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Ray Wise and Kevin Smith Play Devil's Advocates

Actor Ray Wise (Good Night, and Good Luck) portrays the devil in Reaper, a new series from Clerks writer-director Kevin Smith.

The show centers on a 21-year-old slacker, Sam, who discovers that his parents sold his soul to the devil when he was born. Sam must now serve as the devil's bounty hunter, helping return evildoers to hell.

Reaper premieres on the CW network on Sept. 25.

20:48

Other segments from the episode on September 25, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 25, 2007: Interview with Philip Roth; Interview with Kevin Smith and Ray Wise; Review of Tegan and Sara's album "The Con."

Transcript

DATE September 25, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Author Philip Roth on his latest novel, "Exit Ghost,"
the decay of the human body and George Plimpton
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Philip Roth, is one of
America's most celebrated writers. He's the only living writer to have his
works collected in new editions by the Library of America. The fourth volume,
which will be published in October, collects the first four novels featuring
his alter ego, the writer Nathan Zuckerman. Roth's new novel, "Exit Ghost,"
is his final novel featuring Zuckerman.

In "Exit Ghost" Zuckerman has temporarily left his reclusive life in the
country to return to New York, where he will have a medical procedure he hopes
will reverse the incontinence that resulted after his surgery from prostate
cancer, which also left him impotent. The diapers and the impotence have been
manageable living alone in the country, but once he gets to New York he's
attracted to a young married woman who's also a writer, and the 71-year-old
man yields to the illusion of starting again. Further complicating his return
to New York, Zuckerman gets entangled with the widow and the would-be
biographer of his mentor, the late writer E.I. Lonoff.

Philip Roth, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Like the character in your previous
novel "Everyman," who is also an older man, and in that book it's an older man
who's had health issues and is nearing death, Zuckerman is going to feel lust
but lack the ability to do anything physically about it. As you write, "he is
overcome by temptation for a delight he cannot enjoy and a pleasure that is
dead." What interests you in exploring that state where you're having the
temptation but you can't fulfill it?

Mr. PHILIP ROTH: Yeah. Well, I think that the central to aging is the
experience of loss. May be a traumatic loss of life: you die. And it may be
loss on the scale of Zuckerman's sexual loss, which is loss of his potency and
his virility. And it may be lesser forms of loss that people experience, but
it certainly is a central experience of aging, which is, things disappear from
life. Sometimes it's a mate who dies, whatever. That's largely what
interested me in "Everyman" and interested me again in this book.

GROSS: Now, Zuckerman develops this obsession with a beautiful 30-year-old
writer that he fantasizes about having an affair with, and he feels that in
the presence of this young woman there's hope. Is that his only source of
hope, is like that kind of sexual connection that he's no longer capable of
the only way he can define hope?

Mr. ROTH: No. By the way, so long as he stays out of New York, he's OK.

GROSS: That's right. And how many other people can say that?

Mr. ROTH: It may be true for many people. So long as he stays on his
mountaintop, living his life of seclusion with a certain amount of isolation,
he's not tempted by what he can't have. So the whole action of the book
centers on his return. He returns like a ghost to a life he once knew, a life
in which he flourished as a man. By coming to New York he opens up the
possibilities of temptation, and he rediscovers his impulse to be in it. I
think one of the paragraphs I read he says he doesn't want to be in it
anymore. This impulse is now re-asserting itself and re-asserts itself in
several ways. One is he decides, `I'm going to stay in New York for a year.
I'm going to sublet an apartment, stay here.' It turns out the apartment he
wants to sublet, the apartment is occupied by this young woman and her
husband. That's how he meets her. So he meets her quite accidentally. But
he has a rush of virile feeling without the virile capacity. Jamie and other
characters stimulate a virility in him, but there's the failure of virility.
So, there, too, is the subject of loss...(unintelligible).

GROSS: Because his life has been transformed by the prostate surgery and how
that's left him both incontinent and impotent, you have some, I think, really
terrific descriptions of what he's experiencing physically, and I'd just like
to read one of them. You know, you write about the incontinence pads he has
to use, the smell that haunts him when he doesn't get to clean himself up in
time, and he describes himself as "a man bearing between his legs a spigot of
wrinkled flesh where once he'd had the fully functioning sexual organ complete
with bladder, sphincter control. The once rigid instrument of procreation was
now like the end of a pipe you see sticking out of a field somewhere, a
meaningless piece of pipe that spurts and gushes intermittently."

I know that's a kind of a graphic image, but like the analogy to the piece of
pipe you see sticking out in a field...

Mr. ROTH: Mm.

GROSS: I thought, that's such a great analogy. Like, I've seen that pipe
sticking out in the field, you know? And...

Mr. ROTH: So have I. It always makes you forlorn; you never know why.

