Hello! Welcome to the Highlander Rewatched Podcast! I'm one of your hosts, I'm Keith.
This is Eamon!
Keith: So, for a lot of you out there, this might be your first time tuning into the Highlander Rewatched Podcast, and you might be asking yourselves: "Well what is this podcast all about?" In short, it's about everything Highlander, and this is essentially our own Watcher Chronicle of us revisiting and re-watching every bit of the Highlander film; TV; book; anime franchise, and talking about it in detail. And the three of us love Highlander. We love the good about it, we love the bad about it, and we just want to talk about everything that makes up the Highlander Universe, here on this podcast, and we hope you join us every single week for it.
This week's a VERY special episode of Highlander Rewatched. We actually got to sit down with Creative Consultant, Executive Producer, Script Supervisor, and what many would consider the guiding light of the Highlander franchise, David Abramowitz, in a really fascinating interview. We sat down with David, and we talked about how he got involved in the Highlander franchise; where the series is headed; and what Highlander has meant to himself and generations of avid and devoted fans.
Thanks a lot for tuning in to this episode, on behalf of myself, Keith, and my cohosts, Eamon and Kyle. Without further ado, on with the interview!
1:41 Keith: So I guess uh, our first question is: How did you get inf... involved in Highlander? Uh, we know you did a lot of TV work, uh, previously, uh in the 80s on MacGyver... Um, on V, which is actually one of my favorite shows. I remember watching that show with my parents when I was a kid. Um... And yeah, so did... did you know the producers ahead of time? Or... How did you... How did you get started working on the series?
David: Well, I got called in--My agent said there was a show in syndication, um... that... needed a showrunner, a head writer, and so um... I went in for the interview and, I had no idea what I was getting into. Um, I came in on show number 6, and they had five or six showrunners before me. Um, all had either quit or been fired.
Eamon: Oh, wow!
2:23 David: And um... They gave it to one of the producers to hire a new showrunner because the s... the folks from France didn't do too well, and um... and some of the U.S. people just didn't work out, and I went to the job; I went to the interview, and um... um, I met with Gary Goodman, who is now... um, Gary's now the head of uh, physical production at Lionsgate TV.
Keith: Oh okay.
2:46 David: And he um... He... We talked for a while, and I was going away to Montana for my tenth anniversary, and uh, he said "We'll let you know," and they FedExed the script to this bed and breakfast in um... in Glacer--Glacier National Park. And that's how I got started on Highlander.
Kyle: So were you familiar with Highlander at all before that point? Before you started getting involved?
3:11 David: Um, I... Yes, I had seen the original movie. *Keith: Okay.* And, um, I liked it a great deal. And I had seen the second movie and didn't like it very much. (Rewatchers laugh) Um, and then I st--I got sort of thrown into the fire. And, when I got on the show... Um, when I got back to L.A. and went into my office, um, there was um, four days to the next show prepped and there was no script--*Keith: Wow!*--and... It was chaos! And I started--I came in at 7 o'clock in the morning and went home at 11 o'clock at night. I burned through two assistants and um... (amused) One said they didn't want to see me die at my desk. (laughter)
Eamon: Oh my goodness!
3:52 David: Um... I needed a job! *Keith: Mmhm!* And um, I thought, "Okay, this will last six months, and then I will go on back to network television." And uh... six years later I was still there.
Keith: Wow! Well, we ju--We just finished uh, wrapping up our recording of the first season of episodes, and we--we talk about you a lot on the show because it's VERY apparent when you step in, and i--Well I think we see mo--uh, uh, your mark, firstly on Band of Brothers, is... It's a real turning point for us as watchers; as the... of the show. Um. So did you--When you started on the show, did you... have kind of any ideas of what you wanted to do when you were brought onboard?
4:28 David: Uh, no. You have to understand: When I came on the show and I stepped in, all I wanted to do was survive. (agreeing noises and chuckles) Um, it was... We were getting notes from the networks from six different countries, and when... the people who sold the show sold the show, they sold a slightly different show to every country. So, to the French it was "Ah, it's a crime fighter with a sword!" To the Germans, it was a, um, fantasy/sword and sorcery show. To the Japanese, it was a show with rock stars--*Kyle: Oh!*--which is what they promised. So, it was a very different show and, navigating that water and staying sane was, um... was what I could--what I could do. So, in the... In the first year, um, just in the beginning episodes, all it was was getting a script done. I hadn't come to terms with what the show could be yet, because I was just trying to survive. You know, there's a saying: When you're ass--When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember you've come to drain the swamp. (laughter) And um, that, I wou--In the beginning I was just draining the swamp. And I didn't pick my, my writing team. I was put into um... It was a rather difficult world at the time. BUT, um, I had a good work ethic. No matter what was thrown on me, I just kept working, and moving forward. I kind of KNEW that if I got caught up in the political minutia, I'd never be able to--I would fail. *Keith: Hm!* So, I just kept working. I got saved on a show called Sea Witch, um, because many of the scripts we were doing were written by people whose... who, English was not their first language, because it was a French... It was--in the second year anyway--it was... So they--the writers didn't have a handle on the show, in some ways, so there were enormous rewrites. The show was still finding itself. It had some strange directions. So there was an--a LOT of rewriting, there was no... no backlog of scripts. Y-y-you... They burned through whatever scripts they had, and um... it was just getting through the day, actually.
