Warehouse 13 came out of nowhere last summer to become Syfy’s most successful series ever. Built around the concept of a warehouse for storing artifacts with unusual, even supernatural, abilities – and the Secret Service agents who are assigned to bag, tag and store those items, the show’s mix of buddy show, weird procedural and eccentric character studies was an instant hit.
This week, Warehouse 13’s creator/showrunner Jack Kenny took some time from shooting season two to talk about the show’s conception and what lies in store for the upcoming season. Warehouse 13 returns to Syfy on June 6 [9/8C].
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Jack Kenny: Oh, it’s paramount. I think it’s – I think it’s very important because, you know, I think that’s one of the reasons the show was successful is because we’ve been able to access, I call it a thrilleromedy, because we can do it – we can do a little bit of everything.
And we – our actors are so good at comedy. I mean, you know, I’ve known Eddie for ten years and we’ve worked together on comedies and dramas, and Saul is brilliant comedian. I mean, every – they’re all very funny people. They all have their own different parameters of comedy. And if we didn’t access that it’d be a darn waste of good talent.
And I’ve always found too, that great comedic actors are usually great dramatic actors as well. And I feel like too, that it’s a reflection of life. Life has a lot of funny moments in it and we don’t – why would we deny that in our entertainment? It keeps things moving.
Well as a follow-up to that, do you feel any pressure or the need to go darker like other Syfy franchises? Like Battlestar Galactica or Stargate Universe?
Kenny: Well, they’re – I think they’re darker in a different way. I mean, you know, we definitely want to examine dark issues. We don’t make it a light frothy comedy. We – last year in an episode, we examined Pete and Myka’s guilty past and what they’re guilty about. Pete about his Dad and Myka about the man who died on the mission she was on.
And so, we don’t – I – well I would – certainly don’t want to avoid dark issues or emotional issues, on the contrary, we’d like to dive head into those. But, I also feel like we can mix it with the comedy of the moment. Not jokes per se, but situational comedy, character-based comedy, but I don’t think – because Battlestar and – is a – it was a darker world, it lends itself to a darker feeling. Ours is – I mean, the advantage our show is we go everywhere.
We’re doing some episodes this season that have very dark overtones, and some that have very light overtones. We’re doing a body switching episode that, you know, you can’t avoid having a light overtone to it, even though there is a danger element involved. And then we’re also doing a very heavily – you know, heavily emotional episode near the end of the season.
So, we kind of cross all the vectors.
Last season we ended with Artie in the warehouse [as it] exploded.
Without our – without the warehouse there would – full of crazy magical items there would be no Warehouse 13, without Artie there would not Warehouse 13. So, is it safe to assume that then…
Kenny: This is (unintelligible), isn’t it?
…they will both be back? Yeah. Well, I would – it’s safe to assume then they’ll both be back somehow, and can you talk a little bit about how you’re planning on bringing them back?
Kenny: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody that Artie will be back. The question with Warehouse 13 is always how. You know, how does he come back? How does he – how would he survive? It was actually just the umbilicus tunnel that blew up, it wasn’t the whole warehouse. So, we didn’t really destroy the warehouse. And you know, could – well how will Artie come back? Did it – he could come back as a finger puppet, you know, you never know. But, he’ll definitely be back in Season 2 when we’ve got a lot of really cool stuff planned.
We left a lot of strings untied at the end of last season; a lot of loose ends. And we will tie them all back up in the first episode returning. And we’ll also reveal that another end was left untied by MacPherson that is going to string through entire season this year. MacPherson did something, released something in the warehouse while he was in there that will affect the rest of this second season and give our agents something to hunt down and fight against.
I don’t know if you’re talking about some sort of artifact or not, but can you tell us about anything about any of the new artifacts coming this season?
Kenny: Oh, well let’s see. Well, there’s an artifact that ages young girls 60 years in the blink of an eye. That’s a really cool artifact. I don’t want to tell you what that artifact is because I don’t want to give away the episode.
