Steve Kriozere is a writer/producer with an impressive resume that includes work on “NCIS,” “Castle,” and “Femme Fatales.” If you have not gotten a chance to try out “Femme Fatales,” it is a show worthy of your consideration. You can leave any preconceived notions at the door, and start out with “Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season,” which is now available and you can purchase here. You can read a recent review of the show here.
The following is an interview with Steve Kriozere where we discuss what “Femme Fatales” is all about from various points of view. We also talk about “Elvis Van Helsing,” (review here) an offbeat horror graphic novel that Steve co-wrote with Mark A. Altman, who is also a writer/producer involved with, among other projects, “Castle” and the co-creator, with Steve, on “Femme Fatales.” We wrap up with a discussion on the writing process and what lies ahead for “Femme Fatales.”
We begin by discussing the tricky position that this show finds itself in. It’s a show on Cinemax. That carries a unique set of issues. For instance, the concept of “less is more” can be a hard one for the network to grasp. The creators and writers on the show must find ways to deliver the goods, the sexual content, in new and creative ways while also building up a show. Here’s the thing, this is, at its heart, a clever show. There are so many things going right with this show, from its charismatic host, Tanit Phoenix, to its exploration of genres and, well, embrace of geekdom. The show, at the end of the day, retains its potential which, by all rights, should remain forever elusive.
The full interview with Steve Kriozere follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Henry Chamberlain: I have a lot of thoughts about “Femme Fatales.” It has its own audience and it can keep growing. I think the stumbling block for some folks is thinking it’s all about gratuitous sex without ever giving the show a chance.
Steve Kriozere: Cinemax has the wrap. They’re trying to change that image. It’s like a toxic lake and this is the first step in cleaning it up.
HC: As they say, it’s not your dad’s Cinemax anymore.
SK: That’s right.
HC: This is going a bit out on a limb but I think of Lena Dunham, on HBO’s “Girls,” and she is engaging in sex scenes and nudity and it’s legitimate. It moves the story forward. The same can be said for “Femme Fatales.”
SK: We knew going in that it would be a challenge doing this type of show. To organically find ways to include that type of content can be a challenge. It is our hope that, when those scenes occur, they don’t bring the narrative to a halt.
HC: I wanted to jump to a specific episode, “Bad Medicine,” which you wrote. It’s really well paced. I love that the gang member quotes Jimmy Cagney from “White Heat.” I don’t know if a gang member would really say that but it sounds good coming from Robert LaSardo. Well, it’s a very well paced story.
SK: Thanks. It was the second one we shot. It’s a story taking place in real time, similar to “Speed Date” and “Haunted.” When it’s real time, you want to have things move quickly pacing-wise.
HC: I see, of course.
SK: I wasn’t sure if Robert LaSardo would want to work with us as his work tends to be more mainstream. Spoiler alert. He’s in a love scene, a fantasy love scene in “Bad Medicine.” He was happy with it. He said, “Man, I owe you one.” (laughs)
HC: You’ve got a number of name actors coming on board.
SK: For Season One, we had actors willing to take a chance on a new show. These are actors we’d worked with before, like Robert LaSardo. We also had Dean Hagland, Charlie O’Connel, Angus Scrimm. By Season Two, the show had made a name for itself and we had actors we hadn’t worked with before: Jeff Fahey, Vivica A. Fox, Robert Picardo. We had Paul Mazursky play a prison warden on our first season. That really means something.
HC: Yeah, that’s impressive to get Paul Mazursky.
SK: He’s an Academy Award nominated director. I ran into him recently and he talked about how much he enjoyed doing the show.
HC: That’s cool.
SK: Good for him to be on the show. It’s stuff like that that helps to elevate the show.
HC: I wanted to ask you about the comic book that you and Mark A. Altman did a few years back, “Elvis Van Helsing.”
SK: “Elvis Van Helsing” was a TV pilot. What ended up happening is that ABC Family chose at that time to go with “The Middleman.” We’re big fans of Javier Grillo-Marxuach so we were very happy for him. We’re also happy with the reaction to “Elvis Van Helsing.” It was an idea pitched to Larry Young at Ait Planet Lar and he ran with it. Everyone who has read it has enjoyed it.
