‘Alcatraz’ Producers, Cast Talk about Season 1, Finale, & Season 2 Plans

by Ernie Estrella on March 26, 2012 · 5 comments

in Alcatraz, Interviews, WonderCon

alcatraz jorge garcia sarah jones 1 wondercon

Tonight’s two-hour Season 1 finale of Alcatraz looked to answer many of the questions you had going in and give a satisfying ending no matter if it’s picked up for a second season or not. On hand at Wondercon to talk about the finale and what to expect should Alcatraz get the order from Fox for a second season were Executive Producers Jennifer Johnson, Daniel Pyne, Jack Bender, Co-creators / Showrunners Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien and cast members Sarah Jones (Detective Rebecca Madsen), Jorge Garcia (Doc), Jonny Coyne (Warden Edwin James), Parminder Nagra (Dr. Lucy Banerjee) and Robert Forster (Ray Archer).

What’s coming up in the finale?

Bryan Wynbrandt: Coming up are a lot of answers to a lot of the questions we set up in Season 1. We are obviously going to have Rebecca and Tommy Madsen come face to face, you’re going to get a taste of Hauser and Lucy’s relationship both present and past and that’s something we’re really excited about. You’ll start to see the moves we were making early in the season will start to come back full circle. For instance in 114, “Cal Sweeney,” we have a character in that episode who goes underneath into the hole with the warden. You’ll start to understand what that all was about. It’s exciting because it shows the audience that we did have a plan and now you’re starting to see the fruition of those plans in these last three episodes.

Will the season end on a cliffhanger or a bookend?

Steven Lilien: We do have a big cliffhanger, but we also have a lot of answers. The biggest being what’s behind the warden’s door. We’ll open it up and see what’s inside. New questions will arise.

alcatraz showrunners 1

Daniel Pyne: The last episode is called “Tommy Madsen” so our final person that we focus on is the guy we started with. You will feel closure to that story. We’re going to open the warden’s door and we’re going to know what’s in the secret room, but what’s in the secret room is going to raise 100 more questions.

Do you have a good feeling about coming back or are you on the bubble like everything else at Fox?

Daniel Pyne: We have no idea. The way I’ve learned to look at it is that you just don’t worry about it. You tell your stories and do the best you can and however it intersects with an audience is out of our control.

Jennifer Johnson: I know we do real well in the DVR reports. So our Live+3 we go up 50-something % and our Live+7 we go up to 72% based on two weeks ago. We feel good about people who want tune in and they do so, but the rest is up to the ratings gods.

Bryan Wynbrandt: Truthfully, we’ve been told nothing. We’ve just been doing post production on the finale, so right now we just focus on Season 1. Season 2 you can’t really control that.

Steven Lilien: I think Fox wants to see how it finishes out. We don’t really know.

One of the biggest concerns is that there doesn’t seem to be a master plan behind all of these returns. They’re just randomly doing all of these crimes, Is there a pattern to what they’re doing or are they just being sprung out into this world?

Daniel Pyne: There’s a pattern inside of the chaos and there is a master plan. There’s more than one master plan is the problem. I’m not saying he did. But if Warden James had a master plan, that hasn’t gone completely according to plan? What they expected to happen, didn’t happen because they didn’t know what was going to happen. So yes, there is a master plan but it’s been corrupted and that’s why there’s chaos in the edges of it.

Are these escapees from the master plan that are randomly popping up at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Daniel Pyne: Yes.

What ever happened to Santiago Cabrera?

alcatraz showrunners 2

Steven Lilien: We wound up retooling some things and it was just a matter of the story taking us elsewhere. The story just drove us to a different direction.

Bryan Wynbrandt: We loved him as an actor but it was just one of those things that happens.

How much shooting was done in San Francisco?

Bryan Wynbrandt: For the pilot we did three days in San Francisco and two days on Alcatraz. Everything else is in Vancouver. Shooting on the actual Alcatraz was one of the best experiences of the show. We had full access to the island and our hope is to go there again. Our fans have gone there and looked for the secret room, looked for our operation center.

Steven Lilien: They’re not looking hard enough, it’s there. For the finale, we shot the entire Bullit recreation in San Francisco.

How is the relationship between Doc Soto and Rebecca starting to come together for you two?

