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Josh Friedman interview

Date of publishing: 25th April 2008

Josh Friedman interview JOSH FRIEDMAN, Creator/Executive Producer of
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES

Josh Friedman is an American screenwriter best known as the writer of the 2005 film adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Friedman also publishes the blog "I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing". He is now executive producer and writer on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the sequel to the Terminator movies (excluding T3). In his spare time, Friedman publishes the popular blog, “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing.” Friedman lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.


Question: Can you talk a little bit about what you went through in terms of logistics and other things in order to get the show paced up for a second season?
Josh Friedman: Sure, I think what we did is pretty much what’s standard on all shows. It’s an opportunity for the studio and the network and the production team to sit down and sort of talk about the show and kind of look at what we did right, what we did wrong, and kind of how we would keep doing the right things and stop doing the wrong things. We went in and we made a presentation to Kevin Reilly and his team. We kind of have a conversation about the direction we want to go. And in this case we actually, about six weeks ago, the writing team was all brought back on to start working on episodes. So even though we didn’t have the official pickup, we were being paid to start working and generate stuff so that when the pickup came we would be basically, on schedule for a fall debut.

JOSH FRIEDMANQuestion: The question is regarding the scope of the series for season two. There’s been some talk that the show’s budget may have given Fox some pause ... If so is it going to affect how things go?
Josh Friedman: No, I don’t think there was a ... Fox pause at all. I don’t think, despite what a lot of people thought, I know I guess in a weird way I’ll take it as a compliment. I think people thought that we were spending more money than we were. I think that the show was incredibly responsible and stayed within the parameters that Warner Brothers and Fox and we had agreed to from the beginning. So if the show looked big, then it was just because we’ve done our jobs well, I think. But no, I think it was everyone just, it’s a pretty standard kind of process, I think, by which I don’t, I think everyone gets all anxious when are we getting the pickup? When are we not getting the pickup? But the renewal, it’s I mean Fox hasn’t, it’s not like they’ve announced their other shows. I mean I think they like to sort of see what they have coming in and I think they felt pretty good about the show. And so no, it wasn’t, money definitely wasn’t a factor at all, I think it’s just a process, it’s just there’s corporations involved and ... they like to torture us.

Question: What other changes can we expect and see in terms of maybe some of the cast or even some of the behind the scenes, some of the crew ...
Josh Friedman: As everyone’s, wondering, we are getting rid of Summer Glau, no I’m kidding. You know better than that. Anyone who’s worried we blew her up in the end and she’s not coming back, I will reassure you, she is coming back and eventually in full force. I will say, I brought the entire writing staff back, every single person from last year ... brought back. I was really happy with what people did last year I think we were ..., in a weird way it’s sort of like any other sports team kind of thing, you’re just getting--consistency and kind of continuity is a big part of it, so I think we’re looking to make as few changes as we can. And I think we feel pretty good where we ended up and I think there’s wherever we’ve little dropouts of people, some people go get other jobs some of the crew because we’re not schedules are different, but on the whole I think it’s pretty much going to be the same group from last year. People in terms of Brian, I think that character and Brian’s portrayal of it was, I think, people really responded to him last year and we have some stuff we’re interested in doing with him this year. And I think one of the kind of ironies is you put someone on your show and they do a really good job then all of a sudden everybody else wants to hire them, so you sort of have to lock them up. And Brian was becoming a little popular, I think, based on the show. So we moved as quickly as possible to make sure he was going to stay in Terminator land as long as we needed him.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: Was there ever a plan to that ... did to kind of bring him on full-time when you first thought about bringing his character in, or was this something kind of evolved as you saw how well the story was received?
Josh Friedman: It’s sort of an evolution. I think, with characters that are new, you just don’t know, you never know. I mean I certainly don’t. I’m not experienced enough to really be able to know right away. And I don’t know that you can, so I think I had hopes that that character would really work, but I also knew that just in terms of expanding the sort of mythology a little, it was a pretty, it was a somewhat risky step and I think-- and Brian wasn’t like a—probably, I mean he was a surprising choice I think for a lot of people. So I was really hoping that would work I try now to fuck things up.

Question: Bear McCreary, who did all the music for last season, is he coming back as well?
Josh Friedman: Absolutely, absolutely, 100%. Bear’s awesome and I think because of the strike I was gone for almost all the post-production period. So I actually ended up spending very little time with Bear spotting things and placing them and James Middleton worked with him a lot, but I really haven’t even had the pleasure, I worked with him on the re-scoring of the pilot, and beyond that I really didn’t get to spend a lot of time working with him. So it’s one of the things I’m excited about. Yes, I love that guy.

Question: Can you kind of give us one thing you were really happy with and one thing that you weren’t so happy with?
Josh Friedman: One thing that I was really happy with, well, this is going to sound kind of generic, but I love our cast. I really--you never know what you’re going to get with people. You audition them and you hope you’ve done the right thing and I really was happy with the cast. I really think that they really did what I needed them to do, and they, and even took it to a different level. And I love the people that we brought on, I love what Dean did and even Sonia in her little parts, I’ve spoken about Brian, Garrett Dillahunt is very close to my heart. In terms of things we didn’t do well, I don’t know, I think sometimes we might have like gotten a little confusing a little more. I think I want to write a show that’s complicated and sophisticated and subtle. That’s at least, everyone does I guess, but I tried to write something that was--it’s very serialized, it’s not--there’s definitely you have to do some thinking. And I definitely that there were points where the story telling was a little muddy, where I think we could probably do a better job at least of not trying to keep 800 balls in the air, maybe we can keep 500 balls in the air. But I used to have this saying that I was like I instituted a program last year called no plot point left behind, where every single thing that I introduced I kept trying to bring forward and pay off, and I didn’t want to let anything drop. And I think we started accumulating a lot of stuff, which most of it paid off and some of it didn’t. And so I’m going to try to make sure that everything that I need communicated is communicated this year.

Question: Do you, are you happier with the fall premier or when ... you kind of shot everything, and it was like just to wait to see the audience reaction. Do you prefer working on, I guess, the traditional September to May schedule where maybe you can change things based on audience or fan reaction, you have a little more leeway?
Josh Friedman: Well I’ve, again, last year was my first year of television. So that’s the only thing I’ve done. I haven’t ever done it this way so it’ll be interesting. I think that it’s nice to have a bit of a dialogue back and forth. You’re sort of, you do sort feel a little helpless when it’s just all done. And I think it also, it lets people--everybody is sort of guessing in a vacuum, you don’t really know how people are going to respond. But I also think there’s something to the fact that you don’t, there’s something about having a vision for your show, doing it the best you can, and not kind of panicking like if one week things dip a little bit and then you’re constantly trying to do it. So I think there’s pluses and minuses to it. I’m happy to be on the Fall because I’m happy to be on, I’d rather be on sooner rather than later and I’d like the opportunity to do 22 episodes So in that I’m glad, and we’ll see about the whole other thing. I don’t know, it could turn me into a neurotic crazy person.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: So now in terms of when you guys, when the writer strike happened and the show--did things switch around, did stories have to get truncated or dropped until the second season when you guys knew that the series was going to be closing a little bit sooner than you had anticipated?
Josh Friedman: Well, not really. In a weird way, we worked up until the day of the strike, so there was no--I didn’t know for sure there was going to be a strike. We worked as if we had a full season. We didn’t change anything around. Then the strike happened and at that point, there’s nothing I can do. So it sort of is what it is. I mean, I think to the degree that things didn’t--there’s two parts of it. I think that part of it is there are things that we shot for storylines that were there that just got cut out that we had. So there’s things that seemed like they were just dropped, but they were ultimately they were dropped for time or whatever, clarity, but there was other material that we shot and there was decisions made to take them out. And then yes, there’s part of it is, we had a plan for a whole season and I had certain incidents paced out for the whole season and we lost them. And I think coming back to season two, I think it’s--part of the process coming back to season two is deciding how many of those things are you going carry over, how many of them aren’t that important. You have all the fans and you’re also bringing in, hopefully, new people. And you have to kind of pick and choose; you have to sort of prioritize what’s important, because you also want to move forward. And that’s kind of been a lot of the discussions in the last month and a half, sort of what--how many of those plot point are, what do we carry over, what do we don’t carry over or how much, how different are things going to be?

