It’s May 28, and that means tonight on FEARnet, the Reaper reunion special will be hitting the air! To get folks ready for the reunion special, which will precede rebroadcasts of every episode of Reaper’s two seasons on FEARnet, starting in a few weeks, we were able to do something we had wanted to do for years — we were able talk to some of the people who made it happen!
You can find some of our other Reaper interviews, including Ray Wise (The Devil), Rick Gonzalez (Ben), and Christine Willes (Gladys) here — and today, we have a special treat…. the creators of Reaper, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters. Their extensive resumes include Hawaii Five-0, Law & Order: SVU, and more… where does Reaper fall into all of that? Read the interview to find out, as we find out about their Reaper experience in addition to trying to get some long-standing Reaper questions answered!
Our questions to them in this Q&A are posted in bold letters.
How does it feel, five years later, to get the whole Reaper gang back together for a reunion special?
MICHELE FAZAEKAS: It was fantastic. It was so much fun. What was especially nice was listening to how much everybody loved being on the show, and what a great experience it was. It was our best job we’ve ever had, but everybody… Ray Wise was saying it was the best role he’s ever had… that was just a delight to hear, how much everybody enjoyed it.
Did you ever think there would be a possibility of getting everybody back together like that?
TARA BUTTERS: You think people move on, and they tend to go to different jobs like we did… you have fond memories. The writing staff has really stayed in touch, and we see most of the writers on a regular basis, but like Michele said, it was truly a pleasure to see all of the actors again, and to hear that they really enjoyed the experience themselves.
Reaper should have been a huge hit. It was really well received by a loyal group of fans. Why do you think the network didn’t stick with it or even really promote it when the show was on The CW?
MICHELE: You know, we came out the same year that Gossip Girl came out, and the network decided was sort of their network identity. That’s who they were going for; that’s the audience they were going for. We were more almost the old “WB” audience, like Supernatural and Smallville. We fit into that sort of mold, but the new mold of younger girls just wasn’t us, and was never going to be. They kept asking us “can you make it more like Gossip Girl?” and it will never be like Gossip Girl. Which is not to say that we didn’t have fans at the network; we really did have a lot of support from people at the network. They were the ones who bought the pilot. They were the ones who put us on the air. So you can’t get mad at them; they did take a shot, and they did bring us back for a second season. It was just weird timing.
TARA: We had huge support from Mark Pedowitz who at the time was the head of the studio, and now he’s running the network. So, the studio was incredibly supportive of us. Our ratings were actually overall as good as Gossip Girl and our repeats actually ran better than Gossip Girl, so it was hard to see that they were moving in a different direction.
Back when The CW didn’t pick up Reaper for a third year, there were a lot of rumors that the show was going to be shopped around. Was there any truth to that?
TARA: They did. They tried to see if there was a syndication model… the studio was a big fan of the show, and ultimately, they couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. They took it to, I think, some cable networks, and they also were looking to see if there was a way to do it in strip syndication.
MICHELE: The studio was actually making money on the show. Like a lot of genre stuff, it sells very well internationally, so even in our first year, they were making a profit on the show. Not just based on The CW deal, but based on selling it internationally. So they had a definite interest in trying to keep it going. I know they tried. It’s very hard to find another home for a show that’s already been established on a different network.
Can you talk about Ray Wise’s performance as the Devil?
MICHELE: He was so perfect in that role. We had seen so many actors who gave very good auditions, but he was exactly what we had in our minds. He also brought this additional thing that we didn’t even know we wanted, but he almost has this Rat Pack vibe, and he’s so cool, and can be both charming and dangerous at the same time. For whatever reason, I ended up doing most of his dialogue, and I loved writing for him, because you knew that he would say it exactly the perfect way. He was great. We are humungous fans of his.
What were the biggest surprises for you as the series evolved?
TARA: I think that for me, it was Ben, and the fact that he really starts to embrace the comedy, and we really started to write for him in the second season. I think that the whole storyline with him and Jenny Wade, his demon girlfriend, was probably my favorite storyline.
MICHELE: [Rick Gonzalez] is one of the actors that most influenced his own character, because when we cast him, he wasn’t exactly who we had in mind for Ben, but we just liked him so much, because he was so different, that we cast him. He had done some comedy. He had done Old School, but he had done a bunch of dramatic roles, so it wasn’t a natural thing for him to do really silly, ridiculous things, and he got so good at it, and was so willing to do anything, for some of the writers, he became their favorite character to write for.
Which person on the Reaper writing staff was the most like Sock in real life? Surely there had to be kind of inspiration.