Sarah Jones: We’re getting a lot quicker with how we solve–
Jorge Garcia: We’re a pretty strong partnership.
Sarah Jones: Yeah we’re finishing each other’s sentences.
Jorge Garcia: It’s adorable.

alcatraz jorge garcia sarah jones
Is it fun to be a part of another show that has a mythology?

Jorge Garcia: It’s fun to be part of another show. [Laughs] It’s fun to start exploring a guy who’s different, who’s trying to make choices. You know Hurley liked everybody and everybody liked him (on Lost), so maybe Doc has moments where he’s like, ‘I’m not impressed by this guy.” These are things I do for myself to help define who this guy is. Or Doc will stand up to Hauser (Sam Neill) at some moment and it’s fun getting to explore those things.

Would you like to see Ray Archer (Robert Forster) a more of an integral part in season 2 because he doesn’t feel like he’s part of the team?

Sarah Jones: God I hope so. There is a major opportunity for that for Season 2 considering how this season ends. Who doesn’t want to see more of Robert Forster?

Do we know whether Ray knew about what was going on in the 1960s?

Robert Forster: (Speaking as Ray) I went there to protect my brother. There were events that have not been shown that made me finally leave. But I knew there were shenanigans going on there and whatever they turned out to be were unsavory for certain. I became a cop once I stopped being a guard, so I know what the scuttle bud has always been in San Francisco on the force about what went on in Alcatraz. There were always rumors, then I became a detective and finished my career and now I run a bar and I don’t want to know anything anymore about it. So my life’s been twisted around because she wanted to be a cop and detective and eventually got involved in this task force so sorry me, I left it and now here it comes again.

alcatraz robert forster

What would you like season 2 for your character.

Robert Forster: I’d like it to be called Robert Forster’s show, nah I’m kidding. I’m delighted, this is like a part-time job for me, guys like Johnny do all the work; I go up and do a day or two. Almost all of my scenes are, ‘I don’t know’, ‘Don’t bother me,’ ‘Leave me alone,’ ‘They didn’t do anything,’ and so forth. Next season they tell me I’m going to be more involved in the show and you never know what’s coming next on television.

Are they going to explain how we Lucy got the same blood that transformed everybody else?

Parminder Nagra: A little bit of that starts to come out. For Lucy, she knows a lot but she begins to realize a lot but not the full extent of what is happening. She knows enough to know something. We see through the flashbacks she’s done a ton of stuff already and we’ll see what going on between her and the warden and what happens with that relationship. There’s a certain moment, a brief but important moment where something shifts between them.

What did you think when you read the script that you were shot in just the third episode?

Parminder Nagra: At the time I thought, ‘I’m gone?’ Then they (the writers) said, ‘we’re doing it because we want to put Lucy in the 1960’s.’ Nothing else needed to be said. I was just excited. I had so much more to play. Once the stuff in the present day starts happening I have all these layers of knowing and not-knowing. It’s a good amount of material to play with.

How soon do you get insight into the mysteries of the show? So you didn’t know you were going to be in the 60’s when you read for the series?

Parminder Nagra: No. Even when I read the end of that episode, I went, ‘Whoaaa!’ It was a fun reveal for me. The not-knowing – there are times I have to phone up; if I don’t know I can’t play it honestly, because there’s certain information you need to know, but they’ll only still give you just enough. It’s sort of like life, sometimes you don’t know what’s going to come next and it’s best just to roll with it.

How do you research a character like this?

Parminder Nagra: You don’t really. You create, you start to feed off of other characters. I remember saying this to one of the writers, but I felt like I was from the present, that I was some sort of an agent because of the way I was questioning some of these people so I approached it like that, you start bringing whatever it is to it. Sometimes they might run with that. The executive producers have an overall picture but some of it’s quite organic and they’ll feed off of what people are doing in scenes. I’m sure that chemistry between Sam and me, even in the first episode there was something in the looks that were between us– we were just creating something and luckily it paid off.

alcatraz johnny coyne

1960 seems to be the primary flashback year for the warden, is there a specific reason why he’s not shown in the 1963 flashbacks, the year everyone vanished?

Johnny Coyne: The process of telling a story of the process that was being developed and introduced that leads to the disappearance of the 63s in 1963. There’s no point in just presenting these last couple of months, it’s an ongoing process. Spoiler alert–we do mention that someone has been watched since 1952.

Were you surprised to open a door and there was a bunch of gold there?

Johnny Coyne: I’ve been told that there was something like that the previous week when I got it. I thought it was fantastic to get the gold there, I don’t know what we’re going to do with it there. I do know it’s significance though.

alcatraz johnny coyne robert forster

What’s it like to play a character with such evil intent?

Johnny Coyne: It’s completely… the best job in the world, to have all this nefarious approach to things, and to have people constantly wondering about where you are, that’s fascinating for an actor, so the more good stuff they give me, I relish that, that just f*cks with you even more. It’s great fun to play. All villains–if he is a villain–by no means is it certain, but all villains have a lighter shade, but that’s the joy of playing it.

Do we know if the warden is the actual mastermind behind all of this or is he just a player?

Johnny Coyne: You’ll have to watch episode 13 and you’ll find out. He’s certainly part of a big plan, the greatest storyline. And I think in season 2, and we’re all crossing our fingers for that, obviously we still have the issue we have a villain of the week, procedural to undertake but the rest of the story will develop more and more for me, I know that much.

alcatraz eps

How would you change season 2, is it still somewhat structured?

Daniel Pyne: The structure is similar because we love telling these short stories and the flashbacks. We love like the active nature of tracking these prisoners down. But as we come forward and answer initial questions, we discovered that these guys can live in the world, they can be back for longer, there can be more than one of them in the world. As that starts to happen, the storytelling possibilities open up. So there’s more places to go and places to go in the present rather than everything being back story and unexplained things. Now we can really concentrate going forward on characters and relationships. Not just our core characters but also as the inmates come back, the 63’s appear, we like to think about the conflicts for them happened yesterday and now they’re playing out in the present day. They don’t feel the 50-year time difference. It’s been six months, six weeks or six days.

Jennifer Johnson: I’m not sure if you guys will pick up, but there’s a little bit of a shift in episode 12 and 13, because as we explore Tommy Madsen and characters who had been back a little longer, there’s a downloading of information from one character to another. So we put everything that the characters know on the table and consequently we start focusing on, what are they back here for and what’s going on behind the scenes? So that opens a whole new landscape that we haven’t been thinking about episodes 1-11, as much. It inadvertently opened up a whole another frontier of what’s going on behind the scenes with these 63s and what relationships that were set up in the past are coming to fruition present day, like Dan said, feels like tomorrow for them.

As a fan where is all this headed? Are we going to get answers?

Jorge Garcia: Our characters get more answers; we get more included into what’s going on behind the curtain and Hauser’s inner circle/nerd committee kind of stuff.

After the finale, are there things you’re looking forward to in Season 2 if you’re picked up?

Sarah Jones: I hope we get to find out more of who Doc is, who Rebecca is, and who Hauser is in his day-to-day life, not just at work.

Jorge Garcia: There’s definitely this thing where in this episode I hit the ground running; we’re in it and doing it before we understand what’s going on. I think being brought into part of this group sets us up a lot so that you feel like, ‘Now we can do the work!’ In a way this season sets us up as a team more. Now we’ll see where we can take it.

Photos were taken by Lucky Bronson

  • Anonymous

    I’m Waiting for season 2, please make it quick !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/m.lazarov2 Мартин Лазаров

    when it’s gonna come season 2 ? :) I can’t wayt :)

  • anonymous

    The real mystery here is why you, sir, spent SO long writing that. That’s a diatribe right there – such a winking nod could’ve easily been condensed. Oh, and J.J is really an executive producer, I do not believe he has much of a decision over whether the stories wind up. Perhaps certain flourishes, if you will, but in the end, he’s an Exec. Producer, not a creator or writer.

  • Reo Blitz

     Watch this episode, go to http://goo.gl/z3lF3

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/JJ-Abrams/100003657611159 JJ Abrams

    The ‘Mystery’ of Screenwriting – 10 Stages to Success

    By JJ Abrams

     

    As the first season of Alcatraz draws to a close, I felt it
    was finally time for me to share my secrets with a new generation of
    screen-writers.

