The extended version of my Channel Guide Magazine story from the set of Spike’s The Kill Point is now up at ChannelGuideMag.com, so be sure to check it out. It includes my interview with John Leguizamo, plus some other things that aren’t in The Kill Point Countdown blog.
Steve Shill serves as coexective producer and directs all eight episodes of The Kill Point. His credits as director read like a roster of the best dramas on TV: Rome, The Tudors, ER, Dexter, Brotherhood, The Sopranos, The Wire. Shill’s involvement, probably more than anything else, signals to me that The Kill Point is going to be a first-rate TV drama along the lines of the originals on premium cable.
Shill’s job is insanely busy and complex, but I’m amazed at how composed he is through it all. When he sees something not quite right on the monitors during a take, he usually breaks into laughter. I suppose if you start flying off the handle at every little hiccup in production, you’re not going to last long in the business. Plus, he’s English. Stiff upper lip and all.
Shill talks about The Kill Point and a little about The Tudors.
What attracted you to The Kill Point?
Steve Shill: First of all, the script. The script was excellent. It was a real page turner, even when they were just treatments. You just totally wanted to know how it was going to take place. [It’s] very cleverly written by James DeMonaco and Todd Harthan. But also, the genre — it’s something I haven’t done before. I’d love to have Ang Lee’s career — never the same genre twice. This is a kind of action thriller. And the genre tells you how to direct it and how to photograph it and what to do with the actors and how the music should be and what the camera angles should be and all that kind of stuff. It’s very enjoyable as a director to work in a specific genre. When I did Invasion, that was a science-fiction genre, aliens invading Earth, sort of creepy. But it’s the same kind of thing. It tells you how it should be done and it’s very enjoyable to follow that, almost in a kind of Hitchcockian way. In this particular instance, I’ve always been a fan of those great action movies from the ‘70s, Dirty Harry and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and those kinds of movies. This is a real opportunity to go into something like that. But the clever thing about what [the writers] have done, is they’ve updated that genre, because it’s very much about today. It’s about something contemporary because these guys are veterans of the Iraq war. And not to denigrate the Marine Corps, but in view of what’s happening, here is something that’s happening in real life a great deal. A lot of these guys have come back from the war, and simply for no reason find themselves holding up a grocery store. It’s very difficult for them to integrate. Something’s happening to society. It’s not an in-your-face political statement. It’s just using a contemporary backdrop. It’s something that’s real. So at least it’s a vibration, it’s a resonance from society today. So that aspect has been added, and I think this is going to be a subject that is going to be touched on more and more, inevitably. But that’s why I wanted to do it, and that’s why I wanted to do it all. Because also it’s a chance to work with two incredibly talented actors in Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo.
You’ve directed John Leguizamo before, in his last episode of ER. What’s he like as an actor?
SS: John’s a very intuitive kind of guy. He doesn’t like to repeat himself. He likes to make every take unique and different or do something different every time. And it’s never a disappointment. He’s such a clever guy and he brings so much realism to what he does. It’s a real thrill to watch him in action.
What are your thoughts on the success of Showtime’s The Tudors?
SS: The first season of The Tudors was an incredible smash hit. I’m delighted to have been part of it. I was an executive producer of it. I worked on the pilot, and I directed all of Episodes 3 and 4. I loved being back with Showtime, and I had a fantastic time working on it. I have a wonderful working relationship with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sam Neill and Jeremy Northam. I had a great time in Ireland doing it. And again, we were talking about genre, that was an example of the historical genre and the fun for a director is balancing the tone so that it fits correctly, that you believe it as period drama. You sort of bleed away the anachronisms and get it to feel like it’s of the period, but at the same time, it’s recognizable and something interesting for a contemporary audience. That’s the big challenge. But we must be doing something right.