On last Thursday’s episode of Burn Notice (USA Network, 10/9C), an event transpired that changes everything for Michael Weston and his family and friends. On Friday, series creator Matt Nix talked with a group of bloggers/journalists about the hows and whys of the event and spoke a bit about the rest of the season.
If you haven’t watched last week’s episode of Burn Notice please do so before clicking through the jump.
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Matt Nix: Very well.
Great, well first thing first, let’s just get into the shocker at the end of the episode. When was it for you that you made the decision that in order for Michael to move forward we had to see Nate ultimately die?
Nix: I hadn’t thought of it quite that way but, the – I mean, answering that question, it’s – there’s sort of like a story version of answering that question and then a kind of a more behind the scenes version of that. In the sense that – I mean, one answer is, that one of the things I really wanted to do this season is – you know, we’re in our sixth season and I just really wanted to shake up the show, like, and do some really new stuff. So, part of that was just really putting the people that burned Michael to bed.
You know, like we’ve done it – so, Anson is the last of them and he’s gone and so then the question becomes what is something that keeps that sense of Michael’s mission, a propulsive sense for Michael, something that’s personal to him. And, you know, so in thinking about what to do with this season that was part of it. just this ideas that over the course of these five seasons or 5-1/2 season, Michael has, like, really grown closer to his family. He’s developed friends. All of these things that he didn’t have at the beginning of the series, he now has.
And so, and that means, you know, good things for him as a human being in some ways, but it also means that there’s a lot more that can be taken away. And so, in taking that away, it sort of launches him with a new sort of personal mission that lead to all sorts of complications going forward, vis-a-vis, the intelligence community and that kind of thing as he’s trying to figure out what happened with his brother.
So, it was a combination of a lot of different things. You know, and then also just the desire to do something, you know, that wasn’t – you know, we (had) just sort of fallen into a bit of a pattern of like the big things happen in episode one and then the half season finally, and then in the second half season premiere and then in the second half of the season finale. And so, just doing something really big and exciting in the middle of the season, in the middle of by far our most serialized season ever, was also a priority. Just do – shaking up the – like, the shaking up the show – shaking up Michael as a character, shaking up the show, all of it.
Yes, and you just touched on this but, for you as a showrunner, how refreshing is it now to be able to use a little bit more of a serialized approach versus, you know, what we’ve seen past few seasons. And it’s not just for your show, but it seems that all of USA right now seems to be undergoing a little bit of a transformation and giving us some more long form stories versus, you know, some of what we’ve seen in the past.
Nix: It’s great. I mean, it’s – yes, I love this kind of storytelling. And one of the things that, you know, it was kind of a discussion with USA and they were down with it for reasons, you know, for sort of network priority reasons. But for us, you know, one of the things we said was that, you know, if you just look at what are people’s favorite episodes of Burn Notice over the years. They tend to be the most serialized episodes. They’re the first couple of the year and the last couple of the year and people don’t seem to be – and actually, you know, people do watch those episodes in reruns. The fact that there’s a little bit of a previous (unintelligible) doesn’t really seem to bother people. So, you know, although going all the way back to season two, when Victor died, you know, that was a very serialized pair of episodes at the end and our fans really seemed to respond to that.
So, you know, that was – this season in shaking up the show, you know, one of the things we did was, you know, we haven’t really had a traditional client all season. We’ve had, you know, (Barry)’s from last night’s episode was – is a client of sorts but his problem was really, you know, A, he’s sort of part of the team and, B, his problem was sort of generated by the team. It’s not like he had a problem in the abstract and he just needed our help with it. When I say our, I mean, the team.
Nix: You know, Michael got him in trouble and Michael’s got to – and now Sam’s got to get him out of trouble. That’s a very different orientation for us than I am a resident of Miami and someone in my family has been kidnapped. And I think we were sort of sick of that, you know, we wanted to do something new. So this season is really about focusing on the team and making sure that everything that they’re doing is really focused on the characters, focused on what it means to them, very personal. And it fits well with this serialized form of storytelling.
