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'Castle' Creator Talks Season 4, Future of the Castle-Beckett Relationship and the New Captain (Q&A)

"The season premiere this year really had an obligation to the fans to deal with" Beckett's shooting and Montgomery's death, Andrew Marlowe tells THR.

Castle - Season 4 Premiere - Hospital Black - 2011
ABC
"Castle"

The start of the fourth season marks a new chapter for Castle. Not only did Captain Montgomery's (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) surprising death cause a stir, but Beckett's (Stana Katic) shooting at the funeral raised questions about the future of the police detective. Castle's (Nathan Fillion) admission of love at the end only made the wait that much more unbearable. But as Castle creator Andrew Marlowe sees it, Castle's confession couldn't have been done two seasons ago.

"All the characters, in their own way, have been growing up," Marlowe told The Hollywood Reporter. "We see Castle's growth over the last couple of years, where he's still charming and lovable but he's more grown up for Beckett."

But will Beckett survive the gunshot? (Verdict: Most likely.) And with a new captain, nicknamed "Iron Gates," overseeing the precinct, is Castle and the crew in over their heads? Marlowe addresses all of these questions -- and revisits the emotional third season closer.

The Hollywood Reporter: A lot happened in last year's season finale. How is the fourth season going to be affected by Montgomery's death and Beckett's shooting?

Andrew Marlowe: Yea, a lot of moving pieces. The season premiere this year really had an obligation to the fans to deal with all of that. What the emotional fallout is going to be for Castle and his admission and is Beckett going to survive? If she does survive, how is she going to deal with what she heard? We have to deal with a brand new person coming into the precinct that doesn't know our guys, isn't necessarily on their side, who is going to take over Captain Montgomery's job. We have folks out there who still want Beckett dead. We've got a lot of stuff to deal with in the season premiere.

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THR: Looking back a little, how do you think the third season played out? Did it follow the blueprint that was set out in the beginning?

Marlowe: Inevitably in a season, changes are made. We had a pretty good idea of how to take the season and then really interesting ideas presented themselves. We had a writer on staff, Will Beall, who had come up with this storyline that we were all attracted to that brought us to the season conclusion. That kind of emerged about a third of the way through the season. We had always been aiming towards this kind of season finale but all the pieces that came together came later in the season. That's usually the case. For the most part, I was pleased with the way the season played out. I'm somebody who believes characters need to grow in order to stay vital on TV and we showed some interesting character growth but without fundamentally changing the dynamic between our characters.

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THR: Was there hesitation in shooting Beckett in the finale, knowing how smart audiences are?

Marlowe: I don't think there was any hesitation there, but I think you have to honor how smart the audience is and you have to honor their wish fulfillment. We knew we couldn't just have them kiss and have them not miss anything and even though it was a quote-unquote undercover kiss, you could clearly see that it had an impact on both characters. We dealt with it in the finale where he says, "We had this moment. We never talked about it."

THR: The tone in the finale was darker than usual, was that a conscious decision and will that continue?

Marlowe: You can't deal with the kind of material that you're dealing with in the season finale and be jokey about it. One of the things that we all love about Castle is its ability to have a great dynamic range with the kind of episodes that you can do tonally. The fact that you can have "Curse of the Mummy" in the same season where you're tracking down a serial killer who wants Beckett dead, that's interesting. Our season premiere, because of all the emotional stuff that we need to deal with in the aftermath of Beckett's shooting, the admissions of how people feel about one another and the consequences of Montgomery's death, we'll have a little bit more serious tone than I think the conventional Castle episode. But then the second episode gets right back into a lighter, funner tone.

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THR: Can you speak to any specific moments last season that stick out?

Marlowe: The soap opera episode was a lot of fun and the fact that we were able to get actors from the soaps to be in it really tickled me. I've been impressed by Nathan and Stana's ability to continue to carry the show and keep the engine of the tension between the two of them vital. The kiss was a great moment for us. A personal favorite of mine -- having written action movies -- was Castle pulling all the wires on the dirty bomb.

THR: Is there a theme for the fourth season?

Marlowe: What we're looking to do -- as we're always looking to do -- is challenge the Castle-Beckett relationship, get into some of the complexities and deal with the result of the finale and some of the stuff that was put on the table. Themes emerge as you go through the season and sometimes you can see clear themes when you're looking back. If I were to look at last season, I'm not sure if I could point to a coherent theme.

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THR: How will the new captain play into the dynamic at the precinct?

Marlowe: Last season, things had gotten a little too light precinct where it's no secret that Beckett was the teacher's pet/class favorite. She was the good student who got away with everything. We wanted to challenge her and the rest of the crew because Castle had been accepted in the precinct as well by the middle of last season. To have a new person come in and basically go, "Who are you? What are you doing here? Why are you here?" and to say to Beckett, "No, no, no, you have to abide by my rules. You can't get away with stuff the way you did with Captain Montgomery," makes for some conflict. At times it'll put Castle and Beckett on the same page, where the two of them get to conspire together. It's another way to solidify their relationship.

THR: Can you reveal more details on who the new captain is?

Marlowe: She is more of a political creature than we've seen before. She has her sights set on moving up the ladder, so her coming into the 12th precinct is a ticket punch. She's trying to join the high-level brass. She came from Internal Affairs, so she's someone who polices police, so there's an inherent suspicion that folks are trying to get away with stuff. She has a reputation; her name is Victoria Gates and her nickname is "Iron Gates." A few more obstacles for our folks to overcome when they want to conduct business the way they used to but aren't allowed to.

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THR: Is there a possibility of seeing more soap opera actors on Castle this season?

Marlowe: It's not that we're going to go out of our way to populate a show with soap opera stars, but they're available and they do good work. I'm sure we'll be seeing some of them in our casting sessions. It's really too bad that that outlet for actors seems to be going away because it was such a great training ground for a lot of people.

THR: What's keeping you up at night at the moment?

Marlowe: Over the last 10 to 15 years, because of the competition from cable, because of the competition from gaming and the internet, TV has had to become better, more complicated and better-looking. The fact that we're competing against shows on HBO, shows that can push the envelope a lot more -- everything on network television has had to evolve and if you look at a show today versus a show 20 years ago, the sophistication in storytelling has elevated. To try and do 22 to 24 episodes a year, given the economic climate and that everybody is challenged to do things for a cost because audience shares are inevitably shrinking, means that you really have to stay on top of your game and you can't be complacent. That sort of atmosphere that we're all working in keeps me up at night and thinking, "How can I do this better? How can I deliver a twist the audience hasn't seen before? How can I take a genre they're familiar with and blow it up?"

Castle returns for its fourth season Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC.