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Killjoys: Creator Michelle Lovretta Talks About Sci Fi Joy

As Killjoys winds up its first season with what will be a blockbuster episode (make sure any non-Killjoys watchers in your house – and why are you living with people with no taste? – know to leave you alone), Michelle Lovretta, the show’s creator and executive producer, was kind enough to chat with me and talk about the show, her love of sci fi, and the world she’s created. We played a little bit of “Coincidence or Conspiracy,” discussed comparisons with Syfy’s other new spaceship show Dark Matter, and talked about the great supporting cast. I could have spent hours on the phone with her – she was funny and personable, but she dangled the chance to chat again if they get a Season 2. So get out there, all of you, and let Space Channel and Syfy know you want a Season 2 – I want to chat with Michelle again!

Michelle Lovretta

Michelle Lovretta

TIBS: Are you up in Toronto?
Michelle Lovretta: I am, until they figure out if we’re going or not. I’m enjoying the clime, because the last time I was up here, for the start of the show, it was freakin’ winter. Not the best time.

TIBS: I just want to start by saying that Killjoys is my favorite new show of the year.
ML: Thank you! That’s lovely to hear. I’m having a lot of fun with world building, So I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I keep coming back to genre, you have a lot of fans that encourage you, and therefore networks allow you to do it, and that’s kind of the most enjoyable part of the process for me.

TIBS: I had a chance to talk with Nora, Sean and Thom, did an interview with the three of them, and all of them said how wonderful it was to work with you and how great they thought the show was, and how much they’re enjoying the experience. And how much they’re hoping Season 2 will happen. So, have you heard anything about that yet?
ML: No, but that’s nothing that we weren’t anticipating. Both of our networks (SyFy and Space Channel) like to get a fair amount of information before they make their decisions, so I’m sort of doing my usual patient waiting, and letting my brain hope and believe in that, and start thinking of some stories, that I would like to use in a hypothetical season 2.

TIBS: Joe Mallozzi from Dark Matter has made no secret of the fact that he’s already opened his writers room for Season 2, even though he hasn’t gotten a commitment. He just wants to get a jump ahead .Are you at that point, or kind of more letting it mull over?
ML: It’s a bit of both. I’m kind of moving forward on some stuff, and for anything really concrete, I’ll wait a little bit until we hear word.

TIBS: Where did the idea for the show come from? I know you’ve said in other interviews, and you just mentioned, you like sci fi and it’s a great place to put stories, but the specific idea for this premise – was there any kind of spark – something that specifically sparked the idea?
ML: The information I’ve kind of mentioned in a few other things, and so, it won’t be especially brief, just so you know that… I can’t be inspired twice, so this is the original inspiration, but basically there was a Sean Connery movie called Outland (available on Amazon Instant Video, but not Netflix), and as a child, when I caught stuff on TV, and you’d be interrupted by commercials, I caught the last half and the next time the first third a couple of years later, and this was a show that I didn’t even know the title of for the longest time. The visuals stuck with me, and just the concept of a cop on a mining colony on the moon. And there was something just really attractive about the idea of… all the other space shows and movies that I’ve seen, which I inhaled and loved, made a really big deal about the exoticness of space, and how inhuman the environment was, and man vs environment, and all that kind of stuff. And this one took it back to man vs man. And something about a regular kind of job in a non-regular environment like space was new to me. And stuck with me. And sometimes you chase these ideas back and they go back to when you’re quite young.

And the other would be Aliens, which I think was THE most informative film experience I’ve had as a viewer. Ripley is kind of everything to me. I have always wanted to get back into space, both as a viewer and as a writer, but these things come in cycles, they tend to be expensive. The networks have to have faith that there’s the appetite and the audience to support it, because not everybody in the world is into fantastic shows, fantastic not just as a superlative, but as a non-human or non-typical environment. And those are what I love, so I’m constantly trying to get back into having a badass female, and a spaceship, something that I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen, but I sort of pitched. And the fact that there was an appetite for it, thanks to Space and Syfy, was a shock, and then a thrill, and I’ve been having a blast with it ever since.

