David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, the Executive Producers and writers from Grimm recently spoke to the press about their new show, which premieres tonight, October 28, at 9/8c on NBC.
If you haven’t heard the buzz… Grimm is a new drama series inspired by the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli, Privileged) discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as “Grimms,” charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world.
As he tries to hide the dangers of his new found calling from his fiancé, Juliette Silverton, (Bitsie Tulloch, quarterlife), and his partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby, Lincoln Heights, In Treatment), he becomes ever more entrenched in the ancient rivalries and alliances of the Grimm world.
With help from his confidant, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, Prison Break), a reformed Grimm creature himself, Nick must navigate through the forces of a larger-than-life mythology, facing off with Hexenbiests, Blutbads, and all manner of ancient evils, including royal lines dating back to the original profilers themselves, The Grimm Brothers. Reggie Lee (Persons Unknown) and Sasha Roiz (Warehouse 13, Caprica) also star.
Jump with me to read all the great questions & answers from the call!
On the distinctive look the show has
Jim: Part of that’s where were we’re shooting which is Portland. The look of Portland and the surrounding area is that lush, beautiful landscape. And I think we always wanted to give it a film like quality. So David and I both come from the film world as well. So we wanted that – we want it to look like a movie.
David: And a bit like a story book movie. And also we wanted to push when we’re with the so called Grimm characters or Grimm creatures, we wanted to push the look and have, you know, brighter colors and less subdued hues. And then when we’re with the regular “regular normal people”, we wanted it to look a little more like real life. But we love the look of that, you know, the forest with mist in them and the waterfalls and the streams and the rivers and all that great look you get in Portland as well as the story book look of the..
Jim: Yes, (Clark Mattis) was DP and he did a fantastic job.
David: He did a really great job. We have worked sort of long and hard to try to get a look to the show for the makeup and the special effects that is expressing something that’s inside the character you’re seeing. You know, there’s not just somebody in a mask but that you’re seeing the sorrow, the rage, the…
Jim: The emotions manifest themselves in kind of physical characteristics.
David: That’s what I’m trying to say.
Jim: So you see the child molester. What we think is a child molester is actually a big bad wolf and we see that morph out as they become emotionally aroused. So that’s how you – our main character, the Grimm, can see these characters beneath the humans.
David: And the idea that these creatures, you know, they live among us. But also that these feelings live inside all of us and the best way to express that is when the “creatures” look like the actors playing them. Not just like some fierce person in a mask.
Jim: But we’re using a combination of onset makeup and CGI effects depending upon what the needs of the scene are. And it’s pretty extensive in some scenes. And we have a really good team. I mean from the design concept of the creatures all the way through the delivery of the CGI work at the end.
On the extended world of the Grimm fairytales
David Greenwalt: Yes. The – this is originally a… Jim Kouf and I were approached by Hazy Mills, which is Todd Milliner and Sean Hayes’ company, and Todd had this great idea about doing the – something in the modern world with the Brothers Grimm. And we flipped for the idea. And we came up with the notion that the how to marry that mythology into the modern world would be by the following. That the original Brothers Grimm were in fact profilers.
And that the stories they were telling were in fact true on some basic deep level. And we came up with the notion that in our world of the Grimm, there would only be one world. There wouldn’t be a fairytale world and a real world. There would just be our world. And in our world lived these creatures who can be seen by our hero. And for example, he can see the big bad wolf and the child molester.
And it’s a sort of a marriage of a police procedural and a mythological fracturing fairytales every week.
On the recent trend of this genre in TV/movies & on writing scary TV
David: Now is a good time because it’s always a good time for fairytales. It’s a good time to be scared on a Friday night a little bit and have a bedtime story that kind of, you know, gets under your skin a little bit.
Jim Kouf: These tales get told every year all the time. So it’s not – it just happened to be the time that they would put one on the air. But they’ve never got away.
David: In particular, the ones that are really iconic have been handed down you know, the ones that have lasting emotional residence have been obviously handed down of the years. And we’re taking bits and pieces of these fairytales and using them for our own purposes in the show.
Jim: Yes. That’s pretty interesting that all of sudden so much of attention was given to fairytales. We’ve been on this one over a year. I don’t know why it’s all of a sudden. I think people are just looking. Yes, I guess they’re just looking for things to remake and books and source material for a lot of different projects. And this got on (unintelligible) guy. So everybody suddenly starting paying attention to the Brothers Grimm.
Ours is not just scary TV because we also have humor in our show. So ours is an odd combination of horror, suspense, classic fairytale story structure, iconic characters and humor. So we’re trying to hit it all. We’re just want to be entertaining.
David: I’m not all that familiar with the other shows because I’m working so hard on this show.
It has all the elements that, as Jim just said, that, you know, we really like. I think, you know, any time is a good time for a good show. And you know, people love to be scared. And they love to have a little bit of a laughter while they’re being scared it seems to me.
And I just think it’s a really good time, you know, the genre has gotten – has grown. And that’s great because it’s an opportunity to tell different kinds of stories and more kinds of stories. So for that I think it’s a terrific time to be on the air with this.
