Howard Gordon, writer and producer: “The important thing is the characters and not wasting people’s time” | Television | The USA Print

What would you do if you thought your child was a danger to society? What if she found out that her daughter had been raped and she sees that the police do nothing to bring justice? And if you mistrust the intentions of someone who cares for a loved one? the chapters of accused (premiering on March 15 on AXN at 10:50 p.m.) they throw questions at the viewer and show them the answer chosen by the protagonist. But that is not revealed until the end. Before, each chapter begins with the defendant before the judge, without the viewer knowing what has happened or why he is being judged. The story, a different one in each episode, will be told with flashbacks always from the defendant’s point of view.

The screenwriter and producer Howard Gordon (New York, 61 years old), responsible for some of the most emblematic titles of the thriller recent television as Homelands either 24 and who has participated in series like X-files either Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is responsible for this production based on a British fiction of the same name released in 2010. Among the protagonists of the chapters of the American are actors such as Michael Chiklis, Whitney Cummings, Margo Martindale, Megan Boone and Billy Porter. Gordon, who has lived in Madrid for several months, is learning Spanish and sneaks some Spanish words and phrases into his answers, found in the British series an attractive format, “simple and familiar” as well as challenging. “The original series was made 13 years ago in the UK and the world is very different now. We are in a moment of revolution in thought, identity, gender, capitalism, truth, social networks… The world lives in crazy times and this series was the perfect opportunity to explore how human beings are struggling with the world of today”, Gordon commented in an interview on March 3 at the headquarters of Sony Pictures in Madrid.

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The anthology format, with independent stories told in 45 minutes, allows accused pass culture drag queen in Boston to the story of a Navajo activist in New Mexico, and from episodes with a more dramatic or almost tragic tone to others that border on comedy. Compared to the more classic point of view of police or legal dramas focused on investigators or lawyers, this proposal, from the perspective of the accused, provides a different twist. “Here there is no investigation, it is all about how one moment leads to another and so on until you cross a line that there is no turning back. That was what interested me, the moments that make us human. How, without being a criminal, a murderer or a gang member, just a normal person, how does someone get to be the defendant?

Michael Chiklis (right), in the first episode of ‘Accused’.Robyn Cymbaly/Fox/Sony Pictures

The stories of the series pose dilemmas to its protagonists, who move through the different gray scales of morality. “What I try to do is bring to the heart of every story the idea of ​​’if I were in the same situation, what would I do?’ That is the central question for each chapter”, says Gordon in Spanish. “I like to spark a conversation and have people ask questions. Not that they have the answers, but the questions, ”he continues, returning to English. Accustomed to stories that take place over several seasons of many chapters (24 it had eight seasons and two subsequent comebacks; Homelands it also reached eight installments), telling a complete plot in the 45 minutes of a chapter has been a challenge for the scriptwriter. “It’s terrible,” he laughs. “But it’s also easier because you’re not held hostage to the same character and the same story. But it’s like making a movie every time. The first six minutes are very important in this series because you have to tell the audience what the characters are like, get them interested in them and start the journey.” “It’s almost like writing a sonnet, you have 14 lines and a meter and you have to stick to that. It is an exercise in restricting and distilling to become as efficient as possible”, he continues.

tell good stories

In view of the results obtained by many of the titles he has worked on, Howard Gordon seems to have the key to finding a thriller of success. “I actually think the important thing is to have a great character at the center. You can only experience the action and suspense once you are attached to the character. I think that in Carrie Mathison (the protagonist of homeland, played by Claire Danes) it was very important to know who she was as a human being before you cared if she saved the world or not or if she was bipolar. The same with the characters of this series or with Jack Bauer (the protagonist of 24, played by Kiefer Sutherland) or even David Duchovny in X-files. You have to love the characters, or else love to hate them. They have to be interesting, three-dimensional people. I work a lot on the characters, I know a lot more about them than what I then show. Where are they from, where did they grow up, what are their relationships… Even if it doesn’t go into the script later. And another fundamental thing: don’t waste people’s time”, he completes about the essential ingredients of a good thriller. “And also having the right actors, because if you cast the wrong person, game over”.

Michael Chiklis, star of the first episode of 'Accused'.
Michael Chiklis, star of the first episode of ‘Accused’.Steve Wilkie/Fox/Sony Pictures

In the era of overabundance of series, Howard Gordon’s lucky star does not go out. accused premiered in January in the United States on the Fox network, and achieved the best audience for the debut of a fiction series on free-to-air or cable television in the last three years (excluding the launch of The Equalizer in 2021 after the Super Bowl). They are titles that sound like survivors in the current series scene, where platforms dominate production and conversation. How has this new environment changed the work of Howard Gordon, who has worked in television for more than three decades? “He has changed a lot. When Netflix and tech companies like Apple and Amazon moved over to Hollywood, everything changed. Since the streaming it became the new way of watching television, our work has totally changed: the financial part, the type of stories that are told… But in the end, a good story is a good story. And you have to tell a good story, that hasn’t changed.”

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