GROSS: But I always wonder like how do you get, like, that perfect analogy
writing about something so personal and about, you know, an experience for
this character that would be so devastating and embarrassing to reveal to
somebody. And then, along with that, is like this perfect analogy to that
piece of pipe sticking out in the field somewhere.

Mr. ROTH: I guess I don't remember exactly what was going on in my head when
I wrote that paragraph, though I do remember writing it now. I think that
it's a kind of an association of ideas. You're writing about something and
your mind, the writer's mind particularly, associates rather rapidly, and you
get 10 or 12 possibilities that come through your brain and the one sticks
because it seems to have a certain kind of appropriateness, a graphic
appropriateness. The body's awfully graphic and in fact I was thinking while
you were reading that, what I've always wanted to do, going back to even
"Portnoy's Complaint," is take the body seriously...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROTH: ...and take the demands of the body, the non-negotiable demands of
the body, take them seriously. And now of course I'm writing about old age.
I'm writing about the decay of the body as one of the aspects of this decay
that I should have mentioned earlier, and that is what he calls a disordered
mind. He's begun to be forgetful and not just in a comical way. The problem
is he can't remember what he's told people he'll do, and this causes him a
certain number of problems in this book. But he's struggling with his
disordered mind and computing with what's left of his brain. Now, there's
still a good deal left, but something has gone. And this, too, preys upon
him.

GROSS: I just want to say here that I'm really glad that you take the body
seriously in your writing because I just really appreciate it when a great
writer like you does that. Because it's so difficult to talk about the body
and the ways that our bodies betray us...

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and when a writer handles that and uses exactly the right words and
analogies to do it, even I as a woman reading about a man's body, I mean, I
still get it, I still relate to it. Do you know what I mean? So I'm...

Mr. ROTH: Oh yes, yes.

GROSS: I'm grateful for writers talking about things that are difficult to
talk about.

Mr. ROTH: I'm fascinated to read about a woman writer, reading about a
woman's body. Far from feeling that it doesn't interest me, it's of enormous
interest. Because it's a mystery to me.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROTH: I wrote a book called "The Breast" once, which was in some ways
comic but in many ways not, in which I imagined a man turning into a breast,
physically metamorphosing into a breast. And I took it seriously, too. Once
I got over the initial invention, which, as I said, had a comic edge to it,
but what indeed would happen? What would living in that body be like for him?
So the body has been a landscape, just as great a landscape as Newark, New
Jersey.

GROSS: Zuckerman's mentor is dead. His mentor, E.I. Lonoff, is dead, and I
want to read the description of his mentor from the first book in which
Zuckerman was the main character, and that was "The Ghost Writer," and this
was published in what, 1979, was it?

Mr. ROTH: I think so, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. So in that one, when Zuckerman first goes to Lonoff's home in
the country, he says, "I had come to submit myself for candidacy as nothing
less than Lonoff's spiritual son, to petition for his moral sponsorship and
win, if I could, the magical protection of his advocacy and his love." Would
you describe the kind of writer that Lonoff was?

Mr. ROTH: Well, he was a writer of eminence at the time Zuckerman was
talking about him, which is quite different from where he is now in "Exit
Ghost" when, as a writer, he's been forgotten. But at that point he's a
writer of eminence, considerable prestige, a writer who's never written a
novel, whose reputation is based on writing deeply ironic short stories about
Jews. He has a kind of authorial authority that Zuckerman's been taken by.
And, of course, Zuckerman being however many years--he was 23 or 24 years
old--I forget how old he is, but--is swept off his feet.

GROSS: When Zuckerman goes to New York, he finds out that there's a young
writer who wants to write a biography of Zuckerman's late mentor, E.I.
Lonoff. And Zuckerman's really worried about this. He wants to stop the
biography because the biographer is intent on revealing this personal secret
that would--it's a very ugly thing that would be revealed. And Zuckerman's
afraid that it would change not only the way Lonoff is seen as a person but
the way his writing is seen.

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And this leads to a whole part of your new novel that's really about
the difference between fiction and memoir, the difference between a writer's
real life and a character's that a writer creates, and what people project
onto a writer based on the characters that writer has created.

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: For the characters in your novel, they want this real, clear
delineation. You know, both Zuckerman and Lonoff, they don't want a public
life where people know much about their lives, and you're somewheres in
between, you know. I mean, you're...

Mr. ROTH: (Unintelligible).

GROSS: ...not reclusive in the way they are, but you have been very reserved
about, you know, kind of careful about revealing the details about your
private life. I guess I'm really interested in hearing for you why it's
important to have that kind of separation between what the public knows and
what the public doesn't know. You know, like wanting to preserve your sense
of privacy in the light of all that you reveal through your characters.