Kyle: There was something you mentioned that was really interesting, that it was pitched in Japan as a show with rock stars on it. We always kind of talk about the connection between Highlander and rock 'n roll. Would--Did that really come from the fact that that's the way it was pitched to... to one of the countries that was airing it, or was there an... another connection in, in your mind?
6:58 David: I think that came from Queen in the first movie. *Keith: Mm.* The Queen music was so much, um, was so much part of the movie.
Keith: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I can't... I don't think I could ever imagine Highlander without Queen's music. It's part and parcel with the mythology, I think. Um... You mentioned--You wore a lot of hats on the show. I mean, you're credited as, you know: you're a writer, script supervisor, creative consultant, uh... For those that aren't in, kind of, Hollywood or, like, those industry terms: What--What are--What exactly does... like a story editor do versus a script consultant or a creative consultant? What... What are the different hats that you would have to wear?
7:32 David: This is a two-part answer.
David: Um... One is: When I was hired, my title for the first year was Supervising Producer. And, with the, with... In my contract it said that I was going to be Executive Producer for the next year. Um, I was the head writer. Um, I ran the story room, I did all the re-writes, I wrote a couple scripts, which were done in a couple days each, cuz they were done in a bind. I always took the script that was uh... when there was no time cuz uh... to deliver. Um... And then, in the second year it became a French-Canadian co-production, and I was supposed to get the job of executive producer, but as it was a co-production, they couldn't have Americans on the show with Executive Producer or Writer titles 'n, which is why I'd written no episodes after that and... um, I was charged to re-write the episodes. *Keith: Hm!* Um, and I was given a title, and I... I said n... First I said, "No. You can't--I'm not gonna do this. You gave me... Ahuh, we have a contract." And they said, "We'll give you some extra money," and I said "Fine." (laughter)
8:32 David: So having, having three children to raise, and a home um, I opted for the money rather than the title. Um but, here's the way it works. Um, the executive producer--Generally the head writer is the executive producer. He kind of runs the show. He's in the editing room at last, at the end. He's in charge of the stories, he's in charge of all the writing, he's the last typewriter. That was partially the case on this, but because there was Bill Panzer who was the executive producer, and Marla Ginsburg, I only did part of that. My job was really to help with casting, and deliver all the material. Um, beneath that there are various titles. Supervising producer, which generally is another writer's title; and then there's producer, and then there's co-producer... But years ago there used to be just executive producers, and then story editors. Story editors were the writers on staff of the show. Not freelancers. They were there--They were there every day, writing. THEN as writers worked on a show for several years, they would... in their contract they would, say, they would get up to the title of producer. But really they were still just the writers on the show. Writing producers for the most part are... writers who have more experience or high--have already gotten the title of producer, and they get the title producer again. So that's the kind of--And then there's the... the producer which is like the line producer. He's the producer on set, um, who runs the physical production of the show. And that was... Ken Gord. And, and Gary Goodman the first year, then Ken Gord after that. And if I'm not clear, let me know.
Eamon: Oh, sure.
Keith: No! This makes--That makes a lot of sense. It's good to have it all broken down like that.
10:10 Eamon: Yeah! I had a question! So, it sounds like you were kinda... thrown into the fire a little bit when you first started here. In addition to, you know, all the... the hats and kinda... it sounds like you had to clean up a little bit. Was it hard to keep track? Highlander has so much minutia in the rules, and the world it lives in, um... Did you--Did you have like backup on... kinda catching up to speed on all these rules that probably would have to be adhered to for the future? Was tha--Was that a challenge?
