We Love It When His Plans Come Together

by Daniel Manu May 14, 2010
The Stephen J. Cannell Interview

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.

TWoP: Well, for a writer, you certainly have plenty of acting credits to you name. You were practically a regular on Renegade, and you even look like you could've been the lead in one of your shows. Did you always have the acting bug?

Cannell: Well, not really. What happened was that I got along very well with actors because I'm not about power -- I don't believe power belongs in a creative environment. I always took a position with my actors of, "We're going to be partners, and one of my goals is to make certain that you're happy because I don't want us to be scowling at each other two years from now. When I come to the set, I want you to be happy to see me." So I got along really well with these guys, and then after the shows would go down, they started hiring me as an actor. Tom Selleck gave me my first acting job on a Magnum. He said, "Come down to Hawaii, man, we'll have some fun together." So I went there, and then Mario Van Peebles, who I had in Sonny Spoon, hired me to be in a Western called Posse and then his dad Melvin hired me to be in a cop drama in New York. And I just started getting these jobs. I wasn't really pursuing them, but they were fun to do because they were very similar, in a way, to writing: you get to create a character in your head and then try to become him, which is what I do at the typewriter. So it just started to happen. And at the beginning I don't think I was very good, to be honest with you, but they were my friends. After Renegade, I got to the point where I thought I could do it pretty well and I had some really nice roles on some shows. And now when I go to do an acting job, I always feel I can get there for the producer.

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