There’s – let’s see, we’ve – there’s an artifact that gives somebody superhero powers, or seemingly superhero powers, let me put it that way. That’s an episode that we have Sean Maher and Jewel Staite in. That’s a lot of fun. That’s our second episode of the season.
Let’s see, what else have we got? I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff. As I mentioned before, we have an artifact that causes body switching. We have an artifact that a woman can use to make a man do whatever she wants, which I’m sure will – the marketing department will want to get going on that right away.
Yeah. And – let’s – I’m going to keep thinking. There’s an – there’s a cool – we’re doing crossover episode this year with Eureka, where Fargo comes to visit us and Claudia goes to Eureka. And when – in Fargo’s episode we look for an artifact that was responsible for a computer mishap with one of the original computer systems built in the warehouse.
And another great guest star in that episode is Rene Auberjonois who plays the warehouse agent who kind of lost his mind working with these computers, and how the artifact is involved in all of that. There’s a really cool (besoatrope) that we use that’s involved in that.
What else? Let’s see, well I have to go through the episodes in my head, one, two, three, four, five is – oh, right there’s an – there’s a walking stick that creates earthquakes when slammed against the ground. And I can tell you that because that’s not the mystery of the episode. There’s another artifact in the episode – in that episode that causes a mystery that will unfold as that episode opens up.
There’s – let’s see in six there’s an artifact that makes these young men on this college wrestling team get incredibly strong and muscular and able to win these matches all of a sudden. That’s a very exciting episode for our female fans.
Yeah. So, we’ve got a lot of really cools stuff planned.
Following up on your crossover episode with Fargo coming to the Warehouse 13, do you guys have any plans for a full-on crossover with that series?
Kenny: You know we don’t at this point. We certainly aren’t opposed to it. The only persons – the only person – well there’s three people that it would be unusual with because we had them on the show as guest stars last year.
You know, we had Joe Morton on the show and – oh, I’m sorry. I’m really – my – names run out of head, Niall and – the other two – two wonderful – I wasn’t there when we shot this episode, so I never met them, so that’s why their names are running out of my head. They were in the episode called Duped last year that happened in Vegas. They’re wonderful actors.
So, it would be odd for them to crossover but I certainly would love to – Colin Ferguson is an old pal of mine from a long time ago. I’d love to have him come over on the show. I have a feeling he and Artie would go toe-to-toe on a lot of things and get into some cool arguments, and several of the other actors. I mean, we would love to do that.
I think it’s – you know, it is harder scheduling-wise because we shoot the same time they do and the – it was already, you know, moving mountains to get Fargo freed up enough days to shoot on our set, and then Claudia, we happened to be hiatus this week, so she was free to go and do a Eureka episode.
But usually it’s tough to release everybody, but I certainly would love to do it more in the future. That was a really fun experience and Neil Graystone is absolutely a joy.
Do you have any episodes focusing on Claudia this year?
Kenny: Oh, yeah. Well, Claudia is essentially a regular this year. I mean, I don’t know the legal ramifications if she isn’t recurring in every episode or how that works, but she is – she’s in every episode this year, and she’s integral part of the warehouse. She and Artie are essentially a team.
And we actually send her and Artie off on an artifact hunt at one point while Pete and Myka are off doing something else. And as – in the college wrestler episode we actually team Myka and Claudia up to go and investigate it because we thought it would be fun for the two girls to go the – go to the college – the male college wrestling team.
So, we really do try to – Claudia is definitely – it’s – the warehouse investigative team is really Pete and Myka, Artie and Claudia and Leena’s involved more with stuff at home at Leena’s B&B and at the warehouse. But no, Claudia is very, very important to the tour show this year. She’s in a lot of cool stuff.
And she – we also get to see her brother Joshua again this year in the first episode and possibly in a later episode.
I was just wondering, this wasn’t addressed directly when we did this last year, and I was just wondering because the idea of the vast warehouse of mysterious artifacts isn’t exactly new. It’s been around from days of Area 51 and beyond.