On why the world of fairytales has endured so long and drives imaginations
David: Fairytales appeals to people of all ages and you know, and it appeals to people in different ways at different times. You know, the big ball wolf is a cautionary tale for don’t talk to strangers, go straight to grandma’s house.
Jim: Hansel and Gretel [is] a cautionary tale for parents who are raising children and don’t have enough money to feed them. Don’t bring them in the woods. You know, it’s a lot of – spoke of the times that people were living in. And you know..
David: There’s a delight in the fairytales that I think of all ages. You know, because when you’re a kid, I mean, (Bruno Betelmein) in Uses of Enchantment talks about how important it is for children not to be protected from this information about the world and what the world is really like. But the fairytales really provide a great way to talk about that kind of stuff and usually the good triumphs, not always. But usually the goods triumphs and the evil is vanquished.
So it’s great to sort of be read a fairytale when you’re a kid and also to read fairytales to children when you’re older. So there’s something about sitting around, you know, the campfire and telling a story. It’s an oral tradition that seems you know ancient and had lasted all this time. We still love these stories.
On whether or not they are taking an academic approach to mythology
Jim: Well we’re not thinking in terms of how we’re going to teach the series. We’re just at least trying to have a lot of fun. And raise something that’s very entertaining and that people will enjoy and scare and laugh and have a great time. And good solid characters that have emotional flare to them.
David: One of the things that’s really fun about genre is how people project on to genre in different ways of what they themselves are feeling. And you never quite know – that’s why you never quite know what’s going to be successful or not either depending on how people respond to it. And I remember way back when you know, after we’ve done Buffy for a while that they were actually having college courses.
And Buffy is an iconic female character and, you know, that was great. It was a little surprising and it was great. But you can’t – I don’t think you can really take an academic approach to this kind of work. I think you have to say what’s really scary? What’s really fun? What’s a little different that maybe I haven’t seen before? And but people definitely get a lot of power from genre because they can project themselves onto the characters because they’re distanced from the characters.
It’s kind of a strange paradox and one that’s really powerful.
On whether every episode will have some basis in an existing fairytale or if they will also invent their own brand of new ones
Jim: All of the above.
David: All of the above. Some will be really clear like, oh, that’s Little Red Riding Hood or oh, that’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Sleeping Beauty or whatever. And then some will be less clear of what the specific fairytale will be. But they’ll always be an element of fairytale in the shows.
Jim: Or we’ll take a story from the headlines and give it a fairytale-like twist to it so you go, oh the real life story has a fairytale like quality to it.
On how Nick will be able to convince people that this other world really exists & he’s not just nuts
David: We still have written that scene yet. This is the crux of the series. He is in a world where almost no one else knows about. But there are characters and there’s a character in the pilot who’s from that other world.
And that character is trying to, you know, control his own impulses and to become a better human. And so he does have somebody he can…
David: He has a confidant that he can talk to. But that is his problem because he would appear to be crazy and would be locked up. And may indeed be locked up at some point, you know, as we continue on in this series. But there’s stuff – it’s a very hard thing to convince someone of if they can’t see what you’re seeing.
Jim: It’s a good problem to have.
On what sets Grimm apart from other shows on now of the same genre
David: I think Grimm has the power of the genre shows, but its’ also got the power of the procedural shows and the idea of one complete episode every week so that you don’t need a score card to watch the show. You know, you get a complete story every week. Although there will be some mythology but it will be dulled out slowly enough that you don’t have to see absolutely every episode to know absolutely everything that is going on with the show.
Jim: Yes. Also our show is based in our world. So we’re just explaining a lot of bad behavior with fairytale reasons.
On what draws them to supernatural television
Jim: You know we’re just drawn by the stories. We’ve written, because we started our careers together way back when doing Class American, during Secret Admirer and stuff like that that as features. And we’re always just drawn to the story whether it’s a genre or not. You know, genre is just the rules changed a little bit. But you’re still trying to tell emotional stories with real people in them. It’s just you get to have creatures opposed to not.
David: Yes. And the fun of Grimm is, you know, what happens to this young man who’s a robbery, homicide detective who suddenly starts “seeing things.” And at first thinks he’s losing his mind, you know and he’s seeing this critters or creatures within “normal human beings” and that idea really grabbed us like what a great way to tell a stories and what a great way to explain some pretty heinous things that go in in the world that seem inexplicable.
You know, but if you put this lenses of the Brothers Grimm on it, you put this lend of the fairytale element onto the police procedural, you get this kind of new view of things. So we found that very exciting.
Jim: So every crime has 2 reasons. It has a Grimm reason and what appears to be the real reason.
On balancing a procedural with the fantasy & whether this will be a case of the week, big story arc, etc.
David: Well, if you, for example, if you’re someone who really likes a police procedural, you know there will be familiar elements in the show that will appeal to that viewer who is like, here is a crime. What’s the source? Who really committed the crime? What’s the source? What’s the cause? And what’s the solution?
How do our heroes solve it? At the same time, there a whole other level, you know, sort of cooking at the same time on the stove. That it usually has its’ own explanation in the Grimm world of who these creatures really are and what they’re really up to. And our hero is astride the 2 worlds. He’s got a foot in each world. And he – and you know it’s very difficult for him to balance, you know, what is he going to tell his girlfriend? What is he going to tell his detective partner?