Mr. ROTH: That's a complicated question. I think that we have to start with
the books...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROTH: ...and say that what the writer wants known is the book, and when
the book is read through an autobiographical lens, very often the reader
doesn't get the book. The reason it's very often read through an
autobiographical lens, it's the easiest way to do it. It's also the easiest
way to miss the book. It's one of the most popular ways of knowing how not to
read a novel. And so it isn't so much that one doesn't want people to know
about you, though there are some writers who don't want anybody to know
anything about them but just they can write. But it's rather that what they
know about you substitutes for their reading of the book, and so someone will
say, `That's a book about so-and-so.' For instance, let's take E.I. Lonoff,
who you mentioned.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROTH: I've heard 100 times from people, `Well, that's Bernard Malamud.'
Well, that's not Bernard Malamud or anybody related to Bernard Malamud. But
Bernard Malamud's a character they know, and because Lonoff's work is
described as a work about--short stories about Jews and Malamud wrote short
stories about Jews, the story in the book is then about Bernard Malamud.
Well, I might as well not even have written it if that's what people are going
to come away from it with. It's just--to most writers it strikes them as
completely foreign, frustrating. And it isn't irritating because people know
about you. It's just they don't know a damn thing about the book you've
written.

GROSS: My guest is Philip Roth. His new novel is called "Exit Ghost." More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: My guest is Philip Roth. His new novel, "Exit Ghost," is his final
novel featuring his alter ego, the writer Nathan Zuckerman.

Zuckerman in your new novel is very upset to find out the writer George
Plimpton had died and Zuckerman didn't even know that this had happened.

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: It had happened some time ago. And you have some really interesting
descriptions of Plimpton in there. You know, in Zuckerman's mind, Plimpton is
somebody who always passed himself off as like the ungainly amateur, the
outsider, but as far as Zuckerman was concerned, Plimpton was this like really
privileged, from an elite background insider whose trick was to pass himself
off as being, you know, a bumbler of an athlete even though he was probably a
terrific athlete and very well coordinated himself. I guess I was wondering
how Plimpton figured into your personal or literal life, because you just go
on for pages about Plimpton in the book.

Mr. ROTH: Yes, well, I got interested in him in the book. I always like
when a new ingredient gets added to a book near the end, and I'm often waiting
when I'm writing, if I'm two-thirds of the way down to the end, would you give
me that something new, give me that something new. And in this case it was
the appearance of George Plimpton.

Mostly, Plimpton is in the book because he allows Zuckerman to be shaken by
the fact of death, and illness hovers over this book, and deprivation and
aging hovers over this book, and so too does death hover over the book. And
the thing about George Plimpton was, according to Zuckerman, he's the last
person in the world who you would expect to die, that the only reason George
would die would be to write a piece about it for Sports Illustrated. So
that's how Plimpton entered in, as a shock to Zuckerman. Then I wanted him to
think about Plimpton as a writer, because he's the exact opposite kind of
writer from Zuckerman--that is, he's a journalist, and a journalist is as
different from a novelist as is anything can be. And at one point he says--he
tries to define his relationship with Plimpton, and he says, `What's the word
I'm looking for?' he says. `The antonym of doppleganger.'

Now, as for George in life, he was a friend of mine. I didn't see very much
of him, but I always considered him a friend. I think he considered me a
friend. I had a good deal of affection for him. He played a big part in my
life as a young writer. My first short stories, published in the 1950s, were
published in the Paris Review, which was the magazine George
founded...(unintelligible)...and edited. And I would send these stories
around to various places, couldn't get them published, and then Plimpton took
them for the Paris Review. So I got to meet him, and I always felt a warm
connection as a result of that. And then he just was such an engaging, just
such a tremendously engaging presence. He gives the word human a good
meaning.

GROSS: You know, as we've said, like your new book, "Exit Ghost," has a lot
to do with aging and the decay of the body, in our last interview, a previous
when we were talking about your book "Everyman," you talked about how, you
know, you're not religious. You don't believe in God. And I'm wondering,
like, when you think about things like aging and the physical decay of the
body, do you have any kind of overarching philosophy or something that you can
turn to to just kind of put things in perspective that, like, we're all going
to die? Do you know what I mean?

Mr. ROTH: Is that all you wanted to say? Well, you know, to speak about
this book is a part of the answer to your question. This book is about
endurance, and the strategies that people develop to endure. Zuckerman has
worked out a strategy to endure, and when he comes down to New York, he puts
aside that strategy to endure and barely makes it through a week.

GROSS: Right, right.

Mr. ROTH: So, yes, when you're a certain age you have to have a strategy to
endure, and I don't know if I can articulate it, but I think that it doesn't
involve God. That doesn't get me anywhere. I think there's a certain
resignation about certain losses. And there's hope that the losses will
contain themselves. But no, I think that there is no philosophy that I know
of, or tactic that I know of, other than to deal with each thing as it comes
at you and do your best to hang on.

GROSS: You know, you're talking about strategies to endure, I mean
Zuckerman's strategy to endure is to completely isolate himself in the
country.