How did you approach the concept to make it unique? What was intimidating or reassuring about the way you approached it, and how does that play into the nature of the series as an ongoing entity?
Kenny: Well, you know, it’s interesting you ask that because last year I was sending – once – one of the things we talked about last year that I brought up to Syfy was that I feel like to make this warehouse a U.S. Government installation, or a U.S. Government thing, felt too small to me.
It felt to me like – and I don’t think anybody thought of this when they first named it, but it came to – it occurred to me that Warehouse 13 could be the thirteenth warehouse in the iteration of warehouses over the centuries. And that the first warehouse — say — started in – with Alexander the Great. In his conquest he brought back artifacts and stored them in a building at time.
And that got me thinking about the warehouse, why it would be in the United States right now and to (unintelligible) maybe the warehouse moves to whatever empire is most powerful at the time in the history of the world. So that the first warehouse was under Alexander the Great, the second warehouse was in Egypt and under – until Egypt fell to the Romans and then it moved.
And so I got online and started doing research and writing, and I wrote up this mythology of all the warehouses over the history and which empires would have housed them, 1 through 13, and sent it into Syfy and they ended up putting it online this year. It’s on the Syfy.com Web site, the whole mythology of all the warehouses.
So, it felt to me like it would make a bigger, more grander scale. And so this year we’re actually – we reference Warehouse 9 in the Ottoman Empire, and then we also visit Warehouse 2 in Egypt. In our – in the next to the last episode it plays a very important role in our Season Finale.
And so, it’s kind of beyond – it’s more global and it’s – in the regions. There’s always been a group of regions that have controlled it and we learn a lot more this year about Mrs. Frederic’s connection to Warehouse 13, why she’s connected to Warehouse 13, what that connection actually is, how it works, how it came about.
And so, we’re really, really digging heavily into the mythology of the warehouse and warehouses, and how they all come into play so that the artifacts in there can reach back centuries. But we have — I think — in an episode where we use – that one of the artifacts that comes to play is from – they call them Babelstones, stones from the Tower of Babel that if you hold them in your hands no one can understand what you’re saying unless someone else is also holding a Babelstone. And then, you can have a secret conversation. Things like that.
So, we were able to reach back far into the past.
Is there a bleed over of artifacts from one warehouse to the next? Does the inventory move with the warehouse or does…
…each warehouse accumulates new stuff?
Kenny: Oh, no absolutely. The inventory continues to move and build and grow. That’s why there are artifacts – we were very fortunate to have (key frame), our special effect (unintelligible), redo a lot of our transitions and open up the inside of the warehouse. And in the distance now you can see small pyramids, you can see structures, windmills, and you know, things that have been brought into the warehouse over the centuries and moved from place to place.
So, the inventory builds and continues to grow and change as it moves from empire to empire.
Will you ever address how those artifacts are moved from one location to another.
Kenny: Yeah, we probably will when the warehouse moves to what will probably be China at the end of the series. That would be my guess.
So, I noticed you wrote the Season 1 Finale episode MacPherson. Aside from being the Executive Producer, what makes you want to jump in and write certain episodes?
Kenny: Well, I kind of feel like with, you know, being the Showrunner, it’s my – it’s kind of my job to book bookend the series, both to – and also because it’s fun and I really like doing that. I really like wrapping things up and leaving a lot of crazy loose ends and stories that will reach into the next season.
Writing the first episode, I always like to do that because if we have any new writers on staff I think it’s helpful for them to – you know, for me to layout kind of how we do the series, and I kind of feel it’s my responsibility. Plus, it’s – they’re the easiest ones to write; the first one and the last one just timewise, because my life in between the first and the last episodes tends to be taken up with 1000 other things. So, I really can only focus on the first and last episodes.
