Showrunner Matt Miller interview, ‘Human Target’ on FOX
By Ian Cullen Dec 7, 2010, 6:53 GMT
Mark Valley (L) and Mark Miller (R) courtesy of FOX
One of the surprise gems to come out last year as a midseason premier was FOX's ‘Human Target,’ which follows the adventures of Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who is a former hit man that has taken on the role of personal body guard, and is on a personal quest for redemption.
The television series, which is loosely based on the DC comic book, also titled ‘Human Target,’ features some fantastic characters in Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), Winston (Chi McBride) and the unconventional Guerrero (Jackie Earl Haley), who not only make up a good team unit, but also a family of sorts.
The series for me is somewhat of a throwback to the action adventure series we saw in the 70s and 80s, but done on a bigger budget with juicier action scenes.
But ultimately, it is the chemistry between the three leads is what keeps me tuning in. In recent weeks the series has returned for its second season on Fox, and has undergone a few changes.
Monsters and Critics recently caught up with new showrunner Matt Miller, who kindly took some time to discuss some of the changes to the show and even gave us a few hints at some of the things we’ll likely see happen in future episodes.
"Human Target" airs on Wednesday at 8/7c on FOX
Monsters and Critics: How did you get involved in producing ‘Human Target,’ and what attracted you to the series?
Matt Miller: I was asked to do it by Warner Bros, who produce the show and Fox, who air it in the United States. I had not seen the show. So I was asked to watch 12 episodes really quickly and tell them what I thought.
So I watched the episodes and thought it a phenomenal show. It was terrific and has some of the best action I’ve ever seen on television. Great cast, great characters. I just thought maybe we can make a couple of adjustments in the second season and try to open up the show a little bit.
We brought in two new female characters. We made a little bit of an adjustment musically where we brought in what we call needle drops, songs into the show. We redid the office slightly to give it a bit more of a visual pop, but really kept the same basic premise that was working in the first season.
The idea was to do the show so that if you were a fan of the show in the first season. You didn’t feel that we’d changed it, and if you’d never seen the show’s first season or you’d seen it and not liked it you were able to give it a second chance, and you were like, ‘Wow I love this show.’
M&C: For those not in the know about what it takes on a production of this nature. Could you give us a run down of the typical day to day stuff that happens on ‘Human Target’ ?
Matt Miller: What happens is you have a few different phases of production happening simultaneously. You have the one phase, which is the earliest, which is the writers room.
So in Los Angeles the writers' room is a group of writers sitting around a table trying to come up with the storyline. Then that story will be written by a specific writer who will go off and do the script.
While that’s happening, up in Vancouver they’re prepping episodes, which they are going to shoot and they are also shooting an episode. So they have two episodes that they’re simultaneously working on.
They’re working on the episode that there currently shooting. So everyday they are shooting an episode and at the same time they’re prepping getting ready to shoot the next episode that’s on deck.
Also at the same time that all this is going on and back in Los Angeles we have our post-production crew that’s working on editing the episodes. So they are putting together cuts. We have three editors working on three episodes always going at the same time. They’re editing episodes of the show after they’ve been shot and after that process is done the composer comes in and scores it and we add songs to the episode, and we put together what they call the final mix.
So that’s the very cursory version of all the phases of production that are kind of going on at once.
For me. I have to sort of juggle all three of those areas of the writing of the scripts, the shooting up in Vancouver. The prepping of those episodes. The casting of all the guest cast that will be in that episode and then of course the editing process. You get involved in all. On any given day you do all of those things.
M&C: So basically your the one that’s paid to go slowly mad.
Matt Miller: Yes, I’m the one that’s paid to go mad. Unfortunately it’s not that slow. It’s a very fast process to madness on this show.
It happens by around 10:30 every morning. [Laughs]
M&C: You mentioned the music, which is another thing have been meaning to ask about. One thing that have observed is much of the fan base are not to thrilled with the new opening title theme. What are your thoughts on that, and why did you see the need to change it?
Matt Miller: I think the idea was is that we were going to musically make changes to the show. Now Bear McCreary, who did the first season of the show is a revered, worshipped and unbelievably talented composer.
Because of the fact that there was a decision made to change the music in the show. It was felt that the opening theme song may not match the tone of the new version of the music in the show.
So the decision was made to change that. I understand that it has had enormous backlash. Well, somewhat of a backlash with some of our fanbase and in no way are we looking to alienate those people and we understand, but when changes are made to a show sometimes there are going to be little things made that are going to upset people.
