A little over two decades ago, the CBS series Beauty and the Beast told the tale of a beauty, Catherine Chandler, as she met and ultimately fell in love with a beast named Vincent. Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman starred in the cult classic, which sadly ended after only three seasons.
Now, a new take on the BATB story is coming to The CW Thursdays this Fall. Tasked with re-creating the series were writers Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin (Brothers & Sisters), and starring as the beauty and the beast in this series are Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) and Jay Ryan (Terra Nova), respectively. The show premieres October 11.
We spoke with Levin and Cooper at the Beauty and the Beast press room at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. Enjoy!
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“When they first gave us the title, it was The CW’s idea, and it was just ‘here’s the 80’s show. You can recreate it. What do you think?’ And for a while, we would sit and look at each other, and go ‘okay. What are we going to do with this? Are we going to do this?’ And then right away we started talking, and we could see the billboards,” Sherri Cooper explains. “Like, who doesn’t want a guy with a little baggage? Who doesn’t want a bad boy? But then it got deeper. We started talking about what is a beauty, and what’s a beast. That show did it differently, with the underworld, and the Renaissance garb, and the blouses, but they did tap into the ‘why are there beasts and beauties today?’ We also talked about, especially with the economy, we thought maybe we could explore those things, about what’s beauty and what’s beast. There are both of those things in all of us.”
Many who have seen clips and photos from the pilot will notice that Jay Ryan’s Beast is actually not made up with a lion-like appearance as Ron Perlman was. Was this a conscious decision? “There were two things – one is production wise. We’ve both been doing TV a long time, and we’re used to them saying ‘what do you mean, you’re shooting outside at night?’ Let alone with all that makeup. And then I guess the other was, we knew we would have this great actor, and while it’s great to see effects and whatever, it’s hard to sometimes see the humanity within him,” Sherri Cooper explains. “Also, when you’re in a relationship with a true beast, sometimes you don’t see it. You see this guy. I can think of bad boys in our culture, when you see this handsome guy, and it takes a while to realize he’s a beast. So, there were a lot of different reasons we decided to make him transform.”
“It wasn’t just that he was hot,” Jennifer Levin adds, “but that definitely helps.”
When casting for the “beast” Vincent, it was clear early on that Jay Ryan had the perfect emotional intensity for the role. “He was the first person we saw a tape on,” Levin reveals. “Sherri’s sister-in-law was our casting director, so even before we knew the show was getting picked up, she said ‘there’s this guy you have to see, and no one knows who he is,’ and there was this Youtube video of a one-man play that he had done, and he was amazing. He was incredible.”
“We thought we couldn’t use him at first, because he was shooting a Jane Campion miniseries… but it was hard to find that perfect blend, and we kept coming back to him. We had to make it work,” Cooper adds.
As for Kristin Kreuk, she, too, was someone that Levin and Cooper wanted from the beginning. “She was perfect. She was absolutely our beauty,” Levin says.
“We saw her doing clips of her fighting [in Street Fighter], and we thought ‘oh my God! She looks like she could hold her own as a female detective!’ It seemed like she had this perfect blend, and it was a different character for her than Lana Lang,” Cooper recalls. The producers were not sure, though, if Kristin would be interested in the role. “We met with her and we told ourselves, there’s no way this is happening. She’s never going to do it, but we just wanted to meet her,” Levin says. Fortunately for them, Kristin said yes.
One actress cast for the pilot that you won’t see in the actual pilot when it airs, unless you look really, really closely, is Nicole Gale Anderson, who plays Catherine Chandler’s younger sister. “We love her,” Cooper explains. “It was that our cut was 55 minutes. It was just long. So she’s going to be in the second episode, the first episode after the pilot. We think she’s a great get. She’s adorable with Kristin. They seem like sisters together.”
“We love the idea of a true, naive innocent being on this show. She blocked [the tragedy] out,” Levin adds, with Cooper saying that Anderson “brings a great energy” to the role.
When asked about getting original series stars Ron Perlman or Linda Hamilton onto the show, Sherri Cooper got especially excited over the notion of Hamilton appearing. “That would be amazing! Are you kidding? I think it would be awesome. Linda Hamilton should come in as an aunt or something. She’d be incredible. Or she can be in the precinct, running forensics, or I don’t know. She’d be amazing,” she says.
Beauty and the Beast premieres Thursday, October 11 on The CW.