Exclusive Interview with Jack Kenny for Warehouse 13Interview by Jamie RubyWritten by Jamie Ruby
Syfy's popular series Warehouse 13
closed its doors tonight. Recently the executive producer, Jack Kenny, sat down with Jamie Ruby in an exclusive interview to talk about the finale.
One of the things Kenny talked about breaking the stories of the season when they received the news that they would only get six episodes, and how they decided on the finale. "We had already broken I guess about ten episodes by the time we finally got the word whether we were picked up at all. We were in there pitching episodes trying to get them to pick us up, and I actually think pitching them the telenovela episode ("Savage Seduction") was one of the reasons they gave us six instead of just canceling us or whatever. They were very excited about that, the idea of a telenovela episode, so that helped.
"But we had I guess a total of about ten stories when we got the word. I didn't want to end the series on another 'oh, the world's going to blow up and we have to save it' episode. We'd done that; we'd done it three times: saved the world, or the warehouse, or both. And so the way we were arcing out the season with Benedict Valda (Mark Sheppard) and stuff, we thought, 'We can wrap that up in episode five. Let's use episode five as our penultimate and make that the warehouse episode where they save the world.'
"And then what I said to the network was, "I want the last episode to be a clip show." And at first they were like "A clip show? No! We're not going to pay for a clip show." I said, "No, no, no. I want to do clips of episodes we've never seen. And the other four episodes that we've pitched you; I think we can do them all in one episode. I want to jam-pack it with as much cool Warehouse
stuff as possible. I want to write a love letter to the fans, because the fans are going to be really upset that this is canceled, and I want to give them something that they can go "Well, you know, if we had to lose it, that was the way to lose it." "
"So we did what I think we all did best, we just crammed it full of all kinds of artifact craziness. And yet there's also a very emotional story about the warehouse moving, and about what they're going to do, and how they're going to move on with their lives."
If there were more than six episodes, things would have been paced differently this season. The one main thing is that the relationship between Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) would have developed more slowly over time. However, Kenny did stress that their feelings were there from the very beginning of the series. "It started in the pilot. It's always been the dynamic between the two of them that there was a will-they-or-won't-they kind of tension. It's inherent with that kind of relationship; it's not like we're breaking any new ground here. These days most people date who they know in the workplace, or I guess maybe at the gym, but I think it's more in the workplace and online than anyplace else. So it's not unheard of. I think that whole relationship started in the pilot, and our job was to keep it alive and keep it interesting without culminating it, without consummating it. So we moved them more into a brother-sister relationship for the time being, knowing that eventually [it would be more].
"One of the ways I thought might be fun to have them actually sleep together was that one day they're working in the office and they give each other a look and Artie (Saul Rubinek) or Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) says "Oh my God, you two had sex." And it becomes one of those things that's "Yes, we did; it's not going to happen again. It was a mistake." And we kind of did that with the "Love Sick" episode where they woke up in bed together; we played that dynamic a little bit. We've always toyed with their relationship a little bit.
"We went back and forth. Part of us thought, 'Let's not put them together; we should do something else.' But nothing else felt satisfying. Leaving them in exactly the same place they were did not feel like a finale; it did not feel like we were ending the series with any kind of satisfaction."
Obviously, not all fans will agree with the decision of the pairing. "I know there's a faction of people online that are very angry with me for not putting Myka together with H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray). That was never going to happen. That was a fun flirtation that both of the actresses really enjoyed and got into and I don't think either of them thought that it would culminate either.
"If you seriously sat down with Jaime or Joanne they would say, "Well no, they're not going to go set up house somewhere." That would be in a way trivializing their friendship. Somehow if you take these two women who incredibly respect each other, have kind of an open mind sexually about where they might end up someday, and really are very powerful, strong, live-by-their-own-rules women, and you put them together in setting up house, it suddenly feels like trivializing it. It's one of the reasons that I wouldn't put Pete and Myka together until the very, very end, because I don't think anybody wants to see the show where they're married. As we all know, marriage ends all sexual relationships anyway. (laughs) You don't want to do that; it's the tension and the 'will they or won't they.' That's the exciting part between Pete and Myka, or between Myka and H.G.