I’m upset with you right now.
Nix: Oh, you are? Oh, I’m sorry.
Seth Peterson is such a great guy. I just – it had to me. Why did it have to be Nate, you know? But, what…
Nix: Well, you know, I – pardon me, go.
No, go ahead.
Nix: Oh, you know, it’s – when I started on the show, you know, six seasons ago, one of the things that I talked about with my wife actually, because we had always watched shows together and she made the point about The Sopranos. That part of what made it compelling to watch was the sense that things could happen on the show that really mattered to you, and that things could actually change.
And, you know, as part of that conversation she basically said if you ever kill a character off and then say we didn’t mean it, he’s not really dead, you don’t get to sleep in our bed anymore. And so, partially just as a storytelling priority and partially to save my marriage, I – not save my marriage – partially to preserve my marriage, I realized, like, that, you know, I need to – if we’re going to take it seriously – this kind of storytelling seriously then we have to do things with real consequences.
And so, that was why, for me, you know, in looking at it, you know, it – we couldn’t – if we wanted to do something big on the show it couldn’t be hey remember Michael’s old neighbor Sugar the drug dealer who lived downstairs, he’s dead now. Isn’t that crazy? So…
Yes, I get it. What is this going to do going forward with Michael’s relationship with Madeline?
Nix: Woohoo, a lot. Yes, it’s – that actually – another thing just in terms of this whole story turn is that we all on the show – all of the writers really – and the actors too – wanted to do something that had emotional consequences that continued. Because even when, you know, when you’re on a show that – like, when we have to do very self-contained episodes people sort of have to forgive each other really quickly and be done with stuff.
So, you know, in relatively short order, you know, like a couple episodes. And we’ve had some of that with, like, Michael and Fiona’s relationship and things like that. But this is far – this has a far greater impact than anything we’ve ever done, just from an emotional perspective. There’s a real sea change and then talking to Sharon, I actually just – as an actor she was talking about how look, we had really long conversations and important conversations about how she felt this impacted her character and how that carries forward and that kind of thing.
So she, you know, she’s in this very difficult position of kind of blaming Michael for putting his brother in harm’s way but also realizing that, you know, her remaining son is still in danger and in a difficult situation and his situation only gets more difficult over the course of the season. And so, you know, to what extent can she forgive, to what extent was she responsible. I mean, all of those questions come up over the course of the season. And not just in one episode, I mean, it really carries forward.
I mean, it’s all sort – it’s a little bit similar to putting Fiona in jail. Like, we were like, okay if we’re going to put Fiona in jail, she’s got to be there for a while. And similarly, if we’re going to play the card of Michael’s brother dying, then it’s got to have real impacts for everybody.
Right. All right. Well I’m a big fan so I forgive you.
Nix: Pardon me?
So, thank you – I said I’m a big fan, so I forgive you.
Nix: Oh, well thank you. And, you know, the other thing I will say about the great gayness of Seth is that he is a great guy. And part of the thing for all of us in this was just, you know, wanting – you know, he’s been – he comes on the show for a couple episodes or an episode here or there and then really giving him an arc and giving him some real stuff to do and, you know, in a way he’s never been more important to the series. And so, that was a nice thing, I think, for him and for us.
I’m a big fan too and I was sad too but I forgive you. At least you didn’t kill one of the main-main characters, then that would’ve been more worse. So, you mentioned how, you know, (Fi) stayed in jail for a while and it wasn’t over right away. Can you talk about, is the fact that, you know, she’d been away and Michael rescued her and everything and, you know, that she didn’t listen to him and, you know, turned herself in, is that going to have, like, a lasting effect on the relationship? And can you talk a bit about that?
Nix: Well, I mean, one thing is the reunion that they imagined is – like, I think that her being in prison sort of allowed Michael to acknowledge like, in a way it brought them closer. You know, like, he’s, like, her – the fact that she sort of makes this sacrifice to kind of save his soul at the end of season five, and then, you know, the lengths that (he) goes to save – to get her out of prison. In a way, they’re as close as they’ve ever been when she’s getting out of prison.
