From September 2007 to May 2009, The CW served as the home for 31 episodes of one of the most un-CW-like series ever to grace the networkâ€™s schedule.
Reaper starred Bret Harrison as Sam Oliver, a young man who, on his 21st birthday, discovers in rapid succession that A) his parents sold his soul to the Devil, played to perfection by Ray Wise, and B) as a result of that sale, he is now forced to serve as Satanâ€™s bounty hunter, collecting the souls that have escaped from Hell. If he doesnâ€™t, then his parentsâ€™ souls become forfeitâ€¦or at least thatâ€™s the story that the King of Lies is spinning, anyway. Rather than take any chances, Sam sets off to perform his duties, aided by his two slack-tastic pals, Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez), using a variety of â€œvesselsâ€ to capture these souls and then depositing them into the hands of Gladys (Christine Willes), a demonic employee at â€“ where else? â€“ the local DMV. When not doing the Devilâ€™s bidding, Samâ€™s also trying to woo the girl of his dreams, Andi (Missy Peregrym), who works with him, Sock, and Ben at the Work Bench.
Although Reaper lasted only two short seasons, its fanbase has remained dedicated ever since its demise, inspiring FEARnet to reunite the (majority of the) cast and creators for some roundtable reminiscences about the series in advance of the premiere of the aforementioned 31 episodes on the networkâ€™s schedule. The reunion special airs tonight, with Reaperâ€™s FEARnet debut taking place on Tuesday, June 4, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, as part of the networkâ€™s Twisted Comedy block, which also features the FEARnet original half-hour comedy series Holliston.
Several members of the cast made themselves available for interviews in conjunction with the reunion, along with the showâ€™s creators, Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas. Naturally, Popdose, which rarely refuses an opportunity to support the underdog but especially wouldnâ€™t miss a chance to help promote a show as awesome as Reaper, chatted with everyone we possibly could.
Popdose: So how psyched are you that Reaper is being given a chance to be revisited by FEARnet viewers?
Rick Gonzalez: Iâ€™m excited, man! Iâ€™m excited, and I definitely hope we grab a new audience. I think thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve always wanted. I think that we were a part of a network thatâ€¦well, yâ€™know, no hard feelings toward the network, but we always wanted a fair shot and the ability to get our show out to the people, because we felt like it was something unique when it was on the air. It only makes sense for FEARnet to grab it and to expose it even further. And even with just two seasons of it, I think people will still get a great time out of it. So Iâ€™m very excited. Things are working out well there.
How was the experience of doing the reunion special? I presume youâ€™ve kept in touch at least to a certain extent, butâ€¦
Yeah, it was a mixture of the first day of school and a high school reunion. It almost felt like we were gonna shoot something that day, like we were prepping to shoot something for the show, but then all we did was hang out. But it was cool. It was a good time.
Has there actually been any talk of doing more Reaper? Or if there were to be any talk, would you be up for it?
Absolutely. If there was an opportunity to do more Reaper, I would totally jump at the opportunity to do that.
All right, letâ€™s jump back to the beginning: how did you first find your way into the cast of the series?
Well, yâ€™know, it was just a simple audition. I auditioned for Ben, andâ€¦what was unusual at the time was that I auditioned one time and was offered the part. And then we shot the pilot with Kevin Smith, andâ€¦I think when you watch the reunion, the girlsâ€”Tara and Micheleâ€”theyâ€™ll go into more depth on my character and what it was like casting me, and their ideas on creating Ben.
So when you first read for the part, they really didnâ€™t know what they wanted Ben to be?
No, they were very much still working it out. In the beginning, they were still, like, trying to figure out how Ben fit in with Sock and Sam and what felt right. And for me, I felt like it was natural for me toâ€¦like, in seeing Sock be so vigilant, so vigorous in doing what he wants, it just made more sense to me for Ben to be, like, this very sensitive and super sweet guy who wants to help but, at the same time, doesnâ€™t want to be hurt by any of this. And thatâ€™s exactly what happened. He gets stuck in a wall, he loses his eyebrowsâ€¦everything bad happens to him. But he does it for love because he cares about his friends and he wants to be there for them and help them. And I felt like that was important. I wanted to show that. They care about me, I care about them, and I wanted people to connect to that. So I think we just naturally moved into that place, and it actually helped, because even in Season Two you see an extension of that, in him wanting love, showing love, and actually finding love with Nina, a demon, and having that whole thing with her. So I think thatâ€™s the evolution of Ben, and I was just fortunate enough to get the opportunity to audition for the character and just get it. It was a blessing.
