“We try and keep them contained to a very personal level,” Jeremy Carver tells The Wrap about the repercussions of messing with time.
Jeremy Carver doesn’t necessarily consider his new series “Frequency” a time-travel show, though it’s a handy shorthand in a season lousy with time travel programs.
“Let’s put it this way: It’s a lot snappier to say it’s a time-travel show than a cross-time communication show,” the showrunner told TheWrap in a recent interview about his series, which is an updated remake of the 2000 Dennis Quaid film of the same name.
This time around, it’s 2016, and police detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) inexplicably finds herself able to communicate on an old ham radio with her father, Frank (Riley Smith) — shortly before his death in 1996.
Carver, who is a big fan of the film, also discussed why he gender-swapped the main character, why he kept the central communication device a ham radio despite such a tech-savvy world and how List and Smith developed and maintained their chemistry even as they never shared the screen.
TheWrap: Why “Frequency?”
Jeremy Carver: It came together from always having loved the movie. I loved the central connection between father and son, and saw an opportunity to expand on that for a potential TV series.
Why gender-swap the main character?
For me, it was the most exciting way to go. Pretty familiar with father-son relationships, and I really enjoyed movies and shows that delved into that — everything from “Field of Dreams” to “Frequency.” I thought it was a neat idea to have the daughter, there’s a little bit more of a mysterious relationship, particularly when you rip away the idea that every daughter has to be daddy’s little girl. It became more of a dynamic way to go.
How did your cast develop this father-daughter chemistry despite being almost the same age and never sharing the screen?
The cast has been extraordinary. Riley Smith and Peyton List, basically every scene they had together, they’re not in the same room. So it requires a tremendous amount of preparation and trust between the two actors to give as much as they do in each of these scenes. In fact, they made this promise to one another to be in theses scenes, huddled off-camera, in these ham radio scenes, to lend help with the intimacy of the scenes.
As far as the rest of the cast, from Mekhi Phifer to Devin Kelley, those guys are pulling double duty, playing the older and younger versions of their characters. In many ways, they’ve got the really heavy lifting of the show. They’ve been tremendously versatile in how they’ve approached it. The thing that’s been the saving grace for all of them has been the incredibly natural and organic ways they’re coming to these characters. At heart, it’s a high-concept genre show, which never feels like it, because of the naturalness our leads are all bringing to their parts.
Do you consider “Frequency” a time-travel show?
I know we’re lumped in it, there’s a bunch of time-travel shows this season. Let’s put it this way, it’s a lot snappier to say it’s a time-travel show than a cross-time-communication show. So I’m happy to be labeled as time travel, even though we’re really not.
Are there time-travel rules in this universe?
There are butterfly-effect rules in this universe, although we try and keep them contained to a very personal level. It’s not something like every episode ends with, this episode so-and-so is president, another episode the Germans have taken over — it’s on a personal level. We do use certain rules of the butterfly effect, very much in our storytelling. It’s part of what stretches it beyond your normal police or drama drama.
Why did you keep the ham radio even though the show is set decades after the original movie, in a very post-Internet, tech-savvy world?
There’s something very sweetly nostalgic about this ham radio. Even for people out there who don’t know what a ham radio is, you sense there’s something special about this sort of, I’m calling it a “golden box.” It’s its own living, breathing thing, and it just feels very special. I think because it’s so lo-fi, it lends itself to create a greater air of authenticity in the show. I don’t think many people are, after watching the pilot, questioning the high concept. People seem to be taken in by the characters and go with it. Whether they realize it or not, the ham radio, because it’s so nonthreatening in a way, it’s not some hi-tech computer, is almost a comforting way into the sci-fi.
“Frequency” premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.
Category: Movie/TV Comparison
Another one of the Fall TV remakes of an old movie, The CW’s “Frequency” is a moderately successful redo.