10:38 David: No... I think that that's really the... But once you know... What a writer needs to know, more than anything else, is what the box is. And if you know what the box is, and you can do logical extensions well, you can... Once... You can do the job. It's actually easier, when you have a framework, than it is saying: "This guy's immortal, go write something." *Eamon: Right.* So if you have rules: like No fighting on Holy Ground, like the fighting is one-on-one, (undertone) except in some of the movies... (long laughter) Um, and, and um... you know, and There Can Be Only One, and The Gathering, and all the things that are coming... Once you have those boxes, then, then they give you places... Like Holy Ground, for example. That--It was a wonderful thing to have Holy Ground for, for us, for the writers because, it gave us a place where the good guys and bad guys could talk. And you wouldn't have to say: "Okay. Why are they not fighting? Why are they not killing each other?!" (Kyle chuckles) So, it enabled you to do things you couldn't do in some other shows. So it just... Sometimes it was a very good thing. And it wasn't hard. Learning the rules wasn't hard. Um... And, it just, actually was helpful, in some ways.
Kyle: So once the writing process normalized a little bit, uh, and you were kind of out of that initial fire, uh... How did these episodes actually... go through the writing process, here once you... once you weren't scrambling so much?
12:02 David: Well it--I was scrambling all my--I have a very small--Most shows on television have staff of uh, seven or eight people. Um, we had a staff of myself and two other writers. So, that... um, so... you have to come up with an idea for a story, and that's the beginning, and that is generally... You write down a paragraph. That with, with the the studi--with the... a paragraph or one page. And then you send out that one page to all the... networks and the producers, and, and, and they take their shots at it. And then, you either do it or you don't do it. Very often, you know, you send out two or three at a time, so that they could throw out one. So that, you know, they could feel that they were doing their job. (Rewatchers chuckle) Um... and no, but that's just TRUE, you know! People need... When you HIRE people... when people... when, when the people who hire you, um, and judge you, they need to... In order to maintain their sense of "This is why I have a job!" And sometimes they have good ideas, sometimes not. And then you um, and then they would choose. And then from there, you sit in the room, and you talk the story. Um... And people have ideas, and you go--go around and around, and I was the tie-breaker. I made decisions, and then, and then someone would write an outline, which is about ten to fifteen pages where you write every scene... You don't fill in all the, all the dialogue or everything that happens, but you give a sense of the--of the dramatic thrust, and the characters of the story. And then that goes out again, into the world. And then everybody gives you notes again, and then you make some changes, and then you--and then, depending on time, you start writing and then you send it out again, you make the rest of the changes on the fly. And then you write the first draft! And then that first draft gets re-written inhouse. Um, this is the way I worked it: All the writers who are being paid on the show sit in a room and--sit in one room and the first draft, and if you have a good staff, what happens is that no one--No one sandbags any idea. So that everybody gives their best on the script, no matter who-whose name is on it. And then you, you do a polish on that first draft, and then that's YOUR--That's the writer's dr--writer's final draft, and then it goes out to the world. And then all the networks 'n--networks and studios, 'n people who own the rights, everybody sends in their notes again. And then you wade through the notes, and you try to make things work... And then you do the best you can, and the clock is ticking. Every seven working days you need another script. And if you don't deliver the script, it's every day... Every day you don't shoot is like a $75,000 hit. You HAVE to deliver. And then you... You deliver the script, and... they star--and then--and then the actors come in, and--Not in the first year, cuz... But then actors become more proprietary, especially stars. And then THEY...! They give some notes, too. You give your Line Producer, or as I gave mine, I said "Listen. The actors can change a line, if it makes them more comfortable. They can't change the intent. And so... And any change of intent needs to come back through me."
15:09 David: I didn't care whether they said something like: "I'm going to the store!" and they wanted to say: "I'm outta here. I'm going to the store." I didn't care. As long as the intent of the line was still the same. *Keith: Right.* And plus the fact that I was generally thousands of miles away from where the location where this is filming. (laughter) [I didn't see the dailies until days after the scene was filmed] done, I, you know, I... There's some battles you can fight, and some battles you can't. *Eamon: Sure.* And that's the process. And then you shoot the show, and then it goes into an edit--editing room, and the director takes a shot at putting it together and then, then YOU take your shot at putting it together. And that's the way it works.
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
Keith: Hey, fellow Rewatchers! Thanks again for listening to this interview with showrunner David Abramowitz! If you haven't already, make sure to go to Facebook and like the Highlander Rewatched Facebook page! We're always posting really fun stuff ranging from pictures, episode trivia, behind the scenes info, video compilations, and the best part is you get to interact with Highlander fans from all around the globe, which is one of the coolest things about the Highlander fandom and Highlander universe! On with the interview!
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
16:15 Keith: Um, so, one of the contributions that I've read you had to the-to the show was the creation of the character Darius?