    I knew from an early age that I would make it in the TV
    business. From my humble beginnings I really never thought that I would be able
    to master the craft and follow in the footsteps of those literary giants who
    had come before me. That was until I realised that I didn’t have to. You see
    what I had was an unnatural amount of energy. I watched talented peers of mine
    wasting time developing their skills and deepening into the mystery of life,
    while I was churning out an average of 16 new show ideas every hour. My
    efficiency was legendary. It enabled me to spend the majority of my time
    hanging out with likeminded TV executives who were absolutely unencumbered by a
    desire to create something that would actually be loved by an audience. We
    shared a passion for the science behind what keeps those ratings up. Even at
    that early stage, I was dreaming of putting together a professional and
    talented team which had all the veneer of quality but absolutely no direction
    or purpose.

    Presently, I see so many budding screen-writers out there
    who remind me of myself but are still really struggling to gain industry
    adulation. If, like me, your energy levels far outweigh your talent, do not be
    despondent. You are capable of great things (well mediocre things that a lot of
    people think are great). Don’t make things too complicated for yourself. These
    tips are dedicated to kindred spirits:

     

    JJ Abrams Secret Formula – The 10 stages to Success

     

    1.       Efficiency is the key. Your aim should always be maximum
    control, minimum effort. Creators who stay involved with the process after the
    first two episodes are losers, wasting their life. Remember to move on.

     

    2.       Don’t spend too much time on creation either. Remember, if
    you follow these tips, people will keep watching your show irrespective of how
    well drawn the situation is. The first step in creation is to pick a scenario
    or location that people think is pretty cool. Next, scour the internet for
    conspiracy and secret knowledge websites. Don’t waste time understanding any of
    them, just pick up enough so you could convince someone with no knowledge of
    the subject that you kind of know what you are talking about.

     

    3.       Print out a list of Myers Briggs personalities. Copy and
    paste them into character bios, the production team can deal with details like
    names etc. If you want to add a bit of polish, just pick a couple of names of
    famous philosophers or scientists. The most important stage is to get a great
    casting director. Remember, all we are trying to achieve is the veneer of quality. With our meagre
    abilities, we know that before long things are going to get pretty
    incomprehensible. Good actors/good-looking actors can help paper over the
    cracks and buy us some time.

     

    4.       Now for the most important step. Those of you who have seen
    my TED talk will know that I am obsessed with mysteries and believe that a
    mystery brings more pleasure than knowledge. Those of you with true
    understanding of the art of literary creation also understand that I have
    completely confused the means with the end and am mired in some kind of
    narcissistic, self-satisfied sludge. THE CENTRAL MYSTERY is crucial to the
    success of your show. It must be a mystery that without understanding of, none
    of the actions of your characters can make complete sense. They must all do
    weird stuff which necessitates the viewer to keep watching to work out what is
    going on. In my experience, the viewer will put up with almost anything in
    pursuit of making sense of a character. All subsequent stages represent clever
    ways of confusing, distracting and deceiving the viewer into continuing
    watching despite their strong (and valid) reservations about the series.

     

    5.       Get the geeks on your side. This is the ultimate inoculation
    against valid criticism and really very easy to achieve. First, lure the
    geeks. Pepper the series with mystical, literary and pop culture
    references. They don’t actually have to mean anything but your viewers will
    certainly try to read into them. They will come up with theories that far
    surpass your own creative abilities and add depth to the dross that you have
    served up. You can even cherry-pick a couple of these for future plot
    development or even future shows. ALWAYS be thinking about the next show!
    Second, appease the geeks. Do the convention circuits, do endless
    interviews, release merchandising, multiple editions of DVDs, epic extra
    features etc.

     

    6.       By episode 7 or 8 of the first season, viewers will be
    starting to suspect you don’t actually have a plan (although your loyal and
    growing geek fan army will be vigorously defending you on the net). You on the
    other hand want to squeeze every drop out of this dry fruit before the furore
    reaches epic proportions. You should have already moved on to your next project
    by now, leaving production in the hands of a feckless but enthusiastic writing
    team. If you haven’t, jump ship NOW! This retains your mystique and your
    departure can always be correlated with when the show started to ‘go downhill’.