In the series, you, Tyler, and Bret appeared to have instant chemistry. When did you three first get the chance to bounce off each other? Was it during the audition process, or was it a table read?
It was a read, and, yeah, it was instantaneous. I mean, we pretty much got the gist of what this dynamic needed to be. But I tip my hat to Tyler, because I feel like Tyler was very much the catalyst in all of this. Bretâ€™s character definitelyâ€¦yâ€™know, heâ€™s the guy who has to handle having this burden on him, so you know he needs to follow this path. Itâ€™s tough, and he may have to try and resist it, but you see the path where heâ€™s headed. With Sock, itâ€™s the same, but for him, itâ€™s, like, â€œThis is freaking amazing! Letâ€™s go on this ride!â€ And heâ€™s almost pushing him towards it, like, â€œWeâ€™ll do it together!â€ And that kind of set the tone for me to be, like, â€œOkay, guys, if weâ€™re gonna do this, then Iâ€™m in, too. Whatever you need.â€ So I tip my hat to Ty, because what he did kind of created everything and just made it go.
How was the experience of working with Kevin Smith on the pilot?
He was great. I salute the girls in choosing him, because he just totally understood the rhetoric and the tone of what we needed for the pilot. And he was actually even sympathetic in trying to figure out where Ben fit in as well. Thatâ€™s something that some people not get: each and every character has to have their place in the world, how they mesh well with the other characters and how the chemistry is. He was very sensitive to that, seeing how Ben fits in, and he was very helpful in wanting to add to that. He was just a totally cool guy. All his choices were brave and just set off the pilot really, really well.
In regards to Season One, what were your thoughts about Benâ€™s green-card marriage to Sarah?
Oh, I thought it was funny. I was cool with it. I didnâ€™t even think twice about it, actually. [Laughs.]
So you thought it was something Ben wouldâ€™ve done? Presuming you were comfortable in knowing who Ben was by that point.
Yeah, I think he wouldâ€™ve. I think Benâ€¦yâ€™know, heâ€™d maybe be the kind of guy who, because heâ€™s so trustworthy and because he cares so much, might be taken advantage of a bit more than some other people. So you can see why heâ€™d be friends with Sock and Sam. I thought that they protected him, they all protect each other, and theyâ€™re friends who all care about each other. So you can see how Ben might get taken advantage of sometimes when heâ€™s not around them.
You mentioned the Nina relationship a moment ago. Did you think it worked well for the character?
I thought it worked great! I mean, honestly, in terms of my career, itâ€™s one of the funniest-written storylines Iâ€™ve been able to work on. Certainly it was rare at that point in my career, but I donâ€™t usually get romance subplots or things of that nature. Iâ€™m usually playing some guy whoâ€™s trying to rob an old lady or distributing a whole kilo of coke to an entire coast. [Laughs.] But it was fun. It was great. What I thought was great about the girls writing that was that you were finally getting a chance to see who Ben was. Do you know what I mean? I can appreciate the girls doing that, because you also get to go into Benâ€™s world and see how he feels about things. And then thereâ€™s the whole demon aspect and how that fits into the mythology.
Certainly Ben got the better end of the romance stick than Sock did. I know Tyâ€™s feelings on the stepsister subplot.
Yeah, but, look, Ty got to make out with Gladys. So he did better than anyone in the romance department. [Laughs.]
Another of Tyâ€™s complaints, one which Iâ€™m sure you share, is that he never actually got to share a scene with Ray Wise.
Oh, yeah, we definitely share that sentiment! We were, like, â€œDamn, we just want one scene! We just want to meet the Devil! We want to work with the great Ray Wise!â€ It just sucked. Sucked sucked sucked. â€œJust one scene!â€ [Laughs.] I know it wouldâ€™ve happened, too. If weâ€™d had a Season Three, it wouldâ€™ve happened. And it wouldâ€™ve been a glorious scene, too. Glorious and funny. I just know it.
Do you have a favorite guest star from the showâ€™s run?
