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Warehouse Party: David Simkins, Jack Kenny, Joanne Kelly, and Eddie McClintock Talk "Warehouse 13"

“IMAGINATION, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.” - Ambrose Bierce

Sci Fi--or Syfy as it will be known then--will next month launch its newest drama, Warehouse 13, which stars Joanne Kelly (Vanished), Eddie McClintock (Bones), and Saul Rubinek (Leverage). As executive producer Jack Kenny describes it, Warehouse 13 is an "action adventure proceduromedy."

Kelly plays Myka Bering, an analytical secret service agent whose cool head keeps her above the fray, while McClintock is Agent Pete Lattimer, who's more used to using brawn over brains to get out of scrapes. Both are transferred rather unexpectedly to their new assignment: Warehouse 13, a top-secret government warehouse in the middle of South Dakota that houses arcane and dangerous artifacts. Brainy logic meets brawny cocksure attitude. (Or as McClintock succinctly put it, "That’s why Joanne and I are so like suited for our characters because it’s true. She is the mathematician and I’m the bullet-diver.")

Kelly and McClintock, along with Warehouse 13's executive producers Jack Kenny and David Simkins, participated in a press call last week where they discuss how similar they are to their characters, what's in store for the series, its underlying mythology, and upcoming guest stars.

So grab a cookie, get out your Farnsworth device, and let's find out what the gang from Warehouse 13 had to say about their upcoming Syfy series.

Throughout its development process, Warehouse 13 had a rather unusual turn of events that led up to it getting ordered to series. Several writers had a crack at the pilot script, including Battlestar Galactica's Jane Espenson and Ronald D. Moore and Farscape's Rockne O'Bannon. So how did McClintock and Kelly end up on this crazy ride?

"I was coming off my sixth or seventh test refusal and basically I was in tears in the waiting room and Joanne kind of talked me down off the ledge and this is right before she and I went in together," explained McClintock. "So when we went in together [and] to me it was like I’ve known Joanne for years. We just kind of hit it off and this was before we had even started to read together. So I think that there was just a natural chemistry that came across in the room, at least that’s how I felt."

"Yeah, I screwed up a line and he started making fun of me in the audition and I stopped them and tried to restart the audition again and those were the two characters," Kelly chimed in. "I mean, it was kind of right on the money."

"Yeah, Joanne/Myka taking control and Pete/Eddie McClintock acting a fool basically," joked McClintock. "And as far as what attracted me to the role, it was definitely the money. They said, you know, you’ll make a bunch of money and I was like I’m in. No, for me, the Pete character kind of encompassed all the things that in one character that I’d always wanted to play. I’ve been able to play pieces of this character at different times but Pete kind of gets to do everything. He gets to be smart and funny and he gets to be heroic and to me that’s the dream job. So I love the character."

"There’s not a lot of women characters that are written as dynamically as Myka is," said Kelly. "And I was so excited that she was so smart and has a history and a past and is vulnerable at times and strong at others and funny and dramatic and sad. I mean, it really is such a round role and I was so drawn to it when I read the script right off the bat so I’m quite pleased with myself at this point."

For executive producers Jack Kenny and David Simkins, what were the inherent challenges with getting the series off the ground?

"Any new series involves similar challenges: where are we going to go, are we going to arc out the first season or is each episode going to be individual? What we’re learning about these characters and these people," said Kenny. "One of the things we did was we brought Saul and Jo and Eddie into the writers' room and we all sat together and we had a session. And we talked about the characters and let them talk about the characters, we talked about them personally, what do they like, what do they do, what are their hobbies, do any of them speak languages or play instruments. You know, what are their relationships with family members and things so that we could sort of mine who they were as individuals."

"Because my approach has always been that; every show I’ve ever done is a family show whether it’s a workplace comedy or an actual family show," continued Kenny. "And so in building this family of this brother and sister and father team that we’ve got going we wanted to sort of bring who they were to the roles. Because once you cast an actor in a part, once an actor takes on a role, they bring who they are to it so you want to mold that role to them. And we were all very fortunate in that these guys were so much like these characters to start with and David in crafting the pilot I think really made it a nice fit for Jo and Eddie to slip into these parts and Saul as well."

