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Anthony Head

Anthony Stewart Head - "Reaper" Tv Series - He has auditioned with James Marsters

Wednesday 3 February 2010, by Webmaster

How Reaper would have ended, straight from the creators

In case you don’t know me or haven’t read much from me here, I have this obsessive disorder where I need the TV shows I love to be wrapped up all nice-like, whether it’s through a graceful end-of-run for the series, or a flat-out cancellation that leaves fans with innumerable questions of how things would have gone, had the show continued.

Starting with my interview with Defying Gravity’s creator James Parriott late last year, I came to the conclusion that if you want the answers, sometimes you just need to go to the source. Since it worked so well with Defying Gravity, I went ahead and contacted the creators of another short-lived show I loved, one with its own mythos that was left very much unresolved when the cancellation hammer came down: Reaper. And, wouldn’t you know it, I got most of the answers I’d been looking for.

Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters are the creators of Reaper, which only saw a measly two seasons before it was yanked from CW’s programming slate. Michelle’s and Tara’s resumes go back some 11 years, starting off as assistants together on The X-Files, then leading into Law & Order: SVU, Reaper, and serving as consulting producers for Dollhouse. You may have also heard of their recently pilot-ordered show, Cutthroat.

So, how forthcoming were Michele and Tara in spilling how Reaper would have continued? Very. In fact, the only reason they hadn’t told the world of how things would have gone down on the show was simple: nobody ever asked. That’s both surprising and sad.

It was mentioned some time ago that Buffy alum Anthony Stewart Head had auditioned for the role of the Devil, the role that Ray Wise wound up taking and completely owning.

“I had so much fun writing the Devil character,” said Fazekas, who Butters said “was somehow always stuck with writing for the Devil.” “Not that that was a bad thing!”

And why didn’t they go with Anthony Steward Head, even though Ray Wise was so great? Fazekas went on: “I loved him. There were two things, really. One, the British thing did not suit how we wrote the Devil. How we wrote him, you’ll remember, he was always kinda using this hipster lingo and kinda talking hip-hop sometimes. And we always knew we’d kinda have the inevitable Buffy comparison, and as much as we love Giles….”

But wouldn’t they have benefited from the cult following of Buffy, rather than have people come down on it for not living up to their high expectations? I know more than a handful of people who stuck with Dollhouse simply because, well, it had Joss and a bunch of old friends of his on-board. And who doesn’t love ASH?

“When you’re casting,” Fazekas responded, “I don’t like to think of who’s going to get us the most viewers. I want to pick the person who’s most suitable for the role. But as soon as Ray Wise auditioned, he was the one. He so embodied the vision of what we were looking for. He was amazing. He just blew people away.”

Incidentally, they revealed something I did not know: James Marsters, another Buffy alum, auditioned for the Devil role as well. “After seeing him as Spike [on Buffy] for so long, it was weird getting over that he didn’t have a British accent!”

Surprising to me, besides the Devil character, Ben became a dark-horse favorite of both of theirs over time. “He had such an interesting love story with Nina and how that worked in with the mythology of the story.” They fully credit Rick Gonzalez: “He, more than any other character on that show, the actor, the person who he is, formed on that character. Ben became a much different person toward the end than he did in the pilot.”

So, let’s get down to what fans of Reaper really want to know: what was the overall end-game? What was written on those pages that Sam’s “supposed” dad burned up from Sam’s contract? What other secrets were left to be revealed?

“We had a lot of ideas in both short and long term. I remember that, at the end of the second season, we had hoped to put Andi to work at the DMV with Gladys. We love Gladys. Christine Willes is just so much fun, and we thought she and Andi had such a great way of sparring with each other that that could have been great.”

As for Sam and the question of who his father really was, this one’s a doozy: “If you remember, Dad wasn’t dead. And there was a whole reason why he wasn’t dead. Basically, the whole premise that never actually had the chance to come out was the idea that Dad was a demon, who made a deal with the Devil. He fell in love with Sam’s mom and wanted to marry her. So the deal was, fine, you’re not a demon anymore. He was never fully human, either, which is why you can’t kill him. So, in the pilot, when he said he was really sick and made a deal with the Devil, he wasn’t 100% lying nor 100% telling the truth. And this is the reason why Sam is special: Sam is part human, part demon.”


“Sam was led to believe he was the Devil’s son, but that wasn’t true. That’s not the reason Sam had powers — the powers came from his father. His father was really his father. And part of his deal was that he was never really allowed to tell Sam the truth, and that’s the reason why he says to him ‘there’s more to this than I can tell you.’ And part of what we tried to get out of all of this was that Sam really is special. That’s the reason why, at the end of the last season, Steve comes to him and says Sam is caught between good and evil. What we hoped to get out of the third season was what part did Sam have to play? Sam’s whole existence, and the reason the Devil was paying so much attention to him and hanging out with him so much was because there was a reason: Sam was half-human and half-demon, and the Devil was really worried that this kid was going to be his downfall. If you look at what the Devil is doing throughout the series, he’s trying to tempt Sam to be bad. And he’s trying to tempt him to embrace this, that what you’re doing isn’t so bad. The whole point was that if he can turn Sam bad, the Sam isn’t a threat anymore.”

This really puts everything into perspective, and at the same time makes me slap my forehead and say “of course!” This is why Sam is doing what equates to a good deed for humankind, while at the same time doing the work of evil. If he can enjoy this power and embrace it, the the Devil wins. The reveal of who/what Sam’s dad really is, they tell me, is what was written on those burned pages.

Getting off the subject of that burning secret (no pun intended), I asked if there was ever a thought to bring in a God character to the show. “We talked a little about bringing the Archangel Michael in, but no, I actually think I never wanted to see God. And there was discussion of whether or not we wanted to see Hell, and what that would be like. And it wouldn’t be like … we never really settled on anything. What would it be like? It’s not all fire and brimstone or whatever … and what is Limbo like? There’s a lot that we mused about that, if we had the time, we probably would have done. How do you do Hell in a way that fits into our world and in a way that you’d never think of.”

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is an office building. While I had them here, I had to ask them about one of my old theories of the show, that Sock was more that he appeared. Maybe an angel, whether he knew it or not?

“Tyler Labine had this whole storyline worked out that he and Ricky Gonzalez were like archangels. But we had never intended for that, so I don’t think so. I really think it was OK that they were really just good friends helping out their buddy. There’s something very virtuous about how those three would have done anything for each other. I almost like it better that they weren’t divine, that they weren’t anything other than human that maybe had a higher purpose, but they were just human.”

As I said to them, that really did fit into the story much better than my silly theory: these guys are what connects Sam to the “real” world, to humankind. This is how, in the end, he’d have that decision to make.

“Other than where we knew where we were headed, and we knew of the secrets of who Sam really was and what the Devil was doing, we sort of left that open. And we did that because, I find that kind of paralyzing to have too much worked out ahead of you. It would have been a happy ending — he would have gotten the girl and he would have gotten out of his deal with the devil, and we would have found a way to get there.”

That’s where most of the talk of Reaper ended, and where I got into some talk about working with Joss Whedon and Dollhouse, the jump to comic books as a continuing storytelling medium for TV shows, the online-only revolution and a little on their new show, Cutthroat. Stay tuned for all of that soon!