Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt GRIMM Interview

     October 28, 2011


Grimm, the shot-in-Portland fantasy/thriller show, premieres tonight on NBC. Like a lot of modern shows, it mixes supernatural elements with the real in a way that recalls great genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and X-Files. We got a chance to talk to a number of the film’s stars, and did a set visit, but it seems the best way to introduce the show is through its producers and writers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf.

The duo have been working together for nearly thirty years, both having worked on features and television, Kouf most notably scripted The Hidden, Rush Hour and National Treasure, while Greenwalt was involved with X-Files, Buffy and Angel. They were happy to talk about the show. Check out what they had to say after the jump:

jim-kouf-imageI started by congratulating Kouf for his work on The Hidden, and also mentioned the shot-in-Oregon Up the Creek, which produced bemused chuckles from the both of them. Kouf said “the guy was not a great comedy director, he missed a lot of jokes.” Greenwalt added “that’s happened to us a lot.

Here’s a few highlights from the interview:

  • The duo started with Daniel Petrie Jr. (who wrote Beverly Hills Cop) as their agent, have worked together 30 years.
  • The show’s pitch was “The Brother’s Grimm in the Modern World.”
  • The show was never concieved to be something you had to watch week-in week-out to follow.
  • Sean Hayes is a bastard, but great to work with.
  • Reggie Lee’s role was created because they were so impressed with the actor.
  • Silas Weir Mitchell was practically the only person they saw for the role.

Question: You guys met in the 1980, right?

JIM KOUF: Earlier, the late seventies.

I saw that you were both credited on Wacko.


KOUF: There are no secrets in this game.

GREENWALT: We got paid fifteen thousand dollars for that job and we were like “whoa!”

KOUF: We can live for a year! (laughs)

Were you guys writing partners back then?

GREENWALT: We met at poker with Daniel Petrie Jr., who was our first agent – who actually was a secretary to an agent – and he was our first. He wrote Beverly Hills Cop and went on to do a bunch of great stuff, and we were all just starting out. And a job came up that paid so little money that he said “why don’t you both go up for it as a team?”

KOUF: He had one job and two clients. “How do I keep both my clients employed?” But we had a lot of fun doing it.

GREENWALT: And we did a lot of fun movies back then. And then Jim became a director, and because he became a director, I became a director, and then we got busy being directors and stuff. Then I got into television, and I dragged Jim many years later into TV with Angel, and I knew he’d love it.

KOUF: With the right project, yeah.

david-greenwalt-imageWhat brought you together for this show?

KOUF: He did.

GREENWALT: I did. Because I met with Hazy Mills – Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner’s company – and they said they wanted a modern rethinking of the brothers Grimm, and when NBC said they wanted the main guy to be a cop I said “Jim you’ve got to come help me.” So we did it together about a year ago. And it’s been great, cause he’s a story machine, you know.

KOUF: He’s really good at telling me “no, that doesn’t work.”

Were they pitching as a procedural but with Twilight or whatever modern thing is popular at the moment?

GREENWALT: Todd Milliner did have an original idea for this about six years ago, and there was another script and CBS was involved at one point – they sold it. But all I heard was “Brothers Grimm in the modern world.” And we knew we didn’t want to do two worlds, the modern and the fairy tale world. They’re all in our world, these critters exist in our world. People keep asking “there’s all these things like that” but we didn’t know and Todd had had the idea for so many years, and it just caught our attention.

Grimm-imageIt feels like they’re going to be an odd bromance between David Giuntoli’s Cop character Nick and Silas Weir Mitchell’s Eddie Munroe – the werewolf character. There’s a loneliness around Silas’s character, and now there’s finally a human he can be himself with.

GREENWALT: It’s interesting how you look at these characters because for Nick, Eddie is the only person he can go to and be himself. I’m fond of saying that Munroe is the most human of all the characters, because he’s the one most fighting his demons and stuff inside. I feel a little sorry for him, but he’s just living his vegetarian life – doing his Pilates – and every week he has to risk his life and get beat up, but he can’t say no, because – as Silas says – he’d just be home cooking asparagus.

It’s metaphorically rich because we all keep secrets, and it’s nice to have someone to share that with.

KOUF: For Nick and Munroe, they can both open up to each other.

GREENWALT: But Munroe has been great service to Nick and he hasn’t even given him a gift basket.

You guys wrote the pilot, did you come up with a bible?

Grimm-imageKOUF: There was a bit of a bible, but with Munroe, we could tell the creature side of things. We all know the big bad wolf, but we’ve never heard his side of the story. His family and their kind were being killed by Grimms – not every creature is bad in the bible, some are good, some are bad.

GREENWALT: It was very exciting when we came to that part of the pilot, because first of all Munroe emerged as a humorous character, and he’s the other side of the coin – to them the boogeymen were the Grimms, and as the show goes on there’s plenty of Grimm characters who aren’t really bad, but are scared of Nick if they see him as a Grimm, they’ve been told their whole lives.

