Hollywood. Movie stars. Red carpet premieres. Authors are by nature book lovers, but even weʼre not immune to the glamour of the two magical words, "Option clause." In the book biz, that means someone wants to make a movie out of your novel. Maybe. Actually filming a movie is called exercising the option clause. First, a book must be optioned. One phone call, one tantalizing whisper of a promise.
In the spring of 2011, I got the first call regarding a possible option of my series character, Boston homicide detective D. D. Warren. Which book, I asked, trying to sound very professional and not at all giddy and starstruck. Pause. Longer pause. Extremely long pause. Turned out, the producer, Stephanie Germain, was less interested in a specific title as she was my character. Basically, she wasnʼt after a plot. She wanted D. D. Warren.
I loved the producer already.
Next thing I knew, Stephanie, who has developed many Nora Roberts novels for television, had secured an agreement with TNT to bring Hide to life. Better yet, she had hired a screenwriter and they wanted to talk to me about all things D.D. Where did she go to school, what was she like as a child, did she actually have parents? And while we were at it, was there a particular actress I could picture as Detective D. D. Warren? Because first comes the producer, then comes the screenwriter, and next comes casting.
Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren . . . a brunette?
Iʼll be the first to confess I never picture real people as my book characters. Certainly, when I was writing Hide, I pictured D.D. to be, well, D.D. But for casting, of course, you need a star. From the very beginning, the powers that be wanted Carla Gugino, fresh off her buzzworthy turn in Entourage, as well as Watchmen, Night at the Museum, and Spy Kids. I believe my husband summed it up as "You mean that brunette bombshell?"
Lisa Gardner with the stars of Hide: from left to right, Carla Gugino as Detective D. D. Warren, Lisa Gardner, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as criminologist Alex Wilson, and Kevin Alejandro as Detective Bobby Dodge.
Book character Detective Warren is known for her short blond curls. A brunette would definitely be a departure, but I was the first to say Detective D. D. Warren is not a woman to be defined by her hair. What mattered to me most was attitude. I watched one clip of Carlaʼs D. D. Warren, dressing down Kevin Alejandroʼs Bobby Dodge, and I was hooked. I think my favorite moment in the Hide movie is when Bobby questions D.D. about leaving his bed without a word in the middle of the night, and she asks him what did he really expect, for her to write a note and leave a cookie? I spent two days on set, and from everything I saw, Carla Gugino is D. D. Warren.
Of course, as long as male viewers get Carla Gugino, whatʼs in it for us females? Screenwriter Janet Brownell created a very clever script with two answers: Kevin Alejandro playing Bobby Dodge, as well as Mark-Paul Gosselaar playing Alex Wilson, a criminologist and other D. D. Warren love interest, who in the book world doesnʼt appear until Live to Tell, but is a great addition to Hide.
Kevin Alejandro is best known for the series True Blood as well as Southland. On set, he nailed Bobbyʼs quiet intensity, the sniper turned detective. In the movie, unlike the novel, Bobby and D.D. are currently lovers, or maybe more like friends with benefits. Until, of course, Alex Wilson comes along.
I still remember Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell. Trust me, heʼs grown up nicely, while retaining the sort of arrogant charm needed to challenge D.D.ʼs take-no-prisoners attitude. In an interesting twist of fate, Carla Gugino and Mark-Paul Gosselaar have acted together once before--nearly twenty years ago when she played his first girlfriend on Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the prequel to Saved by the Bell. Letʼs just say, twenty years later, sparks still fly.
One D. D. Warren. Two hunky male leads. Whatʼs not to love?
It takes a village . . .
After casting comes filming, of course. In the book world, Hide takes place in Boston. In the TV world, Hide takes place in Some Major Municipal City. Basically, TNT already has a Boston TV show (Rizzoli & Isles, based on Tess Gerritsenʼs fabulous thrillers), so the network opted to set Hide not-in-Boston. For filming, that translated to New Orleans, where moviemaking is a major industry, filled with tax incentives for the production companies and opportunities for the locals.
