Interview: Andrew Cosby - Eureka's Executive Producer
by Ernest Lilley
SciFi Interview ISBN/ITEM#: AndrewCosb
Date: August 1, 2006 / Show Official Info /
SFRevu: What was the elevator pitch for Eureka and who did you first make it to?
Andrew Cosby: The original pitch was "We want to write a weekly love letter to all things sci-fi (the genre, not the channel), and we want to do it with a series about a small town where the government has been secretly housing the world's greatest thinkers since the end of the Second World War. Sort of Northern Exposure meets The X-Files, with a little Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure. We want it to be funny. But we also want it to be cool. And scary. With action. And weird. And funny. Did we mention funny?" We were sitting in Mark Stern's office at the time, and I think our enthusiasm for the series and sci-fi in general was infectious. Everyone really seemed to get it right off the bat, like they knew exactly what kind of series we were pitching. Which was funny, because it took us a while to actually find the show's voice – a lot longer than it took to sell it.
SFRevu: How does a series get accepted? To most of us reader types, we know how publishing works, but this is more of a cosmic mystery for us.
Andrew: It's a cosmic mystery to everyone, and I don't think I really have a proper answer for that. I've only ever pitched two television shows in my entire career, only really ever came up with two TV ideas, and they both sold, became pilots and eventually went to series. It's a lot of luck and being in the right time at the right place with the right idea. And it's almost impossible to know if any of those elements are in place ahead of time. That's the cosmic mystery of it all. So my only real advice is to pursue ideas that you yourself would like to watch on a weekly basis. Create characters that you'd want in your living room. As cliché as it sounds, just follow your passion.
SFRevu: Matt Frewer as the dog catcher? We would have cast him as a warped but lovable chief scientist' but I guess you have your reasons. What were they, and will we see more of him? Will Greg Germann be back as the scientist of questionable ethics, or has Ed Quinn taken his place?
Andrew: There are layers to Frewer's character that we explore later in the season. Needless to say, he's definitely more than just a dog catcher. As for Greg Germann, we have plans to bring his character back and only hope that Greg will be available when we unveil them. Ed Quinn (Stark) is the new head honcho in the series. We'd always planned to bring Allison's ex in as a regular but then ran into trouble making that happen without taking away from other aspects of the show, namely marginalizing Germann's character, Warren King. So in the end, we just decided to hybridize the two characters into one. We're a crazy science show. We can do stuff like that.
SFRevu: I saw that Jefery Levy was in the directing credits for the pilot, which is good as I've liked his work on Monk, and Rescue Me as well as Stephen King's Dead Zone which brings a nice M. Night Shyamalan flavor to things. Will he be doing more episodes? What do you look for in a director?
Andrew: Mostly what we look for in a director is someone who can handle the delicate balance of character drama and comedy. This show walks a tightrope with its tone, and finding people who can handle it is priority one. After that, we just look for nice guys who are fun to be around and know how to stay on schedule while making strong creative choices.
SFRevu: You've signed Dr. Kevin R. Grazier as Eureka's science advisor. The good news is that he's the advisor for the new Battlestar Galactica, though the fact that he also worked on the 1999 version (Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming) is a bit scary. How did you come to pick him, and how much are you willing to let science actually influence story lines?
Kevin came to us highly recommended, and from the very first time we met him, we knew he was going to be an invaluable resource. He came in and gave this power point presentation on the future of science and technology, and some of the areas he covered were areas we'd already decided to pursue on our show. Others were way out of our league. The guy's a rocket scientist...literally. And pretty much the smartest guy in any room. When you're writing a show about super-geniuses, it's a good idea to have at least one on staff.
SFRevu: Do you have a military/DOD adviser? Maybe Stargate could loan you somebody.
Andrew: There's a guy we use in Vancouver. He's awesome. Not so much an official military advisor as a guy who knows a lot about war toys and owns his own tank.
SFRevu: Who founded Eureka? Who owns the facility? Is it a private foundation with some DARPA grants, or is it all government? In the second episode, Henry says (at the funeral) that they're there to extend the limits of knowledge' but who gets to use that knowledge?
Andrew: It's definitely government founded and funded, and the world gets to reap the benefits of many of its discoveries. But not all of them. You know what they say about AREA 51, right. Well, just think of Eureka as AREAS 52-70.
SFRevu: How much story arc do you have for Eureka? We see a conflict shaping up between them and Section 5 with the sheriff caught in the middle. What's that about?