HC: Wasn’t “The Middleman” originally a graphic novel?
SK: It was a spec TV pilot that became a comic book which became a TV series. Strange but true.
HC: It’s interesting how these things are so interconnected. Getting back to “Femme Fatales,” this second season has seen a full on superhero episode and a full on science fiction episode. Can you talk about the evolution of the show?
SK: We’re pushing the envelope with the show. There’s a full on grindhouse episode, “Hell Has No Furies.” The science fiction episode is “Bad Science,” by the same director as “Bad Medicine.” Mojo, who won an Emmy for his work on “Battlestar Gallatica,” did the special effects for “Bad Science” so we got very high production value. We close out the second season with a two-part comic book episode, “Libra.” This was concieved by Bob Layton who was the artist for Marvel Comics’s “Iron Man” for many years. We feature some of his artwork in “Libra.” We told ourselves if we ever did a superhero episode that we were going to do it right.
HC: I love Tanit Phoenix. She appears a lot on the actual show besides being the host.
SK: Yeah, I believe her first cameo was on “Bad Medicine” where you see her pulling the strings to the other characters. There’s a hint to a bigger story and we hint at that more for the first season’s two-part finale, “Visions.” We wanted to do a whole story about how she was murdered and she is out to exact revenge with the help of the other femme fatales who have been wronged but the network didn’t want to do that.
HC: They weren’t ready to commit to something like that?
SK: Yeah, they just prefer to not go there.
HC: I also love the pop culture references you guys make. For instance, at the end credits to “Girls Gone Dead,” the episode is dedicated to Fawn Leibowitz. (laughs) I’ll let readers who don’t get that to look it up.
SK: I forgot about that one. (laughs) But, yeah, we enjoy sprinkling in references to pop culture, stuff we grew up on. For instance, the character Violet MacReady, from “Bad Medicine,” is named after R.J. MacReady from “The Thing.” So, maybe Violet was spawned from some adventure in Antarctica.
HC: Okay, I have a silly question.
SK: There’s no question too silly for “Femme Fatales.”
HC: What would Rod Serling make of the show? He was ahead of his time so maybe he’d get it.
SK: I don’t think he’d get the sexual content since he’s from another era. We’ve had episodes with twists to them like “The Twilight Zone.” I think he might enjoy the comedy we’ve done. On the old “Twilight Zone,” the comedy didn’t work so well. He might like our comedy episode, “Speed Date.” I’m sure he’d think it was better than the movie they made of “The Twilight Zone.” (laughs)
HC: There you go. (laughs) Well, on that note, I want to thank you for your time. I did have another question. I was curious about your dual role as writer and producer. Do those two roles feed off of each other?
SK: When you see the credits for producers, those are titles for writers. You need to learn how to produce for the show too so you learn both trades. There’s a lot of producing going on for “Femme Fatales.” We come up with a concept and then we have to find ways to produce it all on one spot.
HC: It’s not so cut and dry where all you do is write?
SK: It depends on the show. Sometimes all you will do is work on the scripts and outlines. And you won’t be involved with the casting, or the pre-production, or the editing, or being on set. Every show is different. So, it depends on what you will do.
HC: Well, you can do it all. You have a very impressive resume and you’ve been around for a long time.
SK: Thanks. “Femme Fatales” is the most creative freedom we’ve ever had. To come up with original characters every week is pretty awesome. It’s pretty fun. Whatever we get approved by the network we need to go find and do. So, if they approve a sci-fi episode, we’re like “Oh my God, here we go!”
HC: That’s very cool.
SK: Season Two definitely has a lot of great episodes. We’re really pushing it in terms of creativity and budget. I think people, if they haven’t seen it, will really enjoy it. And it will make a great DVD set when it comes out later this year.
HC: Have you gotten the greenlight for Season Three?
SK: We haven’t heard yet but hopefully soon. We have a lot of ideas and certain characters we’d like to bring back. So, we’ll see.
HC: Very cool. Well, thank you, sir.
SK: You’re welcome.
You can hear the podcast to this interview here:
“Femme Fatales” is a new breed of show. Check it out at our friends at Cinemax here.