×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Not by the book

Profile in Excellence: John Wells

A look back at five series where taking a risk, and not going with status quo, paid off handsomely:

“China Beach” (1988-91)
The episode “Vets,” featuring footage of Vietnam veterans telling their stories, was new territory.
“We had no idea if it was going to work,” Wells says. “Then Vilmos Zsigmond said he wanted to shoot it. I thought, ‘If one of the best cinematographers in the world is interested, maybe we’re on to something.’ When we saw it, it was very moving and exciting.”

“ER” (1994-2009)
While shooting the pilot, director Rod Holcomb opted for a Steadicam in a long scene.
“We shot a six-page scene with Noah Wyle and Eric LaSalle as a one-er through the set. I thought Rod was out of his mind,” Wells says. “Then I saw it in dailies and I said, ‘This is what the show is.’ It’s what the show became: Actors getting to act and we stayed out of their way.”

“The West Wing” (1999-2006)
The role of U.S. president was supposed to be a minor one, and during the pilot process Wells, Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme tried to persuade the network that it was a sound strategy. Then the three saw Martin Sheen in the dailies.
“The second he came on, you knew he had to be the center of the series,” Wells says.

“Southland” (2009-present)
After six seasons of “Third Watch,” Wells was wary of doing another drama featuring first-line responders. “Southland” dailies that focused on actors Ben Mc-Kenzie and Michael Cudlitz, while capturing Christopher Chulack’s up-close-and-personal shooting style, changed his mind.
“I felt like I’m in this car with them and I’m really getting to see who they are as cops,” Wells says. “This is a cop show I haven’t seen before.”

“Shameless” (2011-present)
Having William H. Macy’s middle-age drunk character Frank sleep with the teenage daughter of his girlfriend could have alienated viewers. Laura Slade Wiggins, who plays the daughter, said she knew what to do, but Wells wasn’t sure if they’d keep it or cut it until he saw the scene.
“She was fearless,” he says. “It works so that emotionally you understand what’s going on.”

PROFILE IN EXCELLENCE: JOHN WELLS
Aueter of inside out | Multitasking may be Wells’ most revered achievement | Not by the book | And now a few words from . . .

More TV

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • AGS2 Key Art, Image IDs: AGS2_081218_2727,

    Starz Releases 'American Gods' Season 2 Trailer (Watch)

    Starz has released a second season trailer for “American Gods,” which returns to the cabler Mar. 10, depicting the brewing war between Gods old and new in the series based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. “When people first came to America they brought us with them,” the trailer begins, flashing images of [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Accusers Detail Abuse, Reveal Evidence on 'Dateline'

    The continuing controversy surrounding R. Kelly, including allegations of sexual abuse by a number of women over three decades, was the focus of Friday’s episode of “Dateline.” Speaking to accusers Sparkle, Jerhonda Pace and parents Tim and Jonjelyn Savage, among others, NBC’s Andrea Canning heard more harrowing tales of abduction and sexual misconduct on the part [...]

  • Kenan Thompson

    NBC Orders Comedy Pilots 'Saving Kenan' and 'Like Magic'

    NBC has ordered comedies “Saving Kenan” and “Like Magic” to pilot. “Saving Kenan” is a single-camera comedy starring “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kenan Thompson as a “newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives.” Jackie Clarke will serve as writer and [...]

  • The First -- "The Choice" -

    'The First' Canceled at Hulu After One Season

    Hulu has grounded the space exploration drama “The First” after one season, Variety has confirmed. The series hailed from Beau Willimon and starred Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in Penn’s first regular television role. “The First” was set in the near future and followed the first human mission to Mars. Hulu gave the show a straight-to-series order in [...]

  • Nicole Maines Supergirl Trans Hollywood Portrait

    TV Roundup: 'Supergirl' Drops First Look at Nicole Maines as TV's First Trans Superhero

    In today’s TV News Roundup, The CW releases a first look at Nicole Maines on “Supergirl” and Variety unveils an exclusive look at Gabriel Iglesias’ new comedy special.  FIRST LOOKS truTV has released the first trailer for season 2 of Emmy-nominated series “At Home with Amy Sedaris.” The variety sketch comedy returns Tuesday, Feb. 19 at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content