Peyton List (best-known as Roger Sterling’s second wife on “Mad Men”) plays NYPD Detective Raimy Sullivan, who has been resentful of her father, Frank Sullivan (Riley Smith). He died in 1996, and she believes that he was a crooked cop who died during a deal gone wrong.
Nevertheless, she went in the family business and is a good cop. After her boyfriend digs up her dad’s old ham radio, Raimy finds herself one night talking to someone named Frank during an unusual storm.
As the two communicate, it becomes evident that she’s talking to her father 20 years in the past, and that what she was told happened to him wasn’t true. As she investigates and finds links to a current case, his story unfolds.
Eventually what she tells Frank creates a “butterfly effect,” changing the present in unforeseen ways. That sets up the rest of the series as the two try to figure out what to do.
“Frequency” is a somewhat intriguing sci-fi premise relatively well done. The series is less schmaltzy than the film and works better on a mystery level, which is a plus. The challenge going forward will be to not tie itself up in logistical knots.
When it came out in 2000, the science-fiction film Frequency generated a lukewarm response at the box office, but the CW’s television adaptation of Frequency finds fertile storytelling ground by exchanging its tale of a son communicating with his long lost father via ham radio for one in which a young woman (played by The Flash‘s “Golden Glider,” Peyton List) connects with her deceased dad (Daniel Bonjour). The two stars were joined by their castmates Mekhi Phifer, Devin Kelley, Lenny Jacobson, Daniel Bonjour, and Anthony Ruivivar at Thursday’s Television Critics Association‘s summer press tour; along with executive producers John Rickard, Dan Lin, and Jennifer Gwartz, and creator Jeremey Carver (best known for his tour of duty on Supernatural).
“We wanted to age down our characters a bit more,” says Carver of the show’s twenty-year time span versus the film’s thirty years. Carver elaborated by adding that it aided in the choice to have actors play both younger and older versions of their characters. “It is a difficult challenge. We’re succeeding on an episodic level. That was a creative decision we made. I’m happy it’s working.”
Given that the show’s pilot covers much of the same ground as the original film, fans may be curious as to just how many of her relatives Raimy will be tasked with saving throughout the life of the show…
“You see a lot of different things introduced in the pilot beyond the central mystery,” says Carver. “The show is built to have pretty strong legs. The show is not dependent on merely saving a family member. We’ve grown beyond that… Moving past the pilot, we’re gonna be living very much in 1996 and 2016. It’s about equal time as these people are living in their own times periods. We’re also seeing the time Raimy lost. Moving forward, what you’re gonna see is very much a crime drama, a family drama. There’s a soulfulness that spreads through this show, that encompasses everything about this show.”
Regarding how far Frequency‘s butterfly effect extends, Carver remarks, “It’s not a show where every week you’re gonna end up with a different foreign power ruling the United States. If history is a rope, we’re changing maybe fibers on that rope from episode to episode.”
Addressing the show’s gender swap, Carver explains that when the network brought the property to his attention:
“The CW asked me if there’s anything I would change. It felt to me much more of a challenge and that much more exciting to reinvent this project with a strong woman at its core. The idea of exploring a father-daughter relationship, where in many stories it’s limited to a ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ type of trope, I was interested in exploding that trope and exploring a different kind of father-daughter relationship. As a writer it made the project that much more exciting for the first season and beyond.”
“An interesting comparison,” says List of the love of baseball her character shares with her dad, “is that sports was something I shared with my father. He was the one who taught me the rules of football and was able to explain the rules to me as a young girl. It was something we could relate to each other with… There’s a lot of things in the show that can catch you by surprise, as emotional and personal. It’s sometimes hard for a father and daughter to find common ground.”
As a veteran of several science-fiction shows, List admits to being a lifelong fan of the genre:
“Just because it allows for so much more imagination, and as kid that’s where you live. Initially I had to figure it out — how do you just believe? Then I did a couple of shows where I realized that’s what it’s based in. You just do believe. I got more used to doing that — making the leap and believing one hundred percent. I like how Raimy goes through that process in the pilot, given what her father does to make her believe.”