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm. Yes.

GROSS: And you know, like you say, he sets foot in New York, sees people and
it's like, it's all over.

Mr. ROTH: Yes.

GROSS: It's destroying him.

Mr. ROTH: He only lasts about a week, yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. So is that a reasonable strategy, the strategy of complete
isolation?

Mr. ROTH: For him.

GROSS: I mean, I kind of feel like it's hurting him as a writer, too, to be
that isolated, because there's no new input.

Mr. ROTH: You know, we don't know anything about his writing. Roth hasn't
told us anything about that. I feel it's enough I have to write the books. I
don't also have to write Zuckerman's books.

GROSS: Everybody's saying that this is the last Zuckerman book.

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Are you confident of that?

Mr. ROTH: Pretty, yeah.

GROSS: How come?

Mr. ROTH: Well, when you put it that way. I think that I've written the
book in such a way, I've painted myself into a corner. He's fleeing back to
this world he came out of. I think I may have gotten the best of him, and I
think there's a certain pathos to the book which signifies the end. You know?
I mean, not that he's dead at the end, but he's disappeared.

GROSS: Are you sorry to see him go?

Mr. ROTH: Not really, no. No.

GROSS: I mean, does that mean he's not going to be in your mind anymore? I
mean, I figure like, you've been living with this character for 30 years just
about...

Mr. ROTH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...so now he's gone. I mean, does that...

Mr. ROTH: I don't live--I'm not living with him when I'm not writing the
book.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROTH: When I'm not working. And I'm not living with him even when I'm
working on a book and I stop and have dinner. I'm not living with him. So
it's work, and I won't be working with him.

GROSS: OK. Philip Roth, it's great to talk with you again. Thank you very
much.

Mr. ROTH: Thank you.

GROSS: Philip Roth's new novel, "Exit Ghost," is his final novel featuring
his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The first four Zuckerman novels will be
published in October in the Library of America's latest edition of Roth's
collected works. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Director of the pilot Kevin Smith and co-star of the
show Ray Wise, on the new CW show "Reaper"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The new TV comedy-drama "Reaper"
premieres tonight on the CW network. It's about a slacker who finds out
something surprising from his parents on his 21st birthday.

(Soundbite of "Reaper")

Unidentified Actor: (In character) There's something I have to tell you. I
probably should have told you this a long time ago. I--before you were born,
your mom and I sold your soul to the devil.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BRET HARRISON: (As Sam) What?

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: The series manages to involve people from three different, but very
potent, pop culture cults. Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, the creators of
"Reaper," worked on the "The X-Files" together. Kevin Smith, the independent
film writer/director whose movies include "Chasing Amy," "Clerks" and "Dogma,"
directed the "Reaper" pilot. And starring in the series, playing the devil
himself, is Ray Wise, best known as Leland Palmer in that most quirky of all
TV cults, "Twin Peaks." Both Kevin Smith and Ray Wise are our guests.

Wise recently appeared on the TV series "24"; Kevin Smith, in addition to his
many film credits and his appearances around the country, has a new book
collecting entries from his popular blog. Here's a scene from "Reaper." Bret
Harrison plays Sam, the Big Box store employee who turns 21 and learns, to his
horror, that the devil owns his soul. The devil, played by Ray Wise as a
well-dressed, casually charming fellow, pops into Sam's kitchen to explain
some of the ground rules and cook himself a chicken-fried steak at the same
time.

(Soundbite of "Reaper")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RAY WISE: (As the Devil) Hey, look, I get it. It's a big deal. You
didn't choose it. Not fair. Nobody's blaming you for freaking out. Yes,
sir, chicken-fried steak. Oh, I'm so glad I don't have arteries. Mm. Oh, do
you want to try some?

Mr. HARRISON: (As Sam) No. Do I have to--do I have to go to hell now?

Mr. WISE: (As the Devil) Now? No, no, no, no, no. Not now. You're going
to work for me here in the earthly realm.

Mr. HARRISON: (As Sam) Like, kill people?

Mr. WISE: (As the Devil) Wow! You're a real pessimist. Of course, you
won't be murdering anyone. You're just going to bring escaped souls back to
hell. You know, like a bounty hunter. That's cool, right? Huh! You got any
root beer?

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Our TV critic and occasional guest host, David Bianculli, spoke with
Kevin Smith and Ray Wise.

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Ray Wise, Kevin Smith, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. KEVIN SMITH: Thank you, sir.

Mr. WISE: Oh, thank you.

BIANCULLI: I want to start by talking about how each of you became involved
in "Reaper" and at which step in the process. Kevin, let's start with you.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah.

BIANCULLI: You didn't write this, so...

