Interview: Gary Scott Thompson, Deanna Russo, & Justin Bruening Talk About New Knight
Knight Rider premieres in just two weeks, on September 24, and to promote the upcoming high-octane series premiere, NBC arranged for executive producer and showrunner Gary Scott Thompson as well as actors Justin Bruening and Deanna Russo to talk with members of the press and online outlets about what will be coming.
Within the interview, the trio talked about what to expect from the ongoing series (premiering in less than two weeks!), and of course Thompson again addressed the Hasselhoff question...
WARNED OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW.
When it came to jumping from the 2-hour pilot to the ongoing series, the actors prepared themselves. "For Justin and I, we just kept working on the show from when we shot the two-hour pilot. Then we were promoting it, and then we immediately started training into the series, even before we even knew officially. We just wanted to be prepared," Deanna Russo reveals.
"We just enjoyed our characters so much that we didn't want to leave them behind just yet," she continues. "I think deep down we all had the confidence that it was going to go to series," Justin Bruening adds.
"Shoot, it's Knight Rider! I mean, come on!" Russo explains, highlighting the obviousness that KR would be a hit.
Showrunner Gary Scott Thompson was not involved in the TV-movie but did explain the process of reinventing the concept even more as a weekly series. "We went back to the original series to look at what made that work before we wrote a word," he says. "We went through the pilot and then, you know, we don’t want to disappoint some of the fans of the two-hour and we have four characters coming from that, so we made sure that those four characters clicked into what the new mythology was for the series. Again, it’s 25 years later so we have to update the car, update the people and be in touch with the times. So I think that’s really what we did, was just try to bring it up to date," he continues.
"We live in a different world than the original show. In the original show it was, you know, a drug dealer here, a runaway there," Thompson explains. "We live in a world now where there’s terrorism, where people are trying to destroy and kill each other, and the stakes are a lot higher. So that’s what we’re going to deal with."
"You know, everybody already has GPS and OnStar. The cars do talk to you. They’re working on cars that can drive themselves using sensors, so they will never wreck. They’ll know the speed limit and all that. It’s 10 years away, 15 maybe," Thompson says, explaining that a lot of the features of the original KITT are now close to reality. He does reveal that like a computer or an artificial intelligence, KITT will be learning as time goes on. "It’s a developmental process through the course of the first season. The idea is going from you know, as if a child would go from say sixth grade all the way through college. It’s the idea of training him and making him learn or having him learn," Thompson says. As for the teenage rebellious years, Thompson does tease that there is some "terrible teen" going on in this season's Halloween episode.
To prepare for the series, both Deanna and Justin have taken some driving lessons - with varied results. "It was the most dangerous thing I've ever done," Russo laughs. "I still don't know how they green lighted that idea."
Gary Scott Thompson interjects with the tidbit that Justin hit a tree. "I did not hit a tree!" Justin replies defensively, before passing the blame: "It was KITT. KITT hit the tree!"
Making KITT happen will come from a combination of practical effects and CGI. "It’s a combination of both at this point," Thompson says. "There’s real driving, and then because the car is transforming, we need to do that in CG. Also, it’s just not cost effective, nor can we close down freeways, to drive 300 miles an hour. Trying to drive that fast in the state of California is a little prohibitive. So we have to do green screen for a lot of those shots, nut we’re out doing stunts in highways that we can control. It is very much a combination of all of those," he reveals.
Thompson was brought on to Knight Rider shortly after the conclusion of his run as creator and executive producer of Las Vegas. "I looked at it as a big challenge, and the other thing was I started thinking about it, and once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t turn it off, and that’s usually, for me, a reason why to jump into something because if I’m staying awake obsessing about it, then there’s probably a good reason for me to be doing it." he says.
When asked about appearances by David Hasselhoff or William Daniels (the voice of the original KITT) on the series, Thompson reveals that they have not yet spoken with Daniels at this point, but "I have spoken to David, and David and NBC and myself, we're discussing."