Question: There’ve been rumors of Fox talking to you guys about doing a second series or a second Terminator series. Would that be a series that runs in conjunction like the two crossover or are you guys thinking more of a ...
Josh Friedman: There’s been rumors of that?

Question: Here and there.
Josh Friedman: I haven’t heard them.

Question: Okay. So that—
Josh Friedman: I’m being completely serious like I ...

Question: It’s just a rumor at this point.
Josh Friedman: ... I have no idea what that would be. I think that’d be really cool if someone would tell me what that’s supposed to be, I’ll go write it. But at this point I’m just working on the--I’ve just got the one in front of me. But I think that they’re excited about the possibility of cross promoting with the movie. But there’s not necessarily any cross-pollination with the movie. I think that’s kind of a hard target to hit.

Question: Are we going to be revisiting some of that through Reese for season two?
Josh Friedman: I’m hoping to revisit the Future War, I love the Future War. I had plans last year to do a number of Future War episodes. They’re expensive. They’re the most expensive episodes we do and they’re the most time consuming. And certainly the CGI--the hard part is the CGI, not does it cost a lot of money, but it takes time. And it just it takes ... production time. And it’s hard to kind of turn those things around on the schedule. I mean the Future episode that Reese did last year was, it was shot as a last episode even though there were three episodes after it. But we pushed it until the end. And it was actually the episode that we pushed and pushed until I had left for the strike. I wasn’t on the set for a single frame of the Future episode. I was gone. So it was shot without me. But well we had to push it because it just, we kept moving it because of the amount of prep for it, and it’s a lot of post too. I’m hoping for more. I love the future.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: On the last conference call with you for the season finale you said that the episode ten, the one that you got kind of cut off with was just a great episode but it would be a terrible premiere. Is there any premiere for the second season, would there be any way you can integrate that in the second season at all?
Josh Friedman: Not likely. And someday I’ll share what it was. I want to try to see if I can integrate it in the slightest way. But no, it’s really, it’s like the lost episode, it’s just, not the show Lost, but it’s like the episode that just had to go away, which is unfortunate because I had a very cool idea, but, no.

Question: Did you have any idea when the DVD for the season might come out?
Josh Friedman: I think there’s a date for the DVD but I don’t know what it is. Hold on, I’m going to yell out to somebody, Hey James, when’s the DVD coming out? James Middleton says August. We did do a bunch of extras for the DVD, there’s at least, is it three commentaries out of the nine episodes including a pilot—one on the pilot, one on the finale, one on the Future episode, so we did a bunch of those. We did some mini-docs. We got some good stuff. I think it’s going to be really cool where we had every Summer and Thomas and Lena and David Nutter and James, John Wirth and I all did, and then some of the other writers and oh, Brian also, we all did commentaries. So there’s some good stuff on it. I like it.

Question: Will there be any technical changes done to Cameron after that car bomb? Like, I’m sure she’ll be different.
Josh Friedman: She’ll still be pretty.

Question: Okay, physically she’ll most likely be the same?
Josh Friedman: Eventually.

Question: Oh okay. All right. You scared me when you said Summer wasn’t coming back too.
Josh Friedman: Oh, what are you kidding me? Would I do that to you? Would I do that to me?

Question: I hope not.
Josh Friedman: No. ... that’s one of the hard things with her, it’s like to beat her up but you can’t mangle her too much. But I think that car bomb, it definitely will mess her up.

Question: You mentioned during the first season that the series would contain less action than like T2 because of the smaller budget. I was just wondering now that you’ve been picked up for a second season, is the budget going to be a little different, like can you incorporate more action now?
Josh Friedman: Yes. I think so. I think we will be incorporating more action this year. I think the show, that’s one of the things that the network and the studio and I have been talking about, as we were talking about the pickup is sort of how much action versus drama versus ... facts. And I think that everyone is excited to try to do a bit more of everything. But it’s money, and I think that’s always the issue, you have to stay within the confines of what works economically for everybody. But I think that we’re def—and I think we did some nice stuff last year. I also think you can’t, in a weird way if you do too much I think people kind of get bored of it, I think people like a balance. But I think this year we will try to do a little bit more.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: On being picked up. I was wondering if now that you’re onto a second season, is there going to be any sort of tie or link into the planned Terminator movie? And if so, what sort of bridge will there be? Story wise and marketing wise.
Josh Friedman: I’m sure that it’s a wonderful marketing—I mean I think it is a wonderful marketing opportunity for both to cross promote. It’s not something that I spend a lot of time dealing with right now. I think, I know McG a bit and we’ve had a couple talks about it, but and we both think that it can benefit everybody. Narratively I think it from my point of view, I think it would be very complicated. And I also think, as I said, as I’ve always said, I think the TV show, the TV show and we try to be respectful of the cannon as it relates to the first two movies, kind of what’s come before us, but after that, I think we’re sort of we do what we do. And I would hate to try to hit-- I think for us to try to hit the T4 target or for them to try to hit us is really challenging. So it’s, and I don’t think necessary. I think it’s, people can kind of look at these two things and just think I’ve got a lot of Terminator that I can absorb, and it doesn’t have to all fit together. I think we understand that there’s different things going on in the TV and movie universe.

Question: So, when we last saw the show, there were lots of balls still in the air. Do you have a sense of which plot lines you’re going to be working on first, and can you sort of give us some sense of spoilers as to what to expect when you come back in the Fall?
Josh Friedman: I’m not going to give you any spoilers, just because I never do. But I think, the show was about this family and I think that kind of everything that concerns the family is something that still concerns us. And it’s, I think we were sort of lucky to end where we ended in the sense that there was at least a cliff hanger and it was sort of, it was dramatic and I’m not going to ignore that cliff hanger and just pretend it didn’t happen. So I think the ramifications of the end of the season are something that I’m really determined to explore, kind of the ramifications of it. So I think the big ones are all stuff that’s definitely fair game. I can’t promise that every single plot line from last year will be resolved to people’s satisfaction because there’s so many, and I think at some point you just have to move forward.

Question: About season two, how far into it we have to, we need to wait for underwater Terminator to come out if you’re started working on that yet?
Josh Friedman: I do love Underwater Terminator. I believe heavily in underwater Terminator. Someone’s going to have to write me a big check for me to be able to do Underwater Terminator. But I have a weird infatuation with Underwater Terminator. But I spend a lot of time, frankly, talking to people about the buoyancy level of terminators and whether I think they can swim, whether they sink, how they propel themselves, and yet I’ve never written anything about Underwater Terminators so it’s just one of those weird hobbies that I have is trying to figure out like what they do underwater and how they look. It’s dear to my heart, it is Randy, it’s dear to my heart.

Question: Yes. Okay. Will the crew be at Comic Con this year?
Josh Friedman: I hope so. If we’re invited.

Question: And get some more Star Wars legos.
Josh Friedman: Dude, I can’t spend any more money on Star Wars legos, it’s just, my son has moved on to Bionicle, which has a mythology that is even more complicated that Terminator or Star Wars. So I have a feeling I’ll be buying weird Bionicle legos.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: Even before last season, what inspired you to make the series really about such a strong woman? And what you think resonates about that. And some other series don’t always resonate with audiences or last that focus on these tough ladies?
Josh Friedman: Well, I mean look I think that obviously, I’m cheating to some degree because the Sarah Connor character existed before me, and has always been sort of a big strong inspirational female character. So it’s Jim Cameron and it’s Linda Hamilton, first and foremost. I think it’s, I’m sort of standing on their shoulders and seeing what I can do. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about kind of what that character means. And also, it’s also just trying to make a show that’s actually about the emotional aspects of it, and sort of what--I became a parent right before I started working on the show, maybe a year before and so a lot of the stuff is sort of about my own feelings of parenthood, and kind of and mothers and sons, and watching my wife deal with my son. And so I think that there’s a lot of personal stuff that finds it’s way into these storylines. And I don’t know, maybe that’s why it resonates. Again, I think it’s, she’s a cool character and it’s trying to make a show that’s really about people, and I think when you do that it’s, I don’t know you have a good shot at least, I don’t know, why do you think it resonates?

