"SHADES OF GRAY"
WARNING – SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN!
Tonight’s episode was written by Oliver Grigsby and was directed by me, your humble blogger – Greg Beeman
Okay – so, before we get started with the regular blog – please check out go to the following link:
This week, besides directing, I wrote and illustrated the weekly HEROES COMIC which appears online at NBC.com after our episode airs tonight on the West Coast - so about 1am for you East Coasters. Here’s a couple of example pages, it's Chapter 128 and titled "Puppet With No Strings."
(p.s. You can see the pages bigger online)
Right before Christmas, when I was just starting to prep the episode, the guys in charge of the comic book world came to me and asked if I would write and draw one of the 6 page comics that appear online every week. I guess they had read on my blog how my lifelong dream since childhood was to be a comic book artist. But, other than a few sketches I’ve whipped out and handed to Tim Sale to guide him for Isaac’s paintings – and maybe a handful of storyboards – no one here has ever really seen my art. I don’t know why they assumed I could really draw. In fact, this assignment made me more nervous than anything I’ve done in a long time. Sure, directing multi-million dollar episodes week in and week out may seem daunting to some. But I’ve been doing that for a long time. Drawing a comic is something I’ve never really done!
But, I try to never say “no” to challenges that come my way. So I said “YES!” The only stipulation I was given was to try to create a story that connected to the episode I was directing. Other than that there were no instructions. Low supervision and low expectation - Now that’s my kind of job!
I decided to tell the story of what happened to Eric Doyle, the puppet master, between the last time we saw him in episode 13 (laying semi-conscious on the floor of Primatech) and here at the end of episode 18/top of episode 19 (when he appears in Claire’s house and asks for help.)
I also wanted to include Rachel Mills (played by the actress Taylor Cole) who had appeared in the webisodes and now is appearing in the episodes. In the last webisode Angela Petrelli had encouraged her to do good with her powers… and so I decided to show her trying to do that.
Truthfully, writing the comic was fast. I thought about it and slept on it for a few days and whipped it out in a few hours. But drawing it?!?! Holy crap… that was slow. I did most of it over my 2 week Christmas break. First I did the pencils and then I did the inks. I worked on it for hours a day. And though quite enjoyable, it was slow!
I never had any formal art training – but between ages 4 and 18 I did nothing but draw for hours and hours and hours a day. As a teen I mostly copied comic book artists. My principle influence was an artist named Barry Windsor Smith – who drew CONAN #1 - #24. This was the comic that inspired me more than anything else in my life. In fact, I would say, CONAN #1-#24 and STAR WARS (and later THE MATRIX) have been by far the biggest creative influences on my life. I also avidly studied and copied artist Jack Kirby, who, when I first started buying comics, was doing THE NEW GODS, THE DEMON and KAMANDI at DC. Kirby’s comics were the first ones I ever bought back-issues on. I bought as many of the old FANTASTIC FOUR and THOR series as I could afford and I copied his perspective and forms and figures. Barry Smith’s work was complex and dense and Kirby’s were simple and strong – and I consciously wanted to balance both. Other artists I studied and copied were Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, and, to a lesser degree, Mike Ploog and Paul Gulacy. I’ve never met any of these men but they have all been massive influences for me.
But, after I started film school at USC at age 18, I really slowed down drawing. When I first graduated school, I worked as a storyboard artist for a couple of years – but by the time I was 23 or 24 I was working steadily as a director and I hardly ever draw after that.
So, as I started drawing this comic I really hadn’t drawn this much in 20 years. I thought I could do it, but I wasn’t sure. As I drew, though, all the skills and knowledge I’d developed so long ago (as well as all the bad habits) seemed to come right back. It was very interesting. Also, my ability to focus, was still there. As a kid I frequently remember starting a drawing and then, as I was finishing it, I’d look up and realize that 5 or 6 hours had gone by without my noticing. That happened again here.
Also, before I finish, I would like to give a shout-out to Edgar Delgado, who did the coloring on the book. I never met him - but I think he did an awesome job and greatly improved my drawings!