Keith: Can you, can you tell us about how that character came about? And kind of--I guess and then to the--the sad book-end to that story is that uh, Werner Stocker, sadly, passed away. And so could you just talk about uh, the creation of Darius?
16:34 David: I wanted Adrian to have--I wanted Adrian, I wanted the--who I just had lunch with this week--I wanted MacLeod, Duncan, to have... a mentor. Someone he could talk to. Because, um... Duncan, when--when he was at his best, was a hero, but with holes in him, like most people are. You know, they--are filled with some doubts, some fear, some... You know, was trying to do the right thing, didn't kn--but didn't always do the right thing, and... um, I wanted to give him a "talk to" mentor. And I wanted to bring... pick a character back far away and give him an interesting backstory. When I had originally written him, um, I wanted him to be a s--a very unattractive character. Physically. So... that... you would first look at him and go, "Blech." *Eamon and Kyle chuckle* But then the character is--is the power of his goodness, and WISDOM. You would see past all of that. And, um, in--But the Germans, um, who... because it was a co-production and because they were putting money in, wanted a German character on the show. They objected to the--their German character being unattractive, cuz they didn't think it would play well with their audiences. So... Werner Stocker got the job. Then, tragically, he had a... an embolism, you know, and he... and... eighteen hours before the show was to start shooting, I got a call at--like, twenty hours before the show--I got a call at 3 o'clock in the morning, saying, "We have to rewrite... We have to rewrite the show. Uh, Werner can't..." This was after he did the first episode. This is when he... when he... the episode previous to when he--when he died. *Keith: Mmhm.*
18:21 David: "Werner, um... is, is ill, he can't do it. And uh, you have to re-wr--We have to shut down." And I said "Don't shut down!" And I, I went to the office at 3 o'clock in the morning, and wrote, um... like twenty-five hours straight, and re-wrote the entire script, and delivered it, and I was--We were worried that, um... What's his name, the lead singer of The Who, um...
Eamon and Keith: Roger--*Eamon only: Daltry! Yeah.*
David: ... Roger Daltry. You know, he's--he's only gonna be in the episode for a couple days, I wasn't--I didn't know if he could act! And then... he came on and he was marvelous. He was absolutely wonderful. And we moved the--we changed the script, and it worked!
Kyle: So, what trajectory would that episode have taken, and that character have taken, if he had been able to--to continue with the series?
19:07 David: Um... I think MacLeod might have gotten a little darker, and he would've been... he would have been his moral core, trying to pull him back. I think that's the kind of thing where we might have gone.
Keith: Wow. Oh! I was gon--I was gonna say: For--For you, what makes a good Highlander episode? Um, I know the three of us have our, you know, favorite episodes from, uh... the first season and many other ones, but uh, yeah. Wh-What, to you, is... makes a good one?
19:29 David: Um, what makes a good Highlander is... is it's based on... an episode based on, for me, based on a moral question. Um... You know, someone... uh, Steve Geaghan, who was our--who was our art director/production designer, two-two years into it--for the first few years, anyway--came to me: "I finally understand what Highlander is. Highlander is a Talmudic discussion with ass-kicking." And, I thought that was great! I was very proud to have that as, as... So, that always stayed with me. And that's what it is! It's a question... A good episode has moral and ethical questions, conflict that's real, and... a great villain. That's what--That's what I thought makes a--Or, OR: Magic happens with the character. You know, and you never know what's going to happen.
Kyle: So what then IS your favorite episode of-of Highlander?
20:15 David: That's like saying which is your favorite ch--Which is your favorite child? (Rewatchers laugh) You know I have a lot of episodes I LIKE, and--and I have a lot of episodes I DON'T like.
Kyle: Is it wrong to ask who your least favorite child is, then? (laughter)
20:27 David: I have several least favorite children... (Rewatchers chuckle) From... Bad Day in Building A...
Kyle: Yeah. (laughter)
20:34 David: Like, I... I didn't like the... The Zone, I thought was terrible. I, I didn't like the episode... What's his name... Ohhhhh... The Messenger...
20:44 David: That could--That was because I had, I had great hopes for that episode, and it didn't... I didn't like the way it worked. Um... There were some episodes I loved for differ--I loved episodes for different reasons. *Ke Mmhm!* Um, I loved The Samurai, because um... I--I thought it was an interesting... The--the line: "You can't..." "You can't win honor with a trick." And the whole story of how he got his sword, I thought that was... that was lovely. I think my favorite two episodes, though, um... iiiiiiisss... You know, it's so funny, you know. I just... This has been... It's been so many years. Um, the middle of the fourth season, I think it was. Um... Stay with me, here. (laughter) Um... uh...
Keith: We didn't mean to put you on the spot, there!
