You may remember Jason Hervey as the older brother Wayne on The Wonder Years. I’m going to go even deeper and say I remember him best as the kid who ends up with Pee Wee Herman’s bike in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the scooter kid from whom Marty McFly steals his 1955 skateboard and thus invents skateboarding. I knew Hervey had moved behind the scenes as a producer and I’ve even met him in person at the Television Critics Association for different shows.
Outlaw Country is a one hour reality series set in Bruckner, Missouri, where the Cook brothers lead a task force on crime. The Monk brothers are their prime suspect, but the Monks participated in the show and let cameras into their lives. Hervey spoke to me by phone about producing Outlaw Country, which you can see when it premieres Tuesday, February 24 at 10PM on WGN.
Nuke the Fridge: Was it right after The Wonder Years ended that you decided to get behind the scenes and become a producer?
Jason Hervey: It was actually during The Wonder Years when I did my first project, a syndicated show called Wide World of Kids. That was really my first taste of producing. We did 26 episodes of that show. Fred [Savage] and I always had this pact. He used to say, “All right, I’m going to be Ron Howard and you’re going to be Brian Grazer.” I was always really curious in talking to the writers and the producers and our network executive. Fred was always talking to the directors and loved the different cameras and lenses, how you put a shot together and all those things. It really was during The Wonder Years, not after it.
Nuke: So for Outlaw Country, how did the story of the Monks and the Cooks come to you?
Jason Hervey: It came to me through a person we work with who called me up and said that he had a relationship with the mayor of a small town in Middle America, in Buckner, Missouri as well as the police chief, Mike Cook and the members of the task force. When he explained to me what’s going on and the recent surge in crime around that area, in that area, it sounded really fascinating. It sounded like something that we really wanted to get behind. So I called up my technical advisor, a guy named Chuckie [Lynch] who’s on the show, we hopped on a plane and we went down there. We had a meeting with all those guys and really learned about what was going on and the main persons of interest. Before we left, the Monk brothers had reached out and gotten word to us that they wanted to sit down. So Chuckie and I ended up going to Revelation Tattoo, John Monk’s business, and met him in the basement at about two in the morning, met with John and Josh as well as the other members of The Alliance.
They said, “Hey, we understand you guys are talking about doing a reality show with this task force and the Cook brothers and all that stuff. Those guys have been on our tail for years. We’re pretty sure we have a good idea of what this is going to be about so we’d like to participate. We want to tell our story and not have somebody else tell it for us, through the eyes of just the task force.” We were all about it. Usually in a documentary series it’s really through the point of view of one side or the other. On this show, Outlaw Country, we got the rare opportunity to immerse ourselves in both sides. It really became a creative embarrassment of riches with all of these great characters. The story is a cat and mouse told from the eyes of two sets of brothers on opposite sides of the streets.
Nuke: Cops has shown us the point of view of the police officers for decades. Is Outlaw Country really a first to get the story from both sides?
Jason Hervey: I think the way we tell the story and how we tell the story, through the technology that we utilized in drones, in tapping into the city’s surveillance cameras as well as hidden cameras and GoPros, all kinds of stuff to capture those moments. When you add up all the ingredients, Outlaw Country is truly a first.
Nuke: Would Outlaw Country even have been possible a few years ago before some of this camera technology was available?
Jason Hervey: Definitely not. It would’ve been more of a linear type of story. We probably, in instances, would have been catching up to the action as opposed to capturing it as it’s happening the way that we did. So the technology today is incredible. Without it, we never would have been able to make the show that we did make.
Nuke: The Monks are actually running guns and drugs, so what is in it for them to let you follow them with cameras?
Jason Hervey: Well, allegedly. Allegedly, Fred, allegedly. You’ve got to watch the show, brother.
Nuke: So what is in it for them to allow cameras to follow their activities?
