Adam Haight and Jay Firestone. Pictures © Tribune Entertainment
Interview with Adam Haight and Jay Firestone *submitted by Isabelle Meunier [Excerpts of this were published in SFX issue 89]
Interview with Executive Producers Jay Firestone and Adam Haight
by Isabelle Meunier
One sports a flamboyant red shirt, "It's a warning sign," he cautions, the other proudly shows off his new toy; a remote communication device mounted on his ear, "Got it in London," he grins. These are Executive Producers Adam Haight and Jay Firestone, proud parents of TV series Mutant X and very pleased that the core crew members happen to be old acquaintances, which could only work to their advantage. "This is our pet little show actually and a lot of fun," Firestone enthuses. "We've worked with some of these people for the past five or six years, Paul Rapovski was actually with us on Relic Hunter and he's brilliant, so it all came together on this show and we're pretty excited about that." Only, can we assume that Mutant X isn't just a series done 'in passing' but that these two are in for the long haul, keeping quality control in sight? "Oh Yeah," Firestone replies, "and one of the reasons we like working with Tribune Entertainment is that they're pretty dedicated people to work with. They'd support us if we wanted to go for five years and if there were problems, they'd work with us to fix it."
The duo's producing credits include La Femme Nikita and Andromeda, but whereas both series are aimed at a mature audience, Mutant X is geared to also encompass a much younger one so its contents are self-censored accordingly . "We trained everyone in not getting bloody or be too violent," Haight explains, "and the funny thing is that you tell them that and they interpret it as; 'don't get too sexy either,'" he laughs, "so you have to tell them, 'no, keep the sexy... but don't go too sexy.'" Haight enthusiastically adds that it's in other areas that they found solace from the self-imposed restraint. "The tension on the show is fantastic to write and you never know how it's going to evolve." "But I don't know how we keep that tension," Firestone chuckles. Something in the water maybe, although not according to Haight; "How we build the tension is a lot of what we did on Nikita," he expresses, "but it could never be as dark and there are lessons to be learned there on how create to that kind of tension and that environment where anything can happen, and with Eckhart, we have that kind of looming evil presence that underlines the tension." The Producers clearly are having fun with their new born show, but... do the actors share that view? "The cast are all having fun too, they don't really come to work," Haight replies with a chuckle. "And some days are more fun than others," Firestone adds in the same fashion. Hang on, Producers are supposed to be serious, not possess a sense of humour, least of all having fun! "No they're not supposed to," Haight nods, the least mean of the two according to Firestone. "Adam's always like this," he declares, parodying his colleague's grin, "I go like this," he firmly knocks on the table, wearing a stern expression. "Yeah he's the stable one," Haight concedes, "well, sometimes!"
Attention next focuses on the fourth occupier in Firestone's office who is quietly enjoying the verbal exchange. "This is Proxy Blue, you know, the virtual reality newscaster? Well it's based on her face and her voice and this is fun too!" Haight reveals. Proxy Blue in the flesh, cool! But to keep the mystery going, the lady's identity will have to remain secret for now. "We're going for anonymity here," she laughs, and there is no mistaking it; this is indeed the face and voice of Proxy Blue. Characters being based on real people seems a common trend on Mutant X as, although the series is rooted from the -long discontinued- comic, the producers went for the personal touch. "You know what?" stresses Firestone, "it's based on a comic book but it was more of an inspiration for the show and that's it, we took the original concept and turned it into what it is now. We totally redesigned the characters, the stories, and Adam and I got very personal because there's elements of his personality is some of the characters and elements of mine in others." So who is based on who is what we'd like to know. "I wanted to be Adam and Eckhart," Firestone laughs, revealing a taste for dual personalities, "and he wanted to be Brennan," pointing to Haight. "I'd like to be Brennan but the writers named Adam after me," Haight chuckles. "I think they just did that to give me a hard time. They love to give me a hard time," he adds with a shrug before elaborating on their vision for the series. "We didn't get lulled into a sense of comfort in the fact that we had a comic," he stresses. "I think it scared us because Jay and I sort of knew just from past experience and other stuff that a lot of people say 'we'll anchor for this and go for it because we're safe.' But we didn't want to go that route, we saw more things that were problematic and shortcomings to the comic book side of it than if we'd adapt it in some way." Balance also had to be found and the producers opted for lowering the fantasy aspect, mixing it with reality. "The big battle for us was how much comic booky the show should go," explains Firestone, "and Adam and I were trying to bring it down to a realistic show with believable characters." "We wanted to bring it back to a world of heightened reality that is visually quite stunning," adds Haight, "but do it in a way that's not kind of 'Spandex.' Naturally, everybody wants Mutant characters that are fantastic on levels that are absurd, but if it becomes too fantastic, it becomes a future, and one of the things we felt very strongly was that it had to have a level of credibility."
