Exclusive Interview With Millennium Co-Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz
On October the 4th cult television series Millenniun comes to Zone Horror. This terrifying drama series horror in its purest form with a leading man that really knows how to make the skin on your neck crawl, Lance Henriksen. Here we speak exclusively to Executive Producer Frank Spotnitz about his involvement with a series that changed TV drama forever.
Zone Horror: Is it true you began your working life as a journalist?
Frank Spotnitz: Yes. I was editor of my college paper at UCLA, then went to work for United Press International, first in Indiana, then in New York City. I later wrote for the Associated Press in Paris and freelanced for a number of magazines, including Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone.
ZH: How did you get into television work?
FS: I decided I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore! I moved back to Los Angeles from Paris so I could study screenwriting at the American Film Institute. The X-Files was my first job in Hollywood.
ZH: When did you first meet Chris Carter?
FS: By chance. I met Chris in a book group shortly after I moved back to L.A. This was years before he created The X-Files.
ZH: How did you become involved with Millennium and can your recall your reaction when you first heard the basic outline for the series?
FS: I was very flattered that Chris asked me to work on Millennium as well as The X-Files – flattered and, in short order, exhausted! It was very tough doing double duty on the first season of Millennium and the fourth season of The X-Files. I remember that I only vaguely understood what Millennium was going to be about before Chris let me read the pilot script. I read it on the laptop computer in his office right after he finished it. I was, quite simply, blown away. I still think that pilot is among the very best things he’s ever written.
ZH: Is it true Lance was the first choice for Frank Black? If not who else was considered? (Personally I can’t think of anyone else who could bring his quiet intensity to the role)
FS: Yes, Lance was Chris’ first choice. There were other actors considered for the role, but I don’t want to risk making them uncomfortable by giving their names.
ZH: What was it like to work with Lance Henriksen and Megan Gallagher, two very different actors?
FS: It was great, although I have to say I didn’t really work “with” them very much. On Millennium, nearly all of my work was done in Los Angeles — breaking stories, writing scripts, editing episodes and so on. Occasionally, I’d fly up to Vancouver to help prep an episode, but usually I’d only see Lance and Megan when they were in Los Angeles (or during crew parties!).
ZH: The two leads brought so much depth to their respected roles, which other actors that appeared on the show stand out for you?
FS: Terry O’Quinn was, of course, amazing, just as he now is on Lost. I also thought Birttany Tiplady was an astonishing little actress, Sarah-Jane Redmond was fantastic, as always, and Klea Scott is one of my all-time favourite actors, period. There were too many wonderful guest stars for me to mention.
ZH: As Millennium was based totally in the real world how did you approach writing your episodes, as they were far different to what you were creating for The X-Files?
FS: It was very easy for me to get in touch with my fears on Millennium, because the things that scare me most are things that can happen in the real world. The challenge for me was finding interesting ways to involve Frank’s family in the stories. And I was also always looking for ways to find hope amid all the darkness. The things I would say The X-Files and Millennium had in common were our focus on tight plotting, and wanting to find interesting reasons for why the bad guys were doing what they were doing.
ZH: Why do you think the series has continued to generate interest and debate with the viewing public?
FS: I think it’s because it was very intense and uncompromising. That turned off some viewers, but the people who liked the show, really liked it. I remember the earliest meetings with the network concerned how dark the show was. They kept asking us to lighten up, to find more humour. But Chris had a vision for the series, and it was pretty intense. I also think the show touched on something fundamental about life – the split between the darkness of Frank’s work, and the lightness of his family and home life. Frank struggled to protect his family from the darkness – of the killers he hunted, and inside himself. That’s a very powerful idea to me, and I think it resonates with a lot of other people, too.
ZH: I know some critics disliked the show for its violent content but do you agree it needed to show the horrors of real life in such a graphic manner?
FS: I think there’s an even greater danger when you sanitize violence, or make it less disturbing in some way. I think the most responsible way to depict violence is to make it horrific, because that’s what it is in real life.
ZH: Do you have a favourite episode of Millennium?
FS: The Pilot episode and Lamentation. Among the ones I wrote, Sacrament.
ZH: There’s a legion of fans waiting the return of Frank Black, is there any chance?
FS: I’d say a small chance, getting smaller every year. We’d still love to revisit the character, but at this point I think someone would have to light a pretty big fire under the Fox executives to make it happen.
ZH: Congratulations on The X-Files – I Want To Believe, an intelligent and refreshing break from predictable CGI drenched blockbusters. Can we expect more?
FS: It’s too soon to say.
ZH: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
FS: I have a couple things in the works I’m very excited about, but the deals aren’t done, so I can’t announce them yet. Soon, hopefully!
ZH: Frank Spotnitz, thank you very much.