"So I hope people aren't too disappointed, I hope that they keep their own fan fictions alive, and at the same time respect the notion that the show tells you where it wants to go, and this was always a show about Pete and Myka. It always was. From the pilot it was always about the two of them, and I think we wanted to honor that. Yes, if the show had gone on three more years we would have probably not played this, certainly not in season five; we would have played it at the end, whenever it was. I'm just grateful that we got a notification that it was going to be the end and we could walk into it with eyes open, knowing how we wanted to do it."
Another storyline that would have progressed differently was with Myka's cancer. "It's not like I would have given Myka cancer and had her go through everything, shave her head and all the other things, but I don't feel like we really did justice to that storyline and to the suffering of people who go through that kind of thing, and I wish we had had more time. But I truly did not want to spend three or four episodes of the last season dealing with that...We would have found ways to find humor in it, because I feel the important thing is to find humor in everything, But it would have been truncated no matter how we did it. If we'd had thirteen or twenty episodes, it would have been nice to do, but I think we did the best we could."
There were also of course stories that they didn't get to use this season at all because of lack of time. "We talked about doing an alien abduction. We talked about revisiting a bunch of stories that we've always wanted to do. We had a fountain of youth story where these guys were crumbling into dust, because someone was talking all their water from the fountain of youth they were using.
"We had story where three Soviet cosmonauts had been frozen and stuck in the warehouse, and they get defrosted and they think there's a war. It didn't feel too Warehouse13-y but it felt interesting to us.
"And I've talked about this many times: I always wanted to do Hitler's microphone as a story. Some talk show [host], a radio talking head, gets ahold of Hitler's microphone."
According to Kenny, they had originally planned a full musical episode rather than just a musical number in the finale, but it would have been extremely hard because of everything going on already.
"We were trying to break the back of a full musical episode and how would we do that - use existing songs, write new material, do they sing everything; do they just break into song? We were breaking all that out. And just having gone through directing and producing the one musical number that we did do? I think if we had done a full-out musical episode it would have killed us all. Oh my God, just that one, it was recording the orchestration, and recording the singer singing the song, and having playback for it. It was huge.
"There was one day, and actually my mom was visiting the set in Toronto that day, there was one day where I was shooting the Fantastic Voyage
segment is stage C, Matt Berman was staging the ninja fight, he's our stunt coordinator, and he was staging the ninja fight in stage A. Then stage B, in the warehouse shelves, the thirty chorus girls were rehearsing all the dance numbers up and down the aisles, and the way we were going to do that, with Jeff Dimitriou, our choreographer. All three stages were being used at once, and I was running from stage to stage, because I was directing the episode, trying to keep track of what was going on. It was monumentally huge.
"But my God we had fun. And one of the best things about the Warehouse 13
experience was most of us knew we were having the best time of our lives when we were having it. And that's really rare. We were in the middle of it and we would look at each other and say, "Oh my God, it doesn't get better than this.""
Even without the full musical there is still a lot, and quite a bit of individual scenes with the flashbacks clips of scenes that the fans have seen before, let alone all the new ones. It took work going through all the footage to get just the right clips, and to place them right.
"That's one of the reasons you have a writer's room. The writers all sat in the room and we tried to come up with every moment we could remember, and then it was JP's job to just figure that out, put together a list, get it all organized in his head about the best moments that would sell what we're going into, and what they've been through, and then we put them in the script.
"And then Harry Miller, it was his job to really go through and find it all. And it was easier to do the very brief ones that led into everybody's flashbacks. The harder one to do was Pete, because it's a minute and a half of all Pete stuff, and Harry really went through and dug and dug and dug and dug and found just the right moments and the right clips.
"And also where you put them, how you set them up, the order that they're in, the music that the brilliant Ed Rogers is going to score it with, it's all really time consuming and it requires a lot of thought, and Harry really did a beautiful job. I credit JP and Harry coming up with a lot of that stuff."
According to Kenny, they crammed as many things into the final episode for the fans as they could. "The whole point of the last episode was to put in as many Easter eggs and fun for the fans as we could humanly fit into an episode, everything we could think off. We tried to see every artifact.
"We did it for all of the last six episodes; we tried to use a lot of artifacts. That's why we did the purple swamphen in "Endless Terror," the first episode of the last six, showing that before they had purple goo they used purple swamphens. Which is an actual bird by the way, an actual bird, not made up; I looked it up online in Wikipedia.