Citing her credentials, the actress adds that, “I may or may not have had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles birthday party. My mom knows better… I think it was my fifth. It still kind of competes as one of the best ones ever.”
Frequency premieres on the CW on October 5th.
When the 2000 New Line sci-fi dramatic feature Frequency was released, it wasn’t a mass-appealing success, opening third at the box office with $9M and legging out to $45M. The film starred Jim Caviezel as a grown man who communicates with his late father, a former fireman (Dennis Quaid), across 30 years via a ham radio and attempts to save dad’s life before he perishes in a warehouse fire.
The pic is one of two written by New Line chief Toby Emmerich, the second being The Last Mimzy.
Rebooting old movies as TV shows is a wild trend now. There are some successes such as the Emmy-winning Fargo on FX, which has taken on a life of its own on the tube. That was an Oscar-winning cult-fave property from the Coen brothers, which maintained the auteurs’ absurdist storytelling sensibility. But movies-turned-TV shows such as Limitless and Rush Hour haven’t done wonders for CBS.
So why is Frequency, a property with a limited following, being rebooting on the CW?
The new series, set in present day, swaps the son in the movie for a female detective played by Peyton List, who radios her detective father in 1996.
Defended EP Jeremy Carver: “It was a popular movie in my heart. I really enjoyed it. From the moment I saw it, I was struck by the central relationship between father and son. Whether it was popular or not doesn’t affect how I decide what I like or don’t like; it was that central relationship. When I saw that there was a possibility to do it, I leapt at the chance. I might contest that the movie wasn’t popular; it was very well liked. There’s a certain element of the movie that flies beneath the radar, which is a plus for us because it allows us to develop new characters and takes (on the story).”
Frequency star Lenny Jacobson agreed. “It’s safer to reboot something that’s not untouchable. It’s not like with Ghostbusters, where that was rebooted and now you’re messing with their childhood.”
Said EP Dan Lin: “It’s an interesting title. It causes you to lean in.”
The CW is bringing back a familiar tale with the network’s upcoming sci-fi series Frequency. Based on the 2000 film starring Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid, the show stars Peyton List as a woman who is able to communicate through time with her father and prevents his death, thus causing potentially disastrous ripple effects in the present.
Frequency comes from Supernatural’s Jeremy Carver, who admitted during a 2016 summer TV press tour panel that he’s been a fan of the film since its debut. He actually went to Frequency’s 2000 Los Angeles premiere because he was friends with someone who worked on the movie, “and I loved it.”
When Warner Bros. came to him with potential projects to develop a new TV show, he didn’t realize the studio had the rights for the movie — in fact, he didn’t even realize the project was a WB property. He found himself drawn to it immediately when he saw it on a list of properties he could develop, and thinks it’s to the show’s benefit that the movie isn’t hugely popular.
“There is a certain element of the movie that flies beneath the radar, and that’s only a plus for us,” Carver said. “It allows us plenty of room to develop new takes on characters and new takes on the way the show should go. As a jumping point, I couldn’t be more thrilled by the movie we have a template of.”
Star Lenny Jacobson echoed those sentiments, saying it’s a good thing that Frequency is a movie that people enjoyed but don’t feel passionate ownership of.
“I loved this movie when I first saw it. I think over the years it’s gotten a cult following. No matter whether people have seen it or love it or not, they always have heard the idea of what it is and that’s intriguing to them,” he said. “In this day and age when people are doing reboots, sometimes it’s better not to reboot something that is untouchable, as you can see with Ghostbusters this year. People lost their minds because you’re messing with their childhood. Thank god that since it’s not super popular we’re not going to ruin anyone’s childhood by redoing the movie into a TV show. I think this also gives us a chance to show people what this style is and give them a new look at it. … Reboots are scary. People get angry.”