And I – you know, the – I think the – this magical moment that they both anticipated of coming together and, you know, the fact that that coincides with Michael finally resolving, you know, finally wrapping up the last guy associated with his being burned. Like – and in that same moment having that torn away by Nate’s death, it does have a really lasting effect.
And, in a general sense, you know, the big thing at the end of last season was Fiona basically saying you don’t – like, Michael is really dedicated to his quest, you know, getting done the thing that he needs to get done. But, that can be costly and if he’s giving up all of his principles for the sake of doing what he needs – what he wants to do, is that – or for the sake of take care of the people he loves – is, is that acceptable and her answer was no.
And going forward, that central issue becomes – it becomes a greater and greater issues over the course of the season as Michael is now trying to, you know, dealing with his brother’s death and, you know, his dealing with that and his investigation into that and his, you know, thirst for vengeance and all of those things. It pushes Michael really to the brink in a lot of ways – personally, morally. You know, all of those things come into play and so, you know, I guess it’s sort of like the question – a question that she imagined was resolved only gets more central and worse, and the answers get more challenging and more challenging as the season goes on.
So, there’s a big impact and her yearning for, like, the resolution to all of this and the possibility that they might be able to be together in a less complicated way, you know, is snatched away at exactly the point where she imaged it could’ve been hers. So, that’s a big part of it.
Oh, okay. And are we going to have more of MI6 coming to bother her again or is that done with?
Nix: It’s – it is – her sort of association with the CIA, I mean, as part of her deal in getting out of the – out of prison, you know, she has to have some association with the CIA. Protects her to some extent going forward but, you know, that entity doesn’t go away. I mean, so it’s not a huge part of the season, but it’s not just – it’s not as if, you know, she’s best friends with British Intelligence at this point.
So, I was wondering, does Nate’s death signal a darker turn in the show?
Nix: Well, I guess I’d say yes and no. We actually have some really fun episodes coming up with some real humor.
And so, it’s not that going forward everybody mopes around a lot. At the same time, I think that, you know, over the course of all of our seasons, the serialized storytelling is always more kind of serous and emotionally impactful than the self-contained aspects of the show. And so, you know, so, you know, kind of the – in the early seasons, the client of week tended to be pretty light and/or lighter, and then the serialized stuff tended to be more, you know, more serious and a little darker. And now this serialized stuff is coming to the fore.
So, I wouldn’t say – it’s not like I, you know, sort of woke up in the morning and was like okay, Burn, now this is going dark. But, you know, to the extent that emotional consequences continue, it’s sort of unavoidable. Like, you know, if you have an ongoing storyline called, “Madeline Does Not Forgive Michael for the Death of Her Son”, that’s not really a laugh riot of a, you know, of a storyline.
Nix: So, you know, and yes, I – it’s important to preserve the fun of the show and so it’s not like we – it’s not like that just gets abandoned or anything. But, I think the maturing of the show has been in a direction of, you know, more like characters with ongoing emotional lives and things that tend toward the darker.
Okay. And, will Michael ever have complete resolution to being burned or will it always be? It seems like we’re going to get it and then something else happens.
Nix: Well, there are – the short answer is yes. I mean, Anson is the last guy. He is the last guy. That does not mean that there are not complications in the vis-à-vis the intelligence world.
So, you know, and it’s funny actually. Sometimes, like, you know, people will say like oh, and it’s a guy behind a guy, you know, which, you know, in previous sessions. To which my response has always been, well, like, if somebody, like, you know, conspiracies involve multiple people. You know, like, it’s not literally there’s one person behind another person. But, you know, if you look at any conspiracy in history, you know, it’s not just a single person acting alone.
Nix: So, you know, the idea that he was burned by an organization, we’ll (know) there are multiple people in that organization. It’s not that, you know, everybody’s not the head, they have different jobs. But, you know, that organization has been wrapped up, they are done there. But there are other complications, you know, as you might imagine, you know, you just wrap up one of these big conspiracies and, you know, that’s – it’s not like you didn’t know anybody, it’s not like they weren’t doing anything else.
