Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TV coverage.
The CW isn’t the kind of network that might have a propensity to assault its audience with ugly characters, which is why some were puzzled when it picked up a reboot of the 1980s CBS drama Beauty And The Beast for fall. But those attending TCA and have watched the pilot quickly learned that the home of Gossip Girl and young adults with flawless skin hasn’t deviated much from its focus on the physical. In fact, with stars Kristin Kreuk and hunky New Zealand native Jay Ryan, it was difficult to tell during a morning panel which of the two was supposed to be the beast. It more closely resembled Beauty and the Beef. The only real physical tipoff that something might be amiss with Ryan’s character Vincent is a small scar on his cheek. When this was pointed out to the show’s producers, they stressed that, well, the guy’s beastliness is supposed to be more…internal. “When we were first thinking about this, it was about the beast in our lives”, said exec producer Jennifer Levin, “and most of the beasts in our lives don’t look like an actual beast. They might be charming. There’s something that might draw us to them. So there is that thing of what happens when you do fall in love with a beast, which is what we related to much more than somebody who obviously was beastly from the outside. It was more beastliness that was on the inside. That was more interesting to us”.
There was only one problem with this explanation as far as the critics and reporters on hand were concerned: in the pilot, the beast is pretty un-beastly on the inside as well. That prompted star Ryan to jump in and stress that his character is really more of a Jekyll and Hyde. “It’s almost like two people in this one character”, he explained. “The beast is more of a serial killer, and Vincent is trying to suppress him throughout. That will become more apparent and the beast will become much more dangerous”. Of course, the other explanation is that The CW couldn’t risk alienating its core audience with a guy who resembled Freddy Krueger. Even vampires on this network look like they stepped off the pages of GQ. This sentiment was expressed to the producers, prompting exec producer Sherri Cooper to respond, “The beasts who are going to hurt us don’t come across as beastly. They don’t look exactly like Jay.” Added Levin: “And the idea that no one’s all beast and no one’s all beauty.” Assured Cooper: “He’s going to become beastlier. Much beastlier.” Levin then began to substitute the word “beast” for “jerk”, making the point that few women don’t fall for guys with plenty of baggage. “We really wanted to feel like this was relevant to us and our lives and have it be more grounded and compelling in that way. To us, that was more realistic than just having as guy who looks like a lion.”