March 15, 2012 1:30pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Missing' Producers on 'Bourne' Inspiration, Biggest Challenges and Future of Series (Q&A)
Missing attempts to balance international espionage with family drama when it debuts tonight. Whether it will succeed is a question that lies with the viewers.
As executive producers Gregory Poirier and Gina Matthews tell it, Missing was born out of the desire to do "a show that felt global, big and felt like it could be television for the world." Based on filming locations alone -- Missing is set in a different city in each episode -- the hourlong ABC drama has fulfilled its duties. But the duo emphasizes to The Hollywood Reporter that the show, about a mother (Ashley Judd) trying to find her kidnapped son (Nick Eversman), has "something real, emotional to play."
Poirier and Matthews discuss their new show with THR and touch on topics ranging from taking inspiration from the Jason Bourne films, whether Becca will find her missing son, Sean Bean's role and how long they see this story continuing.
The Hollywood Reporter: Is it nerve-wracking now that the show is in the hands of the viewers? Do you have any expectations?
Gregory Poirier (joking): Yes, I expect it to change the face of television forever, forever alter viewing patterns and to finally knock American Idol off the air. But other than that I have no expectations at all.
Gina Matthews: It's really out of our hands, there's really nothing we can do except hope that the public agrees.
THR: Gina, you've had a lot of experience in TV, what did you bring to the table?
Matthews: Grant [Scharbo] and I, my partner in life and in work, we were doing a show called The Gates and we were shooting in Shreveport in the summer and it was really hot. We had said, “Let's come up with a show where we can shoot in Europe.” We were passionate about doing a show that felt global, big and felt like it could be television for the world. We originally came up with this idea of a mother searching for her son and then reveal that she's more than a soccer mom.
Poirier: Let's just say we've known each other since we met at a party. I believe it was Duran Duran on the stereo. The idea that Missing is about this mother and her son and having something real, emotional to play was what hooked me. I've flirted with the idea of TV before but I shied away from procedurals or things that were another take on another genre.
THR: Greg, what was the biggest challenge in adapting to a new way of formulating a story into an episode?
Poirier: Everything that was a challenge for me was ultimately turned out to be the most freeing element. This is a chance to spend potentially 10 hours with these characters and be able to develop them. Television is more based on character and conversation than it is on spending as much as you can blowing things up. It's becoming difficult to tell real human stories in films. The last feature I did was a movie for families and kids, so I got to watch how you build an entire action sequence in a Benihana.
THR: The show is shot internationally. Were there any challenges that came with that?
Matthews: We were a location-based show. The only time we were on sound stages is if we ever had to do green screen.
Poirier: We made a real effort everywhere we went to inhabit the city we were in, rather than do a travelogue of that city. In the pilot, we used the Trevi Fountain but we don't stage a big action sequence. We use it as a landmark to lead us to something else that's down an alley and around a corner, and that's where the action takes place. We were experiencing this big boat chase and we have the whole thing choreographed and we have it all laid out and then the day we're going to shoot. We wake up and look out the window and there's this enormous cruise ship parked right in the middle of our plan. Subsequently the boat chase incorporates this giant ship that's in the middle of it.
THR: Did you take ideas from Alias and the Bourne films, and use that as a jumping off point in terms of they did action sequences and story telling?
Poirier: It's interesting that you mention Bourne because Bourne for us was a template in the following sense: It was action that was based in a reality, in other words it was what I like to call physics-based action. It wasn't about somebody standing on the back of a jet plane that's spinning around and jumping onto a truck. It wasn't that kind of superhero action. We always said the action in Bourne, it was very unlikely to occur but it could occur, a mini superhuman. We always tried to bear that in mind with the action that we did for this show. We wanted it to seem realistic, we wanted it to be based in possibility. Perhaps not probability maybe, but possibility.
Matthews: I think Bourne was a good template because at the end of the day it was emotional. What we loved about those movies was it was about a guy trying to figure out who he was. When we were thinking about how to -- all of us being parents, Greg being parents, Grant and I being parents -- we want audience members to go along with Becca on this emotional journey as she's trying to find her son.
THR: Will Becca find her son? Is it going to be addressed this season?
Poirier: We're going to give that away right now in this interview. [Laughs] We've always envisioned this as a series of chapters in a larger story. Our answer to that question is you will be satisfied with the end of this season. This is not one of those shows where you get to the end of the season and go, "Oh my God, I can't believe they did that,” they left everything unresolved. You will also have a strong idea of where we're going next season. There were two things that I always said were important: One was not to end the season with everyone being pissed off at us because we didn't resolve anything and the other thing was to make sure that we did a show where you could come in to any episode and not feel like you missed too much. Within every episode there's a story that begins and ends so you can tune in to any episode and enjoy it whether you've seen the previous ones or not.
THR: How many chapters in the story did you envision?
Poirier: How many seasons, do you mean? 27.
Matthews: This is going to be the biggest book ever!
Poirier: It's TV so you come into it with that seven season picture in your head, but it certainly could be more, it certainly could be fewer depending on the response we get.
THR: So there's a blueprint?
Poirier: Yea, but I'd say it's a loose and flexible blueprint.
THR: Is there an underlying mystery with Becca's husband Paul, who was also a CIA agent?
Poirier: We have Sean Bean, so obviously we're not going to be done with him in the first 30 seconds of the first episode, but what we managed to do is we built in this flashback device. We're able to see their life together previous to all this, which a lot of that is what led up to this event. It enables us to have a storyline with him, even though we've killed him off.
THR: Can it be theorized that Paul isn’t dead?
Poirier: Oh, season 2.
Matthews: Have to watch the show.
THR: How close will Becca be to getting her son back?
Poirier: I promise you we're not going to do that every week, it's not going to be, "Oh my God, there he is, oh damn he's gone again."
Matthews: We wanted to be sure that you felt connected to not just Becca's personal journey looking for her son, but that you're connected to Michael as well.
Poirier: In episode three we branch off and we start to follow Michael's story as well. We see where he actually is, who's got him, what's going on there and we start to follow his story. The two stories run parallel to each other.
Matthews: He is in danger, there is a lot of trouble surrounding him and what he's having to navigate, but there's also a beautiful story that starts and a relationship that starts in his world.
Missing premieres March 15 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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