I have a bunch. I think one of my favorite was Lupe Ontiveros, who played my grandmother. And who has passed away, actually. She was a phenomenal actress, and I cherish the time I worked with her, because she was such a pioneer in her field. Just working with herâ€¦yâ€™know, with her having been a Latina actress for so many years, Iâ€™ve admired her work, so Iâ€™m honored that they chose her to play my grandmother. And Armie Hammer was really nice, and Iâ€™m so happy for him and all the success heâ€™s found. And, actually, it was a great time working with Lucy Davis. Sheâ€™s a British actress who was in the original Office, and we had an amazing episode together, which was fun. She was pretty great. Patton Oswalt, he was hilarious in Season One. That was great.
And do you have a favorite vessel?
Oh, manâ€¦ There are so many vessels, and so many interesting ones. But, yâ€™know, to me, I still think the coolest is the vacuum. Itâ€™s just so iconic. Itâ€™s just so perfect. And itâ€™s one of those things where I could see it as a kooky action figure for kids. [Laughs.] Yâ€™know, if the show had gone well, it wouldâ€™ve been, like, â€œMommy, buy me the vac!â€
When you got the word that the show wasnâ€™t coming back for a third season, Iâ€™m sure it was more than a little bit depressing.
Yeah, but, yâ€™know, we were anticipating it. We were hearing the rumblings. And, yâ€™know, we understood. Like I said, with no disrespect to the network, â€˜cause I understand how this works. We understood their apprehensiveness with us, and from their perspective, they had their reasons. But it bummed us out. We always felt their unwillingness to help us out. But itâ€™s a business, and you have to take what comes. And we made the best of it.
Do you feel that the showâ€™s maintained its fanbase since going off the air? Do you continue to hear from fans?
I do. I mean, itâ€™s because of the fans that this is even happening. Itâ€™s because of the ReaperDMV site and the KSite guys and yourself. Itâ€™s those people reaching out to me, Ty, and Bret. I get Tweets all the time from people saying, â€œYâ€™know, once a week we watch it again, we do communal TV watching and talk about the episodes,â€ and stuff like that. Itâ€™s incredible. And it lets me know that this showâ€¦ We were really onto something. And you know what? If it was meant to only live two seasons, then thatâ€™s fine, too. But it was a job where I felt like, if we couldâ€™ve had just a little more support, we couldâ€™ve done so much more.
Popdose: It must seem like dÃ©jÃ vu to be doing press for Reaper again.
Ray Wise: [Laughs.] Yes, it does. But itâ€™s great. I think itâ€™s a wonderful thing. Like Iâ€™ve said before, the Devil is one of the favorite characters Iâ€™ve ever played, and I was so sorry to have it end. The fact that FEARnet is bringing it back is thrilling to me.
How did you first find your way into the mix for the show? Did someone send you a script, or did you hear about it through channels?
Yeah, my agent and my manager, they sent me a script for â€œReaper,â€ the pilot, and Iâ€™m told that I came in at the end of the casting process. Theyâ€™d already gone through about a hundred actors and they hadnâ€™t quite found what they wanted to play the Devil. And I read the script and I really liked it, and I came in and did a little scene for them, andâ€¦I guess I fit the bill! I made them laugh, anyway, I know that much. [Laughs.] I did that scene in the pilot where Iâ€™m cooking chicken-fried steak in the kitchen, and they liked that one, so they had me come back several days later to do the same scene for the network people, andâ€¦that was it! I became the Devil.
How did you approach the character when you first got the script? Did you draw from any other previous interpretations of the Devil?
Oh, yes. I saw all the previous Devils. [Laughs.] I went on a rampage for a couple of weeks, finding every movie, every television Devil, everything from Ray Walston in Damn Yankees to Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster, to Jack Nicholson, even, in The Witches of Eastwick. Al Pacino in The Devilâ€™s Advocate, Peter in Constantine, even Gabe Byrne in End of Days. All different Devils, all Devils that had their good points and their bad points. And I wanted mine to be a little different than all of those, and I thought the best way to do thatâ€¦and, of course, the creators of Reaper felt the same way, because they wrote the script that wayâ€¦ [Laughs.] â€¦is to inject a lot of humor into it, and to make the Devil more like your charming neighbor next door: a guy you can have a barbeque with and drink a beer with and just enjoy his company. Thatâ€™s the way I approached it. Oh, and who dresses very sharply, of course!
Itâ€™s funny that, in the reunion special, youâ€™re actually wearing one of your original ties from the series.
I am! I have several of those, all the same shade of blue, but with little different patterns. I love those ties. You know what Iâ€™ve noticed? Since Reaper was on the air in 2007 and 2008, Iâ€™ve seen a lot of members of Congress wearing those light blue ties and dark suitsâ€¦
Drawing fashion sense from the Devil? Canâ€™t be a coincidence.