In the meantime – because you know, every episode – most shows work like this, every episode works its way through my computer before it gets to the studio and the network and stage. I do all – I do a lot of the rewrites on it. So, I don’t have time to actually write a cold episode during the season, except at the end. I’m writing the Season Finale this year with Nell Scovell, one of our other writers.
Now, some of the artifacts we’ve heard of, or we’ve heard of how they’re attached to famous people, how much of the original story attached to those artifacts do you use for the storyline, or how much is tweaked or invented?
Kenny: Well, it’s – you know, it’s mostly invented because we – again, it’s sort of the nature of the beast, but we try to base as much of it as possible in – certainly in history, an historical fact with the person and what they may have used. And also, in as much science as is humanly possible in a science fiction show, we try to really base things in truth so that they have a ring truth, and a real prominence to them.
So, every time there’s an artifact that comes up it generally springs from, you know, what we need something to do or be, and then we start doing – going historically over what that might be. We were talking about – gosh, we were talking the other day about an artifact that could turn mass into liquid and make it easier to move through.
And somebody brought up John Henry’s hammer, or John Henry’s pickax, the guy who dug his way through the mountain faster. If there was a piece of that pickax or the pickax itself, could that be an artifact that caused things to liquefy it?
You know, so we’re – so we definitely delve into historical – into history and then try to juice it up with some fictional imbuement of powers or prowess.
How much of Artie’s backstory will we see in Season 2?
Kenny: Actually, quite a bit. We’re going to discover what his past was with the NSA. In Episode 9 we discover what his – what exactly got him arrested for treason, and how felt – how he campaign to Mrs. Frederic, and what the consequences of what he had been doing was. And he actually tries to rectify some of those wrongs in Episode 9 and what takes him to Russia. It takes him and Pete and Myka to Russia in that episode. So, we learn a lot about his past.
And then actually, this year we’re doing a Christmas episode that’ll air in December where we learn about Arties father, and why they had the rifts they did, and how they can come back together. So, we’re learning quite a bit about Artie this year.
There are two women guest starring this season. I read that they’re going to be love interests for Pete. Is that correct?
Okay. And then has – have you guys considered a romantic relationship between Pete and Myka?
Kenny: Well, let me answer your first question first. Yes, Tia Carrere plays a secret service agent stationed in Chicago who runs into Pete and Myka on a mission. And they had a thing in the past, sort of a friends with benefits kind of a thing, and that gets reawakened a little bit. And we’re also bringing Tia back for another episode later this season.
And then in between all that, Pete meets and falls in love with Paula Garces as Dr. Kelly Hernandez a local veterinarian in the town of Univille. The warehouse is – the town that hosts the warehouse is called – we call it Univille, it’s actually Unincorporated Township, South Dakota, so we just named it Univille.
And Kelly is a veterinarian in town that Pete meets and has a very electrical relationship with. I mean, they sort of shoot barbs at each other and then they fall in love, and so we’re playing that this season. So, Pete will definitely be moving around.
And so that in mind, Pete and Myka, we are kind of staying away from the romantic entanglements right now. There’s – we certainly play a little bit of that tension once in a while. I think last year in Duped you probably saw that Pete certainly found Myka attractive and there’s a really beautiful moment in Episode 4 this season in that – that takes place at a fashion show where Myka has to go undercover. There’s a really nice scene between Pete and Myka where he talks to her about how beautiful she is.
And so, it’s – right now it feels more like a brother/sister thing because of the way they seem to relate to each other and the chemistry they have, but we certainly wouldn’t rule out a romantic relationship down the line. We just kind of don’t to play that part yet because everybody always says at the end of a series, I mean, who knows if it is or not, but why risk it?
We were just wondering, you got your career – you started you career in sitcoms like Dave’s World and Caroline in the City and we were wondering if you were always a sci-fi fan and always had the intention of – or the hope of getting to do a show where you melded those two genres together.
Kenny: Well, you know, you’ve been doing your IMDb work.
