An Evening with CASTLE at the Paley Center (2010)

In celebration of the ABC television series Castle, the Paley Center hosted an evening recognizing the cast, writers and producers with a special screening and Q&A panel on March 16th at its Beverly Hills location. Attending the panel were cast members Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tamala Jones, Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever, as well as creator and executive producer Andrew Marlow and executive producer Rob Bowman. Also in attendance was the evening’s moderator Tom Bergeron from Dancing With the Stars, who guest stars in the April 12th episode, “The Late Shaft.”

The evening started with a special screening of the March 22nd episode. The episode entitled “Bang, Bang” is the 1st half of a 2-part episode arc in which special guest star Dana Delany plays an FBI profiler brought in to assist when a Richard Castle fan exhibits a dangerous obsession with Detective Kate Beckett – mistaking her for her alter ego, Nikki Heat. (Fans may recognize Dana Delany as Nathan Fillion’s TV-wife on Desperate Housewives.) Here are your spoilers for that episode: be on the look-out for engraved bullets, pancakes and a taser gun.

When asked about the genesis of the show, creator/executive producer Andrew Marlowe said that he wanted to do a show about a mystery writer who gets involved with real crimes, both helping and hindering with the cases. He also knew from the start that the lead character Richard Castle had to be incredibly charming so that he could say things other people can’t and get away with it. So when Nathan Fillion came in to audition fresh off the set of Desperate Housewives wearing a polo shirt and boldly declared, “Stop looking – I’m this guy!” they were naturally a bit hesitant. But within minutes, they were charmed and absolutely certain that Nathan was Richard Castle. Andrew succinctly put it, “Castle is a guy who is incredibly charming — and that’s not something you can fake.” Executive producer Rob Bowman also noted that Nathan is a guy who you not only want to spend 80 hours a week working with, but who the audience will invite into their home to be a part of their family.

So once they cast Nathan, which was early on in the casting process, they then had a long, extensive search for the actress who could play the role of Kate Beckett. Rob Bowman said that they must have seen over 140 actresses, but once Stana Katic and Nathan tested together, they felt it – the magic ingredient. As Rob said, “Nathan was our tent pole to build around. . . but then [Stana] comes in and . . . it’s lightning in a bottle. . . She was throwing everything back at Nathan. She has a lot of moxie with tons of attitude . . . and we thought ‘we have a show!’” They felt the chills again while filming the pilot episode when, late one night, they saw Stana’s eyes watering as she did a scene. It was at that moment that Rob realized Stana was not just another pretty face and had a whole lot more going on under the surface. It also became obvious that once in the interrogation room, which is essentially Beckett’s room – emotionally, mentally, physically — that Stana owned the room. Stana does not even blink and can stare down more seasoned actors. So to sum up how Rob feels about the show, he gleefully crowed, “I’m actually giddy at the  remarkable coincidences that make up this show – writing, cast AND chemistry!”

From Stana’s perspective, she recalled first meeting Nathan and, when he asked her where she was from, she responded that she was born in Toronto; which prompted Nathan to happily exclaim, “Oh, the center of the universe!” (Nathan is Canadian too). So with that mutual bond from the start, Nathan and Stana have been great working partners ever since. Then, in addition to having the right onscreen partner, Stana acknowledged that a lot of the show’s success is credited to the writing for it allows for that specific “bounce back and forth” dialogue that amplifies the chemistry that draws in the audience.

Molly Quinn said that getting cast as Richard Castle’s daughter Alexis was a dream come true. She  remembered being initially drawn to the amazing script, which she thought was great “for television” (which got some laughs as she tried to blushingly back-track from her faux pas). She also recalled that, after meeting Nathan, she thought, “I just wanted to work with this guy!” She noted that when working with Nathan, “I don’t have to look for anything — it’s just there.” He has made it easy and fun; and, since her own father is back in Texas, working with Nathan is like having a second dad.

Susan Sullivan also chimed in that for her, she was desperate to get the role of Richard Castle’s flamboyant mother especially when a friend told her, “Every diva in New York and Hollywood was circling around that part.” She also recalled that she felt she clinched the audition during a scene with Nathan, when she stood up and Nathan remained sitting. In her mind, a gentleman should never remain sitting while a lady stands, so she immediately waved her arms at Nathan saying, “Up, up, up!” and that bit of impromptu motherly instruction probably showed that she could play Martha perfectly. As Ruben laughingly said about Susan’s performance, “She was very memorable!”