Canâ€™t be! [Laughs.]
How did you enjoy working with Bret Harrison on the show? He was, for the most part, the only cast member you tended to interact with.
Yeah, he was the guy that I certainly had the most scenes with. We had aâ€¦well, it was really like a father-and-son kind of a deal. We had a great rapport with each other and liked each other, and it was just kind of an easy experience to do scenes with him. It was mentor-like, a older actor / young actor thing, teacher/student or what have you. But, of course, Bret taught me a lot, too. About the younger generation. Iâ€™m getting up there, and I donâ€™t always know whatâ€™s hip and what isnâ€™t, and he and Tyler and Rick kept me on my toes.
Iâ€™m sure both Tyler and Rick have told you many times that one of their greatest regrets about the series is that they never actually got to work with you.
I know! And I think, had we gone on, that that may have happened. Itâ€™s just a shame that it ended when it did, because I know that our creators had a myriad of story ideas in mind, and it was just wide open as to where the story could take us.
I particularly enjoyed the second season, where the series started to explore the mythos of Hell a bit more.
Exactly! And I wanted to get more into that, yâ€™know? In fact, I wanted to even perhaps go down there! Wouldnâ€™t that have been something? And I know thatâ€¦well, do you remember that episode where Bret has the glasses that can show him what a person really looks like? And I tell him not to look at me with those glasses because â€œitâ€™ll be too much for your eyes.â€ [Laughs.] Thatâ€™s what I was hoping weâ€™d get a little more into in the show in the coming seasons. And exploring that whole mythology of Hell and Danteâ€™s version of it, and maybe a bit about the relationship between God and the Devilâ€¦all that good stuff.
They did manage to slip a little bit in about the God & Devil relationship, most notably the ice cream curse, where he’s forever unable to eat ice cream without it melting away instantly.
Oh, yeah, I loved that ice cream scene. That was very emotional for me, that scene, when I talk about my relationship with the Lord. Itâ€™s one of my favorite scenes in the show.
I donâ€™t know if youâ€™re a religious man, but what was it like playing the personification of evil?[Laughs.] I know! But donâ€™t forget, I had a little bit of training on a show called Twin Peaks! But then I went all the way. I graduated from Leland Palmer to the Devil. I guess itâ€™s a logical progression, huh? Yeah, to play the main bad guy of all timeâ€¦ If you think about it too much, it becomes almost overwhelming, so I didnâ€™t think about it in those terms. I didnâ€™t take that great responsibility on my shoulders. I just wanted to have a good time. I wanted to have a good time playing him, and the way it was written, I did. The relationships I had with the other people on the show enforced that, and I think thatâ€¦well, I just felt that the Devil was a character that has been so maligned in the past and portrayed in such a negative fashion that I wanted to spruce him up a little bit and give people some positive vibes, yâ€™know?
Itâ€™s interesting how, literally from the pilot onward, you see that one of the Devilâ€™s primary tendencies is to turn on a dime.
Exactly, yes. And I have the facility for doing that. Iâ€™m able to do that, and I can go from being very happy-go-lucky and charming, and then the next second be just terrifying. And I think that thatâ€™s all part of the Devil persona. I think you need that to sort of reinforce everybodyâ€™s idea of what the main evil guy is, and if you donâ€™t do a little of that, I think theyâ€™re disappointed.
Do you have a favorite episode or, failing that, a favorite plot arc from the series?
Oh, gosh. Hmmm. Favorite plot arc. [Long pause.] I liked the whole idea of Sam being my son. And then, of course, when Armie Hammer came in. My other son. Remember Armie? Heâ€™s one of the biggest stars in the world now. Now how does that happen? I think maybe I helped him out a little bit, huh?
Youâ€™ve got his signature on file somewhere, donâ€™t you?[Laughs.] Could be! But heâ€™s a swell guy. Now heâ€™s the Lone Ranger, but we had a great time, and heâ€™s certainly a handsome man, so I had no qualms about having him play my son. The whole Devilâ€™s-offspring thing appealed to me, and Iâ€™m sure we wouldâ€™ve gotten into that even more thoroughly in the coming episodes and coming seasons if given the opportunity. See, I had the feeling that the Devil could be in so many places all at once, and that maybe there could be a convention sometime of Reapers. A Reaper convention. Wouldnâ€™t that be thrilling? And, of course, Iâ€™d be the main speaker.
