Franchise Fred is excited about TNT’s new series, The Librarians, simply because it is based on the trilogy of Librarian movies. I never saw any of those, but the fact that there were sequels and now it will continue every week means there’s history there, and maybe I should do my homework and explore this franchise. The Librarians premieres Sunday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. on TNT.
The Librarians introduces a new team of characters to Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle)’s library, and they will spend each week transported through time and space looking for legendary artifacts. Dean Devlin produced the series and directed the first two episodes, so he called me from the set of his feature directorial debut, Geostorm, to discuss The Librarians. We published his comments on Independence Day 4-Ever over at Nerd Report (http://www.nerdreport.com/2014/12/04/independence-day-2-exclusive-why-theyre-not-doing-2-sequels-at-once/). Now read about The Librarians, Geostorm and Devlin’s Godzilla regrets here.
Nuke the Fridge: Is every episode going to say The Librarians and the… whatever the subject of the episode is?
Dean Devlin: Yeah, we thought that would be a good way to start each episode.
Nuke: Does John Rogers have enough artifacts to do one every week?
Dean Devlin: John Rogers is an endless treasure trove of information and trivial ideas. He’ll never run out.
Nuke: So you did three movies, but was it a struggle to figure out how you could do a Librarian story every week?
Dean Devlin: The bigger struggle was trying to figure out how to maintain the scope, because the movies were very expensive as far as TV movie budgets go. For the longest time, we had resisted trying to do it, and it was really while John Rogers and I were doing Leverage that we started to develop all these new physical production techniques to put a lot more on screen for the little money we had to make the show. The more we did that, the more confident we became that we could continue the production level of the movies on a weekly TV series. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have thought it was not possible.
Nuke: Does it also show you that you don’t need to have movie level visual effects if the concept is fun?
Dean Devlin: I think that’s part of it. As I say, cable television, the budget is much less than on network. Even things like how many locations and traveling around the world and how do we just do the library itself? All these things are just really hard to figure out on the budget we have. But as I said, Leverage taught us a whole lot of new tricks and we were able to apply those tricks and then we had that confidence that we’d be able to tackle it.
Nuke: Will there be any bottle episodes of The Librarians?
Dean Devlin: There aren’t really bottle episodes in the traditional sense. You can’t have the Librarians stuck in an elevator for an episode, but we do some where there in basically one location: a small town, haunted house, a science fair. We average 100 visual effects shots per episode, even on the small episodes.
Nuke: But you do have the library, so you could conceivably stay in the library one week.
Dean Devlin: Well, we kind of lose the library at some point. So we have to get it back.
Nuke: His credit is “And Noah Wyle,” but do you have Noah for every episode?
Dean Devlin: Not this season. This season he did four out of the 10. As far as the second season, of course we’ve got to see if we get one, but I’d be happy to have him in every episode if I could get him.
Nuke: Was he interested in continuing the role in the series?
Dean Devlin: Well, you know, he is a producer on the show. Since the first movie, he’s really been my partner on this whole franchise, so he’s very much involved on every level, not just acting in it. I think if he had the time, if he had the ability, I think he probably would but you’d have to ask him that.
Dean Devlin: He’s remarkable in this. I remember when we did the first movie, I had known him as a dramatic actor from doing ER. I had no idea that he had the comedy chops that he has. Once he started doing it, he reminded me of classic comedians from the days of silent movies in his physical ability, his timing, his ability to do characters. There’s an episode of the show where he actually goes back to the version of the Librarian he was in the first movie, and then he counters that with the Librarian he’s become 10 years later. And he goes back and forth between these two versions of the same character. Honestly, if this were not a fantasy show, it’s the kind of performance that should win an Emmy.
Nuke: That’s part of the problem, that the Emmys are not looking at fantasy shows.
Dean Devlin: Exactly.
Nuke: Did the first season of The Librarians overlap with the last season of Falling Skies for Noah?
