To borrow a couple terms from TV industry jargon, ABC’s new drama series Forever is a “procedural” with a “mythology.” At today’s TCA, executive producer Matt Miller tried to explain how those two elements will fit together in the new show, about an immortal medical examiner (Dr. Henry Morgan, played by Ioan Gruffudd).

There are some constants to the mythology of Henry Morgan: Whenever he dies and shows up in another place and time, he always arrives in water and he’s always naked: “A little something for the audience,” quipped Miller.

And he won’t die in every episode. Even though Henry Morgan is immortal “the character experiences the pain of the death. We don’t want to kill him every episode — give him a week off. I think he dies three or four times in the pilot which is a bit much,” Miller said. Later in the series, Morgan will experience only “special occasion deaths,” Miller said.

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But any explanation of why he’s immortal will unfold very slowly: “Not over 13 episodes or even a full season,” Miller said. (Miller revealed that he and EP partner David Wilcox had developed a full mythology for their supernatural ABC series 666 Park Avenue, but that one got canceled before they were able to complete their planned storyline).

Miller was asked whether he had in mind the 2008 Fox series Amsterdam, about immortal homicide detective, while developing the show. That series only lasted 8 episodes. Miller said he did not know about the show until he saw some comments about on an industry website while Amsterdam was being pitched. He said his show has found an appropriate home on ABC.

Miller told a funny-sad story about how he got the idea for the show: “It was
pilot season and I was putting my 5-year-old son to bed. He asked me: Daddy, are you ever going to die?’” At first Miller told him no, but eventually in order not to lie to his son he added: “I will die, but it won’t be for a very long time and by then you’ll probably want me dead. He burst out crying, and my wife came in and continued raising my child and I went off to write television.”

More seriously, Miller said he thought about the concept of immortality and realized that it would mean the pain of watching one’s own children grow old and die. He said that reality informed the decision to make the character a medical examiner, obsessed with studying the human body so he might break his own “curse” of immortality.

Miller was asked: Would any form of death eventually kill off Henry Morgan?

“Cancellation,” joked Miller.