Interview with Steven S. DeKnight

January 2008 | Steven S. DeKnight is a writer, director and supervising/executive producer who's been working for shows like "Buffy", "Angel", "Smallville" and "Viva Laughlin".

He was responsible for some of the best "Smallville" episodes ever, including #4.05 Run (writer), #6.01 Zod (writer) and the highly acclaimed #6.11 Justice (writer and director).

Foto: Copyright: Steven S. DeKnight
© Steven S. DeKnight

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1. When and why did you decide not to work in front of the camera?

Way back in my college days at UC Santa Cruz I was quite the aspiring thespian. Of course at that age (early 20s), who in a theatre arts program isn't? I was a decent enough actor, but because I wasn't classically tall, dark, and handsome, I kept losing parts to other actors who better fit the Hollywood leading man description. I saw the writing on the wall – literally. I could starve as an actor struggling to land bit parts, or I could embrace my second love: playwriting. Which lead, eventually, to writing for television. But you never know. You may see me in front of the camera one day. Probably naked, 'cause hey -- who doesn't want to see that?

2. Like many other writers in the USA, you're on strike now and even some actors and many fans support you. Is there anything you've achieved so far?

Absolutely. I've achieved a new tattoo and my abs are starting to look pretty sweet. Oh, you mean with the strike? Let me tell you, the corporations that run most of the world are some real tough bastards. They have all the money and all the power. But what they don't have is the talent to create something out of nothing. And that's where the writers come in. In the end we'll reach a deal where the writers are only getting screwed a little bit, instead of COMPLETELY screwed like the corporations would like. Welcome to Hollywood! For more info on the strike and what it means, I recommend these two fine sites:

3. Do you know if the seventh season of "Smallville" will be shorter with only 15 episodes?

This I do not know. It all depends on when the strike ends. If it's soon, there may be more episodes this season. If it drags out for a few more months, I suspect 15 episodes will be all we'll see this year.

4. Your new show was supposed to be "Viva Laughlin" for which you worked as executive producer. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after episode two. What was the show about and what do you think of the cancellation?

The show was based on a British series called "Viva Blackpool", and both the original and the American version dealt with a guy trying to open a new casino. It was very Dennis Potter-esque, with singing and dancing. Very risky and American audiences just didn't take to it. That said, I had a great time on the show and met some incredibly talented people (like Hugh Jackman -- hello!).

5. You wrote and directed the (in Germany) upcoming episode #6.11 Justice. When did you find out that you were going to write and direct it and for how long have Al and Miles known there would be a JLA episode at all?

I found out I was going to write and direct the Justice League episode a couple of months into season six. At that time, I was already slated to direct episode 11 but I didn't know what the story was going to be. It was just pure luck that it ended up being the formation of a proto-Justice League. Al and Miles had been talking about a Justice League episode few several years, but felt that including a band of costumed superheroes wouldn't feel organic to the show yet. That all changed with the addition of Green Arrow. The introduction of his character really crack the seal on the whole costumed hero thing, and allowed us to move ahead with the League. Also by that time we had introduced Impulse/Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. It just all came together, and I'm honored it came together on my watch.

6. Did you know that it would be such an important episode for the season and the show in general before you started writing and shooting it?

It's the Justice League! I felt the pressure from the very start. I knew a lot of fans would be very disappointed if I screwed it up. Which I hope I didn't. You be the judge, my faithful viewers!

7. Have you been a comic book fan before "Smallville" and if so, who was your favorite hero?

I've been a comic book fan since before I could read. When I was a little kid, I would flip through them, look at the pictures, and make up my own stories. I loved them even more once I could read and figure out what the hell was really going on. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, and a bunch of stuff you've probably never heard of. "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu"? Oh yeah, baby!

8. If you look back, what do you think is the biggest difference between your first and last episode on "Smallville"?

Well, in a way, I consider #6.11 Justice my last real episode. #6.21 Prototype, which came later in the season, was more of a grace note. If you look at #4.05 Run as my first, and #6.11 Justice as my last, there's a very nice sense of closure. I started with Bart Allen in #4.05 Run and ended with Bart Allen and his super friends in #6.11 Justice. The only difference is that I hope I refined my skills as a writer, and most certainly as a director.

9. Which "Smallville" season is in your opinion the best one?

That's a tough question. My personal favorite is season six, but for purely personal reasons. I feel like that was the season where I did my best work. I really felt like I was firing on all cylinders that year. It helped starting out with #6.01 Zod and having the amazing James Marshall direct it.

10. The sixth season was the last one for you in the "Smallville" team. Was it your decision to leave the show or do they usually use new people from time to time?

When you sign on to a show at the level I was at (supervising producer at the time), the standard contract is for three years. My contract was up, and I felt it was time to move on. I wish I had a juicy story to tell you about a huge blow up with Al and Miles, but sadly no. We're all still friends, have lunch together, and are even talking about doing something together on the feature side. I loved my time at "Smallville". Great show, great group of people.

11. If you could choose, how would "Smallville" end?

Clark has moved to Metropolis. Landed a low level job at the Daily Planet. Has to start wearing a suit, which he hates. He and Chloe are on the street. They hear sirens. Trouble's brewing. Chloe tells him maybe now's a good time to change into his other suit. Clark takes off down an alley. As he rushes towards the camera, he rips open his shirt, revealing that classic red "S". Cue the music and wipe the tears from your eyes!

12. You have a MySpace account where the fans can stay in contact with you. Have you ever used some fan's idea and integrated it into the show?

I never read any story suggestions. It's just too risky legally. We used to get letters and calls at the "Smallville" office all the time from people convinced we had stolen their ideas. Most of the time it was stuff like, "I suggested a story where Clark uses his heat vision to defeat the villain, and then you had Clark use heat vision to defeat a villain! You owe me money!" So as a rule we don't accept or read story pitches. We do, however, appreciate the sentiment.

13. Are you still in contact with the people from the shows you've been working for?

Very much so. I'm still in contact with Joss Whedon and the writers of "Buffy"/"Angel", as well as Al and Miles and the "Smallville" writers and my recently cancelled brethren form "Viva Laughlin". If I had a hot tub, I'd have them all over for a soak. Mmmm! Creative juices!

14. What are your plans for the future and what are your next projects?

I really need to paint the living room. Oh, you mean creatively? Well, after the strike I wouldn't be surprised to see me return to my genre roots on television. Eventually, you'll either see my own show or features that I write and direct. Possibly both.

15. myFanbase is a website dedicated to American TV series. Do you have a favorite show?

I love watching TV shows almost as much as I love making them. Some of my current favorites are "Lost", "Battlestar Galactica", "Entourage", "The Wire", "Californication, "Flight of the Conchords", "Weeds", "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "30 Rock", "The Office", "Tell Me You