Dean Devlin: Yeah, so we had to wrap him in time to go do the season [of Falling Skies]. The poor guy has not had a rest for a long time. He went to us, back to Falling Skies again, so he’s got a heavy workload.
Nuke: Did you immediately want to bring Christian Kane back from Leverage?
Dean Devlin: When we were coming up with the idea for who would these new librarians be, I pitched the idea of a cowboy who was a genius but somehow embarrassed about how smart he was because he thought that was somehow not cool. As soon as we had that idea, it was like we’ve got to get Kane for this.
Nuke: I saw the first two episodes already. What else is coming up on The Librarians?
Dean Devlin: We travel a lot of ground in this first season surprisingly. We find out a lot about the backstory of the John Larroquette character. We fight dragons. We have storybook fairy tales come to life with scary results. We have a haunted house. We stumbled into a town that vanished off the face of the earth because of Nikola Tesla. There’s been a lot of different things that happened this year.
Nuke: Is that because of the same machine he invented in The Prestige?
Dean Devlin: Well, it came about because there was a location in Oregon we were shooting at that has this really old power station that had actually been developed by Tesla. And we thought oh my God, we’ve got to use that and turn that into something really special. The two episodes I really can’t wait for you to see are, one is the Christmas special. The man who plays Santa is a fantastic surprise choice and I think it’s one of the most beautiful episodes we’ve done. The season finale is remarkable. I just watched it two nights ago and I was in tears three times, so I’m really anxious for you to see these coming up.
Nuke: Just to hear that you thought of a Christmas episode with Santa as a character, that’s pretty clever.
Dean Devlin: Oh, it’s really fun. When we first thought about doing it, I was a little nervous. I thought oh, this could get cheesy real fast. But, it’s such a beautiful episode and it’s so surprising. The actor who guest stars that I don’t want to give away yet, he’s just remarkable in the part.
Nuke: Well, you premiere on the 7th, so then there’s the 14th and 21st, that would have to air by then, right?
Dean Devlin: I don’t remember off the top of my head but it’s either our third or fourth week on the air.
Nuke: Were there ever ideas for more Librarian movies that became episodes of the show?
Dean Devlin: No, this really grew organically out of this idea: how do you transition from the movies to the series? And how do you expand the universe of the library? What John Rogers and I talked about was really this thought that you really have to destroy Flynn Carson’s world in order to let him rebuild a new one. So the first two episodes are about that world getting destroyed and how he goes about to create the next phase of the library.
Nuke: Tell us about Geostorm.
Dean Devlin: It’s a lot of fun. We’re here in New Orleans. I’ve got an incredible cast and it’s a big challenge. It’s my first time directing a feature film and it’s a big event picture. Luckily I’ve done enough television to give me the confidence to tackle something like this but it is daunting, but remarkable that a producer like David Ellison believed in me enough to let me do this, and a studio like Warner Bros. would support me. It’s kind of overwhelming at my age to get a shot like this, but I’m incredibly grateful.
Dean Devlin: In a way, this is kind of what we did with Independence Day. We mixed genres to try to create something. We put the disaster movie together with an alien invasion movie and this has a lot of different things put together. It’s part political thriller. It’s part space adventure. It’s part disaster movie. Hopefully we’re coupling genres to create a new one.
Nuke: When Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla came out this year, did it give you any sense of nostalgia?
Dean Devlin: I was just hoping it was going to do well and I’m glad it did. Forget my own involvement with Godzilla, I was just a Godzilla fan from the point that I was a little boy. I remember every Sunday they would show Godzilla movies on local television. That was my Sunday ritual to watch the Godzilla movies and Star Trek reruns after that. I felt bad that the perception and reception of our Godzilla was not what we had hoped it would be, so when it was coming out again I was just rooting for it, hoping it would come alive again for another generation.
Nuke: So as a fan, did you like his movie and the way he teased Godzilla, showing the fights on TV?
Dean Devlin: Honestly, I didn’t see it. I was rooting for it, but I didn’t see it. Between making a series and shooting this movie and developing Independence Day, it’s been one of our more challenging years.