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Part 2 Of Our Interview With Kenneth Johnson: The Making & Future Of V!!

Merrick here...
...with the second installment of our three part interview with Kenneth Johnson. If you don't remember who he is or what he's done, CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1 OF THIS INTERVIEW. Chances are, you'll remember him...or at least know his work. This time around, our man David Chase talks to Johnson about the making of the original V miniseries, and discusses possibilities for a resurrection of the franchise on either the big or small screen (references to contention between Sci Fi Channel and Warner Bros. is interesting).
Here's David Chase...

In this 2nd set of questions from my interview with Kenneth Johnson, held during our V: The Second Generation promotional Q&A, I’ve assembled all the nostalgic and juicy tidbits regarding his original record-breaking television mini-series V.

DAVID CHASE: So Ken, as a fan of V, its great to finally chat with you - you really created a world and characters that have remained memorable for over two decades. KEN JOHNSON: Thanks, it’s been a fabulous experience. In the past few years, I’ve probably gotten 7 to 10,000 emails from people all over the world; men and women, younger people, older people who have shared their love for V. It’s so rewarding to be able to be in touch with the people who like your stuff, it’s really great…
DC: Well it was such a huge under-lining pop culture phenomenon… I know it stuck with me and my friends our whole lives, and is a staple for when I think about my early teen years… KJ: Yeah, its interesting. About ½ the emails I get say, ‘I was 10, 12, 15 when V first aired, now I’m late 20s early 30s and as much as I loved it then, I’m watching it now and realizing how much more was going on then I realized’. And that I think that’s the thing that’s most rewarding…as people get older, they begin to realize the different layers and levels I was trying to work at, and that V was never really about alien people and spaceships and reptilian races and stuff…it was about POWER, and how people would suck up to it…or keep their heads down and try not to be affected by it…or ultimately become heroic and fight against it (which is what the resistance did).
DC: I remember when the original series aired, all those comparisons of the visitors to Hitler and the persecution of the Jews. People were even comparing the symbol for the visitors to a swastika… KJ: Funny story about that: Chuck Davis, who was my production designer, over a weekend came up with the design for that symbol. And I looked at it and said, “Oooh…Chuck that’s something. It has a really scary resonance to it” and we left it.
DC: Now we know you were heavily involved in almost every aspect of the original V mini-series. What will your involvement be for The Second Generation when it comes to TV? And I guess the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘Is it coming to TV?’ KJ: Well the whole TV series mini market thing, as you know, has gone away. All the networks have cancelled their big TV movie nights, and mini series are few and far between…except on cable channels…but the problem is that most cable channels are very, very branded. I mean V they didn’t feel was right for Lifetime or the Cooking Channel, obviously the choice would be the Sci-Fi Channel, who actually wanted to do it, but Warners actually refuses to make any deal with the Sci-Fi Channel on anything. Not just V…they had a huge Stephen King project go down, and a George Clooney project go down, all because Time Warner Corporately can not figure out a good template with NBC/Universal corporately. It’s like Ford and Chevy trying to make a car together, it’s very frustrating. But, I do however have the motion picture rights to the original V and Warners is working out for me to have the motion picture rights to The Second Generation as well, so we’re essentially trying to now get it set up as a motion picture - and hopefully that will come to pass.
DC: So, when V: The Second Generation is ready to be made into another TV mini-series…or even a motion picture…the big question is, would we be able to get some of the original actors back to do it? Oh yeah. Well, when I originally sat down to write it, I called each of them and said, “Here’s what I’m planning to do - and god knows if it will ever get made - but if it ever gets made and it happens, would you guys be interested in coming back?” And everyone of them said ‘absolutely’; Marc and Faye, and Robert Englund and Jane Badler (who now lives in Australia and has an Australian accent, so we’ll have to deal with that now wont we?) But all of them said ‘Yes, PLEASE, please include me’ and I really couldn’t imagine going forward without them. I think it’s a fascinating thing if I can get it made the way I want to, to be able to have the same actors that I had 20 years ago, to be able to do flashbacks with them, and see it’s the same person. That’s just so cool, and the fans really have reacted very, very positively to that possibility.
DC: One thing I really enjoyed about the original “V” series was how it didn’t feel like a TV movie…it had more of a movie feel to it…the angles, the sets, even the effects for what you had to work with at that time were awesome… KJ: Thanks. Well, I’ve always done everything I’ve done with a cinematic view - not thinking I’m doing a television show, so it should be shot in a certain way. When we shot V to begin with, we shot it in 1:85 letterbox aspect ration because we thought Warners was going to release it as a foreign theatrical. That happened w/ several things…like my Hulk pilot…which became the top grossing motion picture in Europe for 2 months, and I said “What”!? And another Hulk movie I did went over there, so I thought Warners was going to be smart and release V as a movie overseas. But they never did, but we shot it that way, and I tried to approach everything in a cinematic view. The frustration I had at the time was that I didn’t have enough money or time to do it quite the way I wanted to do it, that’s part of the excitement of trying to do a new theatrical version of V at this point, because now…my god look at the tools I’d have to work with now that I didn’t have then!
DC: Well you were able to scare the crap out of my kid brother (with the tearing of the skin off to reveal the reptilian Visitors underneath), and for that I thank you! Though you say resources were limited, you really did a great job with that effect, however it was done. KJ: Well, back in the day, masks were rubber masks no matter how you did it…and I was using the same technicians that George Lucas was using…and that was the state of the art for the time and visual effects. The motion control, and all of that, was just so primitive compared to what we have now that I can make a movie that would absolutely take everyone’s head off and essentially would be the same story…and the same characters…but on a scale that’s far more vast then I was able to do way back then. I mean, look at the face of Voldermort from the Harry Potter movies - it’s really, really scary, and that kind of technology just wasn’t available. It was like when I would try and do the metamorphosis of Bill Bixby & Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk - we had to do the old Wolfman dissolve you know? There were no computer CGI programs, or morphing abilities available for that type of thing then. To be honest with you, it made me cringe then and it makes me cringe now to look at it…but that’s the best we could do at the time we did it.
DC: It sounds like you were under the gun, what type of time constraints did you have? Normally…on a big mini-series like V…at the time mind you it was the most expensive mini series ever made… you had 4 to 5 months to prep the thing. But in the case of V, from the day Brandon Tartikoff read my script and said “Go” to the day I was on set and yelled “Action”…it was 2 ½ weeks. It was impossible, but we did it…it was fun.