     

    7.       Instruct your writing team to use the following strategies

    a.      
    Always answer a question with a
    question even if it doesn’t make sense for the characters, the current storyline,
    the flow of the series or most importantly the sanity of the viewers.

    b.     
    Surgically excise normal curiosity
    from all characters so they don’t keep demanding answers that any believable
    character would.

    c.   
    Create “Trojan horse reveals” that
    look like genuine explanations but on reflection actually embody more mystery.
    Great ways to do this include using mysterious glowing light, doors behind
    doors, keyholes behind keyholes, weird looking contraptions, additions of new
    characters.

    d.     
    Wry looks and maniacal laughter are
    great substitutes for plot development

    e.      Fight fire with fire. Refuse to explain a mystery and
    simultaneously create five more. As you go along crush the viewer under the
    sheer weight of unexplained nonsense. All but the most committed will have long
    given up in trying to understand and tie everything
    together.  If you have done it right
    you will have manifested a kind of televisual Stockholm Syndrome where viewers
    cannot reconcile the number of hours they have sunk into your show and will see
    their only option as to start to ‘love their captors’.

     

    8.       Remember at all times, show utter contempt for your viewing
    public. They love it.

     

    9.       When the show does finally end (hopefully it will be
    cancelled abruptly after many seasons so I (my writing team) don’t have to try
    and wrap up a story that I never had any intention of doing in the first place.
    Alternatively, ramp up the questions to be answered and sacrifice all the hard
    work in characterisation that the real members of the production team have put
    in to cover up your own inadequacy. Write an ending that really makes no sense
    so that it can be claimed it is open to interpretation. Have fun being
    extremely patronising to any viewer that actually has taste in fiction and
    understands that they have been manipulated into  many hours of viewing of an empty husk of a
    tv show, by asserting that they are obsessed with getting ‘answers’ and can’t
    just ‘enjoy a story for its own sake’.

     

    10.   The
    tenth and final step is the most important. In fact it’s the most central.
    Without this step none of the others make sense. At the center of all
    screen-writing theory there has been a cover-up, one which only a select few of
    writers is privy to. These writers have been holding this secret for many years
    and passing it down from generation to generation for reasons that might well
    be explained below. These writers may be people that you know or maybe
    completely new people, I’m not quite sure yet but it might well become clear if
    you keep reading. One of them lives in California, and was, until now searching
    for a key that was stolen from her by two hooded men with …lets say… dragon
    tattoos on their forearms. This key opens a trapdoor within her grandfather’s
    apartment, the grandfather who in a flashback we might discover initiated her
    into this secret screen-writing tradition. She found the key yesterday and, my
    sources tell me that she went to the trapdoor opened it and some kind of
    mysterious glowing light shot out of it to reveal a green trapdoor with
    phoenixes on it with three keyholes and a scrap of parchment with some kind of
    … wait a sec, wikipedia’s so slow today… ok… Talmudic code on it. As soon as
    the first trapdoor opened there was a knock at the door and an orthodox Jew
    called Herodotus, drenched in rain from a storm looking all dramatic marches
    in, spies the parchment and says “The Bible code can be viewed as a part of
    Talmudic scholarship, albeit one of the more controversial parts. Throughout
    history, many Jewish, and later Christian, scholars have attempted to find
    hidden or coded messages within the Bible’s text, notably including Isaac Newton” He shoots this mysterious lady in
    her mysterious chest, she’ s bleeding right now, I’ll tell you later what
    happens to her. So you see the pieces start to fall together, the secrets of
    screen-writing have something to do with the most famous book ever, the bible.
    Is there some kind of code to screen writing? Well let me explain it all to
    you, I want you to understand and gain access to this mystery. This trapdoor is
    not isolated. There are lets say 20, no hold on we have a bit more space here
    80 …er… ok 90 trapdoors all over the world and when all of them have been
    opened I will definitely, I promise, reveal the secrets to screen-writing that
    I hold. I absolutely promise you that if you keep reading my blog posts,
    watching my shows, that eventually, if you can stay the course, I will, as I
    get more news, reveal the contents of the trapdoors and unravel the mystery of
    the bible code, the mysterious Jew, the mysterious chiming sound heard around
    owl sanctuaries (did I mention that one yet?) and how it all relates to the
    central mystery of screen-writing of all. The mystery that even I am not privy
    to. The mystery behind why I keep getting commissioned to do TV series. The
    mystery that, believe me, no one really understands.

     
     

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