rhythm thing.

Speaking of which, how would you relate dancing to sex?
You can tell from how someone dances with you how he’ll be in bed. He doesn’t have to be a technically proficient dancer to be great in bed, but it helps. Sex is all about balance and sensitivity and being aware of where the other person’s energy is. Great dancers are usually great lovers. Whether they’re worth two cents as people is another story. I should make guys dance with me before they get any further.

Or make them beg.
I think sexuality and sensuality are very healthy. What’s scary is when people hide it. I think sex is fun and, for better or worse, funny. I get some of my biggest laughs during sex. You need to talk about sex with a sense of humor, especially because sex is a sensitive area for a lot of people. The other thing is that you may not want to tell the world everything you do in bed.

Could you please talk about sex some more?
A lot of men like visceral sexuality, but that doesn’t mean that sex only means big boobs in your face.

OK, you just lost me.
The quiet librarian can be sexy. I like being sexy in subtle ways. It takes time to learn as a woman to trust whatever it is you have. Playing Terri [in The Agency], I wanted to take a very shy, wounded person and make her sexy. I think she’s very feminine and also very excited by the danger of espionage.

So…you played a lesbian on NYPD Blue. Guess what I’m going to ask next?
I don’t know. I’ve been asked a lot of things, so shoot.

Way to not do my job for me. How many lesbian overtures have you received since your character first debuted on the show?
Direct ask-outs? None. Not one.

OK, well, did you do a lot of research to prep for this role?
Ah…ha. No, because I wanted to approach it from…it was very important for me to play her as a woman who had the same problems that we all have within our lives—and [lesbianism] just happens to be her sexual preference.

Uh-huh. Ever kiss a girl?
Have I ever? No. No, I’m telling you, I lead a very boring life. I guess I never realized it…

Let’s pretend your name is spelled P-A-G-E, rather than P-A-I-G-E. As a page, what would you let me write on you?
Oh, wow! What would I let you write on me? What would I let you write or where?

You made my question better! Both.
Probably my calf. Maybe that’s a dancer thing. I don’t know what I’d let you write. This is very hard. What would I write on myself? Probably very happy to be blessed. And if I wrote it myself, it’d be on the small of my back.

Since you star in a show titled The Agency, it leads me to believe you’re an expert on all agencies. So what’s up with the FBI? I mean, could they have more Russian spies on the payroll? Got any inside information for me?
No. To be honest with you, I don’t want to know. We actually filmed at CIA headquarters. They did a two-week background check on me.

Anything in your background that you were worried they’d discover?
No. But it creeped me out more than anything. I was like, God, are they bugging my apartment? Are they talking to my neighbors?

You played the role of April O’Neil in the two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sequels (TMNT to insiders). How does one prepare for a role opposite four reptilian-human hybrids with a penchant for pizza and ass-kicking?
Well, it takes a lot of imagination. It was probably one of the hardest things to do.

Did you ever journey to one of your local pet stores and have an open dialogue with our shelled friends of the deep?
No, no, no. Because they wouldn’t be able to talk back to me.

Oh…OK. One last question: Would you describe yourself as sexually courageous, voracious or advantageous?
Courageous, voracious or…

Or advantageous. At Stuff, we like to rhyme.
I wouldn’t describe myself. You’d have to ask my guy. I am Catholic, remember! On some level, you’d hope I’d be all of the above.

Can I get some specific examples of at least one of the above?
With a question like that, I have to say ask my guy.

Sigh. Billy Joel was right about you Catholic girls.


December 2002 Fitness Magazine

Paige Turco Of "The Agency" Reveals The Top-Secret Routine That Keeps Her Strong, Slim and Sculpted.

Tip: "The gym isn't the only place to get a workout-try taking a hike
or a bike ride if you need a change. The most important thing is to
make exercise fun." -Paige Turco, Fitness magazine 12/02

Paige Turco is serious about staying fit for her hit CBS show The
Agency. "It such a physically demanding part," says the Paige, whose
CIA-agent character regularly takes on the bad guys in fight and
chase scenes. Off the set, the thirty-something actress also known
for past roles in Party of Five and NYPD Blue) keeps fit with a mix
of Pilates, yoga, running and power walks. Fortunately, Paige a
former dancer, loves to work up a sweat. "Endorphins feel great!" she

Boredom-Free Workout

To stave off boredom and stay motivated. Paige mixes up her routine.
*Power walk for 10 minutes, run for 2 minutes; repeat walk/run for 2
minutes; repeat walk/run pattern for a total of 30-45 minutes (3 or 4
days a week)
*Training session with a Pilates instructor (1 hour; 1 or 2 days a
*Ashtanga yoga classes (2 or 3 days a week)
*Stretching (10 minutes a day)
*Pilates-style sit-ups such a teaser and crisscross 15 to 25 reps
each; daily)