Question: That’s a good question. I think it starts there. I think that if there’s some aspect that people can relate, to they can see themselves in it a little bit.
Josh Friedman: Well, I think that’s fair. I think you have to keep it I think even though you have scary robots and time travel and with the apocalypse, I think you really need to, you just have to keep the show on a human level. You really, which I think again, I think that’s what Cameron, that first movie was a love story and that’s like a movie as a mother/son story with stepfather. They’re family stories and I think that you can’t forget that about the franchise, is at the core of them they’re very strong emotionally.

Question: Will Sarah’s ex be back and will Agent Ellison, is he much more amenable to joining their cause after all the stuff in the last ep?
Josh Friedman: Yes to the first. ... is Agent Ellison more amenable, I think he’s certainly seen some things that make him reconsider all of his, everything that he’s done before. I think that he’s certainly much less of a doubting Thomas than he was. And you’ve pretty much almost got him up to speed on what’s going on.

Question: Since you have a full slate of a full season coming up now, are you considering trying to get Michael Biehn back to play Kyle’s dad again, or any other characters, maybe just for cameos?
Josh Friedman: I’m not a big fan of the cameo. I feel like it’s really distracting. And I know that fans like it, but I feel, and I think most of it just goes to the fact that we have a different Sarah Connor and I think we’ve worked very hard to have Lena be Lena and not be Linda Hamilton. And I think that when you start bringing in characters from the show, either from the movies, I just think it becomes sort of this weird kind of ... where’s Waldo thing, that makes people, it distracts people. I think it’s like you want to have a world, you want that world to be sort of self contained and real, and I think when you start doing that it just I don’t know, I find it distracting. But I love Michael Biehn and I think he’s cool as hell. I don’t know what I would do with him that wouldn’t feel like I was just saying, hey look, it’s Michael Biehn.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: Where does the family get a lot of their supplies and such? Where do they get the money to get their house? Where do they, and they weren’t carrying cheap phones around either. What are they tapping into to get some of their resources? We‘ve had a question a couple times like well, where’s this all coming from and ...
Josh Friedman: The first well, I can try to, I could track it through, but it’s they mug some frat guys in the beginning. I always felt like when they mugged the frat guys, I always felt like they got a couple thousand bucks, they maxed out their credit cards, they got some cash, and they got this cheap crappy little squatter’s house with no furniture. And then they found diamonds in the safe. And my theory has always been they’ve just been cashing in those, hawking those diamonds and buying stuff when they need to. It’s one of those things that I’m--you either have a show that’s all about process or you have a show that’s takes certain things for granted. And I kind of felt like we spent a couple episodes on process and then I wanted to sort of move into a place of, you know what, they can have some stuff. Now, if you look they’ve got a pretty crappy TV with a pretty crappy VHS player. They have a second hand sofa most of their clothes are surplus army surplus clothes or hand sewn. I do have a theory that Cameron stays up all night making her own clothes, but I‘ve never really gotten into that. So I think, and then they went out and bought a car but look what that did. But I figure they got about $300 000 in diamonds sitting around. So they can buy a little stuff. And I also think and I’ve never had to show it but we’ve talked about it a lot, which is there’s certainly, we’ve seen John previously rip off ATMs and things like that. And I think they kind of, they can get it when they need it. So they’re not going to be knocking over any banks, but I think they can get what they need when they need it. I think it’s, they’re not living in the lap of luxury I think that would be sort of abusing the setup.

Question: Do you think and I know they didn’t really jump too far in the future, we’re only talking what maybe ten years or something but--
Josh Friedman: It was 10 years.