I can see you delivering a nice opening address.
I think so. And an intimidating closing one, too. [Laughs.]
Okay, so Iâ€™ve heard through the grapevine that you attended Coachella this year. How did that come to pass? Are you a diehard music fan?
Well, I always have been, yeah. When I did a soap opera in New York, I had a friend who was a friend of the manager of Led Zeppelin, so I went to a few Led Zeppelin parties, yâ€™know? And, hey, you canâ€™t beat that! [Laughs.] Before that, in 1969, I was out in â€˜Frisco and went to the Fillmore West and went to see Creedence Clearwater Revival, and there was a band opening for them that not many people knew about at the time called Jethro Tull. So I was weaned on that kind of rock music, but I love all kinds of music.
I did this video that came out of the blue. Iâ€™d worked with Eric Warheim, of Tim and Ericâ€™s Awesome Show, and he called me up and asked me to do this video for a band called Beach House, a particular song of theirs called â€œWishes,â€ and he explained the concept to me and told me that Iâ€™d be lip-synching the words of the song. And, of course, itâ€™s a woman singing it. The lead singer of Beach House is Victoria Legrand. I thought, â€œThatâ€™s really a strange concept.â€ And I said â€œyesâ€ because of its very strangeness. [Laughs.] And, of course, because it was Eric. So I did it, and it came out smashingly, and everybody loved it. It was, like, the number one video for a couple of weeks there.
So Beach House played out at Coachella last month, and I went out there to see them, and I met with Victoria and we had a nice little time there. We talked about the video, and how she was a big Twin Peaks fan before, and that she also loved Reaper. And then we went to the Rolling Stone party, and I met with Bono of U2, and I found out that he was a Twin Peaks fan, too. Heâ€™s known me since the late â€˜80s. I had no idea. And his daughter, who I believe is around 17 or 18, her favorite group is Beach House. Soâ€¦there I am! Iâ€™ve become relevant for a whole new generation! [Laughs.]
Do you find that people do double-takes when they see you?
Yep. You can say that again. [Laughs.] And usually itâ€™s a nice experience. You know, a friendly thing. Some people look at me warily, I suppose. But usually they come right up to me, even the Leland Palmer fans and the Devil fans, and say, â€œMan, I really liked you in that, and Iâ€™m a fan.â€ Itâ€™s usually pretty good.
Lastly, the obligatory question that has to be asked: if Reaper were to come back, would you be on board?
Oh, in a second. In less than a second. In a millisecond. I wouldnâ€™t hesitate one iota. Iâ€™d be right there in my dark suit and my light blue tie. [Laughs.]
I mentioned to Michele and Tara that, although Kickstarter would certainly be a way to go, to explore the mythology deeper makes it seem almost more likely as a season on Netflix.
Oh, thatâ€™s a wonderful idea! [Laughs.] Iâ€™d go for that in a minute. I hope that FEARnetâ€¦I mean, itâ€™s just so wonderful that theyâ€™ve decided to put Reaper back on and to do this reunion, but if they had the gumption to go even further, whether a movie or new episodes or a whole season, that would be even more wonderful. So, yeah, if someone takes that on, Iâ€™ll be there in a second.
Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas
Popdose: Iâ€™m sure this has been discussed in some special feature or other, but how did the two of you first start working together?
Tara Butters: Well, Michele and I met as assistants on The X-Files. I was working for Chris Carterâ€™s office, and Michele was working as a writerâ€™s assistant for Frank Spotnitz. We were lucky enough to work there, which was a great experience, and thatâ€™s where we kind of decided to try writing together.
What was the origin of Reaper? Was it just a vague idea about somebody whoâ€™s a bounty hunter for the Devil, or was it more elaborate than that?
Michele Fazekas: Actually, it sort of came fromâ€¦well, it was a couple of things. I had been working on sort of an X-Files spec script, a religious-themed thing, but Tara had also said something like, â€œYou know, itâ€™d be sort of funny to do a show about someone whose parents sold his soul to the Devil.â€ So it didnâ€™t start out as bounty-hunting. It started out as just that general idea. But then I had seen the movie Shaun of the Dead, which is such a great movie, and what I loved about it was that it was two idiots who were initially too hung over to realize that the world was being taken over by zombies. And I said, â€œI want to do something about people like that!â€ [Laughs.]