Andrew: We've got the first five years roughly mapped out, leaving plenty of room for new ideas and organic, unexpected growth. We definitely know where we want to be at the end of each season, and where we're headed at the end of the series (assuming we get the opportunity to go the distance). In fact, once we get there, you should be able to go all the way back to the pilot and see how we subtly set the whole thing up. As a fan of this kind of thing, I think you'll like where we're headed. At the very least, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
SFRevu: Your original concept for the show had a much more Jimmy Neutron vibe, though from the Dad's point of view. How do you feel about the changes it went through?
Andrew: I'm very happy with where the show is now and think it's a much better version of that original idea, which was little more than a cool high concept and a few good yuks. Jaime (my partner in crime) brought a lot to the table, and I think our collaboration on this is what really brought the project to life. Film and television are very collaborative mediums, and are quite often better for it. It takes a village, man!
SFRevu: Could You Rank the small towns in these movies or series as most influential in Eureka? What other towns or films should we consider?
SFRevu: In Barry Garron's review on the "Past Deadline Blog" he says: "Writers Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia have tapped into an interesting concept but stopped short of making Eureka the full-blooded capital of weird science it could become. Without a harder edge, the weekly crises in Eureka will seem like little more than the wacky work of a nutty professor. It's fine to be mildly entertaining, but Eureka could have been more."
Is he right?
Andrew: Give it time. We made a conscious choice to grow the series slowly and organically rather than shoving everything at everyone all at once. Sure, it's tempting to unwrap all the presents under the tree, but then there's nothing to look forward to on Christmas morning. Trust me, good things will come to those who wait. The edge is there. The darkness is there. This show will go places you don't expect. But not all in the beginning. This is set up. The pay offs come later and will hopefully feel earned because we took our time.
SFRevu: What do you think the critical element in making a series work?
Andrew: Everything is critical. All the pieces have to fall into place. All of them. But if I had to pick, I'd say that it's usually a combination of script and cast. And you can even fix a bad script along the way if you're diligent and work hard enough. But cast is everything. You have to cast it well, because you only get one chance.
SFRevu: How's Damn Nation coming? Whose concept was the vampire virus?
Andrew: Jaime and I are knee deep in the first draft for Paramount, and I think it's going great. Lots of scares, action and interesting character moments. Now the only problem is that I have to finish the damn thing and somehow get the rest of the world to agree with me. As for the vampire virus aspect of the story, that idea has been around a lot longer than me. But that's not what makes Damn Nation original. I hope folks will be drawn to the characters and their individual stories. It's how they grow within the context of this vampire apocalypse that makes the story interesting.
SFRevu: I see it's got Dark Horse Entertainment behind it, which has spawned some terrific pieces of cult cinema. Are any of them high on your list? Actually, what is your list? Could you come up with five favorite movies in genre, and five outside?
Andrew: My favorite Dark Horse film has to be Hellboy.
As for my faves, they change on a regular basis, but here are some staples:
SFRevu: As a writer, are you a reader too? Was reading SF part of your life, and if so, where did it start? Could it have been’ comics?
Andrew: I'm a voracious reader, but not particularly of the sci-fi genre. I love reading good sci-fi, but I didn't get into it when I was younger, so now I have a lot of catching up to do. Just finished Ender's Game for the first time (don't send me hate mail). In a word: brilliant. Always loved Phillip K Dick. But I imagine my love of the genre came from movies, tv and comics. Jack Kirby was a big influence on me, and he's done some of the best sci-fi imaginable.
SFRevu: Alternatively, what movies or TV influenced you growing up. It seems to me like there's some Outer Limits homage in Eureka or is that just wishful thinking?
Andrew: Definitely Outer Limits. Twilight Zone. Night Gallery. Night Stalker. Lost in Space. Pick a Universal movie...I loved them all. Forbidden Planet. Godzilla. Ultraman. Battle of the Planets. Star Wars. Alien. Raiders. ET. Gremlins. Japanese animation. Magnum. The A-Team. Good kung-fu movies. Bad kung-fu movies. Anything with a ninja or a samurai. I'm an unrepentant pop-culture fanatic raised in the Spielberg/Lucas era with parents who had no filter with regard to what their children should be exposed to. I love it all!
SFRevu: Forty years ago, Gene Roddenberry walked into the World Science Fiction Convention to screen the pilot for Star Trek. Since Worldcon is going to be in LA again this year, will you be attending? Does Eureka have anything planned there?
Andrew: I'll have to check on that. I've been once and would love to go back. Hopefully, Eureka could find a home there as well.
SFRevu: What else do you do? Like, for fun.
Andrew: Fun? You grossly underestimate the amount of free time they give show runners. Sometimes I hunt men for sport. Does that count?