Set to premiere this fall (hopefully in time for the Halloween season) is SYFY's new paranormal-themed series Ghost Wars, which boasts an incredible ensemble that includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Kim Coates, Meat Loaf, Avan Jogia, and Kandyse McClure. While in San Diego last weekend at Comic-Con, Daily Dead briefly spoke with Ghost Wars executive producer Dennis Heaton during a press event for the show, and he chatted about creating a supernatural series that can stand out amongst its peers, his experiences working with SYFY, putting together the cast of Ghost Wars, and more.
So, based on the trailer, this looks a little bit different than what we may be expecting. I don't know what a typical supernatural show is, but it seems like there’s more than just some ghosts going on in this.
Dennis Heaton: Yeah, it's a pretty atypical supernatural show. It was one of the things, when Simon [Barry] brought me on board to develop it with him, where he said, "I don't want it to be like Supernatural, and I definitely don't want it to be like Ghost Whisperer. We need to create our own kind of world with our own kind of rules." So, that was one of the things that we really set out to do, was what could we do with ghosts that we hadn't seen before that would excite us, that would keep us wanting to come back, episode after episode?
And, just a follow-up to that: SYFY's been putting out a lot of really great genre shows over the last couple years, and it seems like they're stepping up their game. Did they give you guys a lot of freedom in terms of what you were gonna do with the show? Did they give you any input or not really?
Dennis Heaton: It was an interesting development process, because it came out of an idea that SYFY brought to us. And Simon was co-showrunning Van Helsing season one with Neil LaBute, and they came up to him and said, "We've got this idea. It's about a small town with a big ghost problem. What would you do with it?" Simon started noodling on a couple pilot script ideas, brought me on board, and I helped him develop that. And then, he went off and wrote a pilot script. There was a bit of a back-and-forth process that I hadn't seen before.
You know, usually my experience with development has been, I go into the network with a full, developed idea, and you either get a yea or a nay. But this was a real organic process where we were all on the same page about what we wanted the show to touch on, but we weren't sure what the show was going to be just yet.
What's the tone that you want to set for the entire series?
Dennis Heaton: The thing about ghost stories for us—and this was one of the things when we were initially in development—is just how individual ghost stories need to be. So, when we were developing this show, we were trying to come up with a story model that would allow us to have a series arc, but at the same time allow us to focus on the different characters in this town, too. So, it's a bit of a combination of the two. We really want there to be really captivating character stories, but in order for the ghost stories to sort of pay off, we have to find a way that we weren't going back to the same person every week, necessarily.
So, we have our main cast, and they're all sort of leads, but at the same time, we shoot off and we do these sort of discrete A-stories in the episodes, where it's very much the “haunting of the week” kind of story.
What made Alaska an intriguing backdrop to you for this story, and was that location something that was established early on?
Dennis Heaton: Alaska was there when I came on board, and I think that was part of what SYFY originally liked about it. I know with Simon, what drew him to that location was the idea of being at the end of the world, being in this place that's not easy to get to, and you can't just get out of, either. So, that was something that we really wanted to make sure was in there, and it’s a bit of an homage to ’Salem's Lot as well, in some ways, where it's that feeling of, "You're fu**ed. You're so fu**ed." And that's been fun to write.
Can you talk about bringing this cast together as well, because there are some great actors involved?
Dennis Heaton: I know. It's kinda stupid how quick some of these things happened during pre-production. I remember when Chad (Oakes) came into the office, he was like, "Okay, we've got Vincent." I was like, "Really?"
But it was really, I think, a testament to Simon's pilot script that whenever it got sent out, it attracted attention from everybody that we were sending it to. And, when you're dealing with the networks and stuff like that, obviously, they're first thing is, "Who's going to be your stars? We don't want this to just be a bunch of actors who people will go, 'Oh, that's one his name from that, and that's her from the jam commercial,'" kind of thing. So, I think it was just the power of the script and the characters that got established in it. And, that's what they all responded to. We got very lucky.
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