You’ve got Bitsie Tulloch as Julliete, what other female characters are on the show, you’ve got the scary woman at the end of the pilot…

GREENWALT: There’s a lot of homicidal women in this.

KOUF: There’s a bad one in the Hansel and Gretel redo.

GREENWALT: There’s an interesting one in 102, that’s a Goldilock’s spin, that’s about ancestry: do you raise your children to assimilate or to remember the tales of yore.

Grimm-imageKOUF: There’s another one in the Haxan biest episode.

GREENWALT: A witch-bitch.

You mentioned some classic Grimm’s fairy tales, how many are drawn from that?

GREENWALT: A number, eventually we’re going to drawing on fairy tales from all over the place, all over the world.

KOUF: Goldilocks is not a Grimm.

GREENWALT: Neither is The Big Bad Wolf and three pigs.

KOUF: We get the pig’s revenge.

When you were conceiving the series, did you have Portland in mind?

GREENWALT: We wrote it for Portland. You couldn’t shoot this show anywhere else.

KOUF: It’s like the black forest in Germany. It’s a character.

Grimm-imageGREENWALT: We’re shooting Portland for Portland.

KOUF: We knew we had the downtown, and forest within ten minutes. We knew we had the waterfalls – the Gorge. Mt. Hood. I’ve driven through the Gorge a lot.

Was there a show that was an influence?

KOUF: M*A*S*H, I think.(laughs)

GREENWALT: Oddly enough The Wild Wild West, not the show itself, but the experience. It was weird and quirky. It seemed like a thing, our show almost the entire family can watch. And all the shows we worked on, the power of genre, which is such a powerful place to play.

KOUF: We try to be as original as we can, and we had the Grimm stories to start with.

GREENWALT: It’s definitely weird for sure.

There’s never been a time where fantasy has been more appealing to viewers.

KOUF: Fantasy appeals when the economy sucks.

GREENWALT: And fairy tales are timeless. Especially the ones that have been passed down. A child relates in one way and as an adult you relate in a different way. There are certainly a lot of these shows now.

jim-kouf-david-greenwalt-imageI feel like these days people aren’t ashamed of being a nerd any more. But there’s also horror to it, you’ve got women who turn into beasts.

GREENWALT: One of us believes that inside a beautiful woman is a horrific beast.

I’m sensing a theme to this discussion. Would you like to tell me about your mother? (laughs)

GREENWALT: Let me tell you about my mother! (laughs) She’s 93, and happily ensconced in a retirement home.

Do you feel like anything you can think of you can put to screen, or are there still limitations?

GREENWALT: There’s plenty of good limits in a way.

KOUF: Well, we have eight days to shoot a show. You have to give up things.

GREENWALT: And we’re trying to stay real. There’s hardly any magic.

What’s your working relationship with Sean Hayes?

KOUF: That bastard?

GREENWALT: Awful human being.

KOUF: It’s sick.

GREENWALT: He’s wonderful.

KOUF: But only print the bastard part.

GREENWALT: He’s a real producer, and he’s creative, he’ll say “can the house move” and maybe we don’t do that but it inspires something interesting. We’re hoping to get him to play a bad guy. He and his producing partner take up a lot of slack.

KOUF: Very supportive.

How much of the show is going to be one off, and how much is an overarching story?

GREENWALT: Defintiely both, and in the first thirteen there will be a lot of one offs. Our goal was that you could sit down on Friday nights and watch an episode of Grimm and you wouldn’t need a scorecard to keep up. Some shows get too much mythology. I’d say about 85% to the 15%.

Is that one of those things if you get the full season order, or a second season that 85% might lower?

grimm-posterGREENWALT: Certainly over the course of the year – as we’ve done before – you might do some episodes that are more about the mythology.

KOUF: But if you’re watching it every week, you’ll see the progression of relationships and characters, it is serialized.

In terms of casting who was the biggest surprise for you guys?

GREENWALT: We liked Reggie Lee so much we created a part for him.

KOUF: Silas was the only guy from the get-go, everyone else, we tried hard.

Was it a plan to not go with any A-Listers, like “David Duchovny in Grimm”?

GREENWALT: We didn’t want familiar faces, I don’t know if we could have or should have gotten them, but we wanted it all to feel fresh and real.

KOUF: And NBC was behind that.

Did you know you only wanted one female?

GREENWALT: Well, the show will grow. We had this idea about the captain in the pilot, and until we met Sasha Roiz we didn’t know who we were going to cast for it. The show will grow, but on other shows we’ve done like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel, we’d start small and add a character a year. So we’ll have more as time goes by, but we have so many to service now.

Grimm premieres tonight on NBC.