Q & A With Grimm's David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf

By , Contributor

Eric Ogden/NBC

The cast of Grimm (L-R): Sasha Roiz (Captain Renard), Reggie Lee (Sgt. Wu), Russell Hornsby (Detective Hank Griffin), Silas Weir Mitchell (Eddie Monroe), David Giuntoli (Detective Nick Burkhardt) and Bitsie Tulloch (Juliette Anderson)

Even in this day and age of the Internet and other technological advances, most young children still enjoy the nightly ritual of being told a bedtime story by their mom or dad, and they are just stories, right? Well, in the new NBC fantasy/drama series Grimm (premiering Friday, October 28 @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST), characters from our childhood fairytales come to life, at least through the eyes of homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli). The last in a long and elite line of criminal profilers known as “Grimms,” he has the ability to see ancient evils masquerading as the ordinary man or woman in the street.

Nick is forced to keep this secret from his partner, Detective Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby), and even his fiancée Juliette Silverton (Bitsie Tulloch). Our hero does have one confidante, Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Grimm who has his own inner demons to cope with as he tries to help Nick in his battle against such creatures as Hexenbiests, Blutbads and even royal lines that can be traced back to the original profilers themselves, the Grimm Brothers. Sasha Roiz and Reggie Lee also star in the series as Captain Renard and Sergeant Wu, respectively.

Last week Grimm co-creators/executive producers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf shared their thoughts about the series via a conference call with me and other journalists. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!

David, can you talk about where the idea of the extended world of the Grimm fairytales came from?

DAVID GREENWALT: Jim Kouf and I were approached by Hazy Mills, which is Todd Milliner’s and Sean Hayes’ company, and Todd had this great idea about doing something in the modern world with the Brothers Grimm.

We flipped for the idea and came up with the notion that the way to marry that mythology with the modern world would be to suggest that the original Brothers Grimm were profilers, and that the stories they told were, in fact, true on some basic deep level. We then came up with the notion that in our world of Grimm there would only be one world. There wouldn’t be a fairytale world and a real world. There would just be our world, and in our world lived these creatures who can be seen by our hero. For example, he can see the “big bad wolf” in the child molester. So it’s sort of a marriage of a police procedural and a mythological fractured fairytale every week.

Over the years, we haven’t had a lot of scary shows on TV. We’ve had some here and there like The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but now we have The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. I just wanted to get your feelings on that - is it a good time to be writing scary TV and, if yes, why?

JIM KOUF: Well, ours is not just scary TV because we also have humor in our show.

DG: So it’s an odd combination of horror, suspense, classic fairytale story structure, iconic characters and humor. It has all the elements, as Jim just said, that we really like. So we’re trying to hit it all, and we just want to be entertaining. And, you know, any time is a good time for a good show, and people love to be scared. They also love to have a little bit of laughter while they’re being scared. I think, too, that the genre has grown, which is great because it’s an opportunity to tell different types of stories. So for that I feel it’s a terrific time to be on the air with this.

Why do you think that the world of fairytales has endured so long and drives peoples’ imaginations now?

DG: Fairytales appeal to people of all ages and in different ways as well as at different times. For example, "Little Red Riding Hood" has the big bad wolf and is a cautionary tale of don’t talk to strangers and go straight to grandma’s house.

JK: Another example is "Hansel and Gretel," which is a cautionary tale for parents who are raising children and don’t have enough money to feed them - don’t bring them in the woods. A lot of these stories spoke of the times that people were living in, you know?

DG: There’s a delight in fairytales, I think, for all ages. Oddly enough, in The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim talks about how important it is for children not to be protected from information about the world and what it’s really like, but fairytales provide a great way to talk about that kind of stuff and usually good triumphs. Not always, of course, but usually it does and evil is vanquished.

So it’s great to sort of be read a fairytale when you’re a kid and also to read fairytales to children when you’re older. There’s something about sitting around the campfire, if you will, and telling a story. It’s an oral tradition that seems ancient and has lasted all this time. We still love these types of stories.

Grimm seems to have some sort of procedural element to it, but is there also going to be a season long story arc or even a “big bad” like Buffy or Angel used to have?

JK: There are going to be both, actually.

DG: There will be week to week episodic tales that you can just enjoy like opening a book and reading a fairytale, and there will be seasonal arcs in the show as well. As far as a big bad, that comes in a little different form in Grimm because we’re presenting some characters that appear to be bad but may actually have some good agendas. So it’s a little more of a mix of good and bad in the characters that Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli), our main character, will go up against.

According to some information I’ve read, the creatures in this series have these royal bloodlines that date back hundreds of years. Will the audience ever get to see flashbacks or otherwise of the original Grimm brothers?

DG: That’s a great question, and the answer is maybe. We haven’t gone that far in the mythology yet, but, yes, these creatures have been around from time immemorial. And there certainly is royalty in our story today and there are still royals around but they, like the creatures, live among us and have their own disguises and agendas.

Do you have like a story bible written that matches the first season or even beyond?

DG: We have a book that’s much like the book in the show that tells us of our different creatures as well as some of their different abilities and a great deal of history on each of them. We’re also discovering as we go along; we like to be surprised, too. So it’s not like we know every move on the board, but we kind of know what the board looks like if that makes any sense.

There’s a very distinct look to Grimm. I was wondering if you can talk about the shooting of it and any other technical information you might know from your cinematographer or your camera department.

JK: Part of that’s where were we’re shooting which is Portland, Oregon. The look of Portland and the surrounding area is that lush, beautiful landscape, and I think we always wanted to give the show a film-like quality. Both David and I come from the film world as well, so again, we want it to look like a movie.