Paige's "Special" Diet
A typical day starts with a breakfast burrito filled with egg whites,
cheese and bacon, plus decaf coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Lunch is a five-ounce serving of salmon or sea bass with steamed
broccoli, lima beans or brussel sprouts. Dinner at home can include a
salad with a steak as reward for a hard day on the set. When she's
working late, her favourite catered dinner is called "The Paige
Special"-a deli sandwich piled high with roast beef, Swiss cheese,
mayo and salt. Paige snacks on fresh fruit like strawberries, red
grapes, watermelon and apples. She also drinks several bottles of
water a day, she loves olive oil. "I drizzle a bit on almost
everything-bread, steak, fish and veggies. I even put in the tub for
a relaxing bath."

Favourite Indulgences
Paige loves Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that can be eaten
like peanut butter. "Sometimes I'll just a dig a spoon into a jar or
make a crepe with bananas," she says. Other treats include a slice a
flourless chocolate cake or some other chocolate dessert-"the sweeter
the better!"

Battle of the Sexes
Knowing that she has to keep up with the guys on-screen is a huge
motivator. "It's a sure-fire way to get me moving," she says.

Her Favourite Body Part
"My calves. It took years to develop them with dancing, and they're
still strong and shapely."

How She Stays Sane
Chilling out with her cat, Abigail. "She acts more like a dog than a
feline-she's very loving and cuddly."

Next Challenge
Mastering martial arts. "They have the same freedom of movement as
dancing. And I like that martial arts combine mind, body and spirit
by improving your focus and awareness."

Article by Debra L. Wallace


A Little Rebelliousness Has Served Turco Well Nov 2002

By Samantha Critchell
South Coast Today
November 2, 2002

NEW YORK — Paige Turco plays CIA operative Terri Lowell on the CBS drama The Agency, a workaholic who's skilled with computers and goes strictly by the book.

Lowell is a wizard in the CIA's graphic design department, and her ambition and good instincts have made her a prime candidate for fieldwork.

Off-screen, though, Turco, who received training from real-life CIA operatives, says she's rebellious and isn't particularly computer literate.

But the 37-year-old actress is working to understand Lowell's psyche, including catching up on the news when she's off the set. And, like her character, Turco (a former ballerina) is studying martial arts.

The Agency, now in its second season (Saturdays, 10 p.m. ET), also stars Beau Bridges, Rocky Carroll, David Clennon and Will Patton. The pilot had a plot line involving Usama bin Laden; a later episode involved an anthrax scare. Both shows were written and shot before last year's terrorist attacks but aired after Sept. 11.

Viewers responded particularly well to her character, Turco says, because Lowell was new to the CIA and learning how the intelligence world works — just like all the people glued to the news on television.

Turco graduated from the University of Connecticut and performed with the New England Dance Conservatory, the Amherst Ballet Theater Company and the Western Massachusetts Ballet Company.

Her first acting jobs included the daytime soap operas The Guiding Light and All My Children. She had roles on the TV series American Gothic, NYPD Blue and Party of Five, and starred in two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.

Although The Agency is shot in California, Turco considers Manhattan her home. On a recent weekend visit, she squeezed in a doctor's appointment, this interview and a double cheeseburger, delivered from her favorite diner.

1. Why can't you commit to Los Angeles?

Turco: In New York there is more of a diversity of lives. Most of my friends aren't in the business but in L.A. so much of the city is 'industry' — not that that's a negative thing ... for me, though, I need to be able to walk around real life. Last year, I walked somewhere (in Los Angeles) and people almost drove their cars off the road.

2. A broken ankle ended your career as a ballerina before it really got started. Any regrets?

Turco: I went through a period where I couldn't even go to the ballet and watch because it was so painful and I missed it. ... Now I think it was the biggest blessing that could ever happen in my life. What I learned from that — and I try to live this way — is you really never know what's going to happen.

3. What's it been like to work on The Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?

Turco: None of us wanted to keep doing the show just for the sake of keeping our jobs, not for the sake of entertainment if it was going to make people feel uncomfortable or bring them any more fear or pain ... but we also became a voice in saying this really happened, there are real people involved and there are people left behind who deal with this pain every day.

4. How did you react to your first meeting with former teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy, an executive producer of The Agency and on your previous show American Gothic?

Turco: He'll kill me for saying this, but when I first met him all I could hear was `Da Doo Ron Ron.' But he's my buddy now. And he's my boss.

5. Can you describe that rebellious streak you mentioned?

Turco: When I first started doing soaps I always played the goody-goody. I said to my mother, `Well, it's kind of fun because I get to play the perfect daughter you never had.’

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