Robert and Michelle King are known for political dramas. And BrainDead is a political drama. It’s just that it’s other things, as well. It’s a sci-fi show, it’s a thriller, it has some horror elements, and it’s at times, a comedy.
Fangirlish sat down with the creators of The Good Wife to talk about their new show, the inspiration for it, their long-term plans and what that creepy song means.
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers seems like a very strong metaphor for what’s happening in DC” is the line that opens the interview. It’s funny because it’s true. Our political landscape is…well, interesting, that’s for sure. Worthy of a show, or at least that’s what the King’s seem to be implying.
They are, after all, using the up to date political news as inspiration. In fact, they’re not only doing that, at times, they’re changing things up at the last possible minute. “You want to make the show about what’s the conversation at the dinner table when you go home to your family.”
BrainDead is exactly that. It’s just also, really, really funny, and a tad absurd. “We didn’t want the seriousness to be riding on top” they explained. Instead, they wanted it to be “Something you might make fun of but you might think about a little bit after.”
So, politicians, keep an eye out. They creators might not exactly picture Putin tuning into the show, but still, some “very current clips and soundbites” are bound to make an appearance on this show. They’ll just be tempered by the invasion of the …well, bugs.
This is a very different show from The Good Wife. And that’s not just in tone, but in style. It won’t stay in the courtroom, of course, which both the King’s seem very pleased by. It can get a bit stifling to shoot in the same place over and over again for a week. And also, in a very rare move for a TV property, it shoots with prime lenses, not zoom lenses, which means someone has to physically move the camera.
We were just as surprised as you are to hear about such things. But this is who the King’s are, one minute they’re talking politics, the next they’re raving about their good luck with the casting, especially with getting Tony Shalhoub, who they tried to get before for The Good Wife, and a second later they’re engrossed on a technical explanation.
It’s probably what makes them so good at what they do – they can multitask with the best of them.
The political stuff, however, remains the most interesting part of the BrainDead story. The King’s are very clear, after all, about the message they’re trying to send: “how extremism is endangering politics” and they’re also very clear about the fact that “it’s not just a phenomenon on the right.”
But, of course, they wanted to take those “serious underpinnings,” mix tem with a dash of “unrestrained humor” and still leave people thinking. They are bugs here, after all, bugs with a confirmed agenda that “will become clear in subsequent episodes.”
They even have their own theme song. “You might think” by The Cars. Originally it was meant to be Dire Strait’s “Walk of Life” but they “needed something that wasn’t in the current playlist” and that was, at the same time “cheery and upbeat” and felt “a little out of date and a little off”
And it’s not just make-believe, even if they wouldn’t go as far as say it’s based on fact. They did a lot of research, not just on the political side, but also on the entomology of the whole thing, and they have advisors on both aspects.
Surprisingly enough, we got the sense that at times, the bugs were easier to deal with than the politics. Bugs, after all, follow the rules of nature. Politics follows no rules.
It was especially amusing, though maybe the word should be disheartening, to hear of the King’s rejecting ideas that came up in the writer’s room because they felt “too absurd” and then those things actually coming up in real life. Maybe that’s why, at this point, they seem to have accepted the strange coincidences between real life and the story they’re trying to tell.
They, after all, have a buffer.
Laurel is the voice of the audience, both on the creepiness of the bugs, and the total lack of common sense that goes on in the political landscape. They admitted to watching Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Laurel, in both her popular stuff and in some of her independent work to try to figure out if she could play the depths this character needed.
It’s not an even a spoiler to say that she absolutely can.
An outsider to DC, Laurel is meant to “share our skepticism” and, at least, at the beginning, talk less observe more. How else are we going to understand a world that, no matter how you slice it, just doesn’t make one iota of sense?
Her relationship with Gareth is also something the King’s mentioned as being “very strong, and very much in The Good Wife mold.” The two of them, after all, don’t see eye-to-eye on anything, and yet, sparks fly, which then leads to the question – can you actually maintain a relationship with someone on “opposite sides” of the political spectrum, and how would that even work?
We’re not sure, but we really, really hope it works out. Especially on this shortened summer season– which, by the way, is exactly what the King’s wanted: “We couldn’t do 22 eps a year again. Its soul crushing and we’d rather have our souls intact”
Good news is, CBS was immediately receptive to their pitch, and to the idea of making fewer episodes a year. And hopefully, they’ll allow the King’s to continue on with a four year plan that would take them to Wall Street on year two, Silicon Valley on year three and Hollywood on year four.
For now, BrainDead is probably your next summer obsession. It’s certainly ours. And hopefully, it’ll remain so for years to come.
BrainDead premieres tonight, June 13th, at 10/9c on CBS.