NBC’s new and unique series Grimm, mixes a crime procedural with pure fantasy. Inspired by the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the show spotlights Portland homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers know as ‘Grimms,’ charged with keeping the balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world.
The producers of the series, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf and Will & Grace star Sean Hayes, spoke at the TV Critics tour about their unusual blend of drama, horror and fairy tales.
This show seems to share some narrative DNA with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Can you talk about the similarities and differences between the way the two shows blend the real world and the fantastic?
David Greenwalt: This show is probably for a broader audience than Buffy was for. It takes a police procedural and turns it on its head, and it takes a storybook fairy tale every week and fractures that.
This takes place in the real world, and our notion is that the Grimm brothers are actually profilers of criminal events. In other words, the stories they told are real, and there’s no separate world. They live in our world and our guy can see them. He can see the big bad wolf and the child molester.
Can you give us an idea of what other fairy tales you will be gleaning for future episodes?
David: You might see something called Thinderella. You might be seeing Little Godilocks and the Three Bears. You might see The Three Little Wolves, a take on The Three Little Pigs. All kinds of great stuff is coming down the pike. It won’t be only Grimm stories. It will be fairy tales from all over the world.
Sean Hayes: A lot of people don’t know there’s over 200 Grimm fairy tales. We’re familiar with about 30 of them, but it’s going to be fun educating people as to what those other ones are that aren’t as popular.
Can you talk about how the episodes are developed? Do you pick a fairy tale and fit a crime to it, or do you write a case and pick a fairy tale that best reflects it?
David: [We do it] in all kinds of different ways, what would give emotional clarity and fun to the characters. It comes from all different sources.
Jim Kouf: We’re not really just retelling the stories either. We’re really trying to turn them on their heads, so you may not recognize what the story is immediately.
With genre shows, the audience seeks more of a serialized element, but this show is going to be procedural. How do you balance that?
David: I’ve done a lot of shows that have the genre element. And I love what you can do with emotions in the genre element because you can do really big emotions and people love it but at the same time they’re slightly removed from it.
Jim: It’s kind of a ‘B’ story, and as we develop our ‘A’ stories, which will be very strong, we’ll have elements that further develop the characters as we go through the season.
David: What we don’t want to have is a show where I need a score card to watch it. I want a show where I can come on Friday nights and have a fairy tale and a police procedural and put my kids to bed. Or if I’m really a hardcore member, I will notice that every time we do an address there’s a secret in the address.
We will service over-arching arcs for everybody, as my partner just said. It’s got to be that I don’t need to know so much to watch the show.
Jim: It’s a fairy tale on Friday nights.
A lot of the Grimm fairy tales dealt with bad things happening to children. How often can you go to that well in primetime?
David: As many times as we can get away with. But we don’t want to go to that well very often.
Can you talk about what the tone of the series is? I was sucked into the pilot by how dark and scary it was, and then all of a sudden it got kind of goofy.
David: I wouldn’t use the word, ‘Goofy,’ but it certainly got fun. The show is meant to be dark and scary but it’s also meant to be fun. And as in life terrible things happen, then something not so terrible happens.
I think the character of Monroe, the ‘big, bad wolf,’ who’s going to church, doing Pilates, eating vegetarian, trying to right his nature is terrific. And we didn’t know until we wrote the character that this is actually amusing.
Is this going to be like Tales From the Crypt, where you’re going to have interesting guest stars?
David: We have a tremendous cast that we’re happy to use them whenever we can. But we’re going to have some guest stars coming up. We’ve got Reggie Lee who read for us who was so good that we made a part for him. And he’s going to go through hell.
Are you going to be in the show, Sean?
Sean: Nothing to describe right now or talk about as far as me being on the show. Right now it’s just my role as a producer, but possibly sometime down the road.