"So our challenges were finding the directions to take these characters in where they could grow and learn about each other and the relationships could deepen," he went on. "And then also of course we wanted to - I’m starting to call this show so many things. Now I think I’m calling it an action adventure proceduromedy."

"Because it’s got all these elements and so we didn’t want to do a strictly procedural show because there’s plenty of that on TV," Kenny explained. "And these actors are so much more interesting than just standing around with a notepad asking questions. So rather than have them investigate and just follow a trail, our challenge is to make them experience the adventure at the same time as we are. In other words, we don’t really want the audience to learn much about what’s going on ahead of when our characters do. We want our audience and our characters to be on the same ride. So that’s been something we wanted to do and we’ve done it kind of differently in every episode. Sometimes we know what an artifact is going into it, sometimes we don’t know what it is and we’ve got to find it, but we’ve always wanted to sort of go on the ride with them. And rather than a challenge, that’s just been a goal of ours to do."

How would the actors categorize the relationship between Myka and Pete? Is there a little bit of that Mulder and Scully chemistry there?

"I’ve kind of been describing our relationship as I’m kind of the younger brother who’s constantly pulling at her pigtails and she’s in turn always punching me in the armand it’s actually kind of how it goes minus the pigtails," joked McClintock. "I mean, if they did a gag reel of how many times Myka/Joanne punches Pete/Eddie in the stomach or in the arm or - I look at it right now in it’s kind of a brother/sister relationship. It’s still in its infancy, so where it will go from here it’s hard to say but I think we are a brother/sister/great friends who have a tremendous amount of respect for one another even though we constantly pick at one another. And so which makes it just a great, fun thing to play for me."

"Yeah, yeah, I think Eddie’s right on the nose, of course," agreed Kelly. "That is definitely our relationship. And the thing that I like about the way that it progresses is that there’s so much that these characters learn from one another, Pete and Myka. I mean, they’re so different and you see the gelling of two processes and the success that comes from that. And you see my character is very isolated at the beginning and his too is too in a way and you see these two people gradually open up to one another and I think that’s really special."

"And whether it be in a brother/sister way or a romantic way," she said, "you see these two people constantly learning more about the other and making fun of the other for it and helping the other. So it makes it very human and very real, I think."

"Just in terms of my observation of noticing the difference between Pete and Myka from Mulder and Scully," said Kenny, "the thing that I love about like the character of Indiana Jones is he always feels like he’s kind of not lost, but vulnerable. He never feels like he knows much more about the situation than you know as you’re watching him but he manages to get through and find his way. And that’s the sense I get with Pete and Myka. They’re sort of thrown into these situations, a different one every time. They don’t know what’s going to happen, they don’t know how an artifact works, they don’t know all the ramifications or possibilities what could happen but they’re getting through it anyway using their wits and their observation powers and all those things. And that to me feels more like an adventure than Mulder and Scully went on. That was a darker kind of a feel. This is more of an adventure for them."

But if it is such an adventure, then why doesn’t Myka realize that her new assignment with Warehouse 13 is significantly bigger than protecting a president?

"Well, I think when anyone is thrust into a situation where they’re not given the facts or the whole truth behind it, there is a bit of apprehension or reticence," explained Kelly. "You know, her journey opens up a lot more as the series progresses. But I think that in life when we are given a situation that is strange and at this point almost inconceivable, I mean, it’s pretty wild, it’s pretty out there, and this is somebody who thinks in black and white and she’s proven wrong by the Warehouse, by the very existence of it. I don’t think this is anything that she had even dreamt could be possible. And I think the lack of answers and the lack of factual documents or the lack of guidance affect her and makes her push against that idea. But I think that reaction as you’ll see in the series once it airs, it changes and it grows as she learns more and more about the Warehouse."

