'Supernatural' spinoff: Producer Andrew Dabb compares 'Bloodlines' to original series, dishes on the monster families
Airing Tuesday (April 29) as an episode of "Supernatural," the story finds Sam and Dean heading to take on a case in Chicago (Sam and Dean in the big city!), only to find out there are five monster families who rule the Windy City, "Godfather"-style. Obviously, that's not something they can just allow to happen, but since they've got other, more heavenly issues to deal with, they leave the city cleanup duty to new hunter Ennis (Lucien Laviscount). This young police academy trainee is thrown head-first into the monster-hunting world when his fiancee is killed as a casualty of the monster war, leading him to learn the truth about what really goes bump in the night.
Fans have been anxiously awaiting for this planted spinoff pilot to air since last summer, so Zap2it went straight to the episode's writer, Andrew Dabb (a long-time "Supernatural" producer), to get all the scoop we could squeeze out of him about how "Bloodlines" will compare to its parent series, all the new characters we'll meet, how finally having female main characters will affect the tone, how Chicago will factor in to the story and much, much more. Check out the full Q&A below:
Zap2it: First of all, I have to gush for a moment: The promo for "Bloodlines" looks absolutely amazing.
Andrew Dabb: Thank you! We have really, really great actors and Bob Singer directed the hell out of it so I really hope people will tune in and enjoy it.
You've got a lot riding on this one episode, since in addition to potentially launching a whole new series, you're bringing Sam and Dean to the big city. That must have presented a whole slew of new story ideas for you guys to explore.
We've seen Sam and Dean passing through some cities a couple of times, but this is really the first time we've done it. And as you'll see, the episode is just chock full of story. We've got a lot of stuff going on and I think it plays very well. There's not only establishing our new characters, we've got this whole new world to introduce to our audience. I'll say this about it: It moves.
Were you intimidated by the task before you when you first sat down to write the script?
There was a lot of trial and error to get the script right. I started writing this script in late October and we shot it in March. And I was writing pretty much throughout that entire process. It was more a matter of honing down what we really wanted to focus on and the stories we really wanted to tell. If this goes to series, there are a lot of great characters and fun stories to tell in the city. And with six leads in the show, there's a lot of potential, but there's a lot that we decided for this episode, let's save it. The pilot is going to be great and we have enough material for half a season already.
So how much of the episode is going to be introducing this new world and these new characters vs. the "Supernatural" Season 9 Sam and Dean story? Like you said, that's a lot to cram into one episode.
We approached this episode like we approach a number of episodes every season where it's more of a standalone episode. Sam and Dean are certainly on their journey both in terms of mythology and their emotional journey, and there's one big shoe that drops at the end of the episode that kicks off our last three episodes. But at the same time, we treated it as they're rolling into Chicago as they would roll into any other town where a trickster is doing stuff or there's a vampire biker gang, where we could focus more on the story of the week and put the mythology -- not put it aside, but let that play in the background since we do those episodes all the time.
That makes sense. So since "Bloodlines" is focusing more on these new characters, are we going to meet someone from each of the five families?
No. There are five families in Chicago, but we're going to focus in the pilot on two -- the Lassiter family [the shapeshifter family] and the Duval family [the werewolf family]. We will mention the other families and we'll see them in the background a little bit, but those two are our main focus, again because introducing two families with a couple of characters each was a challenge with the amount of time we had. To do all five would have felt like too much.
Plus, that gives us more to explore in the series once we sit down and have a little bit of time to put everything together. We want to give each family their due rather than shoehorn them in to an already very full story.
That also makes sense. So with the characters we will meet in "Bloodlines," we know they're monsters. But does that mean they'll all be villains, or are they going to painted in shades of gray?
There's going to be a lot of gray area. I would argue that in each family there is a more light and more dark character. These families have been around for a long time, they run big parts of the city and some of them are very down and dirty, street-level families, while some of them have power that reaches to the highest echelon like being major campaign contributors, things like that.
But what we really wanted to focus on is even though these are monster characters, they may not be human, but some of them still have humanity. Like David -- Nathaniel Buzolic's character -- who is a very heroic character who is coming back to keep the peace and change things, and Melissa Roxburgh's character, Violet, who is very much like that, who has been kept down by her family for a long time and is starting to discover herself.
So tell me about some of the irrefutable villains.
