From working together on the series Smallville to the current Disney+ hit series The Mysterious Benedict Society, these friends and co-showrunners have a lot to share with Bleeding Cool about creativity and more. With the season finale (with our fingers crossed for a second season) of The Mysterious Benedict Society currently streaming, we had a chance to speak with series showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer about the series, where they would take things if there's a Season 2, and more.
Bleeding Cool: What excites you most about "The Mysterious Benedict Society"?
Todd Slavkin: The opportunity to bring a classic book to life that I once read to my ten-year-old daughter. While it was over her head at the time, I was enthralled, and when I heard it was being adapted I instantly wanted to be involved. Also, the show is the first true dip into the comedy genre for me and Darren. Of course, we infuse all our stuff with humor, but this is the first show where we were actually often trying to make people smile/laugh.
Darren Swimmer: What excites me the most about the show is the level of talent that we've been able to work with on this project. From creators Matt and Phil and the rest of the writing staff to the unbelievable cast of adults and kids to all of the gifted directors and absolutely brilliant crew.
BC: You've worked on past iconic projects with each other, such as "Smallville", how do you work out creative conflict when working with such a close friend?
TS: Usually fistfights do the trick. Kidding. We've been blessed with very similar taste in all things aesthetic for the most part, so we usually agree more than we disagree. If we do disagree, if one person deeply and passionately disagrees, they usually get their way.
DS: And if we're on a show it's easy to see if an idea works or not with the other writers and often that's what settles it. We've been friends since middle school — many years before we began writing together — and while we may disagree and bicker over creative issues at times, it almost never boils over into anything personal.
BC: Having your background in fantasy & science fiction, what aspects of that do you see in "The Mysterious Benedict Society"?
DS: The thing I like the most about fantasy and science fiction is being able to use the heightened elements in metaphorical ways. The Emergency and the hidden messages of the whisperer are obvious examples. While there aren't many fantasy elements in the show, there is a level of heightened reality which gives us license to do things in the story and for comedic purposes that we wouldn't be able to pull off if the tone was completely grounded. One example – in this world people occasionally survive some pretty calamitous incidents without so much as a scratch.
TS: And the idea that the show takes place during a timeless era in a world that was built in the books and definitely expanded in the show. Worldbuilding is something we love, and we were able to exercise those muscles quite a bit in this show. We brought the visual effects team we worked with on "Shadowhunters", Folks, to lend their brilliance, and we couldn't be happier with the result.
BC: What has been the most difficult part about production and making this series during the pandemic?
DS: Well we had to delay the start of production for many months. Grace Gilroy, who ran our physical production in Vancouver became a COVID-19 expert. Our entire production in Vancouver had to relearn how to make a show while staying safe. There was constant testing. Every aspect of making the show became more time-consuming and painstaking and every single member of our cast and crew deserves a medal.
TS: Being away from set and doing it entirely remotely was also difficult. The four of us had a cool setup where we each had "video village" on our monitors at home, but it's never the same as being there in person. I was fortunate to be up there for seven weeks and meet and work with these incredible artists face to face (masked of course), but for the duration, it was all Zoom, Zoom, and more Zoom.
BC: Do you have a favorite memory from working on "The Mysterious Benedict Society"?
TS: God there's so many. We had such a great time working with Matt and Phil. At our offices (before quarantine hit) we had a room with no windows but three couches which we quickly labeled "the lounge", where the four of us spent an enormous amount of time giggling and creating. Also being on set during the steak scene between Curtain and Sticky in 106 watching my old, dear colleague Greg Beeman direct the legendary Tony Hale and supremely talented Seth Carr.
DS: For me, it's probably our cast read-through which we had before the first episode was shot. It had been a long, painstaking wait during quarantine wondering if we'd ever be able to resume production again, and seeing the whole cast performing together for the first time — even though it was via Zoom — gave me goosebumps.
BC: What message do you hope comes across to audiences when watching the series?
TS: That the truth can be manipulated, so don't take the truth at face value. Do your research. Understand the depth of the issue at hand.
DS: And that our differences are our strengths. I love the fact that our kids' various weirdness are inseparable from their talents.
BC: If there was a second season of the show, what would you like to see happen?
TS: Book Two!
DS: I'd be excited to have the screen time to explore the kids' relationships with one another now that they've become something of a family.
BC: If you could live as any one of the characters on the series, who would it be and why?
DS: That's an interesting question! I think it would have to be Constance believe it or not. No matter the situation she never loses her cool. She's unflappable!
TS: Kate the Great Wetherall. I've always wanted a bucket by my side.
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