Some people have said that Myka and Pete's partnership in the pilot episode reminded them of Indiana Jones or Men in Black. Were either of those inspiration for Warehouse 13?

"I wouldn’t say so much inspiration as opposed to just touching upon cultural touchstones and dramatic touchstones and cinematic touchstones," said Simkins. "Jack and I in going back and sitting with the characters and with the characters in the writer’s room, we talk a lot about the Thin Man series, Myrna Loy, William Powell, we talk about Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy. It goes far beyond the more sort of recent [influences]. We’re really digging into those, past those, beyond those, and looking at real good basic storytelling archives that we can constantly sort of reflect on and occasionally use to help us tell our story."

"I think what you’re talking about though is in those kinds of relationships and those kind of settings is just the friction," continued Simkins. "The story to me with characters like Pete and Myka, the story of those characters always lives in the space between them: what they believe at a certain moment or a potential betrayal or a revelation of a hidden secret. Those things play in any relationship whether it be in Men in Black or Indie and Marion [in] Indiana Jones. They’re just really, really right avenues to explore."

"I wasn’t involved in the pilot but I have always been in favor of stealing from the best," said Kenny, tongue-in-cheek. "I thought it was really cool and I didn’t make the connection until somebody else brought it up. I thought it was a cool idea for a show."

So, have Simkins and Kenny or the writing staff thought up an artifact that was just too daunting to base an episode around?

"There is an artifact that we’ve been kicking around the writer’s room for quite a while: Hitler’s microphone," said Simkins.

"I knew you were going to say that!" chimed in Kenny. "I had a bug up my butt to do that one."

"And yeah, I’ve got to tell you, it’s a really interesting concept to sort of take something from history that we’re all very aware of and the incredible, tragic worldwide consequences of that," Simkins explained. "But what would happen if somebody got a hold of that microphone and it possessed some sort of ability or power to transfer the ability to convince people to do very, very wrong things? It was an artifact that circled the writer’s room quite a bit and I think it’s still circling."

"Well it’s an interesting debate because some people felt that they didn’t want to diminish the evil that was Adolph Hitler by saying that it was because of a microphone," said Kenny. "But then we said it wasn’t because of the microphone, it was that the microphone became imbued with the evil that was Adolph Hitler. But David’s right. We’re still circling it."

"And I have to say in terms of other artifacts, it’s when we’re sitting around in the room trying to land on something it really comes down to what artifacts can we explore that will reflect on our two characters in a really cool and interesting way," Simkins went on. "And I think part of Hitler’s microphone -- and this goes to other artifacts -- is that when the artifact begins to swamp or take over the characters or the story or the relationship we’re trying to explore, the artifact may get sort of pushed aside. If we can do an artifact that really sort of forces Pete and Myka to look at themselves or to look at the world around them a different way or to get the audience to sort of reconsider something, then we know we’ve landed on our artifact that we can probably run with. It really comes down to the artifact serving the story as opposed to letting the artifacts run the story."

McClintock, meanwhile, says his favorite artifact-related moments from the series are in an upcoming episode entitled "Breakdown," where Myka and Pete get trapped inside the Warehouse, and in "Burnout."

"That was a favorite for me because it was so much fun and we just had such a great time," said McClintock. "And there was a lot of physical stuff for me to do which is just stuff that I love to do. I love physical comedy. I love being able to do it and hopefully I do it well but I know that I have a great deal of fun doing it. And then there was 'Burnout,' where we discover this artifact called the Spine of Serafson... It was an episode for me where I really got to kind of explore where I am right now as an actor, who I am as an actor, and so that was kind of the biggest challenge. That was a great challenge for me, that episode. So those have been my two favorites."

"For me I would have to say that my favorite artifact so far has been Lewis Carroll’s mirror probably because it was the biggest acting challenge," said Kelly. "It was a huge challenge and it was a lot of fun. I got to kick up my heels a little bit. So that’s probably been my favorite along with the fact that I’m such a Lewis Carroll fan and have been for years and years. 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' and 'Alice in Wonderland' are two of my favorite books so that was really kind of special. That was my own special episode so far."