Mr. SMITH: I didn't write it, no. I got a call from my agents, who said,
`Hey, there's this pilot that you've been offered to direct,' and that's
something that I had never heard before. I get a few calls every year about
movies that people--God knows why--ask me to direct, but I'm just not--I've
never been that guy. I always kind of direct my stuff that I write. I'm more
a writer than a director. But this kind of just intrigued me, because I was
like, who would be stupid enough to want to hire me to create a TV show, or to
create the pilot of the TV show?

And when I read it, I kind of understood why they came to me, because based on
"Dogma" and "Clerks," it was right in my wheelhouse. You got two dudes
sitting around talking a lot, and then you also have normal people dealing
with supernatural elements, so suddenly it kind of made absolute sense. I met
with the girls, Tara and Michele, who wrote the script, and suddenly we were
off and running, and I became a TV director. Just like that. It was that
simple.

BIANCULLI: Was there anything in the script that really popped out at you
that made you not only think, `I see why they sent it to me or thought of me,'
but made you really eager to do it?

Mr. SMITH: I tell you, the thing that really made me eager to do it, why I
wanted to get on board, was because it was a genre show that was created by
two chicks, which you rarely ever see. Like, when people think about genre
shows, they'll of course think about "Buffy," which was created by Joss Whedon
and things of that nature. "Battlestar Galactica" by David Eick and Ron
Moore. But this was a show that had, you know, science fiction elements to it
and fantasy elements to it, created by two women. And it's not unheard of to
have women on the staff of a show like that, but rarely ever do women create a
show like that, and that to me was historic, and I was like, I want to be in
bed with these chicks--in a professional way.

BIANCULLI: Now help me pronounce--it's Tara Butters and is it Michele
Fazekas?

Mr. SMITH: Michele Fazekas, yeah, and they created a show that was oddly
original while still being--and I mean this in the best way--refreshingly
derivative.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SMITH: Like, there are elements to the show that you've seen before, you
know? It has a very "Ghostbusters"-like feel to it. There are elements of
like the "40-year-old Virgin." Even "Clerks." Even "Dead like Me," a show that
ran on Showtime a while ago. It's not like we've never heard of anything like
this before, but it was kind of combining all the elements into a very unique
program that, thank God, the cast is as tight as they are. It's a pretty
watchable, wonderful show.

BIANCULLI: And, Ray, what about you?

Mr. WISE: Well, you know, I think I came in probably very late in the
process. You know, they'd seen a lot of lot of actors for the role of the
devil, and I came in sort of at the end, and I walked into the room and I got
a favorable response. I think they thought that I could be the devil. And I
loved the script, which is why I was there in the first place, so I jumped at
the chance.

Mr. SMITH: It was very much like Ray said. We had seen so many people come
through the door for the devil, almost a disturbingly high amount of people
who were willing to play this role. And, you know, people were good, but
nobody quite captured it. And I was in Vancouver at the time--we were that
close to shooting. And we were kind of pushing the devil stuff back until we
found our devil, and then they sent tape up of Ray. I wasn't even in the room
when Ray did it, and immediately--we were sitting-- there were four or five of
us in a room, and immediately we were like, `It's Leland Palmer, man!' Like,
why didn't we think of that? What a brilliant idea! Like, it totally works.
And Ray just had this wonderful take on the devil. A lot of people that we
saw, you know, did the kind of moustache-twisty thing and very predictable
takes, and Ray just played it like the most insincere-yet-sincere used car
salesman on the planet and it just worked. Suddenly we were like, that's the
take, man. That's the bead on the devil.

BIANCULLI: Ray, what inspirations did you have, if any, when you were trying
to become the devil for this TV show?

Mr. WISE: Well, you know, I thought about Kevin a little bit, you know, when
they told me that he was associated with the project, because I love "Dogma,"
and I particularly liked the things that they had to say about the devil in
"Dogma," you know? The kind of, you know, that banter between Matt Damon and
Ben Affleck's characters about the devil...

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WISE: ...and his relationship with God and all of that, and so that was
on my mind when I went into the room. And then, of course, I'd been
influenced by probably every movie devil there ever was in some way or
another, and, of course, Leland Palmer was sitting on my shoulder, too. I've
played a lot of, you know, dastardly guys and this is the king. I'm playing
the king now, and I'm feeling the power.

BIANCULLI: Kevin, were you a fan of "Twin Peaks"?

Mr. SMITH: Massive fan of "Twin Peaks." Huge, huge. When we were shooting
the show, I was geeking out with Ray constantly, talking about my favorite
moments and being like, `What did it feel like, man, when you were making the
episode where you actually kind of unveil that Leland is Bob the killer? And
you kill Maddie?'

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SMITH: And like, `Did you know you were making like a huge seminal
television moment?' You know, it was cool because I got to geek out as if, you
know, Ray was sitting behind a desk at a comic book convention and I was
looking for an autograph. So it was very cool. I'm sure, you know, Ray must
have been like, `Dude, I'm just here to work. I don't want to talk about
"Twin Peaks" anymore,' but everyday I had a new Twin Peaks question.

