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Charlie’s Angels – Producers Gough and Millar on rebooting a brand

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Charlie's Angels - Ramon Rodriguez, Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor
John Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), Eve French (Minka Kelly), Kate Prince (Annie Ilonzeh) and Abby Sampson (Rachael Taylor) © 2011 ABC

Alfred Gough and Miles Millar were creators and executive producers of Smallville, which followed Clark Kent, who would become Superman, through his teenage years and beyond. It recently wrapped its 10th and final season, making it the longest-running comic book-based series of all time.

They are now taking on another genre icon – Charlie’s Angels, which ruled the TV airwaves in the ‘70s. Along with the producer of the original series, Leonard Goldberg, and a movie ‘Angel,’ Drew Barrymore, Gough and Millar are bringing a new generation of sexy detectives to the screen.

Now set in Miami, the fearless three are Abby (Rachael Taylor), Kate (Annie Ilonzeh) and Eve (Minka Kelly), all of whom have pasts they wish they could erase – but the mysterious Charlie is willing to give them a second chance, by working for him to solve crimes and be redeemed.

Do you have the feeling that this is a bit like when you launched Smallville, that you’re re-launching a superhero franchise?

Charlie's Angels - Al Gough and Miles Millar
Al Gough (creator/executive producer) and Miles Millar (creator/executive producer) during the 2011 Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills, California © 2011 ABC

Al Gough: There are a lot of similarities to Smallville in that you’re rebooting a brand and trying to put a new spin on it.

Miles Millar: Absolutely. So for us, it’s that challenge of something that’s beloved, but how do you twist it and make it feel it’s original and fresh and has a reason to be, so it’s not just a cynical remake, but actually has its own uniqueness to it?

Al: And also, again like Smallville, it has to maintain the DNA of the original but bring something new to the table.

What’s the degree of Drew Barrymore’s involvement? Exactly what is she doing on the show?

Al: Drew’s sort of the archangel of Charlie’s Angels. Obviously, she’s very busy, she’s prepping movies, but she and her company are involved. They read scripts, they give notes; she sends e mails of encouragement. So she’s been great.

Can you talk a little bit about the tone of the show? This series seems more sincere and straightforward than the movies, which were a bit cheeky and self-aware. Can you talk about why you decided to go that way?

Charlie's Angels - Ramon Rodriguez, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor
Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), Kate (Annie Ilonzeh) and Abby (Rachael Taylor) © 2011 ABC

Al: I think, for us, the movies in their era, ten years ago, were like superhero movies for girls. They were post Matrix, they had a lot of wire work.

What we wanted to bring to the table was making it more grounded, making these women feel real, giving them backstories, because again, if you’re going to launch into a television series, as you’re following these characters you want there to be something to come back to every week.

We gave them each a past, and the show’s really about Charlie giving them a second chance, it’s about redemption.

I think Rachael Taylor has the best description of the show. She said if Jack Bauer and Carrie Bradshaw had a love child, it would be Charlie’s Angels.

What were you looking for when you were casting the Angels for the series?

Charlie's Angels - Leonard Goldberg, Ramon Rodriguez, Rachael Taylor, Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, Al Gough and Miles Millar
Leonard Goldberg (executive producer), Ramon Rodriguez, Rachael Taylor, Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, Al Gough (creator/executive producer) and Miles Millar (creator/executive producer) during the 2011 Summer Press Tour © 2011 ABC

Al: We had a very long casting process. We started in October to find the three actresses. The thing about Charlie’s Angels is they obviously have to be beautiful and sexy, but they also have to be warm and relatable.

The idea that this agency is a family, their family business is being detectives, and the family dynamics and the family secrets are the drama that take us through week-to-week.

Finding each one of the ladies was a real journey for all of us. Minka had come in to audition initially for the role of Abby. We basically had one Angel that wasn’t working and Leonard stood up in the room and said, ‘That girl is an Angel. Unfortunately, she’s not one of the Angels you’ve written, but we need to get her.’

We sat down with Minka and pitched out the Eve character. She is a badass, but she’s very warm, and she very much wants to bring this family together. [People ask], ‘Who were your second choices for the ladies?’ There were no second choices; it was these guys. That was it.

What are the similarities to the original series?

Charlie's Angels - Rachael Taylor), Minka Kelly and Annie Ilonzeh
Abby (Rachael Taylor), Eve (Minka Kelly) and Kate (Annie Ilonzeh) © 2011 ABC

Al: That sort of idea of idealized female friendship, which was very prevalent in the original series, is obviously very prevalent in the movies, and I think we have that here was well.

Miles: You have three very capable women who are very good at their job. And this version will have more about their off-the-case relationships. So you’ll see that as well. It’s much more about modern women and how they juggle their lives, their personal lives and their jobs.

Reboots of old shows have had a spotty record in the last few years. What can you learn from a successful series like Hawaii Five-0 and the ones that didn’t work, like Bionic Woman?

Al: I think you can learn a lot because we know a show like this has a big target on its back.  And I think something like Hawaii Five-0, when you do it right, it can work. And I think for us, it was finding that emotional theme and having a very clear vision for what we wanted to do.

That basically it’s a show about redemption. It’s a show about second chances. All of these ladies have pasts that Charlie is giving them a second chance.

Will stars from the original show like Jaclyn Smith or Cheryl Ladd be doing cameos in the series?

Al: I think once we establish our show in terms of what our series is there is definitely room down the line for those appearances by people and characters from other iterations. We did the same thing on Smallville. Season 2 we brought in Chris Reeve and then eventually Margot Kidder, Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher and Terence Stamp.

I think it honors what has gone before.