It’s not like they’re, you know, — and so, it has (unintelligible)…
Well, he didn’t shoot himself.
Nix: Yes, exactly, he didn’t shoot himself. Yes, exactly. But, like, I can actually – you know, it’s not as if, like, I will say this, it’s not as if, like, Anson’s secret boss did it, you know. So – because I’m, you know, I’m – it’s sometime – like, I’m sick of that, you know. So, it doesn’t…
Well, I was going to ask how patient do you think your audience is, so I’m glad to hear that you’re tired of it too.
Nix: Yes, no, I mean, it’s – but part of it is – yes, it’s, like, things get real complicated vis-à-vis – let’s just say Michael isn’t going to hold back in trying to figure out who killed his brother.
And, you know, Michael off the chain isn’t, you know, necessarily playing by CIA rules, isn’t necessarily, like, the asset they want, you know. So, that turns in -you know, and he has friends in the CIA and he has detractors in the CIA, and so there’s a whole world of complications ahead for him that don’t have to do with the people that burned him, you know.
And, ultimately, you know, I can tease this – like, he finds himself rather worse off than he was vis-à-vis the intelligence community by the end of the season.
Q: I was going to ask you – well, a lot of my questions been answered, thank you. What I was going to ask you was whether Fiona’s cellmate, now that we know she’s going to get out of prison early, we’re going to see her in future episodes?
Nix: Not Fiona’s cellmate, but…
I mean, not her cellmate…
Nix: …did you see…
Q: …the woman that helped her, yes.
Nix: Ayn, yes. Yes, you do see Ayn again, yes. She – yes, it’s actually been – it’s been really fun this season because, again, in being able to do this, really, I mean, I feels like this season’s suddenly, like, you know, a door has been unlocked and we get to run outside play.
So with regard to a lot of the storytelling, even the client storytelling, whereas, once upon a time we would – we kind of had to think about it like okay, how do we meet this person who’s unrelated to the team, right. And so that – there was that whole mode of storytelling. Now, a lot of times it’s okay, how are these people coming back, how is this person closely related to the team. It’s kind of the opposite of what we used to do, and that’s been really fun. So, yes, we – she does show up again, you know, in a different capacity.
And is there anything else you can tell us about what might happen this season?
Nix: Well, we have some really fun – Rebecca will be returning, who was in the finale – you know, who betrayed Michael…
Nix: …in the finale and was working for Anson. So, she comes back in a new and sort of unexpected capacity. And so, yes, we’ve got that. Yes, there are all sorts of things I …it’s hard not to be spoiler-ish.
So yes, it’s – and then, you know, yes I think that’s a big one and Michael’s, you know, mentor and ally at the CIA, Tom Card is also going to, you know, Michael has to lean on him in a way that he hasn’t leaned on him before and turn to him for help. So that’s a big part of the season going forward. So, you know, to what extent is he going to get help from Tom Card that the CIA might not be willing to give him is a big part of it as well.
How does Nate’s death affect Fiona’s relationship with Madeline?
Nix: Oh, wow. It’s – I think the main impact there is between Madeline and Michael. I mean, it’s such a deep impact that it has – that’s the real focus for a little while. part of it is actually that Madeline – Madeline’s upset with everybody, as becomes clear over the course of the, you know, the next episodes. It’s not just that she feels like Michael shouldn’t have put his brother in harm’s way, it’s also, you know, that whole team, you know, they’re all sort of trained. They were working with Michael and, you know, so there’s plenty of blame to go around.
So, it’s not that she, you know, really takes Fiona to task specifically, but that comes into it. But moving forward, you know, Madeline sort of mourns the life she imagined Fiona and Michael could’ve had together in Miami with her. And, so I think that Fiona becomes one of the things that draws Madeline back. You know, that keeps Madeline from just writing it all off, you know, writing her family off and really slipping into despair.
