We Love It When His Plans Come Together
Cannell: I think it pretty much depended on the piece. With Wiseguy, I couldn't think of any other way to do that but with six-hour stories because I didn't know how to infiltrate a big organized crime family and bust the Mafia boss in one hour. I just didn't know how to do it.
TWoP: When you look at certain current programs, like Human Target, Justified and some of the USA shows, it seems like there should be that guy typing away at the end - they feel very much like modern-day Stephen Cannell shows. Are you aware of how much influence you must have had over a generation or two of TV writers?
Cannell: Well, you're kind. I really kind of hesitate, always, to take even secondary credit for other peoples' creations. Certainly, we're on a road... and that's what makes Castle so great, it does come back to that whole idea of characters being the most important part of the equation. And we'll move away from it. The darker characters that we're seeing on some of these cable shows are terrific but they're also very narrow-casted. You couldn't do some of those shows on one of the big four [networks] because the storytelling would not be broad enough to carry the audience. You see now with this new universe all different kinds of storytelling. And a show like Breaking Bad, which is really well done, or Sons of Anarchy, might have trouble making a go of it on the major networks.
TWoP: One thing Castle does really well is balancing humor with the crime-solving. A lot of your shows similarly had a little wink in the eye. How important was it to you to include a certain levity or outright comedy, no matter how violent or dramatic the storylines actually were?
Cannell: Well, I think it was really important. One of the things that was very, very interesting about that was to find the [right] leading man (and I think Nathan Fillion is one of the best leading men out there). When we used to try and cast one of these characters -- I'd write the script, and then we'd sit down with the casting department -- the first thing everybody would always say is that we were looking for a 30 to 35-year-old guy who had both comedy and acting chops. And we would always say that the guy we're looking for has got to be somebody who's already learned how to do this, and yet, we couldn't often cast a guy like that, so we'd be looking for the impossible: a guy that already had all these mature traits and comedy skills. I remember when I found Tom Selleck, I went, "Who is this guy?" It was like panning for gold, you know what I mean? You'd find a guy like that and just go, I don't believe I found him. It was always very, very hard. And Nathan, what's great about him, is that he brings all of that to the table. I think that's a big part of it. Stana Katic is a great foil for him, and the two of them make for terrific comedy. And it's not Mooonlighting, but it's certainly reminiscent of it in some ways... I'm just really, really excited to be part of this show.