Executive Producer/Writer Kelly Souders Talks CW’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Where Things Are Headed, Planning for Future Seasons and Fan Reactions

     April 4, 2013


With only five episodes left to the season, things on The CW drama series Beauty and the Beast are only going to get more dangerous and intense. As things are heating up for Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), and more people have discovered their secret, the stakes are raised to an all-time high, putting everyone’s life at risk.

While at WonderCon, executive producer/writer Kelly Souders spoke at a roundtable about where things are headed now that so many people know about Vincent, how carefully they mapped out the season ahead of time, when they start planning for future seasons, how they’ve adjusted the look of the beast, just how much attention they pay to what fans are saying online, and who the biggest threats will be, for the remainder of the season.  Check out what she had to say after the jump.

kelly-soudersQuestion:  Now that so many people know about Vincent, where do you go from there? 

KELLY SOUDERS:  Believe it or not, it just keeps heating up, literally.  I think this run of episodes is the most exciting run I’ve done, in a long time, with every episode.  If you think that was it, you’re wrong. 

How carefully did you map out the season, so you knew when things would really kick in?

SOUDERS:  Well, with any pilot and with the first couple of episodes, you’re gauging what’s working.  Nobody has worked together before.  People are seeing footage for the first time.  With the writing and through every aspect of the show, you’re getting information in, every day, and adjusting things a little bit.  But in general, we hit all the benchmarks that we anticipated hitting.  And the last moment of the season is what we all envisioned.  Brian [Peterson] and I, along with Jennifer [Levin] and Sherri [Cooper-Landsman], who created this show, have really sat down and, over the course of the season, wanted to do certain things, in particular.  Looking back, I’d say we hit all of them, and then added a few extra in, too.

How do you plan for Season 2 then?  Do you have that in your mind when you start Season 1?

SOUDERS:  What we’ve always found is that, as you’re going through a season, there will be ideas that come up where you go, “That’s a great idea!  I can’t wait to do it!,” and it’s next season or it’s Season 4.  Literally, you’ll have that gut feeling where you go, “Oh, that’s great for Season 3.”  So, over the course of the season, you end up pulling stuff and putting it in the Season 2 pocket or the Season 3 pocket.  It’s bizarre.  You just get this weird, “Oh, that’s not where the story is right now.  That’s where it’s going to be 18 months from now.”  I don’t know how that happens.  It just does.

Have you had a chance to look at the original series and find any inspiration there?

SOUDERS:  Yeah.  I think the tunnels [were inspired by that].  As we were all sitting down, at the very beginning, we were like, “Well, we definitely want to do a nod to that,” ‘cause it was such a cool aspect.  There have been aspects, along the way.  But, there’s a long series to go, so I’m sure there will be nods, every so often.  It’s always fun to do that. 

Did you get time to really delve into it, or did you just take a quick look?

SOUDERS:  I saw the series when it was first on, but I have a pathetic memory, so I did go back and look at episodes again.  But, it is sprinkled out a little bit more. 

beauty-and-the-beast-jay-ryanWhen this show first started, one of the big criticisms of it was that the beast wasn’t beastly enough?

SOUDERS:  I don’t know what you’re talking about! 

Did you take those criticisms to heart and make him more beastly?

SOUDERS:  Yeah.  When it happened, we had still photos where he was beasted out, and I thought it was a pretty gruesome version of a guy.  And then, it suddenly dawned on us.  We’d had our heads underground for a long time and realized that it was because people who didn’t know the show kept seeing photos of him and thinking, “Oh, that’s the beast?,” and didn’t realize there was a transformation.  The make-up definitely gets tweaked, here and there.  We’ve done a little bit more with the nails and the hands lately, which has been fun.  We add a little bit at a time.  But, it’s a hard process and Jay [Ryan] is a total trooper.  He has to sit in a make-up chair for literally hours and hours to go through it.  Any criticism that’s out there, you definitely walk around remembering it and thinking of it. When Jennifer and Sherri created the show, I think what they wanted to do was make him a very accessible character.  It’s different, what people expect today.  Now, there’s so much you can do with visual effects, with transforming and changing and shifting, that it’s an aspect of it that maybe wouldn’t have come up, all those years ago.  Just in the 11 years I’ve been dealing with visual effects, they’ve changed so dramatically.  There’s all kinds of things that I can do now, that I couldn’t have done 11 years ago, so I think that’s part of it.  It’s more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in some ways. 

How much do you pay attention to what people are saying about the show online? 

SOUDERS:  A lot.  Our writing staff and our post staff are here in L.A., and then production is up in Toronto, so I can’t really speak for other people, but within our walls, our amazing writing staff is on the computer, all the time.  Brian and I dealt with it a lot of Smallville, too.  Twitter wasn’t as big, but online was huge.  And it definitely affects it.  There’s the question of, “What do people really hate, and what are they loving to hate?”  That’s where it gets tricky.  You have to try to analyze whether they really hate a character, or whether they love hating a character.  If they love hating a character, that’s great.  If they just hate a character, then that’s not so good.  It definitely impacts the show.  What people don’t realize is that, by the time you’ve written it, produced it and it airs, a lot of time has passed, so it’s not like you can immediately change next week’s [episode].  Maybe you can change seven weeks from now, but you can’t really change the next week. 

beauty-and-the-beast-jay-ryan-kristin-kreukDo you think social media is helping bring people back to watching when a show airs live? 

SOUDERS:  Yeah.  To say that Twitter and online communication is changing how people write television and create it is an understatement.  It is massively impacting it, and I think it’s been in a really great way.  If we can bring people back to live television, obviously networks will be really happy. 

As you’ve gotten a chance to see what your actors do with their characters, how has that influenced your writing or changed things to play to their strengths? 

SOUDERS:  It impacts it a lot, with Kristin [Kreuk], Jay [Ryan], Austin [Basis], Nina [Lisandrello], Brian [White] and across the board.  When you get footage in and they take a line and make it more funny or humorous than you expected, suddenly you go, “Oh, I can start writing some humor for that character,” or they take a moment that was a little bit of an emotional shift in your mind and they really shift it deeply.  Seeing footage from actors come in, I would say impacts the writing of that character and the ideas that come forward, way more than they probably have any idea.  I’ve taken characters and completely changed their path, simply based on abilities that the actor had, that I didn’t know they had.

You’ve recently added Sendhil Ramamurthy and Edi Gathegi as antagonists, and all of these characters finding out about Vincent has really shifted the dynamics.  For these last episodes, who would you say is the biggest threat? 

SOUDERS:  That’s a good question.  Well, in the next episode, Evan (Max Brown) is a massive problem for them, and Max does such an incredible job with that.  And Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) obviously becomes an issue.  But, I will tell you that there’s another bigger, darker character that’s going to arrive, down the road, too.

Beauty and the Beast airs on Thursday nights on The CW, with new episodes returning on April 18th.  Be sure to get caught up on all of our WonderCon coverage here