And we were humongous Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. We were, like, â€œBuffyâ€™s so amazing, she kicks ass, but I want to do a show about people who are not good at it and will never be good at it.â€ So that sort of cracked it. But that was always sort of the argumentâ€¦well, not an argument, but the debate with The CW. They were, like, â€œBut theyâ€™re gonna get special powers and get good at this, right?â€ And weâ€™re, like, â€œNo. No, they sure are not.â€ [Laughs.] But weâ€™re, like, â€œThatâ€™s where the comedy comes from!â€ And yetâ€¦ Theyâ€™re good at it, but theyâ€™re not good at it. Thereâ€™s this weird coming-of-age thing, where itâ€™s, like, Samâ€™s been aimless and goalless for his entire life, and now heâ€™s sort of found something that heâ€™s accidentally good at.
My understanding is that Bret was actually the first person cast for the show. Is that right?
TB: Yes. You know, we had worked with Bret on a (Law & Order) SVU on which he played a victim, and he was so good in that episode.
MF: It was a completely different role for him.
TB: Yeah. And then we saw him on the show Grounded for Life, and he played such a kind of dopey, really funny late-teens character.
MF: And then he was doing that show about an airline that was on Fox (The Loop), where he was doing comedy, which, again, was so different than what he did on SVU, which was really dramatic andâ€¦I mean, he kind of broke your heart, he was so good in it.
Did Tyler turn up on your radar because of his work on Invasion?
TB: I actually really enjoyed him on Invasion. I thought he was great. And since we were at ABC Studios, they actually had him in a holding deal at the time, soâ€¦it kind of was kismet, because we were, like, â€œWe want someone like that guy!â€ And then that guy happened to be available and at the same studio! [Laughs.]
MF: And it was funny because the character of Sock is based on a friend of ours who ended up being a writer on the show. Heâ€™s also the godfather to my son. Heâ€™s a really close friend. But we based Sock somewhat on him because our friend is someone who can say anything, even the most horrible, vulgar things, but because heâ€™s saying it, people think itâ€™s funny. Itâ€™s like his weird superpower. [Laughs.] Heâ€™s just one of the funniest people weâ€™ve ever met. And when we met Tyler Labine, we were, like, â€œOmigod, youâ€™re the exact same person!â€ So we never did any real casting for that role. We were just, like, â€œThis is the guy we want.â€
I notice you didnâ€™t mention your friendâ€™s name. Is that because he doesnâ€™t love being reminded that heâ€™s the inspiration for Sock?
MF: Oh, I think weâ€™ve mentioned it before. Itâ€™s Chris Dingess, whoâ€™s now writing for Being Human on SyFy. But heâ€™s a really great writer, a really funny guy, andâ€¦it was funny, â€˜cause he was unavailable when we first started on The CW, but I think we were able to hire him sort of halfway through. So it was always, like, â€œWhen Dingess and Tyler meet, will the world end because theyâ€™re in the same room together?â€ [Laughs.]
Sock mightâ€™ve been a quick casting situation, but it sounds as though finding the right Devil wasnâ€™t nearly as easy.
TB: Yes. That is true. I mean, we had the hardest time being able to cast the Devil. We had seen a lot of amazing actors, and ultimately I think Tom Spezialy had suggested Ray.
MF: Everybody who auditionedâ€¦they gave great auditions, but they didnâ€™t have that, like, certain twinkle in their eye. Itâ€™s not evenâ€¦you canâ€™t even give a note about it. It was very hard to define until you saw it. And Ray came in and auditioned, and everybody was, like, â€œThere it is! Thatâ€™s it!â€ He just brings that Rat Pack-like vibe, where heâ€™s a little cooler than you.
It wasnâ€™t mentioned in the reunion special, but I remember talking to Anthony Stewart Head at the same TCA press tour where Reaper was introduced, and he mentioned that heâ€™d actually auditioned for the role of the Devil himself.
TB: Yes, he did.
MF: That was too close, though. Because we were already sort of treading in Buffy territory, where it was sort of scary and comedy together, it was, like, â€œThat would be way too close.â€ And we were such huge Buffy fans, anyway, that it was, like, â€œI feel like we canâ€™t do that.â€ Weâ€™ve subsequently worked with Joss Whedon on Dollhouse, and he was a great guy. And we were, like, â€œThank you for inspiring our show!â€ [Laughs.]
