SEASON 3 – EPISODE 22
“TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE”
WARNING: TURN AROUND NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO FACE ANY STRANGE SPOILERS
Tonight’s episode was co-written by Rob Fresco and Mark Verheiden
Jeannot Szwarc directed the episode
I don’t know if it was an experiment of the writer’s room or just a way to get a script out twice as fast, but Rob Fresco and Mark Verhieden – who aren’t normally a team – were paired up on this one. As a casually observer the experiment seemed to turn out well… Their working relationship was casual and cordial and they had fun. For me it was interesting, because, in prep, some days we would have one and some days we would have the other. Each of them divided up the work by storyline… I might get the details wrong here – I’m working purely from memory, but I believe… Mark wrote the Suresh story, the Matt story and the Sylar/Danko scenes and the final scene Coyote Sands. Rob wrote the Hero/Ando story, the HRG/Sandra story, and the story of Danko’s girlfriend.
Jeannot, I know, is very proud of this episode. It’s his seventh or eighth episode for us… But I think it’s his favorite. I know he’s particularly pleased with the emotional dynamics in the story of HRG, Sylar and Sandra.
From my point of view, the post-production process was very simple on this one. The only real problem that the first cut was about eight minutes long. Key reductions were made in Suresh scenes – there was a second scene with Suresh and the landlord that was lifted out – and there was also considerably more dialogue between Matt and Danko’s girlfriend, where we learned a lot about her life story. Both of these scenes were lifted for time and to enhance the overall pace. There were a few other simple trims and re-cuts – but largely the internal strucure of this show remained intact from the first cut that Jeannot and editor Lois Blumenthal delivered.
Which reminds me - I think our cast did a stellar job, as always, but I think Greg Grundberg really stepped up on this one. His story was a hard one to play, because he is, essentially out for revenge – which tends to be unsympathetic. Greg’s stock in trade is his accessible “nice guy” quality. And here, in my opinion, he really dug down for some more tortured qualities, without losing his inherent sympathy. This is a tough assignment.
I also think that the Hiro and Ando story is hilarious. When I first watched the directors cut, in the editing room with editor Lois Blumenthal, it came to the scene where Hiro and Ando were making faces at Baby Matt to cheer him up – I busted a gut laughing… I couldn’t stop. The way the boys had played it and the way Lois had jump-cut their expressions made me laugh and laugh in a way that hurt my tummy a little. On set this moment was very free-form – Jeannot was behind the monitors calling out for the boys to switch up their faces every few moments – as this went on they started making goofier and goofier faces. Finally, James Kyson Lee made a certain face and Jeannot leaped out of his chair “that’s it!” I think, at this point, life imitated art a little – as James realized he was now stuck repeating this ridiculous expression over and over – and he began to regret it. It’s still pretty funny though.
Oh – and once more a tip of the hat to the twins that play Baby Matt – Brendon and Quinn Reed. These are the best film babies I’ve ever seen. They are only 9 months old and they cry on cue, laugh on cue, look where they’re supposed to and are extremely expressive in every way. The whole crew couldn’t get over how the really seemed to “act.” The babies got extremely attached to Masi, by the way. They seemed fascinated with him and would watch him wherever he went. At the end of the episode, when Greg Grundberg came in and Matt discovered he had a son – there was a small problem, because the babies weren’t as bonded with Greg. In one shot, Greg was holding Baby Matt and talking to him, and the baby was looking all around the set for Masi. Finally Jeanott asked Masi to stand, off-camera, directly behind Greg. So, in the last scenes when the baby appears to be staring lovingly at Matt, it’s really staring lovingly at Masi who’s just off-stage.
There’s a new phenomenon at play on set – which is that, because of Sylmar’s new morphing ability, lots of different actors are getting to play Sylar – and it’s fun to see their interpretation of it. One of my favorites is Željko Ivanek.
Željko is a very interesting actor who I’ve only started to figure out. He’s very quiet and serious, and at first I took him to be shy. At times we can have a very goofy, crazy set – particularly when myself, Milo, Adrian or Grundberg are around. Željko stood a little outside of the group on his first few episodes, which I guess is natural. But then two things started to happen. One, the character began to be written with more depth. At first he was just a very mono-directed “bad guy.” Beginning with episode #20 we began to understand him more and, I’m assuming, Željko did too. So I began to see the depth of his acting ability and his facility for nuance. Also, I assume, he began to get comfortable with our group. In the shaving scene with Greg Yaitanes I saw him begin to joke and kid around. Anyway, back to the point – when Željko played Sylar – I think he captured the quality of humor and enjoyment that Zach Quinto always brings to the part. See, Slyar LOVES messing with people and living an inch from being caught. The scene in the bathroom where Danko meets Sylar/Danko is a lot of fun. It is also admirable in that much of the first part of the scene is done in one shot. The camera pans Danko in and reveals the other Danko – then moves in as Danko approaches himself. This was obviously tricky because each half of the scene has to be shot separately. Also we don’t have time or money for “motion control” rigs – in which computerized gear-head can match camera pans and tilts and even push in’s between separate takes. So Željko had to do it himself and act to himself that wasn’t there and look to a spot in the air that isn’t there. It’s hard to do all that. And I think he really provides us with two separate characters and performances.
Ashley Crow also got to play Sylar, but her part was a little easier – because in the scene with HRG- Sylar is trying to act like Sandra. The fun transition comes outside as Ashley walks into the alley then pauses and shape-shifts into Sylar. Both Zach and Ashley were on set together that day and they helped each other through that scene.