21:29 David: No. I really like Something Wicked and Deliverance.
Keith: Oh, yeah!
21:31 David: I really liked The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse episode. I thought that was--the two-parter.
Kyle: Yeah, that's--That's a great series of episodes.
21:39 David: I thought that was beautifully shot, and wonderfully done. Um, I like the one, um... Valkyrie--
Keith: Oh yeah!
21:47 David: Where, where there was a great question; and I love the line, um... James--James Thorpe gave a great line in that. Wrote really wonderfully in the, in the uh... in that episode, at the end of the script. Then the whole question of uh, of is it right to kill a hundred today, to save ten thousand tomorrow. And--Or a million, tomorrow. And that's I thought was a good question.
Kyle: So on the topic of kind of questions you, you wanted to ask: Were there any Highlander stories that you WISH you would have had the opportunity to tell? Uh, but, but weren't able to for whatever reason?
22:17 David: Uhhhhhhhh... You know, I--I... No. I mean it's not--(laughter) I don't... I don't, actually, um... There were so many of them. And... As I said, we had a very small staff. And most of the time... Th-there wasn't a lot of--It wasn't an enormous time for reflection. Um, we just had to... If you had an idea that looked like it could work, and you could sell it to--to the other folks, you just had to do it. Because time is money. What I wish, though, is that I wish there were more time. You know I KNEW in my heart, in my HEAD, what each episode should be. But it takes a long time. It takes up to... sometimes you don't get that--that idea that gives you a moral and ethical question. Um... How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? *Eamon huff-laughs* And then... And a great... a great villain and a good overarcing story. Those things come. Um, sometimes magic happens and sometimes it doesn't. But you always hap-to-happen--you always have to deliver. But I think some of the strengths of Highlander, um, was that we got very lucky with some of our casting. I think that Elizabeth Gracen, as Amanda, is perfect casting. She was wonderful. She had charm, she-she, you know, she was beautiful, she was funny, she-she had everything. I thought--Um, we moved Jim Byrnes, and into--into a blues club, and let him be who he is. Who--And I love Jim, I mean. But that was a wonderful thing to do. I thought when we, um, when we got Peter Wingfield to play Methos, and created a character who was the anti... antithesis of Darius. Which was a character who was really, really old, and had been through so many... so ma-so many lives, that he'd just come down... he just came down to one thing, which was: "Shit happens, and I'm gonna try to survive." You know, which--which was an interesting take on a character who--who was around longer than everyone else.
Keith: Right. You know--
24:24 David: I loved some--I loved some other episodes cuz I thought they were beautiful, physically. I thought that, the one about Lord Byron was interesting. There were lots of good episodes. And some... I think about twenty of the episodes were REALLY, really good. I think about... I think 20%... about 60% were... were good. About 10% were pretty good, and I think about, maybe... 5% were... not good at all. (laughter)
Keith: Well that's not a bad track record, though! That's a, that what most shows could hope for!
David: No, it's not! Well that's ME! But that, well I'm, you know, I'm totally--I'm totally biased, of course! (laughter)
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
Keith: Who wants to live forever? How would YOU play the Game? What would it be like to be immortal? These are questions we tackle each and every week on Highlander Rewatched. And we wanna hear from you. Next week, our question is: What's so special about the original Highlander movie? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us, in thirty words or less, what makes the original Highlander motion picture so special. Join us next week as we discuss the first film in the Highlander Franchise. We'll tell you what WE think makes the original movie so special, and we'll share the best reader responses we get, on air. Make sure to write us at email@example.com, to tell us in thirty words or less what makes the original Highlander film so special.
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
25:54 Keith: Um, you mentioned uh, Joe Dawson coming onto the--Oh excuse me!--Jim Byrnes, as Joe Dawson, coming on. Who--Who came up with the idea for the Watchers? Cuz that's a, a big kind of shift in the mythology of the--of the show, and adds, I think, a really great amount of depth and dimension to it.
26:08 David: I think... Well, here's what happened: I think Bill Panzer and... Marla Ginsburg had a conversation, and they said which: "We need to come up with another group of characters to add something to it, and I think they need to be uh... in the background..." and I think we just sat in a room, and came up with the Watchers. And I think it was a great idea. Jim, who was so totally human, so totally likeable, he became... And then we, we wanted to build the Watchers, and I c... Then I created a mythology of who they were, why they were doing what they were doing, and how the organization was structured, which led us to the Hunters, which, you know, just gave us more story. And that's how it came about.
