I had the immense pleasure to review the latest instalment of Forever Spin Off story "Forever and Ever" last week.
The content of this third chapter was so complex and faceted that I thought readers might enjoy hearing a few insights from one half of the Dynamic duo of Brian O’Marra and Jeff Sack, the two gents who decided to continue the work of Matt Miller and the other writers ,so Foreverists could still experience the joys of spending time in the company of Henry, Jo and the rest of the Gang.
I got a chance to sit down with Jeff Sack, who shared the pair's thoughts.
E: Hi Jeff , Thanks for letting me quiz you again about your story, I am loathe to call it a graphic novel, although technically that is what it is, it is almost a screenplay in storyboard format, would you agree?
Jeff: Hello Emma and thanks once again for an opportunity for Brian and I to talk about this project. The term "Graphic-Novel" of course stems from the comic book industry and of was created for an older crowd as it contained far more violence and possibly language that was not meant for a young boy or girl! The Watchmen, a "Graphic-Novel" written by Alan Moore with art provided by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins is one of my favorite pieces of literature in any genre.
However, the story does play out as a screenplay in my head as I'm creating it. Brian and I confer on who fits the role the best before I write a word and he certifies that we've got the images to fit the outline of the scene. There are certain scenes that sometimes seem to write themselves, the conversation between Jo Martinez, Henry Morgan and Veronica Carson's a prime example of that.
E: You and Brian have obviously been exceptionally busy this past couple of months, the chapter is a behemoth and is a work of massive effort from you both!
Tell us about the process you have used to marry words and visuals to create the continuing story?
Jeff: There are tales about "Tin Pan Alley" composers that constantly fed off each other and I think that accurately describes the partnership that Brian and I have developed. The best teams exceed the sum of the individual parts and I think our venture has caused both of us to have raised the level of our individual games.
The current timeline is far easier to deal with, given the wealth of material that Matt Miller and his team provided through 22-episodes. The series' also has Henry periodically in other time-periods, one of which we used in this past instalment, as Henry confronted his father Robert on being engaged in the slave-trade.
However, we've had to rely on Mr. O'Marra's resourcefulness to provide the characters that we've used as we've flash backed to the 17th Century. There are many scenes he's had to digitally manipulate, whether it's superimposing a character into a scene, or eliminating characters that don't belong in other cells.
E: This particular Chapter Introduced a very ominous Svengali figure into the mix , how much fun was it creating a villain to play foil to Jo and Henry? Do you have a blueprint for who they are, what their motivations are and was it intentional to lead reader’s minds back to Adam even if his involvement is swiftly debunked?
Jeff: Let's start with Adam first; we've gotten many questions about him from readers inquiring if he'd appear in this Volume or Season. Adam won't figure into our current storyline. However, if there's enough interest to mount a new story after we complete our current project Adam would reenter Henry's life.
As for "The Master" and "The Brotherhood," yes their origins and story figured prominently in our original plot. "The Master" will be a central character in our story and this was just his introduction.
E: Adam was personally one of my favourite characters, he is the anti Henry, could it be that Adam might appear in Henry’s past (unbeknownst to the good Dr of course) beyond his involvement in Abigail’s untimely demise and if this was not a plan, can I make a fan request that he might?
Jeff: We're aware that Adam learned about the existence of another immortal back in 1986, due to his encounter with Abigail. Still that doesn't rule out that they have encountered each other earlier and possibly numerous times, leaving them each with a vague feeling of Deja-Vu.
E: Like the show, the beauty of the piece is your linking back into the past to inform the future.
In your ever expanding Universe, you are gradually introducing your readers to the Line of ancestors who will ultimately lead to Henry. I am interested in your creative process for that, Have you a family tree mapped out with bios of how they will affect plot or are you allowing the characters to create their own destiny as they come to mind?
J: We call it "The Bible" and each generation's birth, death and notable accomplishments are listed. However the two tent pole characters in the universe that we've created, Isaac and Robert, Henry's father.
There are four generations between the two men and we've already introduced two of them in Benjamin and Andrew. We will spend far less time focused on the intervening generations than we did on Isaac, but when we reach Robert, he'll receive the same attention that Isaac got.
E: This chapter is heavily focused on the line of descent and the ultimate decision for the family to become abolitionists. The Anti slavery issue was the catalyst in Henry’s life that created the rift with his Father and led to Henry trying to redress his own guilt at the estrangement by being a model Father to Abe, how are you using it as a device in your stories?
Jeff: Truth be told, our entire backstory was inspired by the episode when Henry discovered that Robert was engaging in slave-trading. Hence Isaac and Robert being our two central characters, as we watch the rise and fall of the Morgan Clan. Robert's untimely death and Henry's lack of desire to have anything to do with the family business, leads to Morgan Shipping becoming the corrupt entity now known as Morgan Industries.