"So every chance we got, we tried to put things in that would be Easter eggs for the fans. I think, if I remember right, when Claudia is shooting a bazooka at Steve (Aaron Ashmore) and Pete, behind them on the shelf is the Maltese Falcon. That's a little tidbit."
Because there was so much, the episode actually ran over time in the end. "We were long. It was a huge episode and we were very long, and I was at the point where I went to the network and asked, "Can we have any extra time at all?" and they gave me an extra minute and a half on the actual premiere, but all the repeats and reruns of it we have to cut that minute and a half out of it again. I believe that's the way it ended up. We tried to get everything in, but you never can keep it all in there."
Even if some things had to be cut, the finale did turn out the way Kenny had hoped. He wanted the characters' defining moments to mirror where the actors were in their lives at the time. "In terms of how we broke this story, I wanted to mime exactly where the characters were in their relationships, and in their maturities, and their aging with the warehouse, and a little bit where the actors were, so that it could be an emotional connection for them, because a lot of them were in very similar places to where their characters were.
"Joanne has even said many times that she didn't really realize what a great gig this was until it was over, until it was ending, and so her story was her realization that actually the person she's wanted all along is right there in front of her, she just didn't realize it until it was about to end. And that's when she realizes she's in love with Pete.
"And Allison is recognizing both as a young actress and as a young character that this is the best job ever in the world, and she wants it to last forever.
"And I think Aaron to a certain extent came to us kind of not knowing if he was going to fit in, because he came to us later, and how was he going to fit into this world and these characters and stuff? And he fit in beautifully with his own rhythm, with his own way of approaching everything, and I think it's the same way with Steve.
"And of course Saul was as married to Artie's office as any person who's ever been married to anybody, and it was like, I thought we needed to treat Saul's story like a breakup, like a breakup with a lover or a long-time wife. And so he had that speech in the aisle basically where he's venting against his wife leaving him, and Saul was kind of feeling very similarly about this job, you know, "this is this great job and I've given my all to it and now I can't handle just walking away.""
That scene with Rubinek was actually the first scene in the episode that they filmed. "That was the first scene we shot in that whole episode, and he did a pass on it and he said, "Do my close-up first, because I think we're going to need to do my close-up first." And he did the scene and everybody, literally everybody at video village was a puddle of tears. And we were waiting, and he finished it, and he picked up the apple, and then he was standing there, and then he said, "Is somebody going to say 'cut?' Because I'm going to start crying in a minute." "
Pete's scenes connected with McClintock as well. "And then of course Eddie, who I think more than anybody else, became a man during the run of Warehouse 13
the same way that Pete did. Pete got there a kid who played practical jokes and clowned around and didn't want to take anything seriously. And so did Eddie, and Eddie had to turn into a leader; he had to become the number one on the call sheet; he had to turn into this guy who could really set the tone, and he did. He rose to the occasion.
"And then of course when the show was about to end, Eddie felt incredibly sad and depressed that he was losing this thing that had helped define who he is as a person and who he is as an actor, and Pete kind of went through the same thing. He was losing the place that defined him as a person, that defined him as an agent, as a man, as someone who's in love, as a father, as a brother, as a son; it had defined him.
"And I think that's why Eddie's performance at the end is so incredibly moving. Actually we did one pass where I wasn't even able to use Eddie's take, because I went in and wrecked him. He did a really nice pass at the speech, and then I said, "I want you to do it now and remember that this is the last time you'll be able to say these things to these people." And he just fell apart.
"We were all wrecked, but what was nice was what the other people were reacting to. It gave them such beautiful stuff to react to and to feel as Pete was going through this. I wouldn't want Pete to get that destroyed in that moment, but it brought up really nice stuff for everybody else. So you're always gauging how to walk that line. I went in afterwards and told Eddie, "I'm sorry, I took you a little too far there." And he said, "Yeah, thanks, I'm a wreck now. I have to redo my makeup and my hair." He was a mess.
"So that was my goal with that, and I think JP really realized it beautifully. It was for everyone to say goodbye to each other, to say goodbye to the fans, for the fans to say goodbye to the show, for everybody to have a proper, loving, caring farewell - and then let's not be 100% sure that it ends. Let's leave that door open to see - who knows? The world is full of endless wonder and so is this place. One of my favorite lines in the series is when Mrs. Frederic says, "I believe I've mentioned more than once, that this particular wonder is endless."