Jump To Part 3 Of The Interview!!!

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 14, 2008, 9:40 a.m. CST

    As long as Sci-Fi doesn't handle a revival of the show..

    by Pennsy

    I'll be happy.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 9:41 a.m. CST


    by ElectricDreams

    Love It! This was awesomer than pt 1

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 9:43 a.m. CST

    ok NOT 1st...but damn close! Kenny Rocks!!!

    by ElectricDreams

    As a fan of the V universe this just had me run to my DVD shelf and pull my copy off to watch again tonite (after LOST of course), great job getting him to open up about all this stuff David

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 9:48 a.m. CST

    Voldemort's Face....

    by Cletus Van Damme

    ...looks like an unapologetic shorn scrotum

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 10:01 a.m. CST

    so sad! I want a new V tv series!

    by ryan74

    Damn! I want V on tv again.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    I loved this show.

    by Arnold Zeck

    I remember going on vacation with my parents somewhere tropical after watching it, and when I saw this couple at the resort who were both wearing the same kind of sunglasses that the Visitors wore, I became convinced that they were aliens. Needless to say, I followed them around for a couple of days, trying to catch a moment when they had their "fake" human skin off. No dice. I'm still pretty sure they were aliens, though.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    How about direct-to-DVD movies?

    by snowpuff

    If the theatrical thing doesn't pan out, direct-to-DVD is the new "miniseries."<br> <br> What do you say, Kenneth? The Battlestar Galactica Razor DVD sold a healthy number...

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST

    Hey, isn't there an INDIANA JONES Trailer to discuss?

    by superduper3000

    What about that, huh? Actually just kidding... you think Robert Englund is going to be involved in this? Do I have the right sci-fi series or just dreaming?? Hmmm... <BR> <BR> Anyway, its Valentines Day and that means more Indiana Jones! Ha ha! <BR> <BR>

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST

    Lemonhead Lemansky?

    by GrandMuffTarkin

    I thought it was THAT Kenny Johnson. Oh why did the redneck have to kill ya?

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:17 a.m. CST

    Shouldn't a future V series be called W?

    by Dashing Roger

    But seriously, while I have fond memories of V (the alien baby being born was a high point), I, like anchorite, wonder if the old episodes withstood the test of time. Anyone watch them recently? <p> I mean I thought another Marc Singer property, Beastmaster, was totally fucking rad way back when too, but upon a more recent viewing, it's sucks major ass.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:24 a.m. CST

    in my opinion...

    by Bouncy X

    V didnt age that well but its more due to effects and fashion of the time than anything else. but most tv/tv movies from the 80s are terribly cheesy when watched today so it isnt anyone's fault. i have no doubt a new movie would work well with today's times and effects and what not. thats cool about all the actors being willing to return, i realize with exception of Englund, they've either stopped acting or become nobodies so its not like their scheduales are busy but its always better when original actors return. and with Englund likely not being involved in the Elm Street remake, least he'll have another cool role to return to.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:49 a.m. CST

    who wants to see people eating rats?

    by ludmir88

    not me.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:50 a.m. CST

    If you liked it as a kid...

    by Hellboy

    ...don't watch it today. It absolutely does NOT hold up. However, if you're interested in the nostalgia of it, by all means. I got a kick out of watching it again, but it is fucking terrible. I got all the subtext back then and I was only 10. It's not like any of that was subtle.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 12:09 p.m. CST


    by bythehairofsanjaya

    "Who wants to see people eating rats?" Monty Python. What!?

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 12:17 p.m. CST

    "Funny story about that..."

    by Toonol

    "...My set designer did it one weekend and we kept it."<p> Did I miss the funny part? Maybe you had to be there.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 1:23 p.m. CST

    How about HBO?

    by abulafia24

    Why not do it on HBO or Cinemax? It'd be great to see good adult sci-fi in the vein of Dexter or The Sopranos or what have you.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 1:24 p.m. CST

    saw both mini series recently

    by robamenta

    still think its great. but the birth of alien baby, had me on the floor...dont remember it looking so hilarious. 'land of the lost' is a total hoot to watch as well

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 1:33 p.m. CST

    cant wait for V:DS9

    by Diagnostic

    or at least tomorrows portion.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    not so great so far

    by Wed Vid Guy

    Okay, I bought the book and while it's a fast read, the prose is pretty bad. Not a very well written novel at all.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Hope they can get the sequel up and running

    by kwisatzhaderach

    That would be cool, especially if all the original actors come back. Kenneth Johnson is a really talented guy. The opening and closing credits to Hulk still play in my mind today.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 4:03 p.m. CST

    ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...snore !!!

    by picardsucks

    Steel , D3 Whole lotta bad here Loved alot of the Hulk stuff, even though he couldn't lift much more than a juiced up powerlifter and bullets hurt him, and he wore green shoes, and his name was David instead of Bruce, Bill Bixby made a wonderful Banner but I credit that to Bixby who could take hackey material and make it entertaining and emotional. Loved the original V but does it really warrant this much interest??? If Michael Ironsides is in it I might take a look.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 5:45 p.m. CST

    V the Boring Battle

    by skywalkerfamily

    Yeah, the first miniseries was good, but everything after was kinda dull.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 6:06 p.m. CST

    Marc Singer gotta eat!

    by DocPazuzu

    Jane Badler was so hot back then...

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 6:19 p.m. CST

    The comics

    by kingink123

    Hey, just remembered I have the comic series of V published by DC in the late 80's. Anyone else read them?

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 6:35 p.m. CST

    As one of the 7 to 10,000...

    by manicmidwife

    It was great to be able to ask questions of the original series and have Kenny answer direct (and not dodge the question, and return the query lightning fast) and he did on the BEST COMMENTARIES EVER on the original series DVD - do yourself a favour and listen to it!

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Kenny is great when it comes to communicating with fans

    by Pizza The Hut

    I asked him questions about The Incredible Hulk a ways back and he answered them.

  • Feb. 14, 2008, 11:33 p.m. CST

    7 to 10,000 e-mails!

    by otm shank

    Yeah, I get that too. But It's mostly from someone that wants to sell me Viagra. V for Viagra!

  • Feb. 15, 2008, 4:12 a.m. CST

    7 to 10,000 emails about Viagra...

    by Maniaq

    what do you think prompted the aliens to come here in the first place? SPAM!!!

  • Feb. 15, 2008, 4:44 a.m. CST

    Fucking Sacrilege

    by Lost Jarv

    Beastmaster is great. Its sequels? not so good.

  • Feb. 15, 2008, 10:48 p.m. CST

    You know, I just loved the shit out of that interview!

    by REMcycle

    V was on when I was in third grade, and in elementary school me and all my friends would play V during recess...each one of us had a character. Fun times! Would love to see it come back on the big screen!

  • Feb. 16, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST

    A great TV series that sparked my imagination!!!

    by ElectricDreams

    I too was running around pretending I was fighting Visitors when I was a kid. I had this toy gun that was molded from the same mold I think of the V weapon but used for another cartoon TV show or something, and this one had attachments which made it more like the Shock Troopers rifle but you could de-attach the parts and have a hand pistol, it was great!!!

  • Feb. 16, 2008, 11:17 a.m. CST

    How many of us hoped for a Sunburn as kids so we could be Visito

    by ElectricDreams

    ...and once the skin on our arms would peel we'd pull it off slow and pretend we were the aliens!?!? Cmon was I the only one!?!? Awww, I doubt it...

  • Feb. 16, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST

    "V: the 2nd Generation" is a great book!!!

    by ElectricDreams

    Just bought it and havent been able to put it down, it's weird because theres characters I keep hoping will pop up, but realize they arent part of this universe, but thus far its a great read and with all the TV visuals we've had of the show, it feels like I'm reading something I've already SEEN, but an all new adventure...and some great plot twists too! Cant wait to see this on the big screen, little screen, wherever...