ABC’s new show, The Crossing, premieres tonight (April 2) at 9 pm CST. It’s a show that sci-fi and drama lovers can enjoy together. Families with kids around eight years old and up, who are into these genres, might just find their new role models. Executive producer, Jay Beattie, mentioned that his daughter loves the character Leah so much, she’s now her new screensaver.
The Crossing explores interesting futuristic concepts that open the mind to all sorts of plausible realities we may someday face. This post is part of a series from a press junket event sponsored by Disney. All thoughts and opinions shared are my own.
An Interview with Executive Producers, Jay Beattie and Dan Dworkin
How did you come up with the concept for the show?
Jay Beattie: It all starts with an email, usually.
Dan Dworkin: It did. I tracked it down the other day, actually.
Dan Dworkin: Yeah, the Genesis email. It started with a photograph. It was 18 months ago or so. It was one of the many photos of refugees that were kind of besieged [upon] every day in the press. And it was very specifically a photo of a dad who had come from Syria to Greece, had crossed the Mediterranean in a raft and barely made it by the looks of him. The photo won a Pulitzer, actually, last year, so you guys would probably recognize it. It’s a father holding his little boy and just the look on the guy’s face, as a father, killed me. That was kind of the spark initially. That’s when I emailed Jay and said, ‘refugees.’ We don’t normally write kind of straight ahead, ripped-from-the-headlines dramas. We usually like to put a little spin on it. So, we figured out a way to put a spin on the refugee story, and that was this.
It feels a lot like Lost. Are you guys fans of Lost or did you get any inspiration from it?
Dan Dworkin: Yeah, we’re definitely fans of Lost. I think in a greater sense, we’re both, especially myself, genre fans–fans of sci-fi. Another big inspiration for this idea was [science fiction writer] Ray Bradbury. There are a couple of stories he wrote about time travel that kind of factored into the idea a little bit. So, our influences kind of run the gamut.
As far as the story arc goes, are we going to be getting answers in every episode?
Dan Dworkin: I think the way we structured it, it’s the perfect balance of getting something answered and another question being asked–in pretty much every episode. Obviously, there’s a lot going on; there are a lot of questions. So, we resisted the impulse to answer too much, too early. But, at the same time, we’ve watched shows where you don’t get anything answered and then at the end of the season you’re thinking, I was entertained, but I feel like I’ve been cheated. We don’t want that, so we’ll be giving people enough.
When the show opened, you had me within the first five minutes. Should we expect every episode to be like that?
Dan Dworkin: We actually have a term we came up for that. It’s called the level of whoa, W-H-O-A, not the other one. So, yeah, when we set out the beginning of the season, we said we need to figure out a way to replicate the level of whoa from the pilot in every episode. Now, the pilot is special; the pilot has a scope and an epic feel to it that you can’t quite achieve in episode two episodes, necessarily. But, idea-wise, I think we do.
You said the concept came from a photo. How did the rest of the show come about?
Dan Dworkin: Well, again, another influence was Ray Bradbury, who’s written a couple of really interesting time travel stories. Those stories impressed themselves on me at a very young age and always stuck with me. When you say time travel when you’re trying to brainstorm ideas for TV shows, there can be a little bit of a gag reflex because it’s an incredibly challenging subgenre of storytelling. It can get very confusing and you can go down enormous rabbit holes when you’re trying to discuss the mechanics of time travel and paradoxes.
But then we talked about a way to do it [time travel writing] very simply. I think what you see in the pilot is an initial jumping off point for the time travel. We kind of made a pact early on in the writer’s room to not go down any time travel rabbit holes. Let’s not get into paradoxes; let’s not get into parallel existences; let’s not get into things that are going to distract from the stories we’re trying to tell. So, we warmed to the time travel idea early.
And, the notion of what will our world be like in 180 years? Will it potentially be a place that people will go to these lengths to escape from, we thought was compelling.
Jay Beattie: In terms of the refugees, the discussion began with how do we tap into what’s happening in the world but not make it ripped from the headlines? How do we get some distance from it? Which is why we dipped into this sci-fi genre. It gives you that distance from something that’s happening.
We decided to make these refugees from America to avoid comparisons to refugees coming from different countries. We focused on the experience that they’re going to have here as refugees, versus any sort of sociopolitical baggage that might come along with it [in a different country].
Have you pulled anything from your personal lives and put it into the story?
Jay Beattie: Well, we’re both dads, so that kind of informs a lot. You’ve got father-son stories and a couple of different mom and daughter stories that are afloat. So, a lot of that is informed by being a parent and the notion of being separated from your child–the notion of having your child taken from you; the notion of not knowing what happened to your child. [Being a] dad informed some of the storytelling.
Dan Dworkin: Having a family fractured by separation, divorce and the desire to repair it, like Jude has with his son. What we explore in the show is Jude’s inability to repair his relationship with his son, which is transferred onto his ability to help this woman find her daughter as a sort of a surrogate for him.
What type of research did you do for the show?
Dan Dworkin: All kinds, especially on the scientific end of things. Going forward, you’ll see a lot of that crystallize. We had a synthetic biologist as a consultant, who read all our scripts and who we talked to. His name is Andrew Hessel, who’s probably curing cancer at this very moment. I’m not kidding–that’s one of his pet projects. We talked to futurists about what the world might look like in 180 years, which was fascinating. We talked to a climatologist from NASA about what the weather might be like in 180 years. It was great because normally we’ve written on police procedurals or we’ve written on medical shows. That’s fine, but talking to a futurist, to me, is much more fertile and much more interesting. It was a lot of fun for us and the other writers to be able to get into that [subject matter].
When you spoke to the futurists, was there anything else you weren’t expecting?
Jay Beattie: They are all very optimistic about how technology can solve the problems of the future and how it’s not politics that create change. It’s technology and the adoption of technology. So, that was heartening to hear. Every time we were on the phone with one of them, we’d hang up duly impressed, but also a little bit heartened by what they had to say from their point of view.
Dan Dworkin: [Some of what they said] wasn’t game-changing in terms of the storytelling, but just little fascinating curls that we would try to drop in. Like in the pilot, the notion that there won’t be real meat in the future, which is essentially right around the corner–they are already creating meat in labs. We were on the phone with futurist, Pablos Holman, and he said that in my daughter’s lifetime, she will look back on the fact that we actually used animals for meat with incredulity. She will think it’s the most absurd thing she’s ever heard. I never even thought of that but, according to him, it’ll be commonplace.
Watch the premiere tonight, April 2, at 9 pm CST on ABC! If you miss it, download the ABC app and you can get caught up or rewatch your favorite episodes.
For more fun while watching live tweet with #TheCrossing all your reactions and be sure to follow The Crossing on all their social channels!