“When Showrunners Get Bored.” No, that’s not a reality show. It is a darn good description, though, of why Nikita had such a furiously paced first season.
“That’s just the way I break stories,” executive producer Craig Silverstein said when I asked him about the fully loaded first season scripts at the Comic-Con press session. “We start out wanting to make it simple and I get bored. I want to see something happen.”
Something most certainly did happen. Nikita in its first season made its mark on the television landscape as a thrill ride adventure, with more twists than a...um...twisty turny thing. Aside from being the only current show to star a female minority lead, its wild pace and complex story lines have both thrilled and exhausted audiences that tuned in every week. It’s certainly done a number on its actors, but they know they’re part of something extraordinary.
“The two shows that I have done before, Once Again and ER, they were based on drama and relationships that built over time,” said Shane West, who plays Michael. “[Nikita] is action packed, so fast, so many things happen in one episode that could have been a season finale for anything else, that I’m not used to going at that fast pace. It’s a lot of fun but it’s different.”
“Just the speed that we shoot at is probably the most challenging,” said Lyndsy Fonseca, who plays Alex. “It’s not like filming a film where you have three weeks on one part of your character and storyline. We’re really fast. To keep up with it all is probably the hardest part. But that’s why Craig’s amazing.”
Series star Maggie Q (Nikita) is constantly shocked over how she’s kept guessing each week by the man she calls a genius. “The ending ends up being something very different, he’s so freaking good at that. I don’t understand how he pulls that off every time. Sometimes I worry a little bit. Is he moving too fast, are we going to have enough material? Season one turned out okay, so I’m thinking I’ll trust Craig.”
Season one was a success for Nikita, but renewal for season two wasn’t a slam dunk. While Nikita brought a decent amount of viewers to The CW, it wasn’t an adequate pairing with its top show The Vampire Diaries. Nikita had more male viewers and an older skewing audience that its vampire counterpart. The decision was made in the spring to move it to Friday nights instead, pairing it with veteran series Supernatural.
“I think that Supernatural has a more similar audience, it’s just a better fit,” explained Silverstein when I asked him if he was worried about his new day and time. “I think the kind of people who watch Supernatural will watch Nikita. I was hoping for this kind of thing halfway through last season.”
So what’s in store for season two? If you remember in the finale of season one, Michael and Nikita started a life on the run, Percy had been deposed by Amanda at Division, a new group called Oversight was revealed to be Division’s boss, and Alex, while free of Division, has been given a tempting new offer by Oversight.
Season two is going to pick up right where they left off. There will be a new female and male character. Silverstein was specific about one of them. “There’s a new character introduced named Sean (Dillion Casey) who is the man of Oversight. He is sent in to supervise Amanda, who is now running Division. He’s a character who you really don’t know if he’s good or bad.” Silverstein also said some people are returning from season one like Owen and Ryan.
An interesting new twist will be the strange working relationship between Alex and her season one torturer Amanda (Melinda Clarke). “They’re testing the waters to see if they can trust each other,” said Fonseca. According to her, this will be a relationship more out of mutual need than respect. Silverstein also admitted that there would have been more of Amanda’s plan to take over Division shown in the season one finale if the network hadn’t intervened. They preferred he save some of that for the season two opener. “She’s scary,” he said with a smile.
Percy (Xander Berkeley), although no longer part of Division, is still out there with a plan. Everyone was secretive about Percy’s upcoming role in season two though. “I really don’t want to give anything away about Xander’s character because it’s so good. I don’t want to be the one to ruin it,” said Fonseca. Shane West actually gave us the most information and that was dodgy at best. “Percy may be out of the picture for now but not really because he’s still there.”
As for Alex, her main purpose will be to find those who killed her father. This means she will be working with Division, but not for them. She needs them, and they need her to help find the four remaining black boxes out of the seven. “They’re the Horcruxes,” joked Silverstein. Alex will also have a new romance with a new character. It’ll be a slow building romance though, since they won’t exactly like each other at first. She’ll also continue to struggle with her internal good girl/bad girl. “That’s a question as an actress I always I ask myself, balancing that line,” said Fonseca. “No one is just evil and no one is just good. There’s both in all of us.”
It’s Silverstein’s gutsiest move of season one though that will have the largest impact on season two. The pairing of Michael and Nikita, although planned eventually, happened way sooner than many had anticipated. Silverstein had good reason. “They got together faster than we had planned. It started to feel like something had to happen to define Michael, he had to pick a side.”
Just like with any new couple, the adjustment will get a little bumpy, especially given the circumstances surrounding Michael and Nikita. They aren’t exactly getting a McMansion in the 'burbs and starting a family anytime soon. “We’re going to see more of the hardships between them being together and being kind of different in how they handle things. Having to have those relationship fights while trying to save the world,” said West.
Maggie Q said despite the difficulties, Michael will be the one to bring out the caring woman through the tough facade of her kick-ass female persona. “The tough exterior is a survival tactic. It’s something that she’s had to do. Now she’s got this man that she loves. If you’re in a good relationship, normally that person allows you to soften. You’re going to see that with them this season and it’s going to be nice.”
And what about Michael and Nikita when they cross paths again with Alex? "We’re going to run into each other for sure," said West. "We do almost immediately, I can say that. They’re trying to make it like she stabbed us in the back."
Their shooting location of Toronto too opens up possibilities for new countries in season two. “We’re going to do Colombia,” said Silverstein. “Toronto for Colombia, we’re going to make it work while the weather is good.” Once the weather turns bad, expect more trips to Russia, just like the first season.
Anything else we should know about the second season? Maggie Q did tell us this: “I’ve read the third episode already and from the first episode to the third episode I’m like 'Really, wow?' It’s a completely different dynamic. It’s amazing.” Sounds like the trademark furious pace will continue.
How long can Craig Silverstein keep this momentum going? He admitted that the outline isn’t endless, but anything can change. “I’ve got it planned through season three. Past that, I’m hoping that whatever happens in season three will give me an idea of how to keep going or one of I’ll make one of the other writers figure it out and I’ll leave.”
The writing staff in the meantime are having fun with their boss and his overactive imagination. “They bought me a big detonator, a plunger, just because I keep blowing up the stories. So I actually have a detonator in the writers room now, with the title ‘TNT.’”
No wonder this show is so explosive (dodges flying tomatoes)! If blowing up the stories keeps us coming back every week, then Nikita is going to have one very good season and beyond.Nikita season two premieres on Friday, September 23 at 8:00 pm on The CW, followed by its new Friday night partner, Supernatural, at 9:00 pm.