The ATX Television Festival played host to an “Everwood” reunion on June 7, gathering creator Greg Berlanti, producer Jordan Levin, writer-producers David Hudgins and Rina Mimoun, composer Blake Neely and cast members Gregory Smith, Stephanie Niznik, Tom Amandes, Vivien Cardone, Sarah Drew, Debra Mooney, John Beasley and Brenda Strong for a nostalgic Q&A. Fellow stars Emily VanCamp, Chris Pratt and Treat Williams were unable to make the panel, hosted at Austin’s State Theater, but VanCamp and Williams recorded video messages, while Pratt called in during the panel via FaceTime to thank fans for their support of the WB drama.
Although “Everwood” went off the air in 2006, the show was clearly still fresh in the minds of the cast and the assembled fans, and many tears were shed both on stage and in the audience as the actors recalled the four years they spent in Utah filming the series.
When asked to choose their favorite episode or moment, many castmembers pointed to the emotional funeral which bid farewell to Beasley’s beloved character, Irv Harper. While the episode was a favorite among fans and the creative team, it also might have inadvertently contributed to the show’s demise.
Amandes revealed a behind-the-scenes anecdote about then-CW president Dawn Ostroff and her apparent feelings towards “Everwood,” telling the assembled audience, “This is a brutal TV reality thing: I remember talking to Peter Roth, who was running Warner Bros. after the show went down, and in the whole mess that was the merger between The WB [and UPN], the woman that was taking charge said, ‘I haven’t seen many of the shows — send the episode that you think best shows what you’re doing now.’ And he sent that episode, and the reply back was ‘Why would you send something that skews this old?’ And they pretty much did everything they could to make sure we weren’t on the schedule from that point on, which I thought was incredibly short-sighted and heartbreaking. But it’s a tough business.”
Berlanti credited “Everwood” with being “the most special thing that I was ever a part of” to this day, and said that he continues to be touched by the immense loyalty fans still exhibit towards the series.
The creator also shared his initial inspiration for the drama, which was “a hodgepodge of a lot of different things: In part a desire to put a family show on TV that dealt with real issues, that I sort of felt the news was dealing with, but not necessarily character-driven shows. There was an element of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in the family dynamic, which was a favorite novel and favorite film of mine. Wanting to put on television an honest father-son dynamic, which I hadn’t really seen out there. And then you start writing and the characters just tell you what they want to be.”
Berlanti noted that when he initially pitched the show to his studio, “they said ‘that will never sell — people do not want to watch a character-based show anymore, they’re really into procedurals. Do you have anything procedural?’ So we had a big procedural pitch we brought out that year and of course, that never went anywhere, and this passion project that I told Jordan about at dinner, Jordan said ‘I wanna make that.'”
He also admitted that while “the original pitch of the show was about a doctor who went to this small town and brought his family there for the same reasons, as sort of an ode to his deceased wife and in an effort to show her even after she was gone that his love for her still remained … he went to that town to become an abortionist. And that was in the original pitch. And Jordan said, ‘I’ll let you deal with a subject-matter like abortion, but maybe not in the first episode.’ And I was working with Rina; Rina was working on ‘Dawson’s’ and I said, ‘come do this abortion show with me!’ And she’s like, ‘I’m in!'”
Although work commitments kept VanCamp from attending (while Williams was, by his own admission, attending a One Direction concert in London at the same time as the panel), the “Revenge” star had nothing but praise for the experience and her co-stars in her video message.
“I was 16 when I started playing Amy Abbott, and I was 20 when the show ended, so I basically grew up on the show and I couldn’t be more grateful that it was with this group of people. You guys took me under your wing, you taught me the ropes, you were like a family to me and still are, and that doesn’t always happen, so thank you,” she said. “I knew that this show was special when the show was cancelled and a big group of fans got together to rent a Ferris wheel — it was just a reminder of our amazing fans that kept us going for four years. And even the other day, a woman my age came up to me and she had children and she talked about how she would watch the show with her parents and couldn’t wait to do the same with her [kids], and it just goes to show how timeless ‘Everwood’ really is.”