Question: But it still kind of a jump and are we going to ... at all? It seemed like they adapted very quickly to, it wasn’t a lot to adapt to but still, some significant changes seem to adapt to pretty quickly in the new timeline and such. Is there anything to kind of explain that or is that more kind of a process, as well?
Josh Friedman: There was a few things that I felt like that were important to me and I think that whereas I think maybe Cameron’s, part of Cameron’s reversion to a more, I don’t want to call it awkward way of dealing with life, but a little less affected because maybe she had a way, she knew how to deal with 1997. She’d been there for three months, she’d been told by John when John sent her back kind of what the world was like when he was back there. They go forward I think she’s sort of out of step with whatever 2007 is. So she’s sort of taking a step back and started re-learning what the new world is. I think John had to do a little bit ... computers, but at the end of the day you don’t want it to be too much a fish out of water technologically. And then I think the one big thing that we dealt with in the second episode was 9/11. We had a lot of discussion about whether to even have a conversation about that, whether we should ignore it. For me it was important to kind of brig it up and realize that this is something that they have to experience, and there is a voice over Sarah kind of trying to process what that meant. To me that seemed like the big thing that when you jump over, you jump over 9/11 that’s, the world has changed and that’s something that’s worthy of at least spending a scene on. So I think they’re very adaptable people. They’ve moved around a lot through different time and space and I can’t, I didn’t want to spend too much time on it but I think that still we’ve spent some, I certainly wanted to hit it, it’s not something I wanted to ignore.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLESQuestion: Now that you’ve had a season under your belt, looking back, what do you think were the successes of those first nine episodes and what do you wish in retrospect you could change?
Josh Friedman: Well, earlier I mentioned that I ... I was really happy with the cast, and I thought that maybe I can make things, in terms of things I would change I think that I wish things were a little clearer in some places. But I was also really happy that we did a show that was highly serialized, that was not easy, that treated the audience like they were smart, and that I think people really followed along. I think it’s not just the sci fi audience, I think we had a broader audience than that. And very satisfied with the season finale, the ratings were up; they were up every half hour. People really responded to it. So I feel like we kind of we did a really, I don’t know, I’m pretty pleased with the way we told the story that we wanted to tell. I think that this year again I think we’re going probably try to broaden the scope of the show a little bit, put a little bit more action into the show, the show felt a little tight cramped at times I think and I’d like to get outside a little more. But, I don’t know, I felt pretty good. It’s the first year of television I ever did and I learned a lot, that’s for sure. I probably learned more than anybody.

Question: When you say this coming season you’re going to probably spend a little more time focusing on John’s character and kind of how he becomes or grows up into the leader who we all know helps like kind of save the future or fight for the future?
Josh Friedman: Yes. I guess, I’d like to think that we--I think yes, I guess the short answer to that is yes. I think that that character does have to grow and move. You sort of try to pace that out. I think last year he was still sort of almost in denial and didn’t really want to--there was problems of being a hero that we was sort of like facing. But I think that this year is sort of more, I would say it’s kind of maybe his coming of age year, maybe kind of becoming a man. I’m saying that having not finished writing a single episode yet. But yes, I think moving forward, and I think hopefully, you move everybody forward, it’s not just him. And as it relates to it kind of being a mother/son story I think that you want to see growth in the characters and maybe conflicts in their relationships and certainly the more a boy grows into a man, the less he needs his mother. So I think it’s certainly stuff that we’re going to work on.

Question: You might leave behind from the first year that, the whole high school mystery, there’s really interesting but is that one of those things that there might not be room for this season with the suicide and all that?
Josh Friedman: Yes. Yes. The high school. ... the high school storyline is the one storyline that sort of--we shot more of that stuff than we showed and it ended up every time we had an episode that was running a little long, it was like the high school stuff always ended up on the cutting room floor. And it’s unfortunate because I actually had a big plan for it, and I think that it’s probably at least in the short-term, yes, stuff that we’ll, we’re not going to emphasize as much. It’s just, and I liked it, but I think that it just every time we ended up long, that what was ended up getting cut.

Question: There’s so much debate about the teacher and the relationship and what was going on. I guess we’ll never know, pretty much.
Josh Friedman: Oh, maybe, maybe not. But I’m not going to say right now just to, I’m not going to box myself in.

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