"That’s one of those things and I think you mentioned, Jo, in one of the first things we all had with you as actors you talked about being a Lewis Carroll fan," said Kenny. "And I don’t remember specifically but it may have been one of the impetuses for coming up with this Lewis Carroll story because it’s been our goal to design these episodes in their direction."

"Yeah, it’s very funny because you you’ll say something when Jack and David are around and you’ll get a script the next week and it will be in it," said Kelly. "It’s such a great thing and scary."

What guest stars can viewers look forward to in the first season of Warehouse 13?

"Well Joe Flanigan is going to join us," said Kenny. "It’s an episode where we’re chasing these four sculptures that create something and we don’t know what they create until the end. And Joe Flanigan is one of the guys chasing it, and James Naughton is kind of his nemesis also chasing them. And Pete and Myka are trying to figure out what they’re after and why they’re after them. And then also Roger Rees is going to be joining us for three episodes as Artie’s longtime nemesis, a former partner of Artie’s [who] sort of went bad about 15 years ago in the story [and] you’ll find out in the season finale. But he rears his head a couple of times in terms of the guy that is the competition, the warehouse competition, the guy who’s also looking for a lot of the same things and for an entirely different reason."

"And the super foxy, delicious Tricia Helfer," interrupted McClintock.

"Delicious, I like it," joked Kelly. "She was also like the nicest person ever in the world."

"She plays a hard core FBI agent that kind of gets under the skin of Myka but not so much Pete," explained McClintock. "Pete takes a bit of a shine to [her]."

"Yeah, Niall [Matter] and Erica [Cerra] from Eureka are joining us as a couple of con men that Pete and Myka stumble into in Las Vegas and Joe Morton is a prison preacher in an episode where things - nasty things are happening at a Florida state penitentiary," said Simkins.

How did Simkins and Kenny wind up getting on board Warehouse 13?

"The idea or the basis of these characters is something that Sci Fi had been sort of living with for a few years," said Simkins. "They’ve had this project in development for a long time and they were pretty clear about the kind of relationship they were looking for. And when I came in to work on the pilot it was just a matter of looking to them and then, you know, digging back into my own toolbox and pulling out as much of that stuff as I could."

"When Eddie and Joanne walked into the audition stage and sort of took over these characters, it was a real eye-opening experience because I think Sci Fi and I, we all thought we were on the right track, that where we were going with these two characters could definitely be done. And then when Eddie and Joanne took over the roles, Jack and I and the writers, we really--and we’ve said it before--just write into them. We write into their characters, into their speaking styles, into their attitudes. And it’s been, you know, I have to say writing for them has been one of the easiest things to do. It’s writing for the artifacts which is pretty difficult."

"It’s interesting too because to me the success of any pilot, 90% of the success is the casting, is finding the right people for the roles that are created," mused Kenny. "And then the success of a series, 90% of it is being able to write to those people you’ve cast because it’s one thing, you know, it becomes just a different challenge. We want to write to their strengths. We can hear their voices in our heads as we’re writing. That’s the challenge of every writing staff in town is to key into those people. I mean, and I think it always takes a couple of episodes to get a hold of it but we’ve really gotten into Saul and Eddie and Jo’s - their rhythms, their cadences, their strengths, their weaknesses, and everything we can find about them. And the same thing is true with CCH [Pounder] and with Allison Scagliotti who’s joining our series later in Episode 4 and Genelle [Williams] who plays Leena. Writing towards their strengths is what makes the series strong."

And is there an overarching mythology to the series?

"We just finished a document that sort of tracks the chronology of the Warehouses," said Simkins. "In our mythology, the first Warehouse was created by Alexander in an effort to keep hold of the artifacts that he collected on his wars. And it didn’t last long because Alexander died young but then the library at Alexandria was a warehouse too where research and development and things were stored and books. And so we’ve kind of tracked the chronology of empires and our feeling is that the Warehouse has moved from empire to empire throughout the ages, moving to the country that was best able to protect it. It was in the Western Roman Empire, the Hunnic Empire, the Byzantine Empire, all the way up through the Russian Empire, the British Empire, and then finally the United States. It was always located itself in the empire that was best able to protect it."