Responding to the question which actor was most like their character on the show, Molly smiled and impishly said, “Nathan is so much like Castle in real life — but less mature.” She also insisted that Susan is much more classy than her character on the show. Seamus tried to claim that he was the most like his character, prompting Jon Huertas to remark, “I like [Seamus] more than I like Ryan – he’s got my back!” With a broad smile, Seamus explained, “Jon and I are as close in real life as we are on the screen. . . I’m helping him install floors [in his house] next week.”

Comparing Nathan to his role as Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly, several of the cast agreed that Nathan is a lot more fun than his Firefly counterpart. Seamus even said, “I think Castle is more like Nathan. He’s not a hard-ass.” Having baited the hook so perfectly, Nathan, unable to resist temptation, naughtily added, “He’s not a hard-ass … with a hard ass!” As everyone laughed, Tamala mischievously admitted, “I have a habit of grabbing Nathan’s butt!” Given the level of laughter this brought, it may be true. Clearly, this cast is a bundle of laughs and hijinks.

Discussing the difference with working with Joss Whedon versus the writers of Castle, Nathan commented that Joss is very word-specific and does not allow for any deviations or changes, but that the writers of Castle are much more flexible. Susan also noted she felt the same difference from her days working on Dharma & Greg, adding, “[Castle ] is right up my alley.” When working an average of 16 grueling hours a day, the cast needs to feel comfortable approaching the writing staff with their ideas and suggestions. And while the writers and producers are open to suggestions, they are free to incorporate or ignore them. Nathan admitted with a broad smile, “I pitch 50 a day!” But for the most part, the writing process is very open-minded and collaborative. Andrew and Rob shared that they typically walk through the story for each episode with the writers, trying to get as much input as possible, and then they all discuss where the characters are in the season and how to best service all the characters. Rob, wanting to acknowledge the writing staff, said “They do a terrific job and deserve a lot of recognition.” And Andrew took a moment to acknowledge the writers present at the panel, including Jose Molina, Moira Kirland, David Grae, Alexi Hawley and Terence Winter. Nathan chimed in, “They come up with the GREATEST ideas!”

The Easter-egg moments that can be found in each episode, like Richard Castle’s Halloween costume which was a nod to Nathan’s role on Firefly, are all credited to the writers who embed them specifically for the fans. Nathan cheekily observed, “We know you guys love it!”

As for the retro-feel of the show, Andrew noted that from his viewpoint, “There’s a lot of shows where you can’t connect with the characters and a lot of darkness.” And in fact, initially, Rob had told him, “If this show is not fun, I’m not interested.” So their primary goal is to have fun. That being said, they have created the kind of cop show that shoots 55 pages in 42 minutes, whereas most shows are only a page a minute. So in order to squeeze it all in, the cast has to talk really fast to make up for it. Or as Rob explained, “In order to jam 55 pages into 42 minutes, they never stop talking!” Because of the tight time constraints, the writers have to know and understand the rhythm of the show, as well as the velocity of it. Ruben then gave shout-outs to Andrew and Rob by observing, “When someone has that vision and then someone executes it – it breeds success in a big way.”

Talking more about the challenges of the fast-pace of their rigorous filming schedule, which can go as long as 16 hours a day for 8 days straight, Nathan explained that he and Stana both employ sneaky ways to aid with their lines. Nathan admitted that sometimes when Richard Castle looks deep in thought towards the ceiling that is where he has taped a sheet of paper with his lines on it, and he teased that there is a reason that Stana’s character Kate Beckett carries so many folders. With the intense pressures to memorize voluminous amounts of lines for each day, these little tricks help them through the long hours. But Andrew was quick to praise Stana who carries the brunt of the heavy dialogue by saying, “Kudos to Stana who has big scenes and always comes prepared.”

Tamala, who plays the medical examiner Lanie, also shared that she too has a bit of difficulty memorizing all the techno-babble required. She was having such a problem one day, that when she finally mastered it, both Stana and Nathan applauded. She ruefully said, “You know why they applauded? Because I always mess up!” But being the supportive team that they are, Stana and Nathan have a lot of patience with her as they understand that every word Tamala says must sound completely authentic. Otherwise, the audience won’t believe it. So despite the shenanigans, it is all about convincing the audience that this world is real and that they get to be a part of it. Which includes Nathan’s willingness to scream like a girl on cue as he happily shared that he likes to “kick the ‘cool’ in the nuts and turn the hero into the goober.” He is game for anything to make the character more believable and endearing.

