BURN NOTICE and the USA network in general are (excuse the pun) on fire right now. Do you think there’s something of a national mood that wants to see these funny cops versus more serious procedural dramas?
Matt Nix: Let me say I certainly hope so. I think that both kinds of shows have a place and there’s certainly room in the entertainment universe for cop shows that do more of a kind of dire, dramatic or even horror-filled kind of crime-solving. That said, in talking to people who respond to the kind of thing that I’m doing, a lot of people respond to the fact they they’re essentially upbeat shows. That’s an unintentional pun, but it’s true of BURN NOTICE as well. It’s a good-guys-win show. Whatever narrative twists there are at work, there might be a sympathetic bad guy you’re sort of rooting for, whatever interesting twists we’re throwing in or things that are unusual, at the end of the day, you’re coming out of that show feeling good about what happened.
One of the things that really surprised me about BURN NOTICE and I would hope for with THE GOOD GUYS as well, they turned into kind of family shows. I didn’t really think of it that way, but as it turned out, it’s something that people feel comfortable watching with their kids because it’s essentially upbeat. At the end of the days there’s nothing to explain to the children, that there’s not a profound shaking of worldview. I think there’s room for that.
What’s the advantage and disadvantage from your standpoint of having THE GOOD GUYS air during the summertime, a period that has traditionally become the time when Networks burn off the scripted fare that couldn’t cut it during the season.
I think there’s an advantage in that it’s a less crowded field. One of the things I really like about being on in the summer under a 13-episode cable model is that you’re on for the full run. you’re not up against all of the other pilots. There’s a little bit more time to build an audience for something that’s a little bit quirky or a little bit offbeat.
Thinking about BURN NOTICE, which premiered in the summer, I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said they didn’t get it the first time they saw it and then they saw it again and it really stuck with them and they came to really like it and now they watch it all the time. That’s not something that happens if you’re up against 15 heavily promoted other shows that are competing for headspace in the middle of the traditional season.
I also think that FOX, in a really cool way, is going, “there’s no particular reason that we can’t produce shows in the summer.” There’s a place that they burn off their other shows, but it doesn’t have to be that. People may watch less television in the summer, but it’s not so much less that it makes it not worth making stuff. Indeed, I think that cable shows prove that if you’ve got something that people really want to see, they’ll make the time. They’ll sit down and take a look.
The casting process had to have been really fun. Not only do you have Jeff Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar and one of my favorites, Bruce Campbell in BURN NOTICE, you’ve also got personal actors with Brad Whitford and Colin Hanks in THE GOOD GUYS. Tell me about the casting process that you went through to get these two characters onscreen and if you actually wrote for them when you were thinking of the show to begin with.
I had such a good experience on Burn Notice that it was really important to me in the casting process, and I said this from the beginning, I really want leads that I connect with personally, that I feel that I’m on the same wavelength as and I feel like if I’m writing to my strength they’re going to understand my voice and enjoy doing that. You don’t want somebody who’s got to stretch every week to do something, to fit into a role. On BURN NOTICE many people have observed that I have the same speech patterns as Jeffrey Donovan. It’s sort of a joke, like it means a devastating impression of me. It’s also really great for the show. For THE GOOD GUYS I’d seen Bradley’s work; I’d seen him do comedy. I was really excited about him and I said, “I just want to make sure we’re on the same wavelength.”
He came in for a meeting and he came in wearing the exact same outfit that I was wearing, the same boots, the same jeans, the same belt and a shirt that was not the same brand, but the same design. It was bizarre. We clearly were on the same wavelength and had a great time. We live in the same neighborhood; it was really kind of a love fest from the beginning so that was great.
Finding Jack, on a show like this it’s really about creating a marriage and finding a fantastic dynamic. We read people, but really the lynchpin was when they came in and read with Bradley. Bradley was incredibly generous throughout the casting process in reading with every actor who came in for the test. Then it was just a matter of who’s got chemistry, what’s the most fun pairing when they’re playing with each other. Bradley really responded to Colin and Colin really responded to Bradley. It just made it very easy.
Coming from BURN NOTICE to THE GOOD GUYS, you’re going from cable (USA) to a broadcast network (FOX). Have you seen any differences or was there any concerns that maybe you wouldn’t have as much of the freedom that you did over at USA?
Not really. I suppose before I met them, sure, but really FOX has been, it’s a different network so there are different processes and different people and there are definitely differences. I’d say going in and meeting with the network, Kevin Reilly’s (Entertainment President of the Fox Broadcasting Company) first comment was basically, “All of these sort of weird and exotic things you’re doing, do more of those.”
I was concerned going in just because of what I’d heard of networks, that their first comment would be, “All that time-jumping, let’s not do that; let’s rearrange that.” They just wanted more. So yes, they, I think, are very aware that we’re doing something different with this and making it the same-old-same-old doesn’t serve anybody. There certainly have been adjustments just because you’re dealing with, I could get into the minutiae of how different networks work, that’s not terribly interesting, but it is sort of on FOX there are different people who develop series and different people who sort of shepherd series’ once they’ve been bought. That’s a new thing, but not so exotic that I couldn’t deal with it. All the stories that you’d think I’d be telling about the network being really frightened and hedging their bets a lot and stuff, just hasn’t been true.
And finally, is there a story behind Bradley Whitford’s moustache? Was it in your script, was it his idea, what?
When I wrote the script, certainly I wanted that kind of old-school cop look. I had written in a cop with a moustache and then I saw Bradley in another thing where he had the moustache and I was inspired. I guess the most accurate thing would be to say the script was written with a moustache; I suppose I probably would have been willing to ditch it if there’d been an actor who was great for the role, who, like me, couldn’t grow one, but that was not the case.
THE GOOD GUYS premieres June 7 at 8PM on FOX (Global TV in Canada)