"...So every actor got to experience a version of what they were going through, which is why I think it's so emotionally compelling."
Kenny got to be a part of the experience as well, with the last scene of the episode that kept that door open. He talked about acting in the scene as well as directing himself. "I left acting quite a while ago, and every once in a while I do something like that, and I almost always regret it, because I don't think I'm that good an actor, and I hate seeing myself on camera. That's why I prefer stage work, because you don't have to watch yourself do it. I much prefer being on stage. But it was fun. I did it mostly because Eddie and Saul kind of held a gun to my head and said, "No, you're playing this part." And I said, "Okay, fine, I'll play it." Fortunately it's not going to recur.
"But I had a great time. Saul directed it and called action and cut, and Eddie was there filming it with is iPhone, and we had a good time. And Allison was particularly pleased that we'd get to do something together, because Allison and I have had a relationship since, God, since she was fourteen on a pilot. I directed her on a pilot for the WB called Joint Custody with Kate Walsh and Jon Tenney, and Alison was their daughter, and she was great. She's always great. So I had a good time; it was fun."
Kenny also talked about the very last scene that they filmed and how much everyone enjoyed it. "They all really rose to the occasion. I was very excited with it. On the very last day of the last episode and the last shot of the last scene was Allison finishing that big tap number and we fired two big canons of silver glitter at them, shooting from the other side as the dancers exploded into silver glitter so we fired them at the actors, we were facing the actors at that moment. So she finishes the scene and we fire these cans of glitter. I've got three cameras rolling on everybody and Allison says, "You know, I'm going to be sore tomorrow but come on, best job ever," and they all said "Best job ever." And it was the actors, saying best job ever. And we wrapped the series. It was really moving.
"...I cry thinking about it, it was very moving for us. Everybody on stage was just...it was really an emotional moment. If you go to my Facebook page, you have to scroll down and find it but there's a video of it. There's a video of the last moment; someone shot it, of the last moment of them finishing the scene and me coming in and saying, "That's a wrap," and Eddie thanking the crew. It's really nice."
Working on Warehouse 13
is a memory that Kenny will cherish forever. "It was pretty incredible. This was the best experience of my life; I think this show was easily the best experience of my life so far in the business - my husband is the best experience of my life, but in terms of being in the business I think it was the best."
Now that Warehouse 13
is unfortunately over, Kenny has been working on other projects, including directing a one act play, written by finale writer John-Paul Nickel, which is part of the Sci-Fest in Los Angeles, going on now. "We got some really nice reviews for the first evening, for the festival. I'm hoping, we're all hoping, that it becomes an annual event. I think it's a great place for science fiction writers to try out ideas.
"You know, it's kind of taking science fiction back to it's real, real roots in Twilight Zone, where because there weren't a lot of special effects and green screen and craziness, the science fiction aspect of it had to be in your mind. It was about science fiction ideas; it was about what people were saying, not necessarily hurtling through space - although there was a really good one where six people are hurtling through space. I'm not trying to discount that, but many of them, because of the nature of it being a play, are about ideas, about futuristic ideas or science fiction ideas. And I think that's what's exciting about seeing plays doing this. And I think they're really well-written and well-directed, and have some terrific actors are in them. And we had a really great opening night, and last night was the second night; it was a full house. We're doing really well, and I would say if you want to come, get your tickets. If you're in LA, grab your tickets, because it is going to sell out, I think. It's really a fun evening and it's very short. There's valet parking right next to the theater, and there's a restaurant right next to the theater, so you can make an evening of it."
But for tonight Kenny will be getting together with the cast and crew of Warehouse 13
one last time. "I'm having the cast and crew over to the house to watch the finale. A lot of them have seen it, because I invited the cast to come and watch the final mix of it, just for us to get together one more time, give each other a hug, and cry, and watch the finale, and just have a great time."
It may not be in person, but Kenny will also be talking about the finale one last time with McClintock as we as writer Nickel on a special Warehouse 13
edition of our podcast Fandom Access tomorrow night, so be sure to tune in 10:00 p.m. eastern.