Superman on Television
KRYPTON CLUB INTERVIEW: BRAD BUCKNERby Craig Byrne
"Being with you is stronger than me alone."
"And you know, you put up with me for the same reason I put up with you, it's because I'm completely in love with you!" "And... I love you." "Did we just make up?" "I think so."
"And you took my hand and said, 'Jimmy! I can make a man of you!'"
"If I give you the gun I can't shoot Lois... duh!"
All of these quotes have something in common... they all came from the minds of "Lois & Clark" executive producers Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, who not only spend long hours every day to bring us the world's greatest television show, but also were the writers us such favorite episodes as "Ordinary People," "Just Say Noah," "Home is Where the Hurt Is," and "Double Jeopardy." We have been fortunate enough to be able to have an interview with one of them for this 100th issue of the Krypton Club Newsletter.
Before we start, let me tell you a little bit about Brad... one would probably assume him and the other L&C people to have these huge egos and all; after all, they've seen how obsessive we fans can be. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Brad acted like a regular guy, not affected at all by the power of being one of those who control one of America's Top 20 shows. We also can't start with this interview without thanking Tom Whelan, Brad's assistant and really nice person. Thanks for everything, Brad and Tom... you're awesome =^) Now, let us start with the first question of the interview...
CRAIG: Can you tell us the story of how you and Eugenie began to work together?
BRAD: We were introduced by a mutual friend of ours, who was a director. Neither of us had ever worked with a partner; Eugenie actually was an actress in Second City at Chicago, and came out here and did a lot of acting. I was a struggling writer, trying to write spec scripts and other stuff, and [thought] we might hit it off with one another, and we did, and within a few months we sold our first sitcom half-hour.
CRAIG: And what was that for?
BRAD: It was for a Danny Thomas show called "The Practice."
CRAIG: And then you went on to "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," right?
BRAD: We created "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." That ran for four or five years.
CRAIG: Did you think "Scarecrow" changed after the lead characters of the show got married?
BRAD: Yeah, and the show kept changing, because we just underwent a lot of changes in leadership. We only lasted a year; that was all we wanted to do with it, and it would change and the show kept changing in tone. I didn't even really watch it much after we left; I collected my checks...
CRAIG: When did you join the crew of "Lois & Clark?"
BRAD: Just last year. I think we started in the first week of June last year.
CRAIG: Were you familiar with the Superman characters before you came on to the show?
BRAD: I was familiar with the Superman characters from reading the comics as a kid; I didn't read a lot, but I knew basically the idea and I didn't watch the show that much.
CRAIG: When the two of you are working on an episode together, how do you split up the writing chores?
BRAD: What we do -- and not everybody works this way -- is lay out the story together, on that bulletin board right there (points), and hang cards act by act. Every scene gets an index card, and we have the teaser and four acts, and then we just divide it up -- she takes her stack of cards to her room, and I sit down in here, and we each write half the show, and then we swap, and we go over each other's stuff.
CRAIG: [Of the characters on "L&C"] Are there particular characters that you find to be more fun to write?
BRAD: Lois and Clark.
CRAIG: And which characters are the most challenging to write?
BRAD: They're both the most fun to write and the most challenging, because they're the most complicated characters of the show. They get the most screen time; and so you can afford to go into different levels of their behavior. Lois is tough but has a lot of vulnerability and a lot of insecurity too, and Clark on the surface is a great guy and very patient [LOL..."patient" --Craig] but he has those buttons that when pushed emotionally you get different reactions out of him. They're really interesting, and the two actors play off of each other so well.
CRAIG: Of all the scenes that you've done in this season during episodes you've written or produced so far, which scenes stand out as being your favorites?
BRAD: Probably the most recent episode of ours that aired, "Double Jeopardy," and a lot of the Lex Luthor scenes. John [Shea] is wonderful, and his scenes with Dean were great. I loved some of the stuff with Dean and the clone, when he was angry with the clone and he discovered at the Daily Planet that she was a clone. Everyone felt bad for him, and it was startling to a lot of people, because you've never seen him grab Teri and shake her and get angry with her.
CRAIG: Teri did a wonderful job in that episode, playing so many characters that were so completely different. Thanks for writing in Teri singing too, she has a great voice.
BRAD: She does. She took it really seriously; to prepare for doing that episode, she worked with a vocal coach for a couple of weeks, and then laid down the track on tape.
CRAIG: In all of the episodes that you've written, do you have a favorite line?
BRAD: Hmm... well, I actually like this one that one of the writers framed and gave me...
(Brad walks over to his bulletin board, and brings the quote inside the frame over to me. The quote was "Honey, there will always be another headless corpse. Love comes only once.")
CRAIG: Are there any characters or villains from the past of the show that you'd like to see come back next year?
BRAD: Past seasons, or this year? Lex Luthor, absolutely, he just keeps coming back, you can't kill him with a stick....
CRAIG: Asabi's gonna save him, just watch
BRAD: Asabi was so interesting, because he had a very limited role in the episodes we'd seen him in earlier, and we didn't even know what his range as an actor was, and he was fabulous! We liked the Lakes a lot (the people who collected them, and had them in the cages)....
CRAIG: How about any of the old characters, like Dan Scardino and Cat Grant, will they be returning?
BRAD: I don't think you're gonna see Cat again, and these were decisions that were made before I got here, it just was not something they felt worked out real well for the show. And then Scardino was only useful really as sort of a triangle, to get them closer and closer together, now we are are able to do less and less of that.