TIBS: I’ve watched the screener of the season finale, and I won’t give anything away to viewers before Friday night, obviously, but I had been wondering how you were going to tie up some of the ends, and yes, we’re all hoping for a season 2, but we’ve all seen shows that have been cancelled after Season 1, with things really left untied –
ML: Ha, ha!!!

TIBS: and I was wondering where you were going with some of these things.
ML: Well, I can’t tell you! (laughing) I could tell you, I know where I’m going, but…

TIBS: No, I’m not asking…
ML: You want me to soothe the souls of some our lovely aching fans? We could do it by text. A couple of words at a time.

KILLJOYS -- "Escape Velocity" Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Aaron Ashmore as John, Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch, Luke Macfarlane as D'Avin -- (Photo by: Ken Woroner/Temple Street Releasing Limited/Syfy)

KILLJOYS — “Escape Velocity” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Aaron Ashmore as John, Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch, Luke Macfarlane as D’Avin — (Photo by: Ken Woroner/Temple Street Releasing Limited/Syfy)

TIBS: The last lines as Dutch is standing there, saying, (oops, you’ll have to wait until Friday!!!), if the show ended here, oookayyyy, we’ve got it, sort of, we kind of have an idea who Khlyen is – and he’s great – but it just left you like … how could they leave …. (uh, uh, not gonna tell you….) You obviously have something in mind for how you want the arcs of the stories to go. When you were looking at this, how many seasons did you feel were optimal, because.. I am not in the business, but as a viewer, I could see, 7,000 ways the show could go, I could see multiple seasons. Are you thinking open-ended, or like Falling Skies always said they would do five seasons, and now they’re in their fifth.
ML: I think for me, there’s always been no end date or expiry that anyone’s put on it. It’s been constructed to be the sort of show that’s episodic, and with serialized elements, that can progress for multiple seasons. I will say that when I first pitched the show and sold it, I did it with a bit of a template that explained to the network that this was designed with longevity at every turn. So every season, I want Killjoys to be at the heart of it, and the challenges of their job to be at the heart of it, but what the game is that they’re playing, is going to change, and those things are built into the fiber of that very first season.

I always pitched it as, think of this first season as sort of the way you would look at a tease from a full episode. Here’s your setup, here’s your people, here’s your twist and jeopardy, now come back from commercial and we’ll start showing you longer stories as well. So there’s a lot more that we have already sort of designed in terms of the arcs that these characters are going to go through. And I can’t remember if it was four or five seasons that I arced out to begin with, but none of them were designed as though, well, that’s where it ends. That’s as far as I needed to take it as a litmus test for myself, that there’s something exciting that I can do with these people for multiple seasons.

TIBS: Was there someone that you had cast first or had in mind of the three main characters, or did you really just have an open mind about who you wanted to fill your characters?
ML: I had an open mind. I will say, that in the early days when I was sort of pitching this around, often you give in your bible a little visual of what archetype you’d consider for each character, and the actor that I’d put down for Johnny was actually Aaron Ashmore. So it was kind of, it was a nice, I don’t know about coincidence, but it was a nice stroke of fate and fortune that he was interested and available at the time, and he blew me away, because everything that I’d hoped he would be in Johnny and the underlying anger and complexity, he just naturally puts on this, and has elevated that character from what it was on the page, as have all the actors.

When I saw Luke, I wasn’t familiar with him, and it was basically a recorded audition, and after that I told everybody, that’s him. I just sort of knew. The character of Dutch, I think was slightly inspired by Naomi Harris, from 20 Days Later, I just think she’s a phenomenal actress. And Dutch to me always has an accent in my head, and I realize I was partly inspired by that, and we looked all over, multiple countries, and Hannah has been just been a gift. To be as young as she is, to be able to convey the authority that she does, and to remain complicated and likable, is quite a feat to pull off, and I really think she does.

TIBS: I think she’s terrific, and I think you’re right, the accent really does lead into her exoticness and the Qreshi families – I guess that we’re learning that she’s from, even though she doesn’t know much about it?
ML: We’ve never said Qreshi. She’s part of her harem, it’s one of royalty. People are thinking that’s Qreshi, but that’s nothing that we’ve said.