E: In the modern scenes you are very centred on interrogation, you had a lot of plot lines to introduce from those interview scenes..
Jeff: Well the series is set in a Homicide Division of the NYPD and our central character's a coroner. So we are dealing with some sort of death and crime in each chapter. It's also important in our view into maintaining Mike Hanson and Jo Martinez as three-dimensional characters and the chance to work Lieutenant Reece into our storylines.
Martinez and Hanson are both exceptional detectives which is one of the factors that drew Henry to them when they first met. (Plus the undeniable instant chemistry between Morgan and Jo didn't hurt!) We do enjoy using Mike as a Wise-guy and in comedic situations, but his true value is due to his police skills.
We certainly don't want to make Martinez just Henry's love interest and she's at her best when interviewing suspects and witnesses. We do utilize the interview room often, however many times we have our characters talk to those involved in the crime in other venues. The Veronica Carson interview in this instalment took place in her apartment and Fletcher Williams in our second chapter got questioned in a parking lot.
E: Can you speak to the challenges of creating new more far reaching storylines when you are adapting the plots away from a weekly forty five minute “crime of the week“ format?
J: We can't lose sight of what drew fans to the series in the first place Emma, so it becomes a delicate balance. Our saving grace is that the show was never a strict "Procedural-Series" which unfortunately stymied the marketing department at ABC.
Was Forever a procedural, a science-fiction tale, a love story, or just a battle between the forces of good and evil? YES, it was all of that and more, but instead of embracing the uniqueness of the series, ABC dropped the ball and didn't promote the series. The fan-base became far larger after the show got cancelled, due to the publicity the outrage from the viewers generated.
Part of the charm of the series, was the exploration of other eras starting in the early 19th Century and taking us through Henry's exploits during the 20th Century. We've just expanded that concept and have concentrated on Henry's ancestors trials and tribulations instead of the good doctor's.
However, there's always been a method to our madness and the two eras will eventually intertwine and reveal why we believed that we had to start our story with the life of Isaac Morgan.
E: How about other fan favourite aspects that kept viewers rapt, will we see more of the interpersonal stuff? Will Fans who prayed for the entirety of season one for a coupling between Jo and Henry or who enjoyed the often hilarious interactions between Henry and Lucas and Mike Hanson be indulged in our obsessions?
Jeff : Henry after all is a product of early 19th Century London, so he prefers to take things slowly in the romance department. His only exception to that was with Abigail, due to the fact that they decided to become Abraham's parents. So expect Morgan and Martinez to stay at what they consider a comfortable pace for a while.
Lucas' fondest wish would be to become Henry's BFF. He idolizes Morgan and lives for his approval. However he's definitely quirky and he veers from acting pensive in front of Henry, to sometimes becoming overly familiar. Morgan became part of the world again after he met Jo and he's now far more tolerant of Lucas than he once was and actually has developed affection for his assistant.
I have to admit to a special fondness for Mike Hanson. Matt and his writer's could have taken the easy route with Hanson and just made him the stereotypical "Doubting Thomas," dismissive of Henry's methodology. Instead Mike's the opposite, he quickly saw Morgan's brilliance and he respects the coroner and values his opinion.
The friendship that's developed between Mike and Lucas, would likely never occur in any other series. Hanson was likely a Jock while Lucas probably hung with the Art Crowd. They should react to each other like oil and water, but they get along quite well, dashing another stereotype in the process. We've delved into these areas in our first three chapters, but expect to see even more in upcoming installments.
E: Thank you for taking time out of your downtime to speak to me Jeff, what message do you have for your readers as we await Chapter Four?
Jeff: Brian O'Marra and I have been blown away by the reaction from the fans so far Emma. There have been several messages we've received that convey the writer felt like they just finished an episode of the series. To receive that kind of praise makes this whole effort worthwhile to both of us!
As we've stated from the start, this is purely a labor of love. Brian nor me will ever receive a penny for our efforts and we realized that heading into this project. Still there were far too many stories left untold at the end of 22-episodes and we couldn't bare to part with the characters.
Matt Miller has expressed his support both privately and publicly, which is the greatest compliment we could ever ask for. Given that we're trying to continue telling these stories through a "Graphic-Novel" rather than through a TV series has it's limitations and we can never hope to replace the brilliant show that we enjoyed for 22-episodes. However our characters never ask for a raise or question a line, so this format does have it's advantages!
And on that encouraging thought I leave you. Jeff thank you again, a pleasure as ever!