You know, whether it be the casting of Ilsa or Ames or the changing of the opening theme song. Those are certainly things that the studio and network. You know a lot of people are involved with the decisions.
Hopefully, people can overlook it and still enjoy the program that they loved in the first season and continue to enjoy this season. I understand their concerns. Their voices are heard, but at the same time it was a decision that we felt we had to make because of the fact that the music throughout the rest of the episode was going to be changed tonally, and we wanted to keep it consistent.
M&C: Can you see any way to make a subtle adjustment to the opening title theme or would that be to much of a task at this stage in the production?
Matt Miller: That’s absolutely something we’ve been talking about. The problem is that because we were supposed to air in September... we’re so far ahead in our episodes right now and things have been edited and finished.
So its very difficult for us to go backwards into the previous episodes, but I would venture to say that its a guarantee that if we fight another day past this season. We will make adjustments to the opening titles.
M&C: As someone who loves the show. I hope that you do live to fight another day. I’ve liked the changes you’ve made to the show, and really enjoy the new female characters. Mrs Pucci seems to be very much a fly in the ointment. Which really stirs things up a little!
Matt Miller: Absolutely, absolutely. She will start to evolve throughout the course of the season. So that she doesn’t just become a sort of stick in the mud character who is telling these guys what they can and can’t do.
It doesn’t just become that kind of parent or principal figure, but yes Pucci is played wonderfully by Indira Varma, who is a Brit and I think a brilliant actress, and Ames as well who is actually another Brit is played by Janet Montgomery whose also incredibly talented and you know... for both of them it was a boys club and Chance, Winston and Guerrero all had a season under their belts to get comfortable with each other and comfortable in the skin of their characters.
So these women have really had to kind of jump into the fire immediately and they’ve done a remarkable job I think of adapting. They continue to as the episodes progress. They really start to find their characters and their voices.
M&C: You did a fair bit of writing during your time on 'Chuck.' Will you be writing any episodes for 'Human Target'?
Matt Miller: Yeah, I will do. I wrote the first episode and I’ve co - written the season finale. I’m involved in every bit of the writing process. So whether it be working in the room with the writers or on scripts throughout as they are being written. You know... A large part of my job is in the writing of the shows.
M&C: As you know, the series is based on the DC Comics. So before you came in and looked at the 12 episodes. Did you take any time to look at the comics as a possible source for ideas?
Matt Miller: Yeah... I did. I read all the comics. It’s funny because I was working on Chuck last season, and was so busy that I hadn’t had chance to view the series. So when they called me about this opportunity.
I had to watch the series first really quickly, and then I went back and read the comics and was shocked to see how little from the comics was actually being used in the series that had been created, but I thought the comics were wonderful, but the train had sort of left the station in terms of going back to the source material. but I’m fairly familiar now with the comic book.
M&C: One concern I think the fan base may have in terms of Ilsa is there being eventually some kind of taut romantic tension between her and Chance. In as much as they are not sure about a ‘Will they or won’t they subplot’ type of thing. What are your thoughts on that?
Matt Miller: Chance is obviously played brilliantly by Mark Valley a really engaging, charismatic kind of guy. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to see a romantic figure in his life. Throughout the course of the first season, which was obviously very good.
The character of Maria was brought in and then the character of Barnes was brought in and occasionally there was sort of the female protectee of the week. So what we wanted to do this season was have some more female presence that was more consistent through the course of the season.
I think that if this was something people were concerned about that they should give it a chance and watch the episodes and hopefully we sort of earned the interesting dynamic that plays out through the 13 episodes.
M&C: One character I really enjoyed from the last season was the FBI agent Barnes. Are we likely to see her come back?
Matt Miller: No she’s on a series, but yeah she’s wonderful and she was not available to us, but we have some really interesting characters coming in. We have Maria actually, who was in an episode from last season coming back this year. We have Baptiste (Lennie James) coming back the next episode.
Then we introduce some new characters. We have a character named Harry, whose a sort of fledgling private investigator played by Tony Hale who is from ‘Arrested Development’ and is a wonderful actor, and he comes in for a few episodes for some comedic relief.
We have a slew of new characters that get sprinkled in throughout the course of these episodes.
M&C: One thing I was talking about with a friend last night was that Armand Assante as Joubert hasn’t been seen since the season one finale in which we saw him fly off with Chance and Guerrero, but in the opening episode where you wrap that storyline up. He wasn’t seen or mentioned. Are we likely to hear about him or see him in the second season?
