The rap on the show is that it has had trouble trying to figure out what it should be. But Abrams, talking to TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014, preferred to think of it as a process by which they found the right fit with the “incredible pilot” directed by Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron — and in no way a reflection on the two “great and talented”, and departed, showrunners with whom he said he hopes to work in the future.
In December, executive producer/showrunner Dave Erickson departed and was succeeded by co-executive producer/director Jonas Pate, the second episode’s director – a rare case of a director taking the reins of a scripted series. Co-creator/exec producer/original showrunner Mark Friedman left the series in July. Friedman and Cuaron co-wrote the pilot for the high concept project, about the unlikely relationship between Bo, a girl with supernatural powers, and Tate, the man who is sprung from prison to protect her from the nogoodniks who are trying to hunt her down.
Of Pate’s new assignment, Abrams said he’s a big believer “whoever can do it… does it,” adding that they were lucky to find their new showrunner “in the family.”
Cuaron said he came up with the idea for Believe while directing Oscar-nominated Gravity, during which “I had a window, waiting for the endless process of visual effects and I wanted to do something” but did not have time to direct another film.” “First of all I wanted to do something in which people were not floating and from then on everything just came together,” he joked.
Little Johnny Sequoyah, who plays Bo, got asked what super powers she would like to have and why — children tend to get asked treacly questions like this at press tour. She said she would like to be able to stop time so “it would be quiet and it would be nice” and she’d like to stop global warming. It was adorable and her fellow cast and writers applauded her answer. Then, because the press tour is now in hit-the-wall territory, someone decided it would be great to put the same question to the adults on stage. “I’m very much a union man, however I would get rid of all the bad teachers in the educational system,” answered cast member Delroy Lindo, adding he would make sure the remaining ones got “decent working salaries.”
Round of applause.
‘I agree,” little Sequoyah added.
“It’s hard to answer without being corny,” answered Abrams. “I think I would try to make people blind to people’s difference so they wouldn’t see them as ‘other’.”
Moment of silence, as TV critics chewed on that one.
Abrams also gets points for his handling of the “Will This Show Be Like Touch” question. Because Abrams comes across at press tours as such an affable guy, he got away with responding that Believe is “wildy different” without it being translated by critics as “You are a nincompoop.” So adored is Abrams at press tours he also pulled off telling the critics how critics always seem to compare a new series to a previous series – in the form of either a) We’d Like To See Them Just Try To Top Terrific Previous Show, or b) Let Previous Show Serve as Cautionary Tale. “We’re in that weird place” where critics are now comparing Believe to other genre series, Abrams told the TV critics, adding that he aspires for Believe to become the older show to which all new genre shows will be compared going forward. Critics beamed.
Along those lines, Abrams gets major points for taking a question asking how he plans to balance the cloyingness of shows about children, and answering “Cloying is our credo.” Anticipating their next question, he said, “There is a spiritual side of the show — but we are no Touched By An Angel.”
Watch a clip here: