Take Two interview: Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller on characters, story, Castle connections, and upcoming finale

Over the past two and a half months, viewers on ABC have had a chance to dive into Take Two, a fun mystery show that harkens back to some of the series that we love the most. It has interesting weekly capers, fun characters, and plays on Hollywood and the television industry in ways few others have. Rachel Bilson stars as Sam Swift, a recovering addict and television star who finds herself not only paired up with private investigator Eddie Valetik (Eddie Cibrian), but also enjoying it! Their unlikely partnership has developed into a friendship, and at some point over the course of the season, it’s certainly possible it evolves into more.

Yet, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. This CarterMatt interview is a fascinating discussion with show creators Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller about the process of running a fun mystery show, balancing out the humor with the emotional moments, incorporating performers from their previous show in Castle, and of course teasing the events of the final season 1 episodes. There are two installments airing tonight on ABC, starting with “Stillwater” at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

CarterMatt – What have you enjoyed the most about building the world and the stories for these characters this season?

Terri Edda Miller – When developing a series, you have points that you try to shoot for and you plan the series and what’s going to happen within the context of the episode order. We had some goals that we wanted to reach with our characters, but they also change a little bit with the actors and when you cast them, as well. It becomes a great collaboration between the original idea, the writers room, the story we come up with, and the actors and what they bring to it.

Andrew W. Marlowe – We make some great discoveries as to what our actors are capable of. Rachel [Bilson] is really funny and Eddie [Cibrian] brings a grounded sense to that dynamic. It’s really fun to watch them play off of each other. We discovered that we had some great opportunities to put the two of them together. With some of the secondary characters, we didn’t know [Xavier de Guzman] who plays Berto all that well when we cast him, but we were just delighted with the charm he was able to bring to the role. And Alice Lee to us was a revelation playing Monica. She’s just fantastic and we really enjoyed working with her this season.

Miller – Her comic timing is just impeccable and I think she just elevates the material around her. And Aliyah O’Brien, who plays Detective Rollins, has been so wonderful to have. She is so fantastic and episode 111 is really her story. She jumps off the screen for us and we love having her. She’s been a great part of our ensemble.

Marlowe – We’ve been blessed with the cast that we have, even with our guest stars like Jordan Gavaris and Lamont Thompson. It’s been a really extraordinary experience these past several months.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed this season is how the show gives you an opportunity to really go meta and tell in-jokes about the TV world through Sam’s time on Hot Suspect and some of her experiences. Has that been something that’s been fun to incorporate and something you’re still looking to bring more of to the show?

Marlowe – Absolutely. We see that as a big part of the fun of the show, to be able to poke fun at the genre while delivering a really great procedural to the audience. And I think procedural audiences are fairly sophisticated these days because they’ve probably seen hundreds and hundreds of hours. The ability to poke fun at some of the tropes of the genre is something we enjoy and to have Sam talk about some of the things she did on her show as opposed to real life allows the audience to participate. Everybody wants to be an armchair detective. Sam is like the ultimate armchair detective having played this role on TV. So, in a lot of ways, she’s giving voice to our audience and giving them the opportunity to participate through her. She has that outsider’s point of view.

I feel like a lot of this show is about trying to balance so many different components of being super-entertaining and solving the mystery every week, and then also building the relationships and the dynamics between the characters. I understand that this is probably even more difficult with it being a 13-episode season and you don’t know if there’s a season 2 yet. It’s a sign that you’re doing a good job that a lot of people want Sam and Eddie together, but how do you balance telling that story with the mystery component without rushing it too much, not knowing what the future is going to hold?

Miller – I feels like it comes out in the story break and the writing. The balance for us is that we don’t want it to be pure procedural and we don’t want it to be pure relationship or comedy. It becomes intrinsic to the way that you write when you create this kind of thing — you can feel the balance as you’re writing.

The thing about the humor with our show is that we don’t take time-out for the humor; it’s not separate from the story we’re telling and the case. Our philosophy is that humor comes out of character and the circumstance in which the character finds themselves. We’re never telling a joke for the sake of telling a joke. It’s about who the character is, how they’re feeling in the moment with what’s happening, and whether or not they would crack a joke because they are uncomfortable and they want to break the tension. It’s really about the balance of the character and the reality of their feelings of the time within the story. For me, it balances itself out.

Marlowe – Every episode presents an opportunity to push or pull the relationship in a particular direction, whether it be to see them get closer together or challenge that relationship. Over the course of a 13-episode season, we’ve had our hallmarks, our benchmarks for where we wanted them to be and what we wanted them to do, but as you go through the season, things will present themselves and you can take advantage of opportunities. It is always that dance between pushing too quickly and not going quickly enough and realizing that you’re dealing with modern relationships and how people interact in the real world versus how they interact on TV.

Sometimes, it can be a real challenge when you feel like the natural progression may not be what the show is looking for right now; but, you also have to be honest to the characters and find a way to evolve them in a way that feels absolutely organic.

What excites me about the episode ‘Stillwater’ [airing tonight] is that reminds me of a really great Castle episode. What I liked about some of those was that there would be this sort of out-there premise and Rick would have this sort of crazy conspiracy theory for it; yet, by the end of the episode he and Beckett would end up coming to a logical conclusion. This seems to be a big theme of what’s happening here with talk of extraterrestrial life. Do you guys enjoy diving into these sort of cases where they stretch the imagination?