Mr. WISE: Oh, no. I never stop tiring of talking about it, really.

BIANCULLI: What influences, when you were each young, in the horror genres or
even the, you know, the comic horror genres spoke to you and sort of informed
your love for this?

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm. OK, well, you know, for me, you know, I was a big Dracula
fan, you know, big Dracula buff. Somewhere around the seventh grade this gal
gave me a copy of a first edition of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." And I read it
voraciously and kept re-reading it, and I always wanted to make the definite
Dracula movie, which I don't think's ever really been made. You know, Coppola
came sort of close and some others. I love the old Hammer films...

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WISE: They're the ones that really actually turned me on to horror. All
those great late '50s Hammer films with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to
me, today, at least, still can't be beat. But that's what started me on the
path to enjoying horror. And then of course, you know, I went to Romania
years later to make a movie and went to Vlad the Impaler's grave, who was the
real Dracula.

BIANCULLI: Right. Well, Ray, let me ask you about acting on a
serialized-type program. I mean, you played Vice President Hal Gardner on
"24."

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: You played Leland Palmer on "Twin Peaks." I mean, in these
characters, how do you hold on to what you think your character is when, first
of all, in both of those examples, it's not even planned out fully?

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: What did you do on "24," for example? Did you have to make a
decision in advance before you did the first episode as to what your
character's motivation was and then it changed as information was given to
you?

Mr. WISE: Yeah, because they keep everybody in the dark on that show.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WISE: You know, and it's all--when I came on as the vice president, I
didn't know if he was going to be the bad guy or good guy or, you know, what
he was going to do.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WISE: So I sort of--you know, I played him sort of ambiguously, though,
not going too far one way or the other but it could be one way or the other,
or both ways. Maybe he went both ways, I don't know. Yeah. And it was, you
know--and then of course, with every weekly script, you find a little bit more
out about yourself. And then you proceed. But they like to keep people in
the dark on that show.

GROSS: We're listening to our TV critic David Bianculli speaking with
director Kevin Smith and actor Ray Wise. More after a break. This is FRESH
AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: Let's get back to the interview our TV critic David Bianculli recorded
with director Kevin Smith and actor Ray Wise about the new TV series "Reaper."

BIANCULLI: Kevin, were there any differences in terms of directing television
than directing film?

Mr. SMITH: Honestly, no. In terms of the mechanics of it, we pretty much
rolled like we were shooting a film anyway. I mean, there's always more of a
time crunch, because you start off with like a schedule of 12 days to shoot an
hour-long, so it, you know, and it was about a 50-page script or something
like that. So, you know, time is of the essence. But still, I brought my DP
on, Dave Klein, and we kind of approached it like we were shooting one of our
own features. But oddly enough, when all was said and done, I'm probably
halfway through shooting the pilot, I turned to Dave and I was just like, `Is
it me or are we doing a better job with this than any of the features we've
ever made?' And that was a bizarre phenomenon. Like, we put far more thought
into the visual scheme of "Reaper" than we ever did to one of my flicks, and I
chalk it up to the fact that, because I didn't originate the material, I felt
like I had to earn my keep somehow.

Mr. WISE: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. SMITH: So I was just like, I'd better make it look good.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SMITH: And, oddly enough, if you watch it like vs. every feature I ever
shot, it is like more visually interesting, more kinetic than anything I've
done before. "Reaper" was a total learning curve for me, in an odd way.

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: If I can talk to you, Kevin, about something that's not related to
the series, but you have a book that's coming out...

Mr. SMITH: Mm-hmm. I do.

BIANCULLI: Which is called "My Boring-Ass Life," and it's based on your blog.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah, it's a collection of blogs that I've been writing for the
last year and a half, which is like the best way to write a book, when you
don't know you're writing a book. And then somebody's like, `Hey, you wrote a
book, can we publish it?' And I'm like, oh, go ahead. Because all the work's
done. I don't have to produce anything. It's already been there.

BIANCULLI: The part that really leapt out at me was the different sections
where you talk about Jason Mewes, who was the Jay in Jay and Silent Bob and
starred in all of your movies, and a series of passages where you talk about
his drug addiction and how you dealt with it as his friend, as his director,
and your efforts to cure him of his drug addiction. And...

Mr. SMITH: Mm. My failing efforts. My many failed efforts actually.

BIANCULLI: Well, I mean, this is what was amazing, because I thought this was
going to be a nice little two-part blog and you were going to send him here,
he was going to admit it and then it would be fine. And it went on page after
page, it felt like year after year, and I--it was so real.