Kenny: I – yeah, I – you know, I do love comedy. Comedy was always my goal. I wanted to be a – my father wanted me to be a comedian when I was kid. I’m the only kid in America whose father actually wanted him to be a stand-up comic.
But, I – so I do have a tremendous level of comedy, I did my seventh grade term paper on Groucho Marx. So, I’m always been – I’ve always been fascinated by it. And like I say, I always find that comic actors can make you cry more readily and more easily than dramatic actors can, a lot of the times. Some of the great performances are from incredibly comedic actors. So, I do have a love of that.
I’ve always loved – you know, I love sci-fi the way the average person loves sci-fi. I love Star Wars and Star Trek, and you know, Indiana Jones. I mean, I loved all that. I love all those movies. But, I’m not a, what my fellow writers lovingly refer to them as – themselves as a geek. I’m not a Star Wars – I’m not a sci-fi nerd.
And that was kind of what I went into Syfy with on my interview. I said, “You know, you guys, you have the sci-fi audience. They’re going to watch your shows because they love sci-fi. You need me. You need a guy like me who’s kind of afraid of a name Battlestar Galactica because I don’t – all I think is, ‘Hmm, am I going to be into that’.”
And it turns out it was a brilliantly written series, but you know, what you need to – what – you know, what I said to Syfy was that we need to expand the brand on this and bring in people who can relate to it on, not only on a sci-fi level, but on an emotional level, on a character-based level, on a comedic level, on a dramatic level, just bring it all in. And fortunately we’re blessed with a cast that can give us that.
And so, my goal was always, let’s grab it all. Let’s do all – let’s get – let’s go across the boards and do a thrilleromedy or an action-comedy — you know what I mean — and cover it all. So, I tended – I’ve never tended to be a total into everything sci-fi and total (geekdome), but I do love a good story well told. And it doesn’t matter what genre it’s in.
I think the reason Star Wars is such a brilliant franchise and the movies in that franchise that work, are the ones that focus on the relationships, you know, whether it’s Luke and Leia or Luke and Yoda or whoever relationships they’re following that’s what you’re excited about. The genre is also exciting but it’s sort of a separate thing, but that’s kind of my take on it.
That’s great. And yes, we did do our IMDb research and we noticed that you’ve made a lot of on-camera appearances on shows like Cheers and Herman’s Head, and we were wondering if there’s any chance you’ll make an appearance on your show?
Kenny: Well, you know if I can lose 20 pounds, sure. But no, you know, I was an actor for many years. I graduated from Juilliard in 19, blahbity, blah, blah, but you can probably look up that as well. But – so I was an actor for about 13 years before I started writing. I do love acting, but I also know how hard those jobs are to come by, so I would never want to take a job away from an actor on the show.
You know, if it was an emergency situation or something that had to be done and we couldn’t get somebody last minute, but I actually prefer to – what I really – I’m going to direct the Christmas episode this year, and I just love being with actors, so writing and directing is — for me — just as good as acting. I have just as much fun. Although, Saul keeps telling me he’s going to shove me in front of the camera one of these days, and I dread that day.
The key to any hit shows is its characters and you’ve got a really good core of characters and a few on the periphery. I’m wondering, will there be any other new and unusual recurring characters introduced in the next while?
Kenny: Yeah, I think there will be. We’re going to meet – well like I said, we’ll see – we’ll meet Kate Logan, played by Tia Carrere in a couple of episodes. Did I go through my – we’re going to see Benedict Valda as – Mark Sheppard has Benedict Valda in a – in two or three episodes this season.
We’re meeting another regent named Adwin Kosan near the end of the season. What other people are going to – what other characters rear their heads to us again? Leena, of course is back. Joshua, Claudia’s brother is back to see us again. We’ll see MacPherson again.
Kenny: Oh, yeah, MacPherson will be back with us. And we’re introducing another big bad this year who will be with us quite a bit. And that’s all I can tell you, unfortunately because it’s a lot of – there’s a lot of surprises in the premier episode that I don’t want to spoil.
Thanks very much.