Kyle: Yeah. Yeah. Just thinking about, kind of human involvement in the show: uh, one of the things we talked about a lot about during the-the first season was kind of the-the involvement of police in the first season? Which we kind of found, you know, is not as strong in-in later seasons. *David: Yeah.* Was there like a, a philosophical change in the-the writers' room about what, kind of the role of law enforcement should be in the show?
27:13 David: Right. I think, you know, we're--Highlander happens kind of in a separate universe. In its own universe. And I think we pulled law enforcement--or I did. It was my decision.--because, you couldn't continually... You couldn't keep years of episodes, a hundred episodes, or whatever you're doing and--without the police seeming incredibly stupid.
Keith: Rigth! (laughter)
27:35 David: You, you couldn't do it. I mean, I couldn't do it. I wasn't gifted enough to create things where-where a sane person would say: "Don't you see it?! You know, can't ya... You know, how many times this has to happen before--" so--*Keith: Right!*--we just pulled them out of the universe, and played the "Combat in secret," and played the, the fear of what would happen if they became discovered. If they were discovered. So, I mean that's, that's the reason. I couldn't, I couldn't build credible story-telling. So I got rid of the newspapers and I got rid of the, the police.
Kyle: Yeah. It was definitely one of those things I didn't think about until the law enforcement was actually THERE. *David: Right.* Kind of like, I had no problem just kind of suspending disbelief that... *David: Right.*... you know, this goes on in secret. *Keith: Right.* But once--but once the police are there investigating it, now I have a lot of questions about--*Keith laughs*--how they keep blowing it. (laughter)
28:22 David: Which was--It just--It just didn't seem right to me. It didn't seem smart to me, and I couldn't do it. I would spend so much time dealing with: "Well, how are they avoiding the police in this?" And, "What do the police think?" And I didn't want to do... The show was not about the police. This was not a procedural.
Keith: Right. (laughing)
Kyle: Highlander: Law And Order!
28:48 David: Right. The show is about an Immortal trying to survive, in... in the world. And in... Given the combat, and the, and the pain of losing people. The pain of... and the pain of knowing that everyone you've ever loved has died. Yes.
Kyle: Is there any extent to which that was a, a holdover from the movie? Um... Kind of the law enforcement angle and, how much did, kind of, decisions made in the... kind of move-side of things affect what you had to do working on the series?
29:08 David: I--I... Um, none. I mean, I just... I just... they were SO happy to have someone deliver scripts, that they pretty much... after a while, they let me just run th--The movie, I... I fought to maintain the basic mythology, and then expand them. I gave them, like, the Watchers. Like, the fighting, making it clear the fighting has to be one-on-one. So that... You know because it wasn't logical thaaaaat... three bad Immortals wouldn't join together and say: "Listen, the three of us will kill every Immortal around, and then we'll, you know, then we'll--we'll fight, fight amongst ourselves." I needed to, to really hit that home.
Keith: Yeah. You-you do ask a lot of really fantastic questions; I think that takes the series in a, in a great direction. Um... You mentioned the movies. So, after the series ran, there were some additional movies, uh, including an anime--
30:00 David: I had nothing--I had nothing to do with them. (laughter)
Keith: Uh, did you--Do you have any opinions on them that you want to share? If not, it's okay.
30:06 David: Yeah I--I didn't like them. (laughter) You know, I--I think... I think... I just didn't like them. I think... (David sighs) People didn't know what they had. In some ways. And this is just me and my vanity. Um, but... but living with the series for all these years, you get a sense of... what it really needs to be about, and what's it's about. And it's not... The third movie, with Mario Peebles, was... okay. It was a reasonable... You know, it didn't have a strong moral question, but at least it stuck to the rules. *Keith: Mmhm.* The--I always believed that the... TV series operated in a different universe than the movies. There were things done in the movies that were out of convenience in some ways... that were inconsistent with its own mythology. And I believe it's very important to be consistent. And not of--Not, not change the rules.
Eamon: Uh, I wanted to know: What was it like working on the um, the anime Highlander feature, uh, Search For Vengeance? Was, was that experience... It, it sounds like you have... some experience dealing with um, you know other... other markets. Did that play into the writing of that movie?