So, that is a, you know, she’s… it’s not like Madeline is particularly close to Fiona in the upcoming episodes, because she’s mad at everybody. But ultimately, you know, one of the things that we’re exploring is just the ideas that this whole group has become a bit of a family now and, you know, this is a real challenge to that family. But, you know, it is a family nonetheless, you know, everybody. So, that’s part of it as well.
Also, if Burn Notice does get a seventh season would you definitely be looking for it to be the last?
Nix: Looking for it would be a strong term. I mean, I think that the, you know, one of the things for this season is the – I mean, it’s funny actually. If you’d asked me that last season, I would’ve said, you know, how many more of these can we do, you know. But, now, this season I think has breathed some new creative life into the show for all of us – for the actors, for the writers, for me. And so the fact that we’ve been able to do this new kind of storytelling that we haven’t done a lot of before has been really exciting.
I think that ultimately, with any of these kinds of shows, there is, you know, you do need to aim towards some sort of resolution. So I could definitely see a seventh season being the last season. And – but, if the actors are willing and the network wants it and the studio wants it and everything, like, I could also imagine a circumstance. I wouldn’t, you know, guarantee it, but I could imagine a circumstance where we might say, hey there is some creative life here and there are things we want to do.
But I guess I would ultimately make the decision on that basis. Like, is there cool stuff to say because, you know, you occasionally see shows that just sort of, you know, somebody backs up a money truck and everybody, you know, takes the money and then they just sort of like phone in a last season, and I wouldn’t want to do that.
Yes, I – Burn Notice is one of my favorite shows, so I just want to thank you for that. And my last question, are there any plans to bring back Tim Matheson’s Larry in any capacity?
Nix: No, as I said before, I’m not really allowed to bring back dead characters or my wife kicks me out of the house. So, yes, I mean, I…
He’s kind of infamous for that.
Nix: My thing about – my – I mean, we sit around all the – I mean, just so that everybody knows that we feel the same pain as our audience. Like, I’ve had writers just, like, I had a writer walk into my office the other day and say of an episode, ‘You know what this episode should’ve been. It should’ve been Brennen and he’s dead and I’m angry about that.’
And we’ve done the same thing with Larry as well. It’s like – but, you know, again, if, like, for these characters, that, you know, you got to have real consequences or it’s not as exciting. And so, you know, and Larry – part of it is, you know, Larry had been one kind of mentor to Michael and now we’ve got the character of Tom Card, John McGinley’s character, and he – he’s – he was another kind of mentor to Michaels. So that’s a – that’s part of it as well.
You brought up about how you all put things together and that you’re not always happy with having to kill off somebody, and the way – the plotting of it. How far in advance are you plotting this?
Nix: Every season, at the beginning of the season we sit down and lay out a – an overall plot line for the season, and kind of break that up into individual episodes. And then, you know, we have a general sense for were the show as a whole is going, and but then all of those things are flexible. So, the – so, for example, you know, sometimes we’ll find that there’s a particular aspect of the serialized storytelling that we can move up or that is – or that isn’t as interesting as we imagined it would be or that kind of thing.
So, I’d say, you know, if you looked at our sketch for the – that we had in January for this season, you would definitely recognize how things go. You know, it wouldn’t be radically different but you’d see individual episodes where, you know, we just found something more interesting or more fun.
Okay, because it’s interesting because how this one, you would think that this would be possibly a finale episode but it’s not. And there’s three more…
Nix: Oh, actually that’s a funny one. I can tell you specifically about that. For a couple of reasons, some of them having to do just with, like, how the network told us how the season would be split initially and then how – and then what we were thinking and then some of the moving around of the episodes we -you’ll see going forward in the show.
I think we figured out once that something like eight episodes this season had very originally been conceived as finales or premieres, and then just in the moving around of it we realized, like, oh wow, we have, you know, a – what we originally imagined as a season finale in the middle of the season. And then that turned into – I mean, because so, like, I’ll cop to yes, we absolutely thought about doing this episode as a season finale and then kind of where it laid out it was coming earlier than that.