Mr. SMITH: Mm. Yeah, it's actually the part of the book that I'm kind of
most proud of. But it is a very compelling story, and it does, you know,
chronicle like five to seven years of a constant battle with drug addiction
that, for the moment, has a very happy conclusion. Like, he's been clean
going on five years now. The rest of the blog, there's amusing stuff in
it--the rest of the book, which was a blog. There's amusing stuff in it. The
first like half of it is really, like, almost a daily diary of everything I
did...

BIANCULLI: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. SMITH: But that section of the book is so worth getting to because it's
a pretty heroic story, and it's odd to say that about somebody, you know, who
was, for lack of a better description, a junkie, but he does--ultimately, it's
the story of a guy who tries to help his friend who won't be helped, and his
friend has to kind of do it himself, and that's where the kind of quiet
heroism comes in.

BIANCULLI: And then the last question before I turn over to some solo
questions for Ray is, I'm always wary when I read something in terms of
research, and it sounds too good to be true...

Mr. SMITH: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: But I've read that you have sold a movie just by its title?

Mr. SMITH: Yeah. The movie that we start in January is called "Zack and
Miri Make a Porno."

BIANCULLI: So this is true?

Mr. SMITH: It is true. And I went to talk to Harvey Weinstein about it,
because we've done most of our movies with either Miramax or the Weinstein
company, I don't really pitch. I've kind of had the luxury of people going,
`What do you want to do next?' and I just kind of write it and turn it in.
But in this one I was going to sit down with him about some "Clerks
II"-related stuff, and I said, `Oh, by the way, this is the next movie I want
to do. Let me give you the pitch for it.' And I immediately said the title,
and before I got into the pitch, he goes, `All right, done.' And I said,
`Don't you want to hear what the story is?' And he goes, `Kevin, what could
the story possibly be with a title like that? You know, it's not like you're
going to do a piece on the Holocaust. This is clearly "Zack and Miri Make a
Porno."' He was kind of amused by the whole thing. So, yeah, that was hardly
working for me that day.

BIANCULLI: Well, Ray, I can't let you get away without asking you a few "Twin
Peaks" questions.

Mr. WISE: Yeah.

BIANCULLI: It's one of my favorite television series ever.

Mr. WISE: Mm.

BIANCULLI: And your performance in it is one of my favorite TV performances
ever. One of the most disturbingly violent things I've ever seen, and--I
mean, all of the violence is justified, but it's something I've never been
able to shake, is the scene in "Twin Peaks" where you as Leland Palmer finally
come out as the killer of Laura Palmer, your daughter, and then end up killing
your daughter's look-alike cousin, who was also played by the same actress,
Sheryl Lee. And it's just such a seminal moment of television, but an
unshakeable one. And I was wondering, what was that like to film, and how do
you respond to that all those years later?

Mr. WISE: Well, you know, it was about a 14- or 15-hour day shooting that
particular scene, and poor Sheryl Lee, she had to die three times as Maddie,
because they didn't want to reveal who the real killer was, even to the crew,
so Leland had to kill her, then Ben Horne had to kill her and then Bob had to
kill her. And so she was killed three times that day by three different
killers, and she took a beating, that poor girl. So it didn't affect me that
greatly, because I was more concerned about her well-being, you know? I was
thinking about her, not me.

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WISE: And I know that they brought in, they brought in a masseuse at the
end of the day for her, and I think a first-aid lady, too, came in you know,
asked her if she could help her in any way. So it was a very intense day, I
remember.

BIANCULLI: And in getting to the point in your own performance...

Mr. WISE: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: ...where you were able to just put a culmination to that entire
plotline in that way, was that a lot of stress on you at the time? Was that
something that you were looking forward to or that you were dreading?

Mr. WISE: No, I was dreading it. I wasn't looking forward to it. You know,
for weeks and weeks I prayed that it wasn't me, that I wasn't the killer of my
own daughter and the defiler of my own daughter. You know, I have my own
daughter, and it was kind of like, it was anathema to me to think that it was
my character who did all this. And then when I was explained, by David, how
the last couple of shows were going to play out...

BIANCULLI: David Lynch, of course.

Mr. WISE: Yeah. David Lynch, yeah. And he made me see the redemption of
Leland and the forgiveness by his daughter, you know, for what he did, and so
he made it much more palatable to me. But it was something that I dreaded
doing and therefore, you know, you really have to make an effort, and the
challenge is there to try and do it well, even--you know, if it's something
you don't want to do. I think oftentimes those things turn out very much
better than things that you look forward to doing, you know?

BIANCULLI: Mm-hmm. Well, for either one of you, just because, I know Kevin,
that you're a fan of the show...

Mr. SMITH: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: ...do you feel that "Twin Peaks" could be on television now?

Mr. WISE: Mm.

Mr. SMITH: I think probably now even more so than then.

BIANCULLI: Why?

Mr. SMITH: TV's kind of taken a big turn. Like back then, "Twin Peaks" was
the only smart game in town...

Mr. WISE: Yeah.

