'Nikita' Executive Producer on Season 2: It's Lighter, Flashier and More Fun (Q&A)
Showrunner Craig Silverstein talks to THR about why changes were made halfway through the first season, the move to Fridays and what's coming up next on the CW drama.
Nikita moves from Thursday to Friday nights this season, but that doesn't mean the CW's sophomore thriller is on death's door.
"We just have to keep trying to be good and be better so people will say, 'You really should check this out,' " said executive producer and showrunner Craig Silverstein, who also co-created Fox's big-budget family epic Terra Nova (debuts Monday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m.).
Halfway through the first season, the Maggie Q-Lyndsy Fonseca action drama -- then airing after The Vampire Diaries -- clamped down on its core characters (in fact killing two), delving deeper into their backstories and heightening the romance. If the second season premiere, which was screened to a select group of reporters last week, is any indication, Nikita could be turning over a new leaf, now that Alex (Fonseca) and Nikita (Maggie Q) are on opposing sides -- and not under the guise of Percy (Xander Berkley). (Watch video interviews with Fonseca, Aaron Stanford and Shane West.)
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Silverstein reflected on the first season, why changes were made midway through and how he plans to broaden show to capture more viewers on Fridays.
The Hollywood Reporter: In the second half of the first season of Nikita, there was a lot more romance. What did you learn from that season that you'll adapt for this one?
Craig Silverstein: I think the biggest thing we learned and changed in the first season is how quickly Michael (West) and Nikita got together. That was something that I'd imagined at the outset was going to happen a little bit later on.
THR: Past the first season?
Silverstein: Maybe. He was clearly going to be the love of her life, but there would be somebody else in between. We introduced a character – Owen (Devon Sawa) – he was supposed to be that, then we decided, what if Owen killed [Nikita's former fiance] Daniel? Then we couldn't get them together, easily or quickly. [Noah Bean, who played Ryan] has a love for Nikita, but the heat wasn't as hot as what was happening with Michael and Nikita.
THR: Will there be more with Owen and Nikita in the new season?
Silverstein: You might be in for some smiles this season. You can see the chemistry in them later on. We'll see. (Editor's note: Owen will return in the second episode of Season 2 and Silverstein says he'll stick around the entire year.)
THR: Was that something you incorporated as it went on?
Silverstein: There was a reaction that we were having to the episodes, I think that the audience was also having it. Trying to define Michael. Everyone else was very clearly defined in what they want and with where they were. And Michael was trapped between these two giant forces in his life, and that conflict, in my mind, started to weaken the character instead of strengthen him. So we said, pick a side. Define who you are. First, we established his backstory; why he was there, what he wanted and what was keeping them apart. There was always the idea at the end of the season, Nikita and Alex break apart. Just as Nikita was finally finding love with someone. We thought the someone was going to be someone else, and it turned out that Michael really stepped into that place.
THR: Is the second season plotted out already?
Silverstein: Yes, we have the destination, and we have some ideas of how the big pieces move, but they're still fluid how they lock into place.
THR: Would you be willing to adjust aspects of the season as it plays out?
Silverstein: Yeah, if there's a super strong reaction to something like, we hate this, you can feel that, and you have time to react to it, then of course.
THR: What's the most surprising reaction to a storyline or character that viewers have had?
Silverstein: I would say the thing that I noticed most was people loving the Michael/Nikita relationship. Now that we're here, we talk a lot about it, and how it's going to change and grow and break apart and come back together.
THR: How has [new CW entertainment chief] Mark Pedowitz's input helped?
Silverstein: I think he's fantastic and he's really encouraging. He calls to say, "Great episode." He's going to fly up in a few weeks to visit the set, which is, terrific. It's been encouraging. Paired with Supernatural, Nikita's always attracted a male audience a little bit more.
THR: Why do you think that is?
Silverstein: Maybe it's the tone, the action ... but that seems to be embraced now.
THR: And Nikita has a new time slot: 8 p.m. Have you had to adapt to a different set of "rules"?
Silverstein: We haven't gotten any you-can't-do-this-at-eight-but-you-can-do-this-at-nine kind of notes.
THR: How do you plan to broaden the show and grab more viewers?
Silverstein: I think the idea that it's flashier, it's more fun, it's lighter. The idea that in the beginning it grabs you with more standalone episodes because the black box generates cases that you can grab onto and follow. I think that those elements are good, but it's always been a good show, it's just a matter of people finding it and hearing about it. We just have to keep trying to be good and be better so people will say, "You really should check this out."
THR: Will it have a similar pacing in the episodes to last year?
Silverstein: The action is a little bit different, in the beginning at least. We're trying to adjust to this now, because I'm finding that there's a lot more action except it's smaller. Instead of breakfast lunch and dinner, it's six small snacks; little fights. Although after a few episodes, I started to miss the idea of one huge thing, so we're trying to bring that back, because I think we're one of the only shows that does that, if not the only one.
THR: Shane [West] mentioned that Michael has a big secret ..
Silverstein: Let's just say that it's not a secret that Michael himself is keeping, it's something he learns. And Nikita's got a few of those as well.
Nikita premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on the CW.