Miller – It’s one of my favorite things to do if we can do it, because I personally love genre. It’s like what you said earlier about doing the meta stuff; it’s just as much fun to do genre because you can comment on the genre and create a feeling where the characters are living the normal circumstances in which they live while pushing them to the edge of believability. You can play with X-Files and play with everything in that genre that becomes before. You have room for the comedy to come into the case itself, so long as you respect the case that’s going on. To have fun and to honor the other genres is just a gas, because I love those shows!

Marlowe – The fun of doing a show like this is that you’re doing something different. You can come off a serial-killer case where everything is grim and serious and then have a really good time going into a UFO episode. The episode airing after that [on Thursday] is a very emotional episode where we’re dealing with the theme of family. Detective Rollins’ younger brother gets into trouble.

We like to think of our show as a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get in the middle. People come to the same show, but get a different experience every week.

Miller – We really just like to explore different worlds! It’s fun to explore things like that.

There was one particularly fun Castle alum appearance that was a pretty big role, and I know that there are a lot of viewers of Take Two that are big Castle fans. How do you approach the idea of bringing more people back — you want to find cool roles for them without also turning it into a Where’s Waldo sort of situation where everyone is constantly looking for cameos.

Marlowe – We like the show to stand on its own legs, but we know that it’s a part of a lineage that Castle belongs to as well. We’re very fond of all the actors we worked with and we love for them to show up, but not in a Where’s Waldo way because we love and respect these actors. If the TV gods bless us with a second season, we have some plans to bring in some other familiar faces if we can, but we want to do it within the context of what this show is as opposed to just saying ‘hey, we’re doing this cameo.’ We love the guys that we worked with and we worked with them for nearly a decade — they’re really good friends of ours — and we think that they’re extraordinarily talented.

Miller – We were shooting some of the stuff in Vancouver and we had this really juicy part and it was a great role. We thought that Seamus [Dever] would be great in this role and it’d be so much fun for us to have him come up and play with us — and it was! He was outstanding and I really loved him in it.

It was a really fun episode, and I love that it was such a different role from Ryan.

Marlowe – We had a lot of fun putting him in the beard for the funeral scene (laughs).

I know it would be nice if the show had started off with stronger numbers, but the ratings have at least been constant and it feels like everyone who’s seen the show has enjoyed it and stuck with it. I feel like this is the perfect show to land on a streaming service, where there are a couple rainy nights, and a lot of people binge through them in just a few days.

Miller – I think it’s a show that if people are exposed to it and like this sort of mystery genre, they would love it! It’s a matter of exposure and a matter of timing. We do really well in the [live+3] and [live+7 ratings], which means that people are looking for it. We do almost twice as well in those. People are looking at DVRs and showing it to their friends, and I think that everyone who is seeing it is really enjoying seeing a charming, romantic comedy type procedural.

Marlowe – Castle was a slow burn for the first couple of years, and I think shows like this need time to find their audience. I think it’s much harder in today’s environment where you have the sexy titles coming out on the streaming services vying for people’s attention. Any show that launches in the summer has its own challenges because of viewing habits. We’re also on a night where we’re sandwiched by game shows. That’s not necessarily the same audience. But, we do know that because we have this core audience, the question becomes if that core audience justifies a second season. We’ve been very appreciative to the fans who are loyal and are enjoying it.

Miller – I’ve seen a really positive response on social media to the show. We’re both really proud of the show. If it can delight people, make them smile and keep them interested while taking them away from the realities of the world for a while, we’ve done our job and we’ve given the audience something to enjoy.

That does go to my next question — we’re in a time right now where a lot of people probably need a distraction, so when you were in the writer’s room was that element of the show a prevalent part of the discussion? Were you talking a lot about escapism, or was that just something underneath the surface?

Marlowe – It’s something we talked about in the room. I think there are a number of TV shows out there that are reflective of the times that we’re in. Shows that have a particular kind of gravitas are very worthwhile, but I think the nightly news now is very challenging and the folks in Washington are burning through a great deal of story every week. It’s hard to keep up with all of it. We did have a Sullivan’s Travels kind of conversation where, in these times, people need a moment to get away from that before they re-enter the fray. We give them a world where the characters are aspiring to be better and do better and are looking to bring a ray hope into the world and we think there is some value in that.

We are a lighthearted procedural, but we have some backstory for our characters. We have a character who is struggling from addiction who wants to be a better version of themselves. That aspirational brand of storytelling can find a home during dark times.

Miller – In these dark times, we kind of get lost in that big picture. Human beings still have to go on. They have to love and they have to live. This is about a group of individuals looking to make their lives better and it’s good for the heart and the soul to see that on television right now. We were thinking that this show might be a tonic for the frantic nature of the news.

Before we go, we do have to talk about the finale coming up. Was there a cliffhanger that you wanted to execute, something to leave viewers wanting more?

Marlowe – If you know from our previous work, we like to take a big swing at the end of the season. We’ve had some lightly-serialized storytelling through the course of the season that comes together in the finale in a very explosive way. We hope our viewers will come join us for that. There’s some very interesting stuff that happens at the end of episode 112 and then 113 starts with a bang. It’s quite a ride.

Thanks to both Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller for being so generous with their time and for being so open with us about their show.

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