Another fun scene is the one where Jack Coleman as HRG “pretends” to be Sylar to Danko. If the editing room we laughed about this because we decided that Jack was channeling Bryan Fuller for that part of the scene. I’m not sure if he did or not, and I hope Bryan doesn’t take offense – but that’s what we decided was happening in the cutting room – and it made me smile.
For some reason, more than other directors – the crazy HEROES scheduling process seems to bone poor Jeannot. Partly it’s his fault, because he is a very popular TV director and he’s very booked up on shows like GREYS ANATOMY, BONES, COLD CASE, SMALLVILLE, WITHOUT A TRACE, etc. etc… So his schedule is tight and our schedule is, at best, loose. In the case of this episode – one of the scenes Jeannot didn’t get to direct was the one where Matt is first re-introduced to his son, in the playground. Because this scene took place on a one-time-only location – it became kind of an orphan. We found the space at a school a few blocks away (I’d shot a scene there once before when Matt came to pick up Molly after school in season 2). The scene was to take about 4 hours to shoot and was scheduled, originally, to shoot side-by-side with the bus station scenes in episode #20… But rain delayed those scenes and they got re-distributed. Allan Arkush ended up directing this scene – it actually was on one of our last days of filming along with a bunch of inserts that were needed to wrap up the final episodes. We dropped the scene into the show at the very last second.
The two final scenes of the episode, which are really a prelude to episode #23 (where Angela gathers the family and HRG at a mysterious place), had to be delayed in order to be shot in tandem with episode #23. I’m sure I’ll talk about this extensively next week – but this episode takes place almost entirely at this concentration camp of sorts, called Coyote Sands. It is set partly in the past and partly in the present, and in that episode we will learn a lot about Angela and what drives her to be the way she is…. It was a massive construction project for Production designer Ruth Ammon and the art department, done on location about 40 miles outside of L.A. Anyway – because those scene had to be delayed for weeks until that episode was ready to shoot, I took on the chore of directing them.
Jeannot had given me one key instruction for the first scene – he had a shot in mind where we would be on a very, very long lens camera, and dust would reveal mysterious shapes – we would rack focus slowly and slowly reveal Angela and Peter arriving. I did that, and followed his basic plan for the scene (I might have added more "push-ins" than Jeannot would have - I just love push-ins and I can't help myself.) We got lucky with the light that day. It had just rained and snowed and there was a quality of light that is very uncommon in Los Angeles – crisp but soft. It felt more like a scene one would shoot in Montana or New Mexico than in L.A. I worked hard to chase the backlight and staged the scene to the late afternoon sun. There is a two-shot of Hayden and Milo, done late in the day just as the sun was about to drop behind the mountains. They are both front-lit by a very soft amber sunlight, as are the snow-covered hills behind them I had the special effects guys blow dust in the distance... Oh man, I think that is a beautiful shot.
I also did the night scene where they dig up skeletons. Jeannot had described to me a way of shooting the scene all in one shot. Now I love oner's... And I had been to the location several times when we first found it - but then hadn't been up there again since construction was complete. When I got there, I was trying to imagine the shot Jeannot was describing and I couldn't... Normally, when directing scenes for others, I try to be really loyal to their vision - but this time I just didn't see it. I had the tool of the techno-crane there and I knew the scene had to be mysterious and eerie and foreboding. Other than that I just winged it getting the shots that felt right to me at the time. Because I didn't really prep this episode, I might have missed the proper emotion between Claire and HRG as she sees him arrive. I was going with the mystery of it all and trying to create a foreboding vibe. In my memory, these two characters hadn't seen each other since episode #19, and there was still tension and unresolved feelings. Later, though, other producers felt that Claire should have been happier to see her father. I'm not sure - you decide.
Enough! Lots of pictures today:
PICTURES PICTURES PICTURES:
EVER-POPULAR MAKEUP GAL, WENDI ALISON (MANY OF THESE PIX ARE HERS) AND DIRECTOR JEANNOT SZCWARC
DIRECTOR JEANNOT SZCWARC, WRITER MARK VERHEIDEN AND D.P. NATE GOODMAN WATCH A REHEARSAL
ON SET REHEARSAL
BETWEEN TAKES ON SET
ON-SET OPERATOR PETER MERCURIO HAND-HOLDS THE CAMERA DURING A TAKE
JEANNOT DIRECTS THE CAST
ŽELJKO AND ZACH GET READY TO RUMBLE!
CHINESE MEDICINE INDICATES A CLEAR TONGUE EQUALS GOOD HEALTH - SENDHIL PASSES THE TEST!
POOR DEAD SYLAR
ASHLEY CROW CELEBRATES CRISTINE'S BIRTHDAY
SENDHIL FEELS JAUNTY IN HIS NEW CAP!
PARKMAN - THE BIG AND LITTLE VERSIONS
COMPOSERS WENDY AND LISA RUSH TO A MUSIC SPOTTING!
JACK COLEMAN AND ZACH QUINTO - THERE'S A LOT AT "STAKE" IN THIS SCENE
JACK 'N ASHLEY BETWEEN TAKES
HAYDEN AND MILO ON SET (A STILL THAT MATCHES ONE OF MY FAVORITE SHOTS FROM THE EPISODE!)
DENTAL HYGINE IN THE HIGH DESERT
CRISTINE ROSE - QUEEN OF ALL SHE SURVEYS
A.D. ROBERT SCOTT ENCOURAGES ME TO QUIT TAKING PICTURES AND GET BACK TO WORK