Have you ever been watching Grimm and wondered, “Wow, who came up with the idea for this show?” Well, we’ve got the answer for you – Stephen Carpenter (along with Executive Producers David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf)! Carpenter has also written a number of screenplays (Ocean’s 11, The Man, Blue Streak), as well as writing and directing the thriller Soul Survivors, which starred Casey Affleck. Additionally, he’s an author and has written two mystery/thrillers as well as two Grimm novels, and is currently working on number three. We were lucky enough to get the chance to catch up with Carpenter this week, just as Grimm returned to NBC for Season 2.
Grimm is somewhat based on and clearly inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales (of course!). Do you remember the first time you read them? Did the idea for Grimm come at that time, or more recently?
I have vague memories of my mom reading me the Grimm tales, but when I studied them later in college I realized she had skipped the gruesome parts. I was like, “Mom, you left out the good parts!” She wanted to spare me the nightmares of children being torn apart and eaten by their parents. Then when I was casting around for an idea for a TV show I thought of the tales, and it hit me that it would be cool to do the tales as a contemporary police procedural.
Your first Grimm novel, ‘Once Upon a Time Is Now,’ came out at the end of 2010, with the second, ‘The Girl in the Red Hoodie,’ appearing in April of this year. There are significant differences between your novels and the TV show – how were those changes determined?
The first network who bought the idea for Grimm dropped it during the Writer’s Guild strike in ’06, I think it was. It struck me that I could do a completely different version of the tales, as a YA series of books—Holden Caulfield vs. the Grimm monsters in modern day. Since the TV show was effectively dead, I started writing the Grimm Curse books—taking it in a completely different direction, with new, younger characters and a whole new uber-mythology driving the story. I didn’t want to let the idea of updating Grimm go, it was too much fun. And, frankly, I wanted to do less of a procedural kind of story. I didn’t want to do just another cop show, and so the novels have none of that.
Which of the characters was your favorite to develop and why (for both the books and the TV show)?
In both books and the show, the villains are ALWAYS the most fun. The monsters. I mean, how can you resist the idea of a wolf eating a cheerleader (The Girl In The Red Hoodie)? Or an evil stepmother poisoning her daughter? That’s great stuff.
Did you have any say in the actors that were chosen for the roles? Have any of them surprised you?
The network always has final say when it comes to casting, but I am very happy with the cast. I don’t want to single anyone out, but I do especially like Sasha.
How involved are you with ongoing story ideas and production of the show?
I talk with the producers often, but since developing the show I have moved more into the novels—both Grimm Curse and the Killer series. Production is a grind, and I’ve gotten spoiled as a novelist. I like creating the world as I see it, without worrying about producers or network execs meddling. I’m happy to have created the show, and to let it flourish, but I’m always looking for something new.
Can you reveal any of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales that will be given the Grimm treatment in season 2?
Season 1 ended with more than one major cliffhanger – Nick’s mother is alive, and Juliette has been bewitched and is ill. Are there more big shocks in store for viewers in season 2?
There have only been bits and pieces about Captain Renard and the royal families so far. Will we learn more this season?
I’m afraid I can’t. NBC would be very pissed at me. But if you follow the network Grimm site there are some good hints. That said, I will keep your fans posted on anything new that I can talk about…
We had to try! 😉 What can you tell us about the current Grimm book that you’re writing? When can we expect it to come out?
The next Grimm Curse book is a re-working of Snow White. I’m having a lot of fun with the evil stepmother/queen—but with a major twist. It’s less YA and more adult—and a lot darker. It will be available on Amazon in September.
You’ve written screenplays and books as well as directing films. What is your favorite part of working on each of those?
I’m really enjoying writing the novels now. I like creating the entire world, without interference from studios and networks. Screenwriting is best when you see the show or movie come to life, especially when you hear actors like Sam Jackson or George Clooney speaking your dialogue and acting out your ideas. But it’s a long slog getting a show through development and production. Directing is a trip, and it can be very satisfying to sit in a dark theatre and watch the audience respond to your work. But directing is exhausting and there’s a lot of stuff that’s not creative—again, a lot of hand-holding executives and such—and that gets tiresome.
Your other book series is in the mystery/thriller genre as well. What draws you to creating stories on these topics?
I assume you mean the two KILLER books. I’ve always loved mysteries—from Sherlock Holmes to Robert Parker. I love hard-boiled noir stuff: Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, etc. I’m very interested in updating those genres, getting rid of cliché’s and moving them into contemporary fiction—the way I moved the Grimm tales into modern day.
Finally, which of Grimms’ Fairy Tales (whether it’s been used in your stories or the show yet or not) is your favorite and why?
My personal favorite is a very obscure Grimm tale called The Nixie of the Mill Pond. I like it because it’s completely different from the other tales. It’s very romantic and dark, and the writing is beautiful. I also like it because no one knows about it. I want to do it as a novel, maybe after Snow White. So look for it soon!
Thank you, Stephen!
If you’d like to check out Stephen Carpenter’s books – including his two Grimm Curse novels – you can find them all on Amazon.