'Frequency' Boss Breaks Down The CW Drama's Biggest Changes From the Movie

Frequency - Pilot-H 2016
Bettina Strauss/The CW

Jeremy Carver is trading in demons, angels and monsters for a ham radio.

The former Supernatural executive producer is moving on from the long-running series to be showrunner on The CW's freshman drama Frequency, based on the 2000 film of the same name. 

The Frequency remake follows Detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), who has carried around pain and resentment over her father's death for 20 years, believing her dad, NYPD Officer Frank Sullivan (Riley Smith), was corrupted during an undercover sting and got himself killed. But everything changes when his old ham radio somehow allows him to talk to her in 2016 from 1996. Raimy tells Frank about his murder, allowing him to survive the event, but the alteration has tragic consequences on the present, and the two detectives must find a way to rewrite the past without destroying everyone they care about.

While the premise of Carver's new series sounds like something totally new for the showrunner, he reveals that his time on Supernatural taught him that developing dynamic characters is more important than the concept of the series.  

"The number one lesson is no matter how high the concept, never ever lose sight on character and relationships and family," Carver tells The Hollywood Reporter. "People may tune in for the concept, but they'll stay for the relationships. That's the biggest thing I learned."

The Hollywood Reporter also spoke with Carver about what changes he made for The CW series from the original movie, and his plans for the first season and beyond.

In the movie, Raimy's character is actually John Sullivan, played by Jim Caviezel. Why change the main character from male to female?

The inspiration was simply, when I brought the show to CW, they asked me if there was anything I would want to change, and I said I wanted to take a crack at making the child in the relationship a woman. I thought the father-daughter dynamic might prove to be more dynamic over the course of a series, particularly the notion of puncturing this idea of "daddy's little girl." Hopefully that was the right choice to make, and I certainly think it was. I just absolutely love the crackling dynamic between Raimy and Frank on the show. I just think it brings a little something different than what we're seeing on TV today.

Another change you made is decreasing the age gap between Raimy and Frank. What was the inspiration behind that decision?

We aged them down a bit and that was mostly born out of a request from The CW. So naturally that makes this a show that dips back to the '90s as opposed to the '80s or '60s for Frank's storyline. So if our main character is going to be 28 in 2016, she's going to be eight in 1996. (Laughs.) So there's no Earth-shattering thought process there in terms of that decision-making.

In the movie, John became a cop because he didn't want to be a firefighter like his dad (Dennis Quaid), whereas in the show, Raimy actually did become a cop like her father. Why did you want to make that change?

That's one of the interesting things that we shifted from the original movie. Close viewers of the pilot will realize – and we'll explore it more in upcoming episodes – in the timeline where her father died and was thought to have been dirty, Raimy actually became a police officer in spite of him. It may have been in her blood, but she became a police officer more to clear the family name as it were, to erase the stain that she thought her father had created on the family name. When we start dealing in the new reality where her father is now alive in the coming episodes and lived longer, we realize that, yes, she did become a police officer because she wanted to very much follow in his footsteps. But originally, where we start in the pilot, she's doing it for much the opposite reason.

How are you going to stretch out the Nightingale murder case over an entire season, especially considering how the audience knows how it ends in the movie?

It's not the same as the movie. I'll just drop that right now. It is a different kind of mystery that we're telling in the story. That's the most important thing. And then in terms of how we're able to do it, that starts to get into the reasons of how it's not the same and that starts to ruin the mystery a little bit. Suffice to say, it's a wholly different approach than the movie took when it comes to the Nightingale Killer.

Is uncovering that mystery going to be the whole season-long arc of the series?

That's a good question. The Nightingale murder case, in pure genre terms, is the mythology of the season, the overarching mythology. At the heart of the show, it's very much a relationship and family drama. You've got two people in separate times, who, beyond dealing with one another and getting to know each other again as father and daughter, are dealing with very real issues in their respective eras. For Raimy, she's dealing with a world where she has lost not only her mother but also her fiancé, but yet has memory of them and has to swim upstream against the opinion of her family and friends because they don’t know what she knows. She's living a very isolated existence in that her pain is very personal and very unknown to the rest of the people in her orbit.

For Frank, he is a man who has been undercover for the past two years, who by his own admission largely abandoned his family during that time. He now has to reintegrate back into normal society which also means trying to get his family back. At the same time, he has to figure out a way to keep his wife from being the target of this serial killer, but his main conflict is how do you get your wife to listen to you when she's not even willing to let you back into her life? There's a lot of family conflict and drama that is fueling this first season. And there are also a lot of characters and conflicts set up in the pilot, not in the least of which are Frank's colleagues who tried to set him up when he got too close to busting a drug case while undercover. That doesn't go away. That's all continuing drama for season one and it only adds complications to what Frank and Raimy are ultimately trying to do here, which is stop the Nightingale. And then as they try to stop the Nightingale, one also realizes that stopping the Nightingale is a metaphor for not just saving mom, but how are we going to save this family? That's the wellspring of where these stories are coming from.

Are you going to get into explaining the science of how the ham radio works? The movie never really touched on that.

We dabble in it. One thing I'm really happy about with the pilot is that nobody questions the high concept because they are so invested in the character relationships and the conflicts. But to be true to some of our genre roots, we do start to pick away at the science of what's going on here. But that's something that we won't really start to get into until later in the series.

What's the balance of the series between being a procedural vs. the season-long mythology?

The first season in particular is heavily, heavily weighted on the over-arching mythology. There are a few standalone cases but anything that isn't about finding the Nightingale killer is about the other struggles these two are having, whether it be family conflicts or work conflicts. Season one is very much a serialized mystery which anyone can jump into at any time and not be lost.

Are you already looking ahead to what kind of structure season two is going to take and how much season one is going to carry over into it?

We have a structure in place. But that also has to do with how many episodes we end up going in season one. We have a fully thought out, ready to go season one, but there is always that possibility that we'll get some more episodes so we have to be a bit flexible about where we go. I can't talk that much about it because I don't want to spoil anything, but we're prepared. I'll just say that.

Frequency airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.