How do you create and write a series like Burn Notice? What influences – from life and classic TV – go into the unique mix that is Burn Notice [USA, Thursdays, 10/9C]? Series creator Matt Nix answers these questions and more…
USA’s popular spy series, Burn Notice, is returning this week [Thursday, 10/9C] and we had the opportunity to chat with Bruce Campbell [crusty, semi-retired spy Sam Axe] on what to expect in Season Three. Campbell didn’t dip into any classified intel, but it was definitely a fun interview…
Years ago she became famous by dancing with Al Pacino, now she’s burning up the TV screen in USA’s hit spy series Burn Notice. I met her last month during a visit to the hot, Miami Set. Earlier we ran interviews with several folks from the show and with it quickly coming to a close it’s time to run the rest of these great interviews. Gabrielle was a lot of fun and she had this dog that was big as horse and just as cute. Participating in this roundtable was IGN, Fanbolt.com, Confessions of a tvwhore.com, and the TVAddict.com.
Do you enjoy working in Miami?
I actually love it. I would much rather be too hot than too cold. I’m perfectly happy melting all day long. Jeffrey has to wear full on suits and ties, poor thing, and Bruce too. Although he gets to wear Hawaiian shirts a lot too. He’s Mr. Tommy Bahama.
How do you handle doing the martial arts and hand to hand combat that Fiona does?
Smoke and mirrors. Jeffrey’s actually incredibly advanced in martial arts. He’s like triple billion black belt or whatever, he’s pretty high up there. Although I don’t know who actually judges that stuff. But I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s basically just choreography. I did dance, so that comes in handy. But as far as hitting the right artery or chopping the right part of the body, I have no idea what I’m doing.
Burn Notice’s first season concluded with former spy Michael Weston trapped inside the cargo trailer of an eighteen wheeler. When season two begins tomorrow [Thursday, USA, 10/9C], the little exercise in claustrophobia results in Weston [Jeffrey Donovan] being given an assignment – over the phone – by the mysterious Carla [Tricia Helfer] before the trailer is opened onto a scene of carnage. Spies. Whatcha gonna do?
Breaking and Entering, the second season premiere, deals with stealing information from a civilian military [mercenary] company. If it’s not done by a certain time, it will result in the death of the wife and child of the man who set up the firm’s security. The carnage that greets Michael when he clambers out of the trailer is what remains of the computer expert, Richie’s effort to flee. Plus, there’s always Michael’s manipulative mom [Sharon Gless], fellow ex-spy and buddy, Jack [Bruce Campbell] and ex-girlfriend/former IRA demolitions expert, Fiona [Gabrielle Anwar] to help and/or hinder. Topping that, Carla is one of the people who had Michael burned in the first place!
The follow-up ep, Turn and Burn, finds Michael helping a young woman with a stalker problem – by the number two man of the local drug kingpin! Even worse, he gets manipulated into attending a “counselling session” with his mom. [Oh, the humanity!] And these are just the side gigs! His assignment from Carla is to get a computer key card copied – and that requires a special kind of expert…
Burn Notice was probably the best series of last summer, in terms of pure entertainment value. It certainly filled the requirements of the USA “characters wanted” brand – though Michael is the most normal of the characters [it’s his mom and Jack who are the real characters!]. If anything, it seems that the series has gotten smarter, funnier and maybe even a bit edgier this season.
The first two scripts are killer and the ensemble certainly makes the most of that. Each ep is paced just quickly enough to maintain interest without trying to do too much too quickly [a real potential problem here]. Donovan has really done a nice job of keeping the balance between nice and twisted in Michael’s character. He gives the show its calm center in the eye of the hurricane that is his mom, Jack, and Fiona [though Fiona seems to have calmed down a bit from last season – let’s see how long that lasts]. Tricia Helfer nicely underplays Carla’s menace, thereby seeming even more dangerous, and she definitely adds a bit of spice to Michael’s life – which makes it even harder for Michael to find out who she really is – and who she works for.
If you liked Burn Notice last season, you’re going to love it this year.
Final Grade: A
Today I participated in a call with Battlestar Galactica’s iconic Six (Tricia Helfer) to talk about her role in the July 10 premiere of USA’s new hit show Burn Notice. Of course Galactica came up as well and we got some great tidbits from her. The transcript from the call will be coming later this week. To wet your appetite. Here are some little tidbits.
- Tricia will be in 7 Episodes of Burn Notice playing a mysterious spy. She’ll be in the first two episodes of the season, the season finale and a couple in 2009.
- Her character is the public face of the organization that burned Michael.
- She really liked the being on the set and said it was a real welcoming environment.
- She talks a bit about the difference between Vancouver and Miami, Fl. Said she had to get use to it being sunny in Fla.
- She has a list of DVD Sets that she wants to watch since she doesn’t watch much television. She likes quirky shows like Madmen and Weeds. Is currently watching Dexter, 24, and Arrested Development.
- When asked if she uses the word Frak in her every day life she no. Primarily because her character on Galactica rarely says it. But Frak has become part of other cast and crew’s vocabulary.
- She didn’t have to audition for the Burn Notice part. Matt called her up and said he had a part for her.
- She’s shooting a pilot for a new Fox Television show called Inseparable. She’s playing a Psychologist to the lead. It’s about a cop who was shot and paralyzed. He develops a split personality one that’s crippled and the other one who isn’t. She’s not in the Pilot episode that much because they are establishing the main character.
