IN 1992, ABC launched what turned out to be a short-lived TV series loosely based on the Human Target comic book title created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. This past January, Fox began airing its version of the project. Developed and executive produced by Jonathan E. Steinberg, the series stars Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a private contractor, bodyguard and security expert who supplies a very unique protection service to his clients. Rather than shadowing them, he becomes them, and, in the process, becomes the human target as well. Chance is assisted by his business partner, Winston (Chi McBride) and hired gun/techie, Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). A few weeks ago, Jonathan Steinberg and Jackie Earle Haley chatted over the phone with myself and several other journalists about their involvement in the series. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!
Jonathan, what turned you on to this comic book more so than others?
JONATHAN STEINBERG - It was pitched to me, actually. This was a property that had been in development both for TV and the movies for a while, and I think for good reason. It’s a very enticing idea – a guy who is always looking to or is willing to become you and get into the trouble that you made for yourself, and I think everybody had tried to figure out a way to make it work. It was pitched to me as something that Peter Johnson and Warner Bros. were looking to do. And from there, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up – to be able to do an action show and set it anywhere in the world for any given story.
Are there any clients that Chance (Mark Valley) wouldn’t take on. If, let’s say, Bernie Madoff approached him would he turn him down?
JS -We’ve played early on that there are some hurdles that you need to clear in order to gain his interest or get him to the point where he’s willing to take a case for you. I don’t think that means that he wouldn’t necessarily take the case of somebody who he didn’t necessarily agree with or sympathize with, but you definitely have to make your case to Chance when you ask for his help.
Did your work with Jericho change your approach you took with putting this show on?
JS - Jericho was actually really good boot camp for us and a number of the other writers on-staff here. It was a big show and one that we tried to imbue with some adventure. However, because we had to make it on our soundstages, we couldn’t really do as much of the action as we would have liked. So it forced us to get better at doing more with less, but now that we have a slightly bigger sandbox to be playing in, hopefully we’ll be able to use every last ounce of what we’ve got.
Jackie, what turned you on to this role in the show?
JACKIE EARLE HALEY - Jon came to me and I ready the script, which I thought was real kick-ass and a lot of fun. I liked how it was comic book-related as well as light in tone and this really cool kind of action hero character of Chance, and the Guerrero character supporting him. I also loved the idea of getting in there and working with these guys on a long-term basis and working on one specific character as opposed to what you do on a movie – you do it and you’re done. This is an ongoing process, which is kind of neat.
What do you think of Mark Valley as an actor and a person?
JEH - Mark is an awesome guy. He’s fun to hang around and a wonderful actor. I specifically love what he’s doing with Chance. I mean, the tone of this thing is so wonderfully kind of steeped in that 80′s tone, like Die Hard or The A-Team, and I think Mark just seems like he’s nailing it.
Jackie, how much did you know about your character going into this project, and how would you describe him?
JEH - That’s what’s fun about this guy – it seems like we’re all kind of learning about Guerrero together. Obviously we’ve shot more episodes than what have aired so far, but it seems like I’m still coming up with more questions about him than we have answers. But I think as each week goes along, we’ll add a little bit more to Chance’s background and the fact that there’s some event in his past that was quite a pivotal one that kind of caused Chance to go from one side to the other. And I think Guerrero was a part of that. That holds a lot of interest for me; I definitely know that Guerrero has worked on the dark side of things and now he’s working on the more righteous side with Chance. What’s neat, though, about my character is that you never quite know where his loyalties lie. It’s really fun riding that line with the writers, and the thing is I don’t think we want to find out too much and too quickly about Guerrero. I’m really enjoying exploring the multi-dimensionality of this guy and seeing where it leads and what makes him tick.
Having come off doing mostly movies, what else has been different for you about doing a TV series from an acting or even a logistical standpoint?
JEH - Let’s see, it’s a much faster process, although these guys are really doing a heck of a job technically. It’s amazing what you can do on TV now, and these episodes look like little movies. I think the biggest difference, though, is in the development of the character. So often you kind of get a screenplay and then you can work with the directors as well as the writers in learning about and developing who your character is, what his back story is, what kind of brought him to this point, etc. From there, you dive in, do the work and it’s done. With TV, it’s kind of the reverse of that. It’s like you try to figure out so much before you start shooting, but so much of the development and answers end up coming later. So I guess instead of making one two-hour movie, hopefully we’re making 100 one-hour movies.
Jonathan, as the series goes on, are we going to get more background on the characters week-to-week or might you just focus on one character one week, and another the next?
JS - From the very beginning, the back story of Chance, Guerrero and Winston was important, and not just as a mystery for its own sake, but it defines where they came from and their shared experience defines their relationships now. What was interesting to us was that they all share this one traumatic, but also very big mythic experience between the three of them, and how that experience rippled through their current relationships. And I think before the end of this season you’re going to learn a lot more about them as well as that event.
Jackie, I was wondering how you balance Guerrero’s darker nature with the sort of lighter action feel of the show?
JEH - It’s a constant balancing act for all three characters, especially for Guerrero. The show needs to be fun, it needs to feel like an adventure in the truest sense of the word, and I think part of what that means is not just that it’s light, but that there’s something underneath, some gravitons to it. In some ways, I feel Guerrero is right at ground zero of that tightrope that we try to walk every week, and it’s a matter of being able to have one foot in both worlds.
JS - The Guerrero character is in this show that definitely has a fun, kind of tongue-in-cheek element from the 80′s. And like I said earlier, Mark Valley is just nailing that, and Chi McBride is brilliant at playing Winston. As for Guerrero, he’s fun because he has one foot in that world in the sense that he kind of plays the straight guy for Chi’s character. At the same time, there’s an interesting addition to that tone where Guerrero is also this slightly unhinged character. His background is a little bit questionable, as are his morality and ethics. It’s kind of neat how he brings this little darker tone to an otherwise lighter tone.
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