Upcoming episodes will reveal further character back-stories, including a medical mystery episode for Tamala. Ruben said that, while he is not chomping at the bit for a backstory, he would be happy to step up to be showcased as well. Turning to Ruben, Tamala shared, “He’s so silly. He’s way funnier [than his character].” Which prompted Ruben to smile and teasingly say, “If you look real close, I always have a twinkle in my eye” referring to his scenes on the show.

As to whether they will address Kate Beckett’s life before the death of her mother and her “bad boy” phase, Stana admitted that she would enjoy the challenge and said, “It’s so wonderful to play that side of the character – a softer side.” For Castle, the mystery of who his father is will remain just that for now: a mystery; despite Nathan’s lobbying for Christopher Walken to play the part. As Andrew noted, “Living with the mystery is more interesting.” Which may include Martha’s new boyfriend, Chet — but Susan was optimistic and said she thought we would be meeting Chet soon. Nathan also expressed his desire to see Richard Castle driving the car for once instead of being hauled around by Beckett and he is itching to demonstrate his race-track driving skills in a police cruiser.

When asked why on the DVD commentary for the first season it was noted that some of the scenes for the pilot were filmed in New York, whereas others were filmed in Los Angeles, Andrew explained that they were only allowed to shoot a portion of the pilot before it was picked-up as a series. So they stripped the pilot down to about 30 minutes and it was only after they were green-lit to series that they then added another 12 minutes – and by then, they were in Los Angeles, so they had to make do. Amazingly, Rob is a genius at adding in reverse shots, so they were able to incorporate the newer scenes pretty much seamlessly – though they did admit that there was not much they could do with the noticeable differences between the two police precincts and the differences in the Richard Castle’s lofts. So for those fans who could tell the difference — that explains that mystery.

Finally, commenting on whether there will be a relief in sight for the building sexual tension on the show, Tamala was quick to throw-out, “You mean like between Ryan and Esposito?!” As the laughter died-down, she did note that Jon Huertas was constantly vying for a romance between Lanie and Esposito and had even petitioned his Twitter fans for their support. To which, Jon simply smiled and said, “I think it’s a great idea!” He also confessed about his own Twitter-addiction, “Nathan got me started on Twitter.” Tamala also shared, “I love Twitter! It’s like a direct connection with your fans.” Ruben simply stared incredulously at them and said, “I don’t know how people have time for it.” To which Nathan smugly revealed, “Castle twitters — and he follows ME!” (Stana is also on Twitter.)

But as far as the unresolved sexual tension between Beckett and Castle, Rob explained, “Some bridges once you cross them, can’t be uncrossed. . . .It’s a delicate dance.” He also explained that as far as the characters are concerned, Beckett is simply more sophisticated in the “girl meets boy” chase. Beckett plays Castle the whole time, like in the recent episode involving the S&M club. But the root of the show is that the chase must go on and it’s Beckett who wants to control the pace and the distance of the chase – and from a television standpoint, they need the relationship to develop slowly over 5 years. Even Nathan admitted, “Caution is the word – not too far – too fast.” And Stana observed that for her, “There is nothing sexier than swordplay,” which prompted Nathan to turn and stare in amazement saying, “Wow!” Andrew further noted that “[Beckett and Castle’s] relationship, like any relationship, will be prone to complications.” He also observed that “The engine [of the show] is the tension.” Without it, the show would be just another crime procedural. And as any fan of the show knows, the secret of its success is the sexual tension between Castle and Beckett. No one wants to pop that balloon before its time. (NOTE: For those fans seeking a little wish fulfillment, the 2nd Richard Castle book “Naked Heat” will be released early next fall.)

Rob then said, “The really great thing is everyone’s got each other’s backs. . . and we aim to make the best entertainment possible!” And this is exactly what they have done – Castle is one of the most refreshingly fun detective shows on television that brings entertainment to a whole new level with its sassy attitude, quick quips and ready banter. It has made Monday night television appointment television for a whole new generation of mystery fans.

“Castle” airs Monday nights on ABC at 10/9c.

LINK:  “Comic-Con 2011: Fun candid pictures and video interviews from the CASTLE press room”

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