We certainly have our share of villains like Danielle Savre, who plays Margo, who is a great evil person, and Sean Faris, who plays Julian, is a great evil person. But over the course of the series, should we go to series, we want to show shades of humanity, because that's where "Supernatural" shines, being able to show off these characters, even characters who start off as bad guys, people want them to be good. Like Crowley, who started off as the baddest of bad guys and over time has become an ally to the Winchesters -- until the point where he stabs them in the back again, which I'm sure will be soon and very, very bloody. That becomes the fun of those characters and it really surprises you.
In addition to the monster families, we're also going to meet Ennis, who is our human eyes into this new world. What can you reveal about him?
The deal with Ennis is that he's this kid who grew up on the streets of the South Side from a poor background. His dad was a cop, and all he ever wanted to do was go to the police academy. That was the life path he set out for himself, but a murder happens and suddenly he realizes, "Oh c***, there are monsters everywhere." That really changes his life. He decides to be a hunter.
How is Ennis going to be different from Sam and Dean, who are our human eyes into the world of "Supernatural"?
The difference with Ennis is, Sam and Dean were essentially raised in the hunter lifestyle, Dean since he was 4 and Sam essentially from birth. By the time we met them in the pilot, they were already the best hunters in the world. They knew a lot and had a lot of these skills already. Ennis, by the end of the pilot, even though he already made a decision to become a hunter, he has five silver bullets and Google and that's it. We are going to follow his journey over the course of the series since he has a learning curve.
In addition to Ennis being a new hunter, this potential new series has a lot of different aspects than "Supernatural." So how would you compare the tone of the spinoff to the parent series?
The tone will be a lot more similar to "Supernatural" Season 1 and 2. "Supernatural" now, because it has been going for so long, we feel like we can do any story we want. We can do really scary stories to really absurd stories because our fans know the characters and have been with us for so long. But this series is going to be more narrowly focused, at least to begin with. Not that it's not going to be funny or that we won't have fun with it, because we'll certainly have those moments, but early on it's going to be more serious, more tame and more tonally focused.
Something that I'm most excited to see is the addition of female main characters that stick around for more than just a few episodes here and there. "Supernatural" has had some really great female characters, but they always leave. How is that going to affect the tone of the new series?
"Supernatural," even though it's focused on Sam and Dean and lately Castiel and Crowley, we have had dynamic female characters on the show all the way from Ellen and Jo to Sheriff Jody Mills to Charlie. The only difference is that we're going to see them week-to-week on "Bloodlines." We are very focused on making the Margo character and the Violet character fully realized characters and people who carry their own storylines.
Everything they do will not be a reaction to a guy. That's been very important to us, particularly going forward in the series. That's going to be a huge focus for us and a great opportunity because one, the actors we have are great and two, we've had female characters on "Supernatural" that have been awesome but we haven't seen them on a weekly basis. In the new show, we can do that and really explore these female characters.
Looking at some photos from your episode, there are some really beautiful shots of Sam and Dean with the city lights of Chicago as their backdrop. It's so weird and fresh seeing them in the big city, so how do you plan on using Chicago to your advantage?
One of the reasons we chose Chicago is that it's a beautiful city to start with, but it also has this great history, not only on the mob side with Al Capone and Eliot Ness and all that but also on the occult side -- "The Devil in the White City," H. H. Holmes, there are a lot of haunted Chicago houses. We really want to make the city a character on this show, not only how it is in the present day but also use its history to help us.
That's something we don't really get with Sam and Dean. In later seasons they've settled into the Men of Letters bunker and we've had some fun exploring that world, but they've never really been in one place long enough to really dive into that history or the monster population. So it's given us another fun aspect in addition to how the monsters interact with each other and the hunters. Chicago is such a great city and we want to really play it up to our advantage.
What are you most excited for fans to see from "Bloodlines?"
I'm most excited for fans to see this new world. It's been a really fun world to explore through David's eyes, through Ennis' eyes, through Sam and Dean's eyes. There is a lot of possibility here. And to give him his due, I think Bob Singer, the director, captured some amazing things on film. We have a teaser scene that's just ... well, no spoilers but it's great. I think it's one of the best "Supernatural" episodes. And the performances are incredible. Lucien hasn't been seen much in the U.S., and he's great. Nathaniel has this following from "The Vampire Diaries," and he plays such a different character here and that allows him to stretch a little bit in an amazing way, and Sean is very similar to that, and Melissa and Danielle also do a great job. And I hope you find the script somewhat entertaining [laughs].
"Supernatural: Bloodlines" airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.