31:13 David: Well I have a life now working outside of the United States. But, but what was it like... It was a little strange. Working with a Japanese director was... Kawajiri had never done any material that someone else had written, and we had an interesting... Um... the movie... I was a little disappointed in the movie. I thought it was okay. But it wasn't--That wasn't totally... my script. Um... It was... I got my credit on it, but I mean I wrote a lot of it; the basic story and stuff like that and, and a lot of the dialogue was mine, but there were changes made and directions taken that were different. And I didn't know as much about anime or animation as I sh--as I could have, or, plus I--they just hired me and, because I did the series, I knew the series, um... But, um... I remember meeting with Kawajiri, and I was in--I was in Japan and, I had no idea what working with the Japanese was like, and it was very different. It was VERY, very different. You know, um... Kawajiri was the lord of the manor. There was a different, um, structure of, of how people work. And... so after I got notes on the script, and I said to Kawajiri and to this group of people, and to a translator, I said: "Okay, once I do these notes--" Cuz it was my job to make sure the script was-was appealing to, to an American audience, um a Western audience, and I said: "Once I make these changes, and, and that we're talking about here on the script, that that is the script that you will... make a movie of." It's translated to Kawajiri. Kawajiri and, and about four or five of the people on his side of the table start talking to each other in Japanese... they, it's about ten minutes they turn to the, to the translator and talk for five more minutes. And the translator turns to me. She says, "Director Kawajiri says: okay." So I say, cuz I've worked around the world and I mean, I know that "okay" means different things in many different languages, um, "Does okay mean, 'I hear what you're saying, and um, I, I'm in agreement?' Does okay mean 'I hear what you're saying, and as soon as you leave the room I'm gonna do whatever I'd like to do?' Does okay mean, 'I'm, I'm not even... I don't even hear what you're saying, but, I... I need to get you outta the--outta here so I can go back to work?' I just need to know where we are," is what I said.
33:31 David: And so the translator goes back to Kawajiri and, Kawajiri and his crew talk for five, ten more minutes. I said, "What does okay mean?" After about fifteen minutes, they turn back to me and, the translator says, "Director Kawajiri says, 'Okay means okay.'"
Eamon: Oh, boy. (laughter)
Kyle: Ugh. So, how different did it end up being after you... turned over those notes?
33:53 David: I think it was a... I think it was a lot broader, thaaaan I... I thought it should be. But it may not have been because it was a um... It was anime, so it was different, and I... Mine was, um, just a little more... realism, and it was paced a little differently, and--and, you know, it was a... somewhat different movie. I would say it's about 20, 25% different.
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
Keith: Do you love Highlander as much as the three of us do? Make sure to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or any major podcasting network, to the Highlander Rewatched Podcast. Join the Rewatchers each and every week for a brand new Highlander Rewatched episode, in which we'll go in-depth into another episode of Highlander, and we'll even have more behind-the-scenes info, news, and interviews with the people that made Highlander what it is today. Thanks for listening!
♫Princes of the Universe!♫
34:51 Keith: So with all these different iterations of Highlander now: I mean there's been a series of movies, there's the TV show, animated things, comic books, books, all these different things. What do you see as the, the future of Highlander? Does it have... Does it have a-a-a-a future?
35:04 David: The future is very alive. You know, Lionsgate has um, licensed the rights... I believe there's gonna be a new major television series, where... they're looking for a showrunner now.
Keith: Do you have any interest in... in returning to this series?
35:17 David: Oh, if they'd let me in, if they'd let me, absolutely! But whether they let me in is a whole other question. *Keith: Right.* You know, you, you, you don't want the old guy in the room sitting there telling you how it was in the good old days. (laughter) It's not what I would do, but, you know, people are proprietary. But in good ways. You know, they just want it to be theirs. So what... If they want me, I'll be happy to do it. If they don't want me, I wish them all the best of luck. Um... There's gonna be a new Highlander movie... The director's writing... a polish on it now, with some big, big surprises which... we're excited about. I'd written a book for the Highlander: The Musical--*Keith: Wow!*--and, it's um... it will play, um... I'm not sure when it will happen, but we have ten songs; an Australian company just purchased those rights, and... we're gonna try to move ahead.
Keith: Wow! That's amazing!
Kyle: So is it like a rock opera? Speaking to the... kind of rock-and-roll connection? Or what's the style?
36:11 David: Big! Massive! *Kyle laughs* Um, It's uh, it's kind of, um... Highlander as... Les Mis, or Phantom. It's that kind of show. It's a big, big show, with great combat where, with my take on Heather. Heather is, is, is more in the piece. Ramirez is still there. Um... Kastagir has a larger part in the play. Um, there's a moral and ethical question that plays in the piece. The Kurgan is, kind of, a more intellectual, but as deadly, and as vicious, and as weird as he was; but he--Kurgan believes that Man's nature is um, is basically evil, and that the natural state of Man is darkness. And he's just helping the world return to that darkness by being the One. Uh, Connor, believes--has hope. So he represents the light. And this comes from--Basically there was a... in, in the Bible: God said, "Let there be light." That light was not the light of the sun. It was אוֹר "or". And that, that, that "or" is, is... What the word means in Aramaic, means in Hebrew, is that it is the light of Creation. And that's different than just the light of, of the sun. And that light... came.... from the darkness. So... what the Kurgan believes is that darkness was, was the original state of Man, and he's bringing light--He is bringing things back to that. So there is an intellectual conversation as well as, um, the, the incredible swordfights, and... big battle scenes, and great, great songs. And a stronger Heather. You know, Heather in this goes from the village, after Connor, and actually saves him at first, and then... Well, I won't tell you any more, but she is strong! (laughter)
Keith: We'll have to get our tickets!