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TIBS: OK. I guess it’s been kind of assumed, because even online, we’ve never seen the names of all the nine families.
ML: Right.

TIBS: And when Khlyen said, “of the family Yardine,” you wonder is this one of the nine. But that’s an interesting possibility.
ML: Right. That is not fact.

TIBS: We don’t know anything of the J outside of the Quad…
ML: Exactly.

TIBS: We met Joe Mallozzi and the cast of Dark Matter when we went to Comic Con in San Diego. And our team, we were all very disappointed that Killjoys was not at Comic Con. Was there a specific reason for it?
ML: You know, I asked the network afterwards, and it had something to do with a cut-off date, and that’s something you should probably ask them, because we don’t make the decisions, but it had something to do with whether or not the show had started airing. I can’t remember, it’s only recent, because they used to have Helix, but the last couple of years, it seems to be less common.

TIBS: One of the things we’re seeing is that Dark Matter has a huge online presence and is pulling people in from that, and Killjoys doesn’t seem to have that presence. Is that something for Season 2 – we’re going to assume there’s a Season 2 – that you would consider trying to increase, or are you happy with the live tweeting situation and what’s on the website, or is that all a process of development?
ML: I think that’s all a process of development, but it’s something that’s dictated a little bit by networks, and I’m not generally online – I find it distracting when I’m in the middle of trying to create something, it’s hard to have a constant sounding board of a smaller sampling. So I think, though, Dark Matter, which a lot of my very good friends are associated with, I think they had a comic originally, which gives them a bit of a built-in fanbase, and Joe is awesome at being someone who’s very accessible, which is a huge boon to that, and something lovely to give the fans. I just think that it asks something of me that I’m not crazy about providing. I’m a bit of a hermit.

TIBS: (laughing) As are a lot of writers!
ML: Exactly! Nothing weird!

KILLJOYS -- "Escape Velocity" Episode 110 -- Pictured: Aaron Ashmore as John -- (Photo by: Ken Woroner/Temple Street Releasing Limited/Syfy)

KILLJOYS — “Escape Velocity” Episode 110 — Pictured: Aaron Ashmore as John — (Photo by: Ken Woroner/Temple Street Releasing Limited/Syfy)

TIBS: We’ve had some questions from some of the fans – someone asked, we’d love to see more of Lucy. Would there ever be an opportunity for Tamsen to be an avatar of Lucy, or show up somewhere else, or do you really want to keep that to the voice?
ML: I think it’s something for development in the back of our minds. There’s a huge amount – what I love about the series and the characters is that there’s a lot of places that we’re excited to take them that you can’t do within 10 episodes. There’s a lot of things that remain for us – yes we want to do an origin story, yes we want to do a flashback – I wrote a scene in (episode) 9 that has the two friends talking about the time they met – I always intended to eventually show it – yes, having Tamsen be corporeal is something we’ve kicked around, partly because Lucy in my mind has been a, she’s modeled after a real person. So, that’s one way to do it, she may be a mechanic or the wife of a mechanic, or whatever, who created the ship, so there’s a lot of ways we can have an interesting backstory of these people revealed, and hopefully we’ve got multiple seasons to do it.

TIBS: That’s an interesting character, Lucy is a character of its own. And one of the things I’ve been particularly struck with about Killjoys – and I watch and like Dark Matter, but I much prefer Killjoys for this – is that your core, your main three, Dutch, Johnny and D’Avin – they’re solid, they’re great, but then you have this whole world of really strong supporting characters. And a lot of shows don’t have that. Was that something that you had really wanted, or was that kind of the way it worked, to have Fancy and Bellus and Pree and Pawter and Alvis support…
ML: That was all intentional and that was designed before we even got the go-ahead to go to series. That was all back in the bible days. It was intended so we could tell the scope of the story that I hope eventually will unfold. Part of it is political on the ground, and in order to do that we have to have people who populate those stories who you’ve grown to care about, that give us some stakes, that leave room to surprise us, so all of the people that are created there are designed for the season partly as a way to introduce each of them. We have to take the audience on a hopefully very exciting, fast-paced tour of, by the way, here’s what the Quad is, here’s what the planet is, the moons around it, here are the people that you need to give a shit about, and here’s what they believe in and what they’re going to fight for. Here are some ways that they’re going to become obstacles or assets to our core team.