Right out of the box, Reaper was, if not a massive ratings success, certainly an instant cult hit at the very least. Looking back at the first season, did it evolve in a way that you were pleased with? Were there any missteps that you look back on and think, â€œMaybe we shouldnâ€™t have done thatâ€?
TB: You know what? The first season of any show is difficult, because youâ€™re trying to find your way. I think there was a little bit of struggle with us and the network about what the show was, and thatâ€™s why, in probably the first six to eight episodes, itâ€™s a little bit more procedural, in the sense that it was a lot more about finding the souls than it was about these characters and their interesting lives. Right around the time the (writerâ€™s) strike happenedâ€¦ It was right about Episode 13 that we had this break, and when we came back, the network ordered five more episodes, and they were kind of, like, â€œJust do â€˜em, we donâ€™t care what they are, we just need five episodes.â€ And it allowed us to really open up kind of a mythology. So we had our gay demon couple, with Ken Marino and Michael Ian Black, andâ€¦if you notice, in those last five episodes of the first season, we had so much more fun. And you can see that there are individual stories, but at the same time you start to see a building arc, and we continued that into the second season. So Iâ€™d say that my favorite episodes of the first season are the last five. Even though there are moments and stories in the first 13 that I think are fun and I really enjoy, I really felt that we hit our stride after we came back from the strike.
Iâ€™d agree. Thatâ€™s definitely when the show started to step outside the box, as it were, and delve into more interesting territory. But at the same time, though, was that also the kiss of death for the series, making it increasingly more difficult for The CW to market?
MF: No, because you want to know what? They struggled with us from the beginning, because it was the same year that Gossip Girl came out, and it became very clear very early on that they were going to be the Gossip Girl network. And ratings-wise, if you looked at our ratings for the year, we did as good or better overall, because our repeats actually fared higher than Gossip Girlâ€™s. But the fact of the matter is that we didnâ€™t fit their marketing. Though I have to say that the CW marketing team absolutely loved the show.
TB: They really got the show.
MF: They really did. Itâ€™s just that we werenâ€™t where they were spending their money. But the fact is that the work that they did do was fantastic. The problem was that we were a show about a bunch of guys who worked for the Devil and worked at a big-box store and were not going to be wearing Prada and Jimmy Chooâ€™s. You know what I mean? We just didnâ€™t fit. And they didnâ€™t know what to do with us.
TB: I would also say that we always felt like we had fans at the network.
MF: Yes. Absolutely.
TB: We pitched this show all over town. We pitched it to every show but CBS, because CBS heard the sort of one-liner about it and they were, like, â€œYeah, not for us. Thanks!â€ [Laughs.] But we pitched it at ABC, we pitched it atâ€¦
TB: NBC. And we pitched it at Fox. And Fox was somewhat interested, but I think ultimately they were sort of already in 24-land, so theyâ€™d sort of moved away from the X-Files model already. And The CW were the only ones who were, like, â€œYeah, letâ€™s do that!â€ So for that, we sort of have to always kind be very thankful that they even put us on. And the fact that they put us on for a second seasonâ€¦I mean, I really thought, â€œOh, well, weâ€™ll get one season out of this, and thatâ€™ll be it.â€ The fact that we got a 13-episode second season was a nice surprise.
MF: And another thingâ€¦he wasnâ€™t running the network, but Les Moonves was a big fan of the show, and I do think thatâ€™s one reason why we got a second season. Because although he wasnâ€™t running it, he does have a say in what ends up on The CW, and he especially did back then. So, anyway, itâ€™s not like we didnâ€™t have fans.
Until the reunion special came up, I hadnâ€™t revisited the end of the second season since the DVDs originally came out. Having since done so, Iâ€™d forgotten just how angry I was at the way it ended. Not at you two, obviously, but just because I knew there wasnâ€™t going to be a third season to continue the dangling plotlines.
TB: [Sadly.] Yeah. I mean, we didnâ€™t know if we were coming back, and we obviously didnâ€™t come back, but we wanted to make everyone want us to come back. So I think that the fact that he not only doesnâ€™t win his soul back but also loses his girlfriendâ€™s soul in the processâ€¦that was going to be really fun territory to get into in the next season. We even talked about putting Andi in the DMV with Gladys and working there, which I think wouldâ€™ve been funny.
As far as the possibility of continuing Reaper, itâ€™s now become obligatory to cite how Veronica Mars financed their forthcoming movie on Kickstarter. Is that something youâ€™d be interested in pursuing?