I guess you guys will judge if I did OK. Some panels I’m incredibly happy with and some panels I feel I just couldn’t get right. I also feel I tried to cram too much story and too many panels on a page and if I had to do it again (which I hope I do!) I will thin it out. But, overall I feel – at least – I did not embarrass myself.
Again – HERE’S THE LINK:
(REMEMBER IT'S CHAPTER 128!!!)
Now, on to the episode:
Oliver Grigsby is a young man who works on HEROES as the Writers Assistant. This is his first, produced, hour of TV. He is twenty-seven years old. Some day I guess I should write an “Oliver Grigsby, Living The Dream” blog. I could go over his life story about how a young man, through hard work and generally good personality can get his first break on a show like this…. But, since Ollie ended up with me directing (and I always have a lot to say on the blog when I direct) and on an otherwise busy week, he ended up out of luck on this one.
I was, basically, happy with the script from the beginning. The Sylar/Mr. Gray story was strong and has changed very little since the first draft. From my point of view, it was all about landing the right actor for the role and then it would take care of itself. The story between Danko and Nathan also felt good to me. I knew it would take directorial effort to energize the story visually – i.e. I needed to add energy to the Nathan/Danko story so that it didn’t fall flat – but the story was fundamentally strong. The third story Claire/Doyle-the-Puppetmaster, although showing awesome promise, was the furthest from where it needed to be is the one that changed the most throughout prep. Don’t get me wrong - I was very excited about the storyline – I love Doyle’s character and I really enjoy working with David Lawrence, the actor who plays him. I also like the emotional complexities of Claire trying to find a way to fight the good fight, but without really knowing how to. But, in the first draft, though, the story was kind of complex. The story had Claire take Doyle to the comic store with her and he hid there. Agents came and Claire helped Doyle escape. There was also a scene where Doyle used his power against one of the agents, which made Claire doubt his intentions towards redemption. I knew this version was too big to accomplish within our schedule. Then there were studio/network notes that modified this story for awhile – it became much more a Sandra/Claire story for a couple of drafts. But to me, as much as I love Sandra, it got the story off-topic. Finally, between myself and Tim Kring and Oliver and some of the other writers – we re-focused the story back onto Claire saving Doyle – but in a simpler way… Which is what you’re seeing tonight.
Stylistically, I chose to be very aggressive visually with everything to do with Nathan/Matt/Danko’s story. I tried to “Michael Bay” it up… Which to me means, swoop the camera around, go handheld, get as many cool angles with as much camera movement as possible – and then cut it up like crazy in the editing room – all in an effort to add energy and tension. You decide if it works. I think it does. I also think Adrian and Zeljko have great chemistry. (Hats off to Ali Larter too, who only had two scenes - but I like them both a lot!)
I was simpler with Claire’s story, using simple camera movement and big close-ups in the first scene with Doyle and with the comic book store – I went hand held and big crane moves with the scene of Claire talking to HRG and saving Doyle from the agents – but still calmer than the Nathan story.
With Mr. Gray and Sylar I was simplest of all. I just tried to compose nice shots and let the acting and the story carry the weight. Also, in this part of the show – fate intervened. We were out of stage space to build sets. Our line producer suggested that maybe we could build Mr. Gray’s cabin as an exterior set in our parking lot. On paper, this sounded like a great idea. I knew we couldn’t really go to a trailer out in the woods – and I’d planned to do one visual effect shot – in which, when Sylar’s truck pulls up to the cabin – we would add a matte painting of mountains and woods in the background. In that shot, when we filmed it, there are actually palm trees and Los Angeles buildings in the background – but the guys at Stargate did a great job of making it look like the woods.
But… on the two days we filmed those scenes… It poured rain! Not only had we built the set outside... We'd built it out of aluminum siding and tarpaulin. Also the parking lot was on the lowest part of our stages. That meant that we worked for two solid days with the noise of a pounding rain and with a river of water two inches deep, running underfoot almost the whole time. Also, since we were, effectively, outdoors in downtown L.A., whenever the rain wasn’t pounding, there were ice cream trucks, and helicopters and even, once, a major police bust about two blocks away – and all for an INTERIOR scene!!! Aaaaghhh!!!