DG: And a bit like a storybook movie as well. Also when we’re with the so- called Grimm characters or Grimm creatures, we wanted to push the look and have brighter colors and less subdued hues. Conversely, when we’re with the regular or “normal” people, we wanted it to look a little more like real life. We love the look, though, of that forest with mist, the waterfalls, the streams, the rivers, etc. As Jim said, that great look as well as the storybook look comes from filming in Portland.

Can you tell us about what some of the upcoming episodes will be about?

DG: There’s one that will involve a retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" (“Bears Will Be Bears”) and another episode (“Beeware”) that will involve bees, lots and lots of bees.

JK: We’re taking bits and pieces from a lot of fairytales and kind of melding them into real-life stories. So you may not actually recognize or immediately be able to recall the fairytale we’re drawing from because some aren’t that well known.

Can you talk a little bit about the makeup and special effects (SFX) teams that are working on the show?

DG: We’ve worked sort of long and hard to try to get a look to the show for the makeup and the special effects that express something inside the character you’re seeing. There’s not just somebody in a mask, but rather you’re seeing the sorrow, the rage…

JK: The emotions manifest themselves in kind of physical characteristics. For example, what we think is a child molester is actually a big bad wolf and we see that morph out as the person becomes emotionally aroused. Our hero can see these characters beneath the humans.

DG: And the idea is that these creatures not only live among us, but that there are also these feelings live inside all of us. The best way to express that is when the “creatures” look like the actors playing them as opposed to just some person wearing a mask.

JK: We’re using a combination of on-set makeup and CGI (computer-generated image) effects depending upon what the needs of the scene are. It’s pretty extensive in some scenes and we have a really good team, from the design concept of the creatures all the way through the delivery of the CGI work at the end.

DG: We have one supervisor (visual effects supervisor Edward Irastorza) and he works with many different people who construct the initial designs right through to the people who put the special makeup on the set.

There will be two fairytale shows starting up this fall, and your show is also scheduled against two other established genre shows. What is going to set Grimm apart from the competition and attract viewers?

DG: I think Grimm has the power of a genre show and the power of a procedural show, too. You also get one complete story every week, so you don’t need a score card to watch the series. Although there will be some mythology, it will be doled out slowly enough that you don’t have to see every episode to know absolutely everything that’s going on.

JK: Our show is based in our world, and we’re explaining a lot of bad behavior with fairytale reasons.

David, you’ve worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and Jim, you worked on Angel and Ghost Whisperer. What draws you both to supernatural television?

JK: You know, we’re just drawn in by the story, whether it’s a genre or not. Genre is just the rules changed a little bit, but you’re still trying to tell emotional stories with real people in them. It’s just you get to have creatures opposed to not.

DG: And the fun of Grimm is that this young man who’s a robbery/ homicide detective suddenly starts “seeing things.” At first he thinks he’s losing his mind when he sees critters or creatures within “normal” human beings. That idea really grabbed us. I mean, what a great way to tell a story and explain some pretty heinous things that go on in the world that seem inexplicable.

JK: So every crime has two reasons - a Grimm reason and what appears to be the real reason.

Detective Nick Burckhardt seems to occupy two worlds and it strikes me the series itself is doing the same thing, balancing between the procedural and more fantasy elements. How are you planning to balance these elements against each other and draw in viewers who might not ordinarily watch one or another?

DG: Well, for example, for a viewer who really likes a police procedural, there will be familiar elements in the show that will appeal to that viewer. They’ll be like, okay, here is a crime. Who really committed the crime? What’s the cause, and what’s the solution? How do our heroes solve it?

At the same time, there a whole other level sort of cooking at the same time on the stove. It usually has its own explanation in the Grimm world of who these creatures really are and what they’re really up to. Our hero has a foot in both worlds, and it’s something very difficult for him to balance. What is he going to tell his girlfriend? What is he going to tell his detective partner? How is he going to use these abilities to solve crimes and yet still have it look like they could have been solved in the normal world?

So hopefully it will appeal to a broad audience that maybe normally wouldn’t be that interested in one or the other, or might be interested in one and not the other, but want more meat in the sandwich so to speak.

I’m really interested Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), who for me has the potential to be probably the most interesting character because he’s straddling the line between good and evil. What can you tell us about this character and the story arc you have planned for him this season?

DG: We’re talking about a very interesting character who comes from a family of “big bad wolves.” However, as Monroe himself says, he’s not that big or bad anymore. In a way, he is the most human of all the characters because he’s the one that’s most battling his instincts. So he might have a desire to go after a little girl in a red hoodie (Little Red Riding Hood), but he’s learned to not do that. Monroe is a vegetarian who goes to Pilates classes and takes certain anti-depressant drugs that help keep him in shape. So he’s going to go through all kinds of things in this season, not just one big overarching arc, and he’s helping a Grimm, which is going to create a lot of trouble for him.

JK: Monroe becomes the one confidante that Nick has, and at first he’s reluctant to help. However, as the requirements of the cases get more complex, Nick has to rely on him repeatedly and that will cause Monroe some personal suffering in the near future, which he’ll have to come to terms with as well.

We’ve been talking a lot about the Grimm fairytales, but is there a chance that we’ll see fairytales from, for example, Hans Christian Andersen or even the original versions of how Cinderella is actually pretty gruesome, as opposed to the Cinderella that we know from Disney?

JK: Yes. We’re saying that the Grimm Brothers were the profilers in their territory [of Germany] at that particular time, but anybody who told fairytales actually had the ability to see these characters as well. So they’re kind of related to the Grimms and we will draw on fairytales from all over the world.

Please note, all photos above by Scott Green and copyright of NBC.

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