And then we moved it even earlier because another aspect of the show that I really wanted to shake up this year was, you know, I think people sort of settled into this groove of like, when does big stuff happen on Burn Notice, episode one, episode 10, episode 11, episode 18. And so, I really like the idea of basically saying to our audience, no pay attention in the middle of the season, big stuff, you know.
And, you know, without giving away specific episodes, there are multiple episodes, like, really big deal episodes buried in the, you know, at points in this season where you would never expect them. Like, big, big turns there would normally have been that were actually originally planned as premieres or finales.
Wow. Okay, so this is one of those situations where you really need to pay attention to the entire season.
Nix: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. There is – like, we have – yes, I mean, especially in the winter section of the – I mean, there are multiple episodes coming up that are huge turns and then in the back half of the season, it’s – I mean, like a lot. The back half of the season just runs like a freight train, I mean, it’s just – or a bullet train. It’s really – it’s pretty intense and there are lots of turns. I mean, it’s very – yes, it’s – and by the end of this season, a lot of the things that people expect of Burn Notice are completely turned on their heads. Just, you know, by the end of the season, it doesn’t even look the same. It’s a big, big difference.
And, you know, and I don’t want to, like, for fans of the show, like, it still has the same pleasures. I mean, it’s not like people are going to be, you know, I think people are going to be really into it. I mean, the people who have seen those episodes have been really excited. But, it’s – we just decided we’re going to sort of break all the rules this season and that’s what we’ve been doing.
That’s the best thing I could hear about this show because I’ve watched it since the very beginning.
Nix: Well thank you very much. And, you know, I just feel like we sort of owe our regular fans something new, you know. Like, I think we proved somewhere in there, like, okay we can do a client of the week story that has certain satisfactions and, you know, that’s fun but, we want to reach for something more.
Can you talk about how you originally came up for the – with the concept for the series?
Nix: Very originally. I mean, it sort of, like, depends on what you mean by originally. But in a general sort of way, I had been interested in – I had always been interested in espionage since I was a little kid. I had some conversations with a guy name Michael Wilson, who’s a consulting producer on the show who worked in the field of private intelligence.
And I’d been, you know, so I’d been interested in the intelligence world and, you know, that had sort of rekindled an interest. But one of the things that I’ve always had a personal interest in is just – is less like the mechanics of it, you know, less the mechanics of okay, how does the United States do counterintelligence vis-à-vis, you know, China or that kind of thing.
It – which is not – it’s not uninteresting to me, it’s just the thing that I was primarily interested in is what kind – what are the – what is the personal aspect of it. Like, what kind of person becomes a spy, what super powers do they have. And I don’t mean cartoonish super powers, I just mean, like, how do they experience the world, where do they come from.
And so, in my very original conception of the show I thought, oh okay, well I guess I should do a spy show if I want to do that. And then, that evolved over the course of thinking about the show and developing the show into well, what if I did a spy show about somebody who wasn’t – about what showcased the personal skills of a spy and that took a spy out of the spy context. So that, you know, rather than taking Michael Westen and, you know, showing how good he is at , you know, dealing with a Russian diplomat, you know, who may or may not be spying or, you know, the kinds of things people do on spy shows. What if we can take those skills and apply them in a different context, in a way that would, you know, tell you more about who spies are as people and what they can do and that kind of thing. So, it turned out to be sort of a nice way to explore the things that I was most interested in. And without getting into the murky world of what is essentially politics, which is, you know I think anyone who watches the show can tell that’s not really the central dramatic question of Burn Notice.
Right. Now you mentioned their, you know, super power skills. How do you guys come up with a lot of the – and I always think of MacGyver – but, the kind of things that they do. I mean, are a lot of them really things you could do or are some of them just made up? I’ve always been curious.
Nix: Oh, no everything – I guess I’d say everything is – the standard we hold ourselves to is would this work – does this basically work, does this work. This isn’t quite the right term – word but, in theory. So, and the arena in which – here’s a great example, in the first season of the show, Lucy Lawless’s character, Evelyn, removes the trigger bar spring from Michael’s SIG Sauer and without – and he discovers that and realizes oh, his gun is broken. And he has a – I think it’s a bobby pin, right because of something that happened earlier in the episode. And so, he repairs the trigger bar spring using this bobby pin.
