Actor Sean Hayes is best known as the flamboyant, quip-spewing, Cher-loving Jack McFarland on the hit sitcom "Will & Grace" and will soon be hitting the big screen as the iconic Larry in the Farrelly Brothers' ("There's Something About Mary") reworking of "The Three Stooges."
So what ties does this over-the-top funnyman have to NBC's, well, grim new supernatural cop thriller "Grimm"? Well, it turns out, it was his idea.
Intriguingly, the notion for “Grimm” – which takes the TV police procedural into fairy tale territories populated by big bad wolves and other supernatural stalkers from the darkly-tinged Brothers Grimm tales – originated several years ago with the Emmy-winning actor who has recently found a new creative niche as an executive producer (“Hot In Cleveland”) with his professional partner Todd Milliner.
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“I think with any good idea, it starts with a whisper and somebody may overhear something somewhere at some time, and any good idea will kind of trickle its way through this town,” says Hayes of the current fairy trend, which includes ABC’s new series “Once Upon a Time” and dueling Snow White-inspired film projects. “I think that's what happens any time that this phenomenon happens where a lot of ideas happen at the same time.”
But “Grimm” was conceived ahead of the trend, says Milliner. “Sean and I had the original pitch in 2005, so we just weren't very good at pitching it, I guess,” he laughs. “So it's been through a few different changes. It is odd: there're a lot of movies and a lot of TV shows, but ours is so not about the fairy tale. It's a police procedural with a hint of fairy tale.”
Hayes and Milliner eventually took the concept to veteran TV writers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, who between them had helped steer such fantastical-minded series like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “The Ghost Whipserer.” “When we heard the words ‘Grimm in the modern world,’ Jim and I just flipped, and thought this is a great way to tell stories,” says Greenwalt. The writers massaged the concept into the final series setup: modern-day Oregon homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) discovers he’s the descendent the Brothers Grimm and destined to follow in their footsteps battling sinister supernatural forces.
“This all takes place in one world, the real world, and our notion is that the Grimm brothers were actually profilers of criminal events,” says Greenwalt. Each case will take inspiration from the classics, which were initially much darker than the later Disney-ized versions that followed , but won’t be relentless, er, grim. “The show is meant to be dark and scary but it's also meant to be fun. And as in life you know that terrible things happen, then something not so terrible happens. And I think the character of Monroe – the, quote/unquote Big Bad Wolf, who's going to church, doing Pilates, eating vegetarian, trying to right his nature – is terrific. And we didn't know ‘til we wrote that character that ‘Oh, this is actually amusing.’”
The possibilities, says Milliner, seem endless. “I got the bound, beautiful Grimm book, and then we started paging through. We thought this is certainly enough for at least 100 episodes.” Hayes agrees: the source material is startlingly fertile. “A lot of people don't know there's over 200 Grimm fairy tales,” he says. “We're familiar with about 30 of them or so, but it's going to be fun educating people as to what those other ones that aren't as popular.”
“We're not really just retelling the stories either,” says Kouf. “We're really trying to turn them on their heads or fracture them, so you may not recognize what the story is immediately – it may take a little bit.”
Greenwalt says that while the overall series will have a larger story direction than the individual episodes, he wants “Grimm” to avoid becoming mired down in an overwhelming mythology. “What we don't want to have is a show where I need a scorecard to watch the show,” he says. “I want a show where I can come on Friday nights and have a fairy tale and a police procedural and put my kids to bed. Or, if I'm really a hardcore viewer, I will notice that every time we do an address there's a secret in the address. We will service over-arching arcs for everybody, but it's got to be a digestible. It's got to be ‘I don't need to know so much to watch the show.’”
"Grimm" premieres this Friday October 28th, at 9 PM ET on NBC