TB: Well, you know, Iâ€™d love to see these characters live on in some way, shape, or form, just because I loved them so much. But there are just so many pieces that have to come together to make it possible.
Because of the depth of the mythology, it seems like a third season on Netflix would be the way to go, just because the audience could watch it grow and progress over several episodes.
TB: That would be awesome. [Laughs.] Look, weâ€™re the easiest people to get onboardâ€¦
Can you look back and pick a favorite episode or plot arc that stands as your favorite?
TB: I loved, in the second season, the arc between Ben and Nina. That whole story, and the Season Two arc of him dating a demon and her having to go to Hell to help them, it just was wildly romantic and funny. And they were so charming and sweet together. I really just loved those scenes. I loved breaking those stories and the episodes. The way Craig DiGregorio wrote Benâ€¦ It was just so much fun to read anytime he wrote those scenes. [Long pause.] Did we lose Michele? We may have. But, yeah, that was probably my favorite storyline of the second season. I also just loved that we had continuing stories. The fact that Sam had a mission for the second season. And I loved Armie Hammer as the son of the Devil. He was such a pleasure to work with. And heâ€™s done pretty good since then.
How did you enjoy having Patton Oswalt as a guest on the show?
MF: He was fantastic. And it was after Ratatouille, and yet at the same time we had to really fight to get him cast, because not everybodyâ€¦I mean, we knew his comedy, and I think Michele had seen him live several times. But The CW was kind ofâ€¦ Again, it was us having to push them to take a look at him and trust us that he would be great. And he was just such a pleasure to work with. And I think he had a good time working on the show, too.
TB: Here I am! Sorry, guys, I dropped off.
No worries! Tara, did you have a favorite episode or plotline that stood out for you?
TB: Um, I really lovedâ€¦well, itâ€™s probably the same one as Micheleâ€™s, but itâ€™s the one with Rick and Jenny Wade.
MF: Yep. Same one. [Laughs.]
TB: What else did I love? Well, I loved everything we did with Ben and Sock. I thought their relationship was funny and weird yet touching in a way. Also, I loved Armie Hammer as Morgan, the son of the Devil. I thought he was so perfect in that role. Itâ€™s no surprise that he turned into a superstar within about five minutes. But, you know, someone heard him on Opie and Anthony, the radio show, when he was in The Social Network, and they asked, â€œSo what else have you done?â€ And he said, â€œWell, I did this little show that you probably havenâ€™t seen called Reaper, but it was really fun!â€ And we were, like, â€œThank you, Armie Hammer!â€ [Laughs.]
Lastly, I know that Tyler has gone on record as having been somewhat less than a fan of Sockâ€™s romantic subplot with his stepsisterâ€¦
TB: [Dryly.] Yes, weâ€™ve heard that.
Iâ€™m sure that you have. And repeatedly, no doubt. But how did you guys feel about it?
TB: I thought it was hilarious. And I think heâ€™s wrong. [Laughs.]
MF: You know what? I understand why it made him uncomfortable, but I just recently rewatched the episode where his sister is doing karaoke â€“ itâ€™s â€œI Want My Baby Backâ€ â€“ and, I mean, I laughed out loud as heâ€™s sitting there watching her and kind of drooling after her and deciding that heâ€™s gonna take medication to control his lust. It was just silly and stupid and funny.
TB: I think he may have thought that it made his character look creepy, but whatâ€™s funny about the storyline is that thereâ€™s actually nothing wrong with him wanting to date or have sex with a girl who is not related to him and whom he hasnâ€™t known all his life. [Laughs.] But because Sock was treating it like, â€œIâ€™m creepy,â€ it sort of made him seem creepy, even though there was actually nothing creepy about it.
MF: Well, itâ€™s testing the boundaries. But my favorite part of the character was that he was always testing the boundaries. Also, I think that in the second season and if thereâ€™d been a third one, we wouldâ€™ve pulled everyone in the storylines with the Devil more. And I think that was one of the things that he was really wanting: to have his own scene with Ray.
TB: Yeah. Andi met the Devil only, I think, two times, the first time not even knowing he was the Devil. Otherwise, all the scenes were with Bret. And theyâ€™re fantastic scenes. I think the other guys just really wanted their chance with the Devil.
So that wouldâ€™ve happened if thereâ€™d been a third season?
MF: Oh, yeah.
TB: At least once, anyway. [Laughs.]