Matt Miller: I think its something that we would address. We had to kind of map out a season in terms of we weren’t sure how many episodes we were going to do, but at this point because we’re doing 13 episodes it’s something that I don’t think will be addressed in the 13.
Provided we get more episodes it’s absolutely something that we want to get into. Because I think the idea of Chance’s backstory and how he was raised and how the old man found him and how he met Baptiste is incredibly interesting and engaging material.
We had talked about that when I first came onboard the show, and sort of started talking about how those sort of episodes would play out. They haven’t actually worked their way into the first 13 episodes, but we were planning on kind of bringing them in if we did like a 22 order, but because of the fact that they moved our air date to November doing more than 13 is not possible for this season. So it would have to be something that we could add in with additional episodes.
M&C: I don’t think the ratings are much help at the moment for you. Has the show been struggling a bit for a Wednesday night?
Matt Miller: Yeah definately... I think you know... Its been good in a sense that we’ve been able to retain last years audience. The problem is trying still to get a new audience and seeing how many new eye balls we can get to see it, and the studio and the network remain incredibly supportive toward the show.
So for us it’s just going to be about word of mouth. It will be people watching the show, liking the show, telling their friends about the show and hopefully those people tuning in and watching us.
M&C: A big selling point for Human Target is the intense movie like action sequences. Are there any sequences in some of the forthcoming episodes that you are excited about seeing the audience reaction to?
Matt Miller: Hopefully in every episode we try and put in some things that you haven’t maybe seen before or certainly haven’t seen before on television. In the next episode that comes up.
In the Baptiste episode we’ve got a great action sequence with Chance and Baptiste, which is sort of a 48 hour type of episode where Chance has to get Baptiste whose in a Siberian Prison, and he’s handcuffed and the two of them go rescue a woman.
In every episode we try and put something into it that is an action scene that feels like we’re doing something you haven’t seen on TV. We’ve a Christmas episode where Chance and the team go to suburbia and we have a set piece that takes place in a Mall, where these guys basically destroy an entire Mall during Christmas season. So there’s some fun stuff coming.
M&C: That sounds like a riff on the Blues Brothers when they drive a squad car through the Mall and lay waste to it.
Matt Miller: I wish, I wish. It didn’t have that kind of budget, but we did what we could with what we had to work with. I’d love that. A Blues Brothers action sequence would be wonderful.
M&C: A favorite element of the show I have is the triumvirate between Chance, Winston and Guerrero. Now we have two female characters coming in with Ames and Ilsa Pucci. How do you think they are fitting in with the guys?
Matt Miller: I think they’re doing a really wonderful job. You know it’s still about the three guys. They had a moment at the end of the last episode where they’re sitting there in the headquarters and sort of saying, ‘What do we think about the new thing. Is it different. Is it better.
And is it to early to tell.’ I think that was sort of the idea here. It’s these guys coming to the realisation of it’s not just the three of us anymore. Is that good, is that bad... And in an episode that’s going to premier. We have a two parter that’s going to premier on January 5.
It’s basically two one hour episodes, but they’re going to air together, and during the course of that episode we’re really going to explore the idea of was this a good idea, wasn’t it a good idea, should we separate and go our separate ways.
We were poor but we were happy was part of the idea, and ultimately where they land with that. I think they’ve integrated really nicely. I think Ames has a great relationship with Winston, Chance and Guerrero. She sort of rolls her eyes at anything Winston the Ex-Cop has to say. She’s sort of enamored of the criminal background of Guerrero, and I think she respects and looks up to Chance. So she has an interesting dynamic with all of them and I think all three have an interesting dynamic with Ilsa.
M&C: I think Guerrero is just the coolest character.
Matt Miller: Yeah he’s great. He’s wonderful. He’s a fun, fun character to write and Jackie plays him so well its wonderful.
M&C: What happened to Carmine. We haven’t seen the dog since the first episode. Was he feeling a bit rough or something?
Matt Miller: You know we see the dog occasionally. The dog is in there occasionally. The dog is not the best actor. [Mutual Laugh] We’re trying to do these action sequences on a huge show, and the amount of days that we have and your wasting 45 minutes to an hour of your day trying to get the dog to sit. We love Carmine as a character. It’s just that he’s got to brush up on his acting a little bit more.
M&C: Thanks for your time. It’s been great to have chance to chat with you.
Matt Miller: Great speaking to you too. Put it out there and let folks know about the show, and I promise there will be a new theme tune if we get a third season. 'Human Target' airs every Wednesday on The Fox Network