Comic-Con: Producers Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper Talk BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Their Bad Boy Beast, and Why the Story Still Resonates

     July 15, 2012


Executive Producers Jennifer Levin (Felicity) and Sherri Cooper (Brothers and Sisters) sat down with us today at a roundtable interview to talk about CBS Television Studios’ exciting new fall series, Beauty and the Beast, starring Kristin Kreuk as tough NYPD detective Catherine Chandler and Jay Ryan as Vincent Keller, a former Afghanistan veteran with a terrifying secret.  The highly anticipated series is a modern-day reimagining of the 1980’s cult classic CBS television show and will premiere on the CW on October 11th.

The producing duo told us how they set about developing the series for a new generation inspired by an idea that came from new entertainment chief, Mark Pedowitz.  They explained how they were drawn to the concept of a modern day Beast with a bad boy image, why Kreuk was always their first choice for the role of Catherine Chandler, and how Ryan’s character will only get ‘beastier’ as the story advances and more triggers are revealed.  They also discussed the challenges of striking a balance with a female lead who is a very capable detective but struggles with accepting someone who wants to protect them and why they believe the classic story still resonates today because it’s timeless and deals with forbidden love and yearning.  Check out our recap of the Beauty and the Beast panel and hit the jump for the interview.

beauty and the beast sherri cooper jennifer levinQuestion:  Since you’re introducing this series to a whole new generation and the CW has a very specific demographic, did you have any type of focus group or young people that you asked their opinion on who should be cast in this role?

Sherri Cooper:  We did.  We always wanted Kristin Kreuk.  My sister-in-law is actually the casting director, and when we started writing it, she immediately said “Oh my God, I know who Catherine (character Catherine Chandler) is,” and we watched footage of her from the beginning.  It was always Kristin Kreuk.  When we were writing, we didn’t really picture somebody specific when we were developing it, did we?

Jennifer Levin:  No, but we did use our assistant who’s a decade younger than us and is now a writer on the show.  She was incredibly helpful and is a huge Comic-Con CW fan.  So yes, we did.

People who have seen the pilot refer to the authenticity and how it feels like something that people of this generation can relate to.

Levin:  We’re young at heart.

The network that it’s on has a specific audience.

Cooper:  When they first showed us the title, we looked at each other, because the idea came from our Mark Pedowitz to do a reboot of Beauty and the Beast.  I didn’t really remember it at first.  We looked at each other and we thought what would our new version be and we couldn’t picture it right away, but we could see the billboards like “Who doesn’t like a guy with some baggage?” or “Who doesn’t like a bad boy?”  So, we sort of had our own idea of what’s a beast.

beauty and the beast posterLevin:  It was just a metaphorical, like what if you were dating a beast or someone like that?  So that’s sort of how we came at it.

Cooper:  And this was before Fifty Shades of Grey came on.

It seems like there’s quite a lot of mystery in the show.  Are there going to be advances as we go on?

Levin:  Yes.

Cooper:  Well there’s a case every week that will be closed and that you can watch and pick up any time and get your case to watch.  And then, there will be these overarching mysteries about the mythology behind the beast and Catherine — his origin story, her mother.

Your beast is a war veteran.  Are you trying to say something about the USA right now or people coming back from war or anything like that?

Levin:  We’re not making a political statement, but it is from the character.  We always think about the character and we came up with the idea because we had seen the Pat Tillman documentary (The Tillman Story).  Pat Tillman was an NFL football player who enlisted after 9/11 and then was killed, and there was some controversy about his death.  And so, that was our starting point.  We really think about him as a person who is struggling to be more human.  It’s not about politics really.

Cooper:  No.  It was more from a character place.  Our generation has obviously been affected by 9/11 so that was where we went to in terms of what happened.

He’s not much of a beast.

Cooper:  You know what.  He’s going to become beastier.

Levin:  He’s going to get beastier.  Yes, definitely.

Is he going to be more physically beastier or more emotionally?

Cooper:  Both.  It’s great to get into what defines a beast.  Obviously, there’s so much you have to set up in a pilot, the rules.

Levin:  Just figuring out what happens when he becomes more beastly.

beauty and the beast kristin kreukI can’t say I would have been running away from him.

Levin:  That’s true and we do think about that.  He can kill her so we have talked about that.  And that is part of it.  That’s why it’s relatable because we do think you could be with a guy who you’re in love with and yet he has this really dark side.

Cooper:  And in the beginning, you don’t see it.  So, it’s more from your perspective.

It’s almost like Jekyll and Hyde.  Have you thought about that at all?

Cooper:  Yes, Jekyll and Hyde and like a bit of a time bomb.  If you think about it, anybody with crazy anger, he’s a ticking time bomb and so he’s unpredictable.  She’ll think “Oh, I can trust him.  He doesn’t seem beasty to me.”  And then, we’re going to get into…wait.

Are his triggers going to change?

Cooper:  Yes.  And what he thinks are the triggers versus what they really are which we’ll uncover.  She’s going to think they’re one thing and we’ll get into what they really might be.  But yes, his triggers will change.  I think in the beginning the idea was that when he became adrenalized as a super-soldier, anything that gives him an adrenalin rush would trigger it.

Levin:  Which she would do too.  No one pisses you off more than someone you love or excites you more.

Apart from the name of the show, what’s left from the original story?

beauty-and-the-beast-tv-showCooper:  From the 1980’s show?

From the book?

Cooper:  That’s a really great question.  We were brought the 80’s show.

And the show was inspired by the story?

Levin:  Of course.

Cooper:  But the next conversation we had besides bad boys was the idea that there’s a beauty and a beast within all of us.  And in the series we’re going to be getting into why are some people perceived as beasts and some as beauties.  The typical you can’t tell from what’s on the outside versus what’s on the inside and that we all have a beast inside each of us and that will be in a lot of stories.

Levin:  That story resonates even today because it’s timeless – that feeling of forbidden love, yearning, all of that.

Cooper:  And we’re exploring that.  That’s really the heart of the show.  Where the show really lives is in their relationship.

Levin:  And there really isn’t a lot on TV that is about that, that really is about that yearning and not being able to … that’s at the core and also this graphic novel tone.

How do you balance a female lead who is a detective and very capable with this romantic yearning?

Levin:  It’s hard.

Cooper:  They save each other.  She’s going to struggle with “I don’t need protection.”

Levin:  But everybody wants to be protected.

beauty and the beast logoCooper:  It’s that weird thing that Twilight is tapping into.  There’s that fantasy versus she’s very capable.  I guess love is you can accept somebody protecting you and you protect them.  But we’re very aware of giving her…

Levin:  Well, we relate to it.  It is about juggling that and how complicated everyone is.  You have a job and you’re competent.  And then, you go home and you feel incompetent.  All that stuff.

Cooper:  You want to feel like you can be girlie in some parts of your life and then you go to work and you’re [different].

Levin:  When people saw the pilot, some people, particularly older men, thought “She’s so….really?  She could be a cop?  She’s so…”  They didn’t buy it.  We got really upset.  I mean, look at us.  We’re running a show.

Cooper:  We’re little.

kristin kreuk jay ryan beauty and the beastLevin:  She’s littler.  Do you know what I mean?

Cooper:  But we’re addressing that.

Levin:  We are addressing it.

Cooper:  Even in her precinct, we’re going to play the bias against female cops, but we actually have a consultant from the LAPD who’s working with us and she walked in and she’s tiny.  She’s this petite little blonde and she’s been a detective for 20 years.

Catch up on all of our continuing Comic-Con coverage here.