Since too fantastical characters also tend to rarely get hurt physically or emotionally, it's therefore difficult to expect the audience to relate to or feel sympathy towards them. "It then becomes very one- dimensional," Firestone nods, "and if we went down that road, we'd end up with a very limited show." So as he next explains, they proceeded on to forging personalities that would lead the characters not to be regarded primarily as Mutants, but powerful human beings. "We gave Jesse back-stories, a personality and inner conflicts to match his mutation, so internally, he is troubled. We did the same with Shalimar who originally was this 'animal girl' that didn't have any vulnerability whatsoever, so we wrote in these fears and insecurities and it gives her more dimension and qualities." Emotional qualities they tested by giving her a nice Feral mate to play with (Fool For Love) but then, what they gave with one hand they swiftly took back with the other. How nice of them. "The next one might live," offers Haight. Sure, if it wasn't for the accompanying grin, he'd be believed.
Once Mutant X's direction and character portrayals were clear in mind, the next step was to give careful consideration to the casting. "We wanted to see how the personalities would work together and it was a difficult casting process," Haight explains. "We first had to cast for Shalimar, because for Emma we needed a girl with a different personality that would complement hers, so we had to get one before we could get the other. Jesse and Brennan had to be like 'big brother, little brother,' this was written into the script so their personalities had to work together. We were very careful to differentiate the characters and make sure they didn't overlap but complement each other well." Adam was the last character -also undergone not only emotional but major physical changes- to be cast, and for all concerned, no better choice could have been made. "When John Shea came in," recalls Firestone, "everyone went 'Perfect!' He brings his charisma into his character but in the original concept, Adam had this warped big brain and was kind of an oddball hair face -not this good looking charismatic man- and such weird looking guy was too much like out of a comic book nobody would be feeling any relations to on the show. The character itself also had to be much more deep and complex than in the comic, not just someone with corporate demons."
Considering that they had to find actors who not only would match their characters and each other in appearance but also fit the action bill, the producers did strike lucky in filling such a tall order. "That was a worry for us at first," Firestone admits. "Jumping off buildings and doing wire-work is hard so we had to find actors who are also physical. It's a good cast and they train pretty hard," he praises. As Haight explains, using wire-work on the series was a decision taken when it turned out it was the answer to a question they had been asking themselves. "How could we heighten the action other than have them fight and run? Only, the huge debate was; could we do wire-work because we're on a tight episodic schedule. But Paul [Rapovski] came in and we found ways to do it. We shoot a day longer but less second unit and like everything, it was a learning and now we do it very quickly." However, as Firestone also points out, not everyone in the audience finds wire-work action to their liking. "There are some people who don't like it and want to see pure action, just normal fights." "We did a lot of it at first and have been trying to find the right level of it," adds Haight. But since wire-work is the aspect that enhances the action and sets Mutant X apart from anything else that's on our screens, loosing it is not an option. But because tastes vary, there are those who will like Mutant X and those who won't, as well as agree and disagree with what the producers have discussed here. In any case, the wisest course of action before bringing the jury out would be to wait for the full run of the first season, at which point they are open-minded enough to listen to any surfacing criticism and hopefully act on it.
Nothing ever runs as smoothly as hoped for in the world of celluloid, and the cloud in the series' otherwise clear skies is that, from the time it went into production, people were confusing Mutant X with the X-Men. Unfortunately, such confusion sent Fox on the legal warpath,and, although they acknowledge the lawsuit, the producers have also been counting on people's intelligence and ability to differentiate things for themselves. "Since we went on air, a lot of people got to see the show for what it is," states Firestone. Well comparisons could always have been worse and in fact, it since has. "Somebody's once called us Teenage Mutant Turtles Pull Through!" chuckles a clearly impervious Haight, since they actually were expecting this to happen. "Everybody likes to categorise," Firestone dismisses, "and we were fairly confident that once the show got aired, they'd be a lot of that." And in that, they were not disappointed.
© Isabelle Meunier
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