In some jobs you hope for miracles. Showrunners rely on them.
Despite the challenges of making NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” showrunner Mike Schur felt the production led a charmed life. He didn’t learn how charmed until last year, he says, when a script had a major role for a three-legged dog that would be calm while it was carried across an ice rink with noise blaring and lights glaring.
“We didn’t give any thought at all to the practical realities of what we were asking of the universe,” Schur recalls. His faith was rewarded when line producer Morgan Sackett found a dog that could do everything required.
“That’s got to be the greatest Hail Mary in the history of television,” Schur says. “If that dog hadn’t been heaven-sent, the whole episode would have just fallen apart. I think about that all the time.”
Michael Patrick King, on the other hand, thinks about horses or, rather, the horse that is a regular character on CBS’ “2 Broke Girls.” Sometimes horses don’t ask for bathroom breaks, they just take them.
“Kat Dennings had this big emotional goodbye monologue to the horse, which they were leaving at the stable,” King recalls. “The horse had another intention in the monologue, which was to go to the bathroom. So all the time Kat was emoting, the horse was peeing.”
Most times, he says, the horse only gives you one good take. “So, a lot of times, it’s about when the horse is ready.”
Showrunners for CBS’ “Person of Interest” shoot on the streets of New York and get their headaches from people, not animals.
“We have an amazing and generous budget, but we don’t have enough to put 10,000 extras on Fifth Avenue,” says Jonathan Nolan. “So we have our extras mix in with actual pedestrians.”
In the pilot, Jim Caviezel’s character punches the security detail guarding the character played by Michael Emerson.
“There are at least a couple of takes where Australian tourists right next to them scream at the top of their lungs, thinking they’re witnessing an assault,” Nolan says.
And then there are the times the actors themselves induce showrunner panic.
In the first season of CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” Kevin Williamson often lightened the mood by playing practical jokes on his young cast. But, he says, the ultimate prank was pulled off by the cast.
“They released a series of emails that we weren’t supposed to see involving one of the actresses (Nina Dobrev) admitting she was pregnant and deciding to quit the show to have a baby,” Williamson says.
Co-exec producer Marcos Siega fretted for a full day, worrying how upset the showrunners would be.
“I bought it for at least an hour,” Williamson says, “and then Julie (Plec, exec producer) walked in and said, ‘It’s a prank, guys. You’re so gullible. They’re totally getting us back.’ ”
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