Eamon: Yeah! It sounds amazing!
Keith: Um, maybe--
38:11 David: Oh, and Brenda is not... not the metallurgist person who knows swords. Brenda's the homicide [detective] who is investigating these beheadings and murders. So we have a more open area for conflict between the--the two of them. It creates a totally different dynamic.
Keith: Wow! Um, maybe just a we... We wanna just close out maybe with one more question, if that's okay? Um, we just wanna ask uh: Why does Highlander have such staying power, and what does Highlander mean to you?
38:38 David: A couple things. One is, I think, it has staying power because people would like to be immortal. But, I think that it's, that... it is... um, at its best, a Talmudic discussion with ass-kicking and fighting. Um, and it, and it has a... It has quin--a quintessential parts of story-telling is a flawed but hopeful, you know, hero. So that w-women... Men respect him, women love him, and think "With my love, I can make him whole." That, and the questions of what's the meaning-of-life questions, add to something MORE than just a show about ass-kicking. So I think it... it gives... people will talk... People will talk about the episodes. Also, I think the flashbacks give it... a, a totally different look, and are a great reflection, and I think people are... People are interested in both--all of those things. You know, you look at Outlander, today, and you look at some of these other shows that are really big. People like looking--stepping into different worlds.
Kyle: So, so what's next for you? Do you have any other projects coming up that our audience might like to hear about?
39:46 David: No, I, I've just written um, just done a re-write on a movie that's called Full Throttle (laughing) that is uh, basically a uh... Fast and Furious on motorcycles. *Rewatchers: Oh!* Um, I uh... I did a movie from China called "Gifted", which is about a, uh, young man who's a brilliant concert pianist, but lives a secret life which his parents don't know about, as a basketball pro. And so that it's a mixture of hip-hop and Chopin. And Chopin. (laughter) And, and, um... So... and it's a look at... It's a generational movie. Which I really love this movie, cuz it's a generational movie, and so it's, it's about parents; it's about young love; it's about hip-hop music; and Chinese music; all blending together. So that, that's another piece. And, uh, you know, I'm always out... Always out waiting and looking for work; which is the nature of being a writer.
40:47 David: So those are a couple things. I got a new vampire movie um, coming, you know, that I've just written that I--in April/May and uh... one I was hired to write, so you never really know what's gonna get made and what's not gonna get made. Um, it's an uphill climb.
41:03 David: But I'm so happy to be doing it.
Kyle: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to... talk to us today!
41:09 David: You're very, very welcome.
Kyle: And we look forward to seeing these projects!
David: Thank you for uh... supporting Highlander, and be on the lookout for the new series; reinvention of the first movie, which I think is gonna be excellent; and for the musical! God willing if it happens.
Keith: Definitely! I, I'm... I for one am very excited about that! Um... And like I said, we--we just finished up the first season of episodes, so maybe in a year or so, if you'd like to sit down with us again, we'd love to talk, uh, about some of the later episodes as well, that'd be great!
41:38 David: Absolutely positively! Happy to talk any time you like.
Keith: Alright, thank you so much for taking your time out of your day, David, we really appreciate it.
David: Thank you. All the best.
Eamon: Thank you, David!
Kyle: Thank you so much! Take care!
David: Bye, guys.
41: 50 Keith: Hey everyone! On behalf of myself: Keith, and my two cohosts: Kyle and Eamon, we just wanna thank David Abramowitz for sitting down with us and having a really great discussion about the Highlander universe. Thanks everybody out there for tuning in, and make sure to subscribe to our podcast, cuz next week we're gonna be tackling the first in a series of podcasts on the original Highlander motion picture, and that's gonna be really fun to delve into. We're gonna get into movie trivia, some behind-the-scenes info, have a lot of good laughs, and we're even gonna have maybe some special guests on those podcasts, which we're really excited to share with the uh, Highlander community out there. Thanks again for listening. Uh, on behalf of the entire Highlander Rewatched crew, thanks a lot! I've been one of your Rewatchers: I'm Keith!
I'm Kyle! Eamon!
Keith: Bye bye!