Mr. SMITH: ...in terms of like the type of television that that was. It
really was ahead of its time.

Mr. WISE: It was like HBO, you know, on a network.

Mr. SMITH: Very much so. Very much so.

BIANCULLI: Kevin Smith, Ray Wise, thank you very much for coming and visiting
on FRESH AIR.

Mr. SMITH: Thanks for having me.

Mr. WISE: Thank you.

GROSS: Kevin Smith directed the pilot of "Reaper." Ray Wise stars as the
devil. It premieres tonight on the CW network. They spoke with our TV
critic, David Bianculli.

Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews a new CD by a duo whose music has been used on
several TV shows. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Ken Tucker looks at the new album, "The Con," by Tegan
and Sara
TERRY GROSS, host:

Tegan and Sara Quin are identical twin sisters in their twenties, born in
Calgary, Alberta. Initially signed by fellow Canadian Neil Young to his Vapor
Records label, their melodic music has been used in a number of American TV
shows, including "Grey's Anatomy," "The L-Word," "Veronica Mars" and "Medium."
Rock critic Ken Tucker says their new album, "The Con," deals with the
standard subject of romance and break-ups in novel ways.

(Soundbite of "Burn Your Life Down")

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) Tell me that you know another way to get it done
It's not me, or how I would be
But it's a different situation,
A different situation
You lay awake in the night just staring at the ceiling above

(End of soundbite)

KEN TUCKER reporting:

Most often, Tegan and Sara harmonize on songs sung in the first person,
telling stories about the tentative beginnings of a love affair, the pleasures
and irritations of it, the end of it. They have a way of rushing words,
pushing the melodies ahead with their voices and guitars, giving the songs an
intensity that sounds as though it was inspired by agony but created for
pleasure.

(Soundbite of "Relief Next to Me")

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) I miss you now
I guess like I should have missed you then
My body moves
Like curtains waving in and out of wind
In and and out of windows

I can't untangle
I can't untangle
What I feel and what would matter most
I can't get close and I, I can't get close
And now there's just no point
In reaching out for me

In the dark, I'm just no good at giving relief
In the dark, it won't be easy to find relief
And I'm not proud
That nothing will seem easy about me
But I promise this
I won't go my whole life
Telling you I don't need
But I promise this
I won't go my whole life
Telling you I don't need

I'll tell you now...

(End of soundbite)

TUCKER: That song, called "Relief," is as close is as close as these Canadian
sisters come to a manifesto. They move from a cappella voices to acoustic
melody to electronically-pulsed proclamation, until they hit the chorus.
Quite, "But I promise this, I won't go my whole life telling you I don't
need." This least needy of musical acts likes to display emotions while
surrounding them with music that renders their sentiments mock-heroic, angry,
or exhausted, rarely, if ever, ironic. And they know how to rev things up for
their big title song, "The Con."

(Soundbite of "The Con")

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) I listened in
Yes, I'm guilty of this
You should know this
I broke down and wrote you back before you had a chance to
Forget forgotten
I am moving past this, giving notice
I have to go
Yes, I know the feeling
Know you're leaving

Calm down, I'm calling you to say
I'm capsized, staring on the edge of safe
Calm down, I'm calling back to say
I'm home now
I'm coming around, I'm coming around
Nobody likes to, but I really like to cry
Nobody likes me
Maybe if I cry...

(End of soundbite)

TUCKER: Working with the producer Christopher Walla of the band Death Cab for
Cutie, Tegan and Sara amass layers of guitars, drums, and synthesizers,
building one crescendo after another, lapping each other like powerful waves.
All the while, they're singing about the anxiety of ending an affair and of
wanting the tender affection, their narrator is helplessly rejected.

(Soundbite of "Back in Your Head")

TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing)
Build a wall of books between us in our bed
Repeat, repeat the words that I know we both said
Relax into the need
We get so comfortable
Remember when I was so strange and likeable

I just want back into your head
I just want back into your head
I'm not unfaithful, but I'll stray
When I get a little scared
When I get a little scared
When I get a little

When I jerk away...

(End of soundbite)

TUCKER: There you hear the way Tegan and Sara can craft a zippy little pop
melody. The song, "Back in Your Head," commences with some Euro pop prancing.
It's as though the two women in ABBA had decided to go solo but regretted it.
The sisters begin a vehement chorus, the phrase, `I just want back in your
head.' Clearly these are women who know something about obsession and it's not
merely in the words but in the music, the way it winds tighter and tighter as
the songs proceed.

It's almost amazing that their compositions have been used as background music
on American TV, because right below the surface prettiness, there are roiling
emotions expressed in abrupt time changes. The harsh chatter of their voices
isolates and emphasizes what bothers them and thrills them about being
involved with lovers who never seem to understand the difficult of being Tegan
and Sara.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
"The Con" by Tegan and Sara.

I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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