One of the big changes from the film to the show is that Caviezel’s character John Sullivan has been reimagined as a woman, List’s Raimy Sullivan. Though Carver was initially drawn to the 2000 movie because of the central relationship, which is between a father and a son, he thought it would be an interesting challenge to tackle a father/daughter relationship instead.
“When we brought the project to The CW, they asked me if there was anything that I would change. It felt to me much more of a challenge, and that much more exciting, to reinvent this project with a very strong woman at its core,” he said. “The idea of exploring a father/daughter relationship where in many circumstances it’s just limited to a daddy’s little girl type of trope. I was very interested in exploiting that trope and exploring a very different kind of father/daughter relationship.”
Frequency premieres Wednesday, October 5th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Even the most passionate fans of the 2000 film Frequency will find something to be surprised by in The CW’s upcoming remake.
The freshman drama series, premiering in October, is based on the movie of the same name that follows Detective John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) as he discovers he can talk to his deceased father Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid) via ham radio. Together, although separated by 20 years, they forge a new connection and solve a serial murder case. But The CW series is putting a fresh spin on the old movie by gender-bending the lead role. Peyton List (Mad Men) is taking on Caviezel’s part, turning NYPD Detective John Sullivan into NYPD Detective Raimy Sullivan.
But that’s not the only change The CW is making as Frequency heads to the small screen. The Hollywood Reporter took a closer closer look at all the differences between the series premiere and the movie (note: ending spoilers are not included).
While the movie plays out in a linear fashion, starting from point A and ending at point Z, the TV series is a little different. The pilot episode is structured in medias res, beginning in the middle of the story with Raimy confessing everything weird that has been going on with her late father Frank (Riley Smith) to her boyfriend Daniel (Daniel Bonjour). The episode then goes back to the beginning to catch the audience up to that point.
While neither the movie nor the TV series explicitly explain the science behind the reason why John and Raimy can speak to their father 20 years in the past, both versions do try and offer up a theory. In the movie, the Aurora Borealis is seen in the sky over NYC throughout the entire story, potentially powering the ham radio. Whereas in the TV show, a lightning bolt strikes the ham radio tower during a storm, turning on the broken radio for the first time in 20 years. John, Raimy and both versions of Frank never do try to figure out the science behind the ham radio, instead focusing on staying alive and solving an important case before the radio stops working for good.
The movie was a lot more straightforward with how John felt about his late father. Frank Sullivan died in a warehouse fire when he was eight years old, and so while he didn’t have very many memories of his father, he still thought of him as a good man. That’s why he tried so hard to convince Frank of who he was, so he could warn him about the fire and save his life. Raimy, however, grew up thinking of Frank in a very different light. The TV series changed Frank’s profession from firefighter to NYPD detective, and two years before his death, he went undercover. He died while on a sting, and Raimy (along with everyone else that knew him) believed he died a dirty cop. That’s why Raimy’s second chance to try and save her father via the ham radio is such a game-changer: he can finally tell her the truth about what he was up to and save his own legacy.
The family connections are a bit different from the movie to the TV show. In the movie, Frank and his wife Julia Sullivan (Elizabeth Mitchell) are blissfully happy together, even in times of hardship. But in the show, because of Frank’s time spent undercover, he and his wife Julie Sullivan (Devin Kelley) split up because of the strain it puts on their marriage. As for John, his girlfriend leaves him at the beginning of the movie whereas Raimy is about to get engaged to her boyfriend at the start of the series.
While those are the four biggest changes from the big screen to the small screen, there are many smaller details that are different as well. When Raimy is trying to convince Frank over the ham radio that she’s his daughter from the future, he accidentally burns the top of the radio with his cigar in shock. In the movie, Frank accidentally burns the desk the radio is sitting on. In the show, Frank always left presents buried for Raimy in the backyard, whereas in the movie, Frank leaves something for John underneath a loose board in the window seat of their home. But despite these smaller differences, The CW’s Frequency looks to be on track to tell the story of the 2000 movie, just on a slower timeline.
Frequency premieres Wednesday, October 5 at 9 p.m. on The CW.