Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters and the upcoming Green Lantern movie) and Jon Harmon Feldman (Dawson’s Creek, Dirty Sexy Money) have joined forces to co-create and produce ABC’s new series.
The show spotlights the Powell family. Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis) is feeling disconnected from his workaholic wife Stephanie (Julie Benz) and his teenage children, Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and JJ (Jimmy Bennett).
In an attempt to have a bonding experience, he suggests they all accompany Stephanie on her upcoming business trip to South America, without knowing that decision would change all of their lives forever.
When their plane crashes in the Amazon , they discover that they all have acquired specific super human powers. Greg Berlanti and Jon Harmon Feldman spoke with us about their new and unique series.
What sets No Ordinary Family apart from shows like Heroes and Lost?
Greg Berlanti I’m not sure it’s a total original as much of it’s a fun throwback to some of the action-adventure series that I used to love and watch as a kid, blended with, hopefully, a great family show.
I think as audiences get more and more sophisticated, you look for ways to blend genres. So with this, we tried to blend all the fun of a big action show, with a real fun, intimate family show. I think that distinction is not something that everybody can find anywhere else on the dial.
Parents are constantly worried about violence on TV, how do you balance a story about superheroes and bad guys without excessive violence?
Jon Harmon Feldman That’s a great question. I think one of the great things about the show is we’re telling stories in a way, both in the script and visually, that appeals across the board. Parents can safely watch it with their kids.
Although we’re watching Michael Chiklis fight crime, it comes out of a very emotional place. These powers are a metaphor for how a family can repair itself. So it’s borne out of emotions and wish fulfillment and the deficiencies that are perceived real that we all feel.
Tell us about casting Michael Chiklis in the lead?
Greg Berlanti Whenever you’re starting a new show you want every asset available to you, and there’s no doubt that Michael Chiklis is one of the best assets and actors you could ever have on a new TV series.
When we heard he was looking to do a new television series, every show in town was sending him their script. We sent ours, thinking, ‘There’s no way he’s going to do this.’ And he called up and said he was interested. So we sat down and met.
As you evolve the show over the [first few episodes] you try and find elements of each of the different actors that you write toward, the strengths that they bring to it. I think I’m particularly excited about this cast, of any of the new shows I’ve done in years, because I feel like we have one of the most talented, charming and fun casts on TV.
Was there a big decision to make other people outside of the family have superpowers too?
Jon Harmon Feldman You know, it just felt like another place to explore and create stakes for this family, because the real threat for the family comes in the form of other ‘supers,’ and it creates additional stakes and threats for the family.
It also creates mystery and intrigue. It creates a bigger canvas to play with, although we’re really focusing on the family unit. It’s just creates a bigger world and bigger stakes and gives us more places to go in the series.
There have been quite a few genre series over the past few years, is this a particularly good time for them?
Greg Berlanti In the last four or fives years one of the things that has happened is the visual effects on television have gotten to a place in post where you can achieve things that may not be film-like, but much closer than before. So I think that starts to inform storytellers and writers and producers in terms of what you’re trying to do.
You look for different elements on a network show. Families may come because they hear about the superhero [aspect] but when they get there, they stay for the characters. When we come into the writer’s room, it’s always, ‘What do you want to do with these characters this week?’ And that’s the same rule that it has been in any of the character-driven shows I’ve ever worked on.
If we’re fortunate enough to go many years, the end of the show would be the comic book. But to me there are a billion stories to tell before that moment.