Shooting a movie is intense! One hundred and forty people working long hours to keep filming on a tight, thirty-day schedule. Thereʼs film crews, lighting and electrical crews, costume and wardrobe departments, makeup, sound, props, art department, location scouts, craft services, extras, stand-ins, drivers, and about half a dozen production assistants (PAs), which seems to be a catchall position of doing whatever it is that must be done right now that no one else is doing. Riding herd over this madness is the director, John Gray, of Ghost Whisperer fame.
Then, generally standing beside him at video village, the assistant director (Dick Feury), director of photography (Jim Chressanthis), the second assistant director (also known as the second second), plus the script supervisor. Oh, then thereʼs the line producer, who has already figured out everything the filming crew needs before they even started filming. I could use a line producer in my life. Iʼm convinced of it.
As an author, I was fascinated by all the positions you never think about. For example, the props department. Two people who think solely about props. For wardrobe (guns, badges, backpacks). For settings (I was particularly impressed by the beer stein collection they devised for Dr. Schueppʼs office). For other props: Thereʼs a scene in the novel where D.D. opens an old storage box to find a clue. I describe the clue, but, of course, what else is in the box? Leave it to the brilliant props department to come up with really cool Old Things in a Storage Box.
Most of us fantasize about one day being a movie star. But who grows up saying, "I want to be the props department"? (Film students/artists, Iʼm told, who enjoy creative, never boring, and pretty challenging work, given what it takes to track down some items.) For that matter, how does one end up in craft services, feeding 140 people sixteen hours a day with everything from a truck filled with candy and chips to trays of freshly prepared hors dʼoeuvres? (A man, I was informed, met in a bar. Isnʼt that always the case?)
I was extremely impressed by the art department. I donʼt consider myself the most descriptive writer. I like action, dialogue, drama. Meaning the art department had the tough job of fully fleshing out roughly detailed scenes. Catherine Gagnon lives in a mansion. What kind of mansion? Brick, wood, stucco? I describe the opening crime scene as an earthen pit in the ground. But how big, containing what other items, and hello, TV is a visual medium so letʼs up the creep factor here.
To get the ball rolling, the art department produces many, many sketches. Proposed hospital rooms, D.D.ʼs homicide unit, abandoned mental institutes. Once the "look" is agreed on, then they go to town. The earthen "pit" was actually built aboveground, like a giant wooden bowl with sod planted on top. Inside the bowl, the art department worked Halloween-worthy wonders, creating a spooky labyrinth of cobwebs, crumbling cinder blocks (spray foam), and treacherous debris. I wonʼt tell you everything they did, but I think the art director is even more twisted than I am, and the finished result was so scary, one of the makeup artists refused to enter.
As the director, John Gray further enabled the spine-tingling suspense with cool camera angles and freaky lighting. Iʼm not sure which scene he enjoyed shooting most: the underground pit filled with mummified remains, or the aboveground ambush scene when D.D.ʼs attacked by a dog. Heʼs a man who enjoys his job, and can film the scariest moments with the biggest smiles.
I liked him.
Thereʼs camaraderie on set. Most of the crew are nomads, having left behind family and loved ones to film in New Orleans. Hollywood is a feast-or-famine kind of industry, where people may go months without a job, then be on location working 24/7. But like publishing, itʼs the kind of job people do for love, and they take great pride in their work, whether itʼs wardrobe, hand-cleaning and tailoring an outfit for one scene, just to rip it and coat it with "blood" for the next. Or the sound crew, with half a million dollars in equipment, piled on one rolling cart, topped by an evil dollʼs head for . . . luck, inspiration? I could never figure it out, but I swear the entire two days I was on set, that doll was watching me.
Everyone present has a role to play, whether itʼs finding the right prop, tailoring the proper officerʼs uniform, focusing the right camera lens, or perfecting the opening scream. Together, the cast and crew weave a perfect seam of make-believe. Then they do it again, and again and again (Screaming Kid 1 got to perform for 6 hours!), just to make sure they have it right.
Meaning, on December 6 we can all kick back, relax, and enjoy a very good show. Detective D. D. Warren. Brunette, sassy, and ready to rumble. Look out bad guys. Thereʼs no place to hide.
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