Jason Hervey: Again, to tell their story from their point of view. Really, directly from their perspective and the people that are involved in their crew, in their group. I think what was fun to watch on social media, it started off with who’s side are you on? Sort of Team Cook or Team Monk. What it’s really turned into who do you believe? That’s a lot of the fun of what will become the viewers’ point of view is who do you believe? Like I said, what was in it for them was for them to be humanized and show them in their lives, in their business, with their family, with their friends and really get a better insight and understanding into the human aspect of these alleged bad boys.
Nuke: What were some of the craziest situations your cameras caught?
Jason Hervey: Oh, I don’t know where to start on that one. From raiding the tattoo shop and executing search warrants to kicking in doors to what seemed to be basic traffic stops and all hell broke loose. I would say there’s a moment that was absolutely out of control and a complete melee was the massive brawl at the bowling alley. You see the paramedics had to get involved. It was just chaos.
Nuke: What episode is the bowling alley fight in?
Jason Hervey: That would be in the finale, but you see moments of it in the behind the scenes [special] and especially when this guy just got his butt handed to him by Preacher. You see him in the ambulance, checking in on the guy and he just got his nose smashed, his ribs broken, was laying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. That was an absolute intense, scary moment, one that I will never forget and I don’t think anybody else will after they see it.
Nuke: Is music a big part of Outlaw Country?
Jason Hervey: Oh, absolutely. It’s a big part of it and that music will be available on iTunes. Every episode features a signature song that really helps capture the essence of the world. That was an area, in addition to the technology that we utilized in creating this signature look for Outlaw Country. Music was another big, big part of it where we worked with amazing artists and great people who really immersed themselves in the message and what that world is about. So yeah, man. You can really look forward to a beautiful show, very cinematic and great music.
I come from a show, The Wonder Years, that show was just a who’s who of amazing artists. That’s how I got schooled. That’s how I came up. Music is very important and vital. It become a character in the show.
Nuke: Do you ever miss acting?
Jason Hervey: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t miss it. I love it but I don’t miss it. I’m completely satisfied as a creator/producer/director, all of that. I love taking my passion for acting and working out with people from behind the camera who are in front of the camera. I’m never far away from it, but me being in front of the camera on a full time basis, that’s not where it’s at for me right now. Never say never of course, but for right now, it is all about producing for me. I think Outlaw Country, I’m not going to speak for our company, but personally it’s my best work.
Nuke: You were a part of such great moments in movies, when you were on set when Michael J. Fox grabs the skateboard or Pee Wee Herman takes off on the bike, did those moments feel monumental to you?
Jason Hervey: To be honest with you, no. They were moments and they were great moments at that time with people that I respected tremendously, but really only the fans that I’m so grateful to, really keep that alive and prove that that moment is going to withstand the test of time over all the other moments. If someone were to say to me, which they have, “When you were doing The Wonder Years, did you know it would become what it is?” No, none of us did. We knew that it was special. We knew that it was great writing. To think that the DVD project even would be possible 25 years later, that is 100% about the fans. Only now in retrospect can I look back and say yeah, those were amazing moments that really lasted and became what they are to fans and to me personally. Yeah, they were great moments. I just didn’t know that it would become what it is today.
Nuke: Did you ever get to ride the Pee Wee bike?
Jason Hervey: [Laughs] I did actually. I did at Warner Bros. and then Tim Burton told me to get off it and get back to work.
Nuke: Are you working on any more unscripted or even scripted shows now?
Jason Hervey: We have several shows in development now, including some scripted stuff and I’ll make sure that when the time is right to talk about those things, we have a conversation. For right now, all of our energy, all of our focus is in launching Outlaw Country with an amazing network at WGN. You’ve really got to pay attention to what these guys are doing. They have incredibly smart leadership over there and they give you all the freedom to creatively tell the story that you want to tell, but also a lot of support and value at the same time. It’s an absolute pleasure to be their first one hour docudrama.
Nuke: They’ve certainly made their mark with Salem and Manh(a)ttan so we can imagine what they’ll do with an unscripted series.
Jason Hervey: It’s badass.