Nix: So, the standard we help ourselves to was we did it. Like, let’s – if you can repair a trigger bar spring with a bobby pin, then we will do this gag. And the answer is, yes, you can absolutely do it, our prop guy did it, right. It took our prop guy maybe two minutes and we let Michael do it in about 45 seconds, you know… so did we fudge it a little; yes we fudged it a little bit. But, you know, Michael’s a super spy, sure so he can do that. Similarly, in season two, you know, we – he sort of improvises a – an X-ray thing to X-ray something in the trunk of a car, and it would be an engineering task but everything in principle. Oh, we’ve checked it all out with engineers and scientists. Everything in principle works.
The television fudging we allow ourselves is the image of the X-ray, is probably clearer than that image would actually be. But again, we sort of allow ourselves like, all right, we’re not going to have Michael read a really fuzzy X-ray on screen and then, you know, because it’s possible. We know basically it works and so we’ll fudge the the thing. We just got – you know, they did a myth busters on a (unintelligible) thing and actually discovered precisely that. They were like, yes, this absolutely works in theory. It would be a lot harder than it looks on the show, but it works in theory.
I have ideas about what’s going on for next season. And given that, you have just changed how the ballgame is being played in this series, and actually, quite frankly, you’re right. Everybody was starting to lose the middle parts and just tune in the for first two, the last two and could figure out how you were – how it was being modeled. And this one has been so very different that you – it’s become again the must see TV. So…
Nix: That was our goal.
…you’re – yes, well yes, really. But the point is, is that where – how much farther do you have to reach when it comes to – down to being – plotting and writing to keep up the pace in terms of where your character’s going to go for the next season, which you’ve got to be thinking about?
Nix: I mean, you got to go a lot deeper. I mean, there’s just no question. It’s – the – it does mean – I mean, we actually had to revise how the show is written so that once upon a time an individual writer – basically means all the writers must be way more – well, without being too much – doing too much inside baseball about it. We had to change the way the show gets written from the way that very episodic shows get written to the way that very serialized shows get written.
So, in a very, you know, in a very standalone procedural show, you can break an episode and then send the writer off to do that episode and that writer can kind of rejoin the room and get back into the show, you know, in a, you know, when they’re done with their episode, right.
Nix: But in a very serialized show, everybody has to work together on everything and be talking back and forth and nobody can leave for very long. Because, you know, suddenly writers have to have lots more conversations about, okay, I need you to set this up in your episode so that I can pay it off in this episode. And no, your character can’t say that in that episode because, like, in my episode, five episodes later, that character doesn’t have that skill, you know what I mean, or that character doesn’t have that relationship or whatever it is.
So, we had to revise all of that. And absolutely in thinking forward to, you know, what will hopefully be on season seven, you know, network willing, the…
Nix: …I think it’s – you have to be a little bit like a baseball player. You know, you get a little superstitious, you don’t want to …get call (unintelligible)…
Nix: …by assuming anything. But, yes, so, I mean, now – you’re right. Again, it’s kind of like how of just a much more serialized show does it in the sense that you – we have to think about where – when we land, what are the storytelling possibilities, you know, moving out from there. And but, you know, at the same time, this season has given me some more confidence, vis-à-vis our ability to just tell different kinds of stories. Because, you know, if you told me at the beginning – if you told in season five, you know what, next season, you’re not going to have any traditional clients, right.
Nix: At no point is some random person in Miami just going to walk up and say I need help with something, right. I was like, I probably would’ve said, well that’s kind of the show, how do we do that, you know. And the truth is, you just do it. You just get into it and figure out how to do it.