- She was great to talk to, wasn’t at all squeamish about talking about BSG and what her post BSG life will be like.
- She will be at Comic-Con as part of a Cylon/Human couple. Doesn’t know if the Burn Notice folks will be doing anything.
- She hasn’t been following the looming strike.
EM Interview Highlights
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 7.2.2008
So here’s the thing, a few weeks ago USA Network contacted me out of the blue and said hey, would you like to come down to Miami for a little Junket for Burn Notice. I was like hells yeah – even though I had no idea what Burn Notice was. But I’m always up for a free trip. Then after a few round of emails, I asked are they paying for it. Nope, had to pay for it out of my own pocket. But I was still going to go. After boning up a bit on the show (as much as I could – considering all the power outages in the last two weeks), I got even more excited. The show is just a really cool, fun riff on the “spy” genre. We had such a good time during the day and I got so much material that we’re launching a Burn Notice page later this week. And it’s been ages since there was a show set in Miami (that I watched.) So during the press day, we interviewed 10 different people and it was in the air. Jeffrey’s presence was felt throughout the day, he is the star of the show and everything is on his shoulders. The cast and crew spoke glowingly of him and when you meet him in person you can understand why. He’s drool worthy, funny, charming, and amazingly down to earth. Oh yeah, he even has a great dog.
Jeffrey Donovan: Alright, all of you should not be drinking any soda. No soda. No soda.
Panel: [laughs] Uh oh!
JD: How’s it going? Have you had a good day today, so far? You got to interview everybody exciting so far…
Panel: We’ve been waiting for you!
JD: It’s all downhill from me. All downhill.
Panel: Sharon Gless talked you up a lot.
JD: Oh, my mama. My mama. [laughter] Isn’t she amazing?
Panel: She said nothing but lovely things about you.
JD: She’s been like a mother to me down here. She is so great. Her and her husband, Barney – you know famous producer – they’re just so great. I wish they were my parents.
Panel: She seemed like she’s pretty much adopted you.
JD: Yeah, she has, she has. I’m filing papers next week.
Panel: Everyone said you don’t sweat, what’s the secret to that?
JD: [laughs] Who’s everyone?
I suppose it was inevitable that someone would devise a series like In Plain Sight [ISA 10/9C], about the trials and tribulations of a U.S. Federal Marshall who works with the Witness Protection Program. Such a series means that we have a widely varied series of people who have only one thing in common: somebody wants them dead… Mary Shannon [Mary McCormack] and her partner, Marshall Mann [Frederick Weller] are the marshals in question and it’s she who is focal point of the series.
Mary is a brusque, sarcastic bulldozer of woman, though you wouldn’t know it to look at her – but once she starts talking… Her partner is maybe as smart as her but he’s considerably more laid back. This is because he doesn’t have to deal with her deranged family – mother, Jinx [Lesley Anne Warren] and younger sister, Brandy [Nicole Hiltz]. Neither is employed – though Jinx tries her hand at an Avon lady-type job in the premiere. Then there’s Mary’s overworked boss, Stan McQueen [Invisible Man’s Paul Ben-Victor], who is usually not sure he wants to know about her cases – as long as they work out.
In the premiere, In Plain Sight, we meet Mary on a reasonably good day [which is to say she hasn’t had to tear a strip off anyone… yet]. That’s before she has to deal with Frankie Amato and his family. Frankie was caught red-handed after a hit and turned informant to stay out of jail. The problem comes when Frankie’s son is killed – after the family was placed in the program. “Hoosier Daddy” finds Mary dealing with a ten-year old boy who witnessed his mother’s murder and agrees to testify against the killer[s] – the kicker being that his father is one of them! In Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, she has to deal with a black family whose patriarch refuses to follow the rules because he worked hard to become what he is – no matter what danger that might put his family in.
The series is terrific when it deals with Mary’s job. The people she works with, and the people she has to place in new lives, are all fascinating. These parts of the show are well written, move briskly and have some marvelous – if black – humor. Where the show loses steam, is with Mary’s family – and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Raphael [Christian de la Fuente]. Jinx is so badly written that even I, who love Lesley Anne Warren, want to see her die horribly. Brandy is Jinx, only younger. If an intelligent thought were to cross either woman’s mind, she’d have a seizure! Raphael is, so far, just eye candy for the female audience, and the only thing we know about him is that he’s good in bed – but is man enough to “have a headache” when he doesn’t feel like performing.
If Mary’s family gets a little – okay, a lot – more depth, maybe the show will be wonderful. At the moment, the fun quotient is about sixty-forty – enough to recommend it, but not quite wholeheartedly.
Final Grade: C+
Regardless of her character’s fate on Battlestar Galactica, sexy Cylon, Tricia Helfer [above left] will join USA Network’s acclaimed spy dramedy, Burn Notice, in its upcoming second season.
Previously heard only in vaguely threatening phone calls, Helfer will bring the mysterious Carla out of the shadows. The extremely intelligent and incredibly sexy Carla is Michael’s [Jeffrey Donovan] only contact with the shadowy group that got him burned.
According to a USA press release, Carla has “plans for him and various “assignments” for him to take care of, and she’s not taking no for an answer. Michael’s trapped in a deadly game with Carla where the only way he can keep his family safe, and find out more about her, is to play along and look for the opening he needs to take her on.”
Burn Notice returns to USA this summer.