So all of these are populating the story as necessary, but I think the joy for us as writers is as a team – and obviously this is a collective endeavor, so I like to give credit to all the people, so what’s been exciting for all of us, beyond having fun, is to ask ourselves, who are these people, who is Delle Sayeh, really, is she good, is she bad, is she into Dutch, is she not, Fancy – what is his backstory? So we have a lot that we can explore and mine into for these characters still. And the point of it ultimately is that it has to be entertaining. It has to be people that you want to spend time with week after week. You can’t – I totally didn’t want to start immediately from the get-go introducing all of these people from week to week, I wanted to take time to organically kind of reveal the supporting structure through the season. And I think we’re in a good position to go from there, including introducing new people eventually.

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TIBS: Maybe because you’re both shot in Toronto, is – we wanted to play a game with Joe Mallozzi called “Coincidence or Conspiracy.”
ML: (laughing)

TIBS: You know, that Rob Stewart was in both shows – he was in the first two episodes of Dark Matter, and of course he’s in a much larger role in your show. And there was a R’yo in both shows.
ML: Not the actor though.

TIBS: No, just the name. But we were kind of interested in the coincidences. So presuming that they were both coincidences, that Rob is just a working actor in Toronto…
ML: They were just coincidences, but I have to say, as a fan of the people who make Dark Matter, and a fan of the people who make my show, I’ve had as much fun as the fans have with looking at some of the stuff, like Rob, creating my own kind of head canon backstory, well, is that Khlyen undercover? Is he on a mission? And so we have fun with that as well. There’s no solid planning, we kind of keep a wall between us, but it amuses me to think there’s some kind of crossover potential in the world or in the universe, because as far as I’m concerned, that sort of flight of fancy for me is as interesting for me as it is for fans, because then I get to imagine these shows as a fan would, with a little more distance.

TIBS: How do you feel about being back to back with Dark Matter on Friday nights?
ML: I think it’s great! I think that having all three, with Defiance, it’s nice because we all, or I think that we all, meaning all of us who read sites such as yours or watch shows such as mine, we are all people who are interested in space, let’s get guns, let’s get our mission, I think providing one home for that, where you can sit in and get three hours of that, some good old fashioned space fun, I’m personally fairly thrilled about it, and I’m also excited about the new stuff coming out on Syfy, which I’ve been hearing about.

TIBS: We’re all excited about that too, at threeifbyspace. I started calling it the “sci fi summer,” because we got so much great stuff this summer, and there’s more coming this fall, there’s more, I think, than in the past, so it’s fun to see genre shows really gaining acceptance. Like you said, it’s an arc, we’re on the upswing, I think.
ML: We are! It’s a real pleasure for me to see it happening, but I think fans needed to have that confidence that things are going to stay for a while, that they can get invested and start to love some characters and have some security, and the more that’s allowed to flourish in that creative space of science fiction, the more the networks will see that there is the appetite here, there are the eyeballs here, let’s invest in this direction.

TIBS: We’re hoping that Syfy has faith in Killjoys and that we’ll hear about Season 2.
ML: We are too! It’s a funass little show, and everybody behind the scenes is really loyal to it, and to these characters and this world, and want to continue making new adventures. And let’s hope we have a long ride.

Check out this preview of Friday’s Killjoys Season Finale! (and I apologize for the ad in front of the video – check your tweets while it’s playing…)

Threeifbyspace is on an interview roll: check out this week’s Killjoys and Dark Matter interviews
Nora McLellan, Thom Allison and Sean Baek
Dark Matter’s Joe Mallozzi
Dark Matter’s Alex Mallari Jr.

Follow us on Twitter: @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace

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