I’ve learned over the years that it’s futile to fight against the inevitable. So I bore down and kept a positive attitude. The most important thing was to try to keep the actors focused and not get too negative. The whole time we were shooting they both knew they’d have to re-record much of their dialogue to replace the unusable sound of rain and sirens and helicopters and gunshots….
This episode provided me with another great opportunity. I got to work with my good friend John Glover again. As you probably know, John played Lionel Luthor on SMALLVILLE, and I worked with him with great gusto for five years on that show. I’d been a fan of John’s for years before that. He had done a movie called 52 PICK-UP directed by John Frankenheimer. If you haven’t seen it you should. He played the baddest bad guy I had ever seen. That performance made a strong impression on me. Then, years later, we ended up living in the same neighborhood and I used to see him at the supermarket from time to time. I always wanted to go up and tell him how much I admired him – but I felt too dorky and shy and so I never did.
So when I finally got to work with him on SMALLVILLE I was thrilled. I told him the story about the supermarket and he says I should have said something…. But I’m not sure. My admiration for him only grew as I became familiar with his work ethic and his attention to detail. John does a lot of Broadway and he has the kind of discipline and respect for the craft (as a craft) that seems to only exist in theatre actors. At first, on SMALLVILLE, I was actually afraid to give him any performance direction because I thought he was so great. But as I did I realized he loves and craves direction. He loves to be pushed and challenged and so we developed a great working relationship which, over the years, became a friendship.
It was fun doing scenes with he and Zach, because, to me, they are cut from the same cloth. Both are incredibly serious and professional about their craft, but also easygoing and nice to be around. They also, both, have an innate understanding of how to "go for it." They can each play moments "bigger than life" and, through sheer charisma, get away with it where lesser actors would fail embarrassingly. It was a treat to have them both on the same stage at the same time!
A couple of years later I did try the supermarket thing. I don’t know how I knew what Bryan Fuller looked liked, but I did, and I knew his work from DEAD LIKE ME and WONDER FALLS. So I saw Bryan Fuller in my neighborhood supermarket and I got up my guts and told him how much I admired him. This was years before we ended up working together on HEROES. Of course, at the time, I had both my kids with me and they were little and they were hanging on me and screaming – and Bryan looked at me like I was a weirdo stalker – so I just slunk off. I’m not sure about the whole supermarket fandom thing?!
Okay – today there’s loads and loads of PICTURES!!!!!
SYLAR AND LIONEL...EH, I MEAN MR. GRAY
"WOW! STAR TREK'S GONNA MAKE HOW MANY MILLIONS?????"
ADRIAN AND GREG G. PUMP EACH OTHER UP BEFORE FILMING
ANGELA IN NYC (AKA OUR BACK LOT)
BABY MATT IS CUTE - BUT, PERHAPS, STINKY
DAVID IS THE SUBJECT OF MY COMIC AT http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/novels/novels_library.shtml
(I HAD TO STUDY MANY PICTURES OF HIM TO DRAW HIM WELL)
GREG GRUNBERG READY TO BLOW!
HEY! NO PAPARAZZI
HOW MANY CREW MEMBERS DOES IT TAKE TO FILM ONE MATRIARCH IN A LIMO???
I'M NOBODY'S PUPPET!
INTERROGATION IS A HOT AND SWEATY BUSINESS
LATE NIGHTS GO BETTER WITH A REFRESHING COFFEE BEVERAGE
LIL LADY WITH A BIG GUN
MASI AND MARA LaFONTAINE (THE BABYSITTER)
MASI AT HOME (BELIEVE IT OR NOT THIS IS A RE-DRESS OF THE BENNET HOUSE)
PAPARAZZI FAVORITE - MS. PANETTIERE
TAYLOR COLE GETS THE DROP ON DAVID. H. LAWRENCE
THE LADIES OF HAIR AND MAKEUP
ZACH AND HIS PET TURKEY