MICHELE: Sock was based on a friend of ours, who we ended up hiring. Now, of course, Sock is like our friend times a million, but he’s based on a friend of ours named Chris Dingess, who we ended up hiring on the show. We knew him from a different show we worked on called Ed. He, at the time, was a writers’ assistant, and he ended up becoming a writer. He’s my son’s godfather. He’s one of those guys who can say the most horrible, vulgar, terrible things, but because he’s saying it, it’s hilarious, and no one is affected. If anybody else said it, they would be like “what is wrong with you?” But he can say anything, and it’s really funny. He’s about one of the funniest people I know, ever. So we had him in mind when we wrote that character, and then when Tyler Labine came in for a meeting with us, we’re like “my God! You’re Chris Dingess! You are exactly our friend!” And then we ended up hiring Chris to be a writer on the show, so it was sort of perfect.
On the subject of inspirations, have you ever had a boss like Ted?
MICHELE: I have not. Thank God. No. He was fun to write… but no.
I read an interview before where you talked about your plans for Season 3, but for those who might be too lazy to look on Wikipedia, can you tell me anything about that?
MICHELE: There are a few things. Season 2 ended with Sam not only not winning his soul back from the Devil in a game of quarters, but also losing Andi’s soul in the process. So, part of our Season 3 idea was Andi starts to work at the DMV with Gladys, which I think would be funny. Christine Willes, who came to the reunion we had with FEARnet… I forgot how funny she was as that character! She could be sort of sympathetic but also just terrible, and she’s such a nice lady in person. She couldn’t be sweeter. So that would just be funny. And then the whole backstory on Sam was that his father was a fallen angel, and Sam was actually half human, half angel, and was going to be a really big threat to the Devil. That was why the devil was so interested in Sam, because he figured “if I can tempt him, and essentially make him cross to the Dark Side, he won’t be a threat to me anymore.”
TARA: The other thing I would add is that we were going to integrate the team more into the world of the Devil, by having Andi and Sam both… because you’ll notice, we were never able to have a scene with the Devil and the other characters, except for a couple little times. Andi didn’t know that she bumped into the Devil. The audience knew it, but she never knew it. So I think that in Season 3, we would have definitely integrated those worlds a little bit more.
If there had been a third season, do you think we would have ever seen Sam’s younger brother Kyle again?
TARA: I don’t know! He’s kind of like Happy Days, the first season, where there was a brother…
MICHELE: We had so many characters to service that it was just hard to everybody in it.
TARA: And the CW really didn’t want us going home, so we were kind of forced to cut out a lot of the storylines with the parents, and that kind of dynamic, so it didn’t really make much sense to [keep him around]… we were better spending our money elsewhere for guest stars.
MICHELE: One of our favorites was creating Sam’s supposed half brother in Armie Hammer. That was a way where he’s still a contemporary of Sam’s and the guys, but it involves the Devil. We had a ton of fun writing him. And Armie, from everything I’ve ever read about him or heard about him, talking about his experience on it, he had so much fun doing it. He was on Opie and Anthony or something. They said “what other stuff have you done?” and he said “Yeah, I did this show that you probably have never seen, called Reaper, but it was really fun and funny…” I was like “Aww! Thank you, Armie Hammer! We could never get you now!”
Say the response to Reaper on FEARnet is so huge somebody said to you “we want more episodes.” Would you be willing to give it a go?
TARA: In a heartbeat.
MICHELE: We would love to. It has to be the right idea. You couldn’t just go back and do the same show. You can’t recapture…
TARA: We couldn’t even do the Season 3 that we had originally thought of doing.
MICHELE: No. Those ideas of what Season 3 would have been, don’t even apply anymore, and you have to evolve it, because if you fall into trying to do the same show again, you’re just going to fail. You’re never going to do that. So we would have to come up with a good idea, a different idea… something that everybody’s excited about… but yeah. We would love to play in that sandbox again.
What can we look forward to in this reunion special that FEARnet is showing tonight?
TARA: It’s actually amazing to see the natural chemistry all the actors have with each other. All of these actors who have on screen have chemistry on screen, too. They really enjoyed being around each other, and it really shows, actually, in the reunion special.
Do you any words for the fans who have followed the show in the past or might be discovering it now?
TARA: I appreciate people watching. It was a labor of love for both Michele and I. I’m just glad that other people enjoyed it.
The Reaper reunion special airs TONIGHT at 9PM ET! Our thanks go out to everyone who participated in our look back at Reaper… if you haven’t seen the show before, you’re in for a treat.