And so, you know, I will say one thing that has been sort of a luxury is the fact that we haven’t done this for all of these seasons. Means that, I mean, to take a show I really like, Prison Break, right, once – like, they entered into this super episodic high-octane mode of storytelling from the very beginning, right. And it’s incredibly compelling and you’ve got to watch every episode, but it’s really hard to make it last for, you know, six seasons, right. Because, God, those people have been running for a long time, you know, like…
Nix: And so, the fact that we sort of entered into that mode of storytelling more in season six means that we’ve just never eaten that lunch, you know what I mean. We – there’s all sorts of stuff for us to do. So in some ways actually, things that we had always imagined doing, that I had always thought about doing, that I thought that weren’t possible, well, I can do that now.
So, you know, in a way, season seven is a little daunting because it isn’t something we have – haven’t done – because it isn’t something we’ve done before. But in a way, like, what I’d hope to do in a season seven is also what I’ve been thinking about for six years.
Wow. And that’s pretty amazing that you could actually finally get what you wanted initially. And have it…
Nix: That I could actually what?
Well, achieve what it is that you originally wanted, you know, with thinking about back in…
…and then finally get it seven seasons later. Get to that point where you’re able to kind of tweak the show enough to really kind of give it a whole new breath of fresh air.
Nix: Yes, honestly, if you told me that we would be able to do this, I would’ve said it can’t happen. Because part of it is just, you know, and big ups to USA. Like, they – it isn’t all the time that a network says, like, oh you know that way we’ve been doing things that has been really successful for a long time, well let’s just do the opposite, and that’s what they did. And, you know, and you can see it in their other shows as well. Like everybody got let off the chain a little bit to do more serialized storytelling. And, you know, and I think it’s been a good thing for all of their shows.
Can you talk about any of the other guest stars that we’re going to have this season?
Nix: Let’s see, well, Kenny Johnson will appearing from The Shield. Has a – I mean, it sort of depends on what you consider the season, like, the overall season or the summer season. But, you know, Kenny Johnson appears in both. So, he has a great part that I won’t get into too much. We’ll see some more of Agent Pearce, so got her. Tom Card, again, McGinley’s character. Time trying to think – we’ve got some great guest stars. Not much in the way of gigantic, you know eventy kinds of people but, you know, some really great actors.
But yes, most of our sort of big casting-casting was in the (unintelligible) characters. So, McGinley would be a great example there.
And then in second half of the season we have some more, you know, more characters like that but we can talk about that then.
All right. You write, you direct and you produce. Is – and I know it looks like a lot of them you’ve written and directed on the same episode. Is it hard to do, you know, both? And do you prefer one over the other or is one harder than the other? Just kind of talk about that.
Nix: Well, I think they are two different things but I actually enjoy both. I’d say that directing, you know, I mean, it’s the difference between, you know, creating the vision and executing it. And, you know, directing, you know, the chance to work more intimately with actors is really fun and explore things.
I also, you know, one of the reasons I like to direct is it keeps me connected to the actually physical doing of the show. I mean, the – you know, Burn Notice is a very difficult show to make because we are packing a lot of plot and a lot action and a lot of story into our 42 minutes.
And, you know, if you just look at – we’ve had episodes where we were doing two major stunts a day. Stunts that a lot of other shows would do, you know, they do one stunt in the entire episode. And so, you know, and that’s just stunts or effect. I mean, there are a lot of things. And so, just numbers of scenes, page count, all of that.
And so, for me directing is partially, you know, remaining connected to the actual execution of what we’re promising in the writer’s room. But, yes, I really like both. I will say, like, they don’t feel as different as you might think to me. Just because ultimately, when I’m directing, it feels like – in my head, it feels a little bit like a rewrite, you know what I mean. Like, oh, now I’m rewriting it with people and cameras.
And so I feel like, you know, I saw this episode before in my head a couple times. I saw it when it was outlining it and then I saw it when I was writing it and then I, you know, and now I’m seeing it again. And as to episodes that I write and direct versus somebody else writes and directs, we’re all so involved in every episode it’s not really like I, you know, it’s not like I sit down to read an episode that I – where I don’t know what happens. If it’s not me writing, you know what I mean. I was intimately involved with it regardless. So…
Okay, great. Well thank you so much.
Nix: Thank you. All right, talk to you guys later.
Photos by Glenn Watson/Courtesy USA Network