CRAIG: How about Star, will we see her again?
BRAD: You know, she's having a baby right now! (laughs)
CRAIG: Of course, there's always next season =^) Okay... when you write an episode, do you write it for particular guest stars, or with certain people in mind?
BRAD: No, because you have to work so far in advance and there are so many difficulties involving getting a guest star because people's schedules are so weird and our hours are so long, and because of the way our production works, it is very difficult to give guest stars exactly what they need in terms of schedule, so generally, we just come up with the villain or the guest part, and write it however we want to write it.
CRAIG: And is there anyone you'd like to get on the show as a guest star?
BRAD: Oh, gosh, yes... we actually tried hard to get Marlon Brando.. they were thinking about it for a while! That would be fabulous... it's interesting because this year, the show is so successful this year, that people who formerly had no interest in doing the show suddenly became available to us... Shelley Long did the show, Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis did a show... I think if you can get a ball rolling like that, where it starts to become like an "in" thing to do, it's exciting.
CRAIG: Can you describe the process of putting together an episode?
BRAD: Basically, we started way back last June, and we basically laid out the arc for the whole 22 episodes, just in the loosest form knowing that the romance was going to take us through the whole season, and then we focused in particular on the first seven episodes, because it took that many episodes to get her to say "Yes, I'll marry you," so we knew kind of the roller coaster that the relationship had to ride, and once we had that in position, and then we could hang all of the villainy and the action plots around that. But generally, it takes a couple of weeks to get a script written, and then it has to go through all its rewrites, but while that's happening they start prepping the show, so the shows to take 7 days to prep, and that's planning the sets, the locations.... So it takes 7 days to prep, 8 days to shoot an episode, and then another week and a half to post the show. It's a long process....
CRAIG: And what is your favorite part of this process?
BRAD: Obviously we love writing the episodes, and writing the scripts...
CRAIG: Has there ever been a story or concept that you talked about doing that completely evolved into something else?
BRAD: Probably the wedding episode underwent the most change, because generally the way the show works, the action part of the plot has to go hand- in-hand with the relationship, and they almost get equal amounts of time, and it became clear to us as we were doing the wedding that the wedding and the preparation for it, the relationship REALLY had to be center stage, so the action plot took a back seat, which I guess bothered some people who watched the show because of the action, but clearly the star of that episode was the wedding, and it didn't start out to be that way at all.
CRAIG: What kinds of stories do you like to tell the most?
BRAD: The ones where the relationship takes center stage are really the most interesting to us, and I think that the show is evolving more and more into that, so the action plot really affects our principles emotionally and directly; like in the Christmas show, when the action plot was about the resurgence of Intergang but what it really meant was that he was going to get this Kryptonian flu and nearly die, and that's the good kind of episode when everything really impacts on the characters.
CRAIG: The recent wedding/clone/amnesia arc got quite a response from fans, which you have probably seen. Were you expecting that at all?
BRAD: We were kind of bracing for it, because people are really passionate for the show. We weren't surprised by the reaction, but I think we were surprised by the amount of attention that it got, that all 3 of the big tabloids carried 2 pages of color and were talking about frog-eating and cloning, it was on Hard Copy, we were just staggered by the amount of attention.
CRAIG: How much input do you get from ABC and DC Comics?
BRAD: DC has a relationship with the show where we send them outlines, they kind of know what we're up to and they send back their commentary... they don't have "kill power," but we keep them posted, and they send us their comments and suggestions. A lot of them just don't work for us, because doing a comic book and doing a TV show are two different things.
CRAIG: What is your opinion on having "guest heroes" on the show?
BRAD: You mean like Spider-Man, or Batman, or...?
CRAIG: Like Batman, or the Flash, or something like that....
BRAD: I don't know how I feel about it. It's not anything that has ever intrigued us too much, because some people would really like it, but it would almost make the show too comic-booky in a wierd way, because I think we got a lot of people, a lot of the new audience this year, who were amazed that what they assumed to be a comic book was actually as real as it is, and this relationship was as mature as it is. If you start bringing in lots of Batman, and Spider-Man, and everything, you'll excite the kids & the teen audience, but I think you're gonna turn off some of the people who buy Superman, and will accept that, but when you start populating this world with too much of that kind of stuff, it becomes too comic-booky.
CRAIG: Fans notice continuity a lot; is there somebody who watches for that stuff?
BRAD: There's nobody who is particularly designated; there is somebody here who keeps the Lore, we have all of the books of all the stuff the show's done and what the comics are doing so we're aware, do you mean from episode to episode, when we say something and then we change that; can you think of an example?
CRAIG: Episode to episode... like Clark's birthday in "Never on Sunday"... he claimed to have been born in February 1966, yet he didn't even arrive in the spaceship until May... just minor stuff like that that people notice... I won't get into Lois's apartment number, because I know you guys can't help that.
BRAD: I noticed that... there is somebody who's really good, who's been with the show since the first season who catches that stuff when she can.... but in a show that's got as many details as this does, sometimes that's the least of our worries! (laughs)
After that I had already taken up more time than I should have with the interview, and Brad had to go to a meeting, so we ended the interview. Thanks again Brad for a great interview, and thanks again for everything else as well.
(this interview was originally published in The Krypton Club Newsletter #100 on March 24, 1996)