How is he going to use these abilities to solve crimes and yet still have it look like they could have been solved in the normal world. So it’s – I think it’s appealing to you know, hopefully, a broad audience that maybe normally wouldn’t’ be that much interested in one or the other. Or that are interested in one or the other, but want, you know, more meat in the sandwich so to speak.
Jim: [As for the case of the week and overall story arc,] both actually.
David: All of the above. There will be week to week episodic tales that you can just enjoy like opening a book and reading a fairytale. And there will also be seasonal arks involved in the show as well.
The big bad comes in a little different form in Grimm because we’re presenting some characters that appear to be bad but may actually have some good agendas, you know, a little more mix of good and bad in the characters that Nick, our main character will go up against.
On the obstacles they have had to deal with in producing the show
Jim: The biggest challenge is creating the creatures and getting everything done on time because that’s a huge challenge for the production team to. I mean, we can easily write them but it’s hard to design them. Get the masks made while the casting is going on. And then, you know, get all that done in the time frame of the television production.
David: They’re big shows with action and adventure in them. And they’re, you know, they’re a challenge to get them done as Jim just said under a normal television production time.
Jim: (Steve Ulser) who is in charge of our production in Portland is doing an incredible job in keeping everything on track.
David: We know that because we don’t hear from him that often, so we ‘re very happy about that.
On whether or not they were asked to tone down the violence & put in more comedy
Jim: That’s kind of us.
David: Yes. That’s kind of our approach to stuff, you know, when we’re writing a really serious scene. We start chuckling about things and we’re writing a less serious scene, we see things that are darker. And that balance was really struck from our original outline and our original script that we wrote for NBC.
Jim: And the ability to tell the story is from the Grimm point – the Grimm character’s point of view opens up so much for the show because it allows us to, you know, explore our feelings and reasons and all those fun things that most shows don’t do.
David: And our villain is usually have a good reason for what they’re doing. It may be very sick and crazy in our world but in their world it may be as simple as just getting a meal.
On the character of Monroe (played by Silas Weir Mitchell)
David: We’re talking about a very interesting character who is – he comes from a family of “big bad wolves”. But as he says himself, he’s not that big and he’s not that bad anymore. And in a way, his character is the most human of any of the characters because he’s the one that’s most battling his instincts.
And he might have an instinct to go after a little girl in a read hoodie. But he’s learned to not do that. And he’s learned – like I said, he’s a vegetarian and he, you know goes to Pilates classes. He takes certain, you know anti-depressant drugs that help keep him in shape. And he – he’s going to go through all kinds of things in this season, not just one big overarching ark.
But he is helping a Grimm which is going to create a lot of trouble for him.
Jim: Because he becomes the one confidant that Nick has. And he’s reluctant at first to help. But as the requirements of the cases get more complex, Nick has to rely on him repeatedly and that will cause Monroe some personal suffering in the near future which he’ll have to come to terms with as well.
On the challenges & joys of creating a serious mythology based on essentially a fairytale mythology
David: Well the joy is that there’s something familiar in it. And there’s something in reversal in it.
Jim: And again, part of the fun of that is telling it from the Grimm character’s point of view because the Grimm fairytales don’t really give us the big bad wolf’s point of view.
David: And the challenges are what is happening in each episode that is a crime that could occur in our real world. And it also has some kind of Grimm meaning to it that they do in their world. And that’s a challenge because you have to have a couple of stories for every story.
On the casting for the show
David: Because Jim had worked with him before and from the beginning was saying you got to see this guy for this part. And when we saw him, it was like, “oh yes, who else could possibly do this part but Silas Weir Mitchell.”
And David Giuntoli came through the casting process as did Russell Hornsby. But it was clear when those guys came into the room and read that there’s something very special about these 2. And then there was something special about those 2 together. We really saw them as partners. And Russell has a lot of depth and a lot of strength and power to what he does.
Jim: We have a good supporting cast with Bitsie Tulloch and Sasha Roiz.
David: Sasha Roiz and Reggie Lee. We actually created a part for Reggie Lee. We liked him so much we created a part for him as Sgt. Wu in the series.
On what separates Grimm from being a true supernatural show – like Supernatural
Jim: Well we’re not really supernatural where there, you know, I don’t – I know the show but I don’t know it well enough to really comment completely on that. We don’t have vampires. We don’t have
David: Yes. We don’t’ have “supernatural creatures.” We have people – we have critters who live within humans that are like you and me and can be seen by Grimms. And
Jim: They’re living their everyday lives like we are. And you know they have their reasons for doing things.
David: But there’s nobody that is immortal. There’s nobody that can’t be killed and as the hero says in the pilot. He says to the big bad wolf character, he says “Am I going to need silver bullets?” And the guy says “what are you an idiot?” So we’re probably a little more grounded in…
David: Some version of reality, albeit a [skewed] one.
Thanks to David & Jim for such a great call! Don’t miss the premiere of Grimm tonight on NBC at 9/8c!