Regarding Hasselhoff's appearance in the TV movie, Justin Bruening describes the experience as "great." "You know, I was a little intimited at first. He was my childhood hero as far as Knight Rider being my favorite show, and so when he came to the set, I was fine until we were in the middle of the scene and he introduced himself as Michael Knight. And then I kind of freaked out a little bit," Bruening explains. "Other than that, it was a wonderful experience and it’s one of those that I get to tell my grandkids about."
Having a series with the son of Michael Knight and the daughter of one of KITT's creators, it is no surprise that family is a theme that will be explored in this series.
"I believe it’s always there. Family is very important. We haven’t talked about it much, but I believe there are times that I may have to learn from my predecessor, and with Sarah's character, her family works there. Actually, the whole team is my family," Justin says. "As the series progresses, you get to find out what each character means to us, like in the first episode, my character really does realize what everyone means to him and that that's his new family."
Keeping with the family theme, working with a veteran such as Bruce Davison as her father. has been a good experience for Deanna Russo. "He's the most entertaining guy," she says, "with the projects he's seen, and the stories he can tell."
Thompson also is pleased to work with the actors on the caliber of Bruce Davison or Val Kilmer. "It's great as a writer," he says. "Bruce is great because he knows -- and Val as well -- that there's a lot of explanations to be done and that they can do it because they're pros and know how to deliver that information so it doesn’t just sound expository. So that’s great from a writing standpoint. You only have basically 43 minutes to tell a story and at some point, no matter what the TV show is, you have to explain something.
"And to have pros who can pull it off and pull it off in a way that it doesn’t seem like it’s just spoon feeding an audience is fantastic. Plus, you know, the great thing about Val is he has such a voice that he can sort of get in this character of KITT and he’s able to go all the directions that we ask him because KITT is learning from a point to another point. He doesn’t speak with contractions. He doesn’t do anything like that. And Val’s really embraced the idea of - on a weekly basis, he starts to learn something more and in learning he actually imparts much more wisdom in some strange way than our humans do," Thompson says.
KITT isn't the other character who will be evolving - as the series progresses, we will learn more about Mike Traceur, the son of Michael Knight. "One of the new mythologies and one of the storylines to the series is actually Mike’s past. He was in war, but he doesn’t remember a few years of his life while he was in war," Bruening explains. "There are things that come up from his past throughout the series, people that necessarily want to kill him or, you know, his loved ones. And that really, you know, that affects the missions, and everyone’s relationship with him, and for him not to remember there’s things that he’s done that - you know, the things that he does remember are not good and the things that he doesn’t are probably far worse. There's a lot more elements and it makes the character a lot more complex," Bruening says. "He just gets deeper every episode. Every time I get a new script, there’s always this little snippet. I’m like oh, look at that, you know, there’s something else to add into my personality or my bag of tricks," he adds.
"Each script there’s something different. There’s a little bit of back-story about what the relationships were like in the years past or months, or weeks past," Thompson adds.
The producers of Knight Rider will be working on post-production for the first new episode right up to the time of release. "We have something like 700 visual spec shots in the first episode and they’re complex effects. They’re not just one layer effects; they’re up to eight and ten layers, so you multiply each effect by that and it’s far more than the amount. It’s the amount that a huge feature would have, and to have that in an hour TV show is unheard of," Thompson reveals.
The hope is that the latest journey in the world of Knight Rider will be a successful one. "We plan on going a long time with this one," Thompson says. "We've got great stars here and a great car. We’ve got a few new cast members, great writers. So it actually was fairly easy. There’s a lot of stories to tell."
Rider premieres September 24 on NBC.
our full coverage from Comic Con '08:
Justin Bruening (Mike Traceur)
- Gary Scott Thompson (Executive
Producer) - Deanna Russo (Sarah
Graiman) - Bruce Davison (Charles
Graiman) - David Bartis (Executive
some more spoilers! - Return
to the KITTSite home page