"And it was early on in one of the early Warehouses' iterations, it was established that a board of directors essentially would be in charge of it, an ever-changing sort of Supreme Court called the Regents," he continued. "And the Regents were in charge of deciding when and where to move the Warehouse. I think the longest it lasted was in the Western Roman Empire for about 500 years and the shortest was about 14 years in, I think it was the Khmer Empire. We’ve established this long history of the numbers of Warehouses that have gone through the ages and eventually when we get it all polished up it will maybe show up on the Website or something."

"The mythology of any series is more there for us than for you because it helps us feed stories, it helps us drop little hints of things," said Kenny. "It keeps us consistent with the background and the history of the characters and the place. But obviously every episode we deal with in the present day dynamic and we want to keep everything alive."

"[Sci Fi] have given us license to go out there, try things, try new stuff, don’t lock yourself into one certain place or one certain way of telling a story," continued Kenny. "We haven’t really found an absolute formula for the show yet and I think Saul [Rubinek] is very fond of saying we shouldn’t find a formula for the show. We should keep it lively and amorphous and flexible. And the way I think that you keep something flexible and alive is by understanding a really strong basis for it. I mean, the fact that we know the mythology of the Warehouse and the back story of all these characters will only allow us to go even further in exploring who they are and go out on a limb with them all in various ways."

Warehouse 13 launches Tuesday, July 7th at 9 pm ET/PT on Sci Fi.

Comments

Anonymous said…
A model who is apparently moonlighting as a Secret Service, a second agent who used to be Noel's ne-er-do-well brother on Felicity who's a rogue and rule-breaker...

I dunno. When the female agent reached for her gun -- thigh strap holster! -- I sorta tuned out. This is fairly bland unimaginative television.
Anonymous said…
I really hope I am reading this WRONG?

On the day Scifi dies and is reborn as Syfy the new Warehouse 13 is being presented as the kind of show we will see in the future on Syfy.

Simply said it is NOT Science Fiction, the items they are suppose to protect could very well be cows or special breeds of chickens. It is not about the warehoused items but is a comedy or something else. Warehouse 13 may become one of the most entertaining most watched and most successful of all TV series of all time but it seems to NOT be Science Fiction.

Love it , hate it , it just is where we fans of Science Fiction find our selves.?

“Friday the 13 the Series” was basically the same show except items dealing with magic were warehoused.
Eric said…
Why is this NOT sci-fi? Get over yourselves people. For most people, this is downright geeky sci-fi. Sorry it can't all be spaceships and laserbeams.
I guess if we apply the way this show is judged as being Scifi, Bones, House, all the CSI shows as well as Fringe and even Lie To Me, and all those shows that use technology or some idea of Science but yet all are fiction in how most of the technology is applied. Actually most TV shows have some technology in the show in some way. If satellites are used to hunt folks or keep communications going on then the list continues to grow.

The broadcast networks seem to not want to admit the shows are Science Fiction because the program guide never lets them be found when a search by genre is done. I never found Fringe on my Tivo as Science Fiction.

science fiction n. Abbr. sf, SF A literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background. from American Heritage Dictionary
TGrinnalds said…
I like Warehouse 13, but it needs a mascot, and only one will do: Schroedinger's cat.
Harkus said…
It's all about people. Sci-Fi, (or whatever) is the setting.

A show or a movie sinks or swims on whether or not you like the characters. If you don't care for the characters than it doesn't matter how good the Sci-Fi (or whatever) is -- it's doomed.

Warehouse 13 has characters you care about. Characters with huge arcs. And the writers are doing a really good job with them.

It's off to a great start. Warehouse 13 could be huge.
Nicole said…
I have to agree with the actors that Myka and Pete have more of a brother and sister relationship. I'm not sure how I would feel if they were later become a couple. I like the brother and sister relationship alot better.

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