'Castle' creator Andrew Marlowe on romantic tension, dead TV hosts and Season 3

castle-beckett-320.jpg "Castle" creator Andrew Marlowe was feeling good about his show's chances for next season, but he's understandably very happy that ABC gave an official pickup to the show on Tuesday (March 30).

"It's very helpful to have the information that we're coming back and that we don't have to do any sort of quick, last-minute crazy wrap-up," Marlowe tells Zap2it. "We never wanted to tempt the TV gods by assuming it, but we were pleased to hear it. It does give us a little more clarity on how we can end the season."

The show is shooting its 22nd episode of the season now, with two more to go after that. Marlowe and his fellow writers haven't talked about specific Season 3 stories yet, but in the larger arc of the show, next year will be about "continuing the character development and really continuing to do what the audience has responded to -- that romantic-tension dance between our two leads [Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic]. I also think our secondary characters are really terrific, so we're going to look for more opportunities to open them up a little bit and have them be part of the storytelling."

Some other highlights of our conversation:

On the April 12 episode, "The Late Shaft": "We get to have our fun take on the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien of it all and who would want to kill one of those guys. ... Tom Bergeron [as a late-night talk-show host] is the victim, and Fred Willard is his Ed McMahon sidekick. They're a terrific pairing; the two of them have so much fun together. Bill Bellamy is our late-night guy who's in the 12:30 timeslot -- he's the young, hip, edgy guy. There are a lot of fun characters in that one."

On the show's appeal: "I think chemistry is a huge part, and I think another huge part is we give the audience permission to have fun with our characters. We know that we're dealing with murder and that it's a serious subject, but we also know there's a certain amount of gallows humor these people develop. The kinds of cases we deal with, I think, are a little bit more in the vein of an old-fashioned murder mystery than the procedural stuff. I have a problem coming home after a hard day and turning on shows that deal with such dark topics. I think we take a fresh look at it."

Beckett's mom: "It's something we're going to continue to touch upon as we move forward. ... [Beckett's mother's murder] is so much a part of her personality. It's something we hope to unfold and uncover over the course of a couple seasons, if they let us."

Will there be more movement on the case this season? "We touched on it so hard in the middle of the season with 'Sucker Punch' that there wasn't a reason to return to it this season, especially knowing we were going to get more episodes. I think the conclusion of this season has really more to do with the Castle-Beckett relationship and where that's going to go."

So, about that relationship ...: "The Sam-Diane [dynamic] in 'Cheers' I think is a more interesting template in terms of keeping people apart but keeping the friction there. But you have to honor an audience that wants them to get together. So it really is a delicate dance of how close can we get them, and to do it in such a way that people don't feel like we're cheating. ... We know what the history of television is, we know what the screen precedents are, but these characters are their own particular kind of beasts. We're feeling our way through it, pulling back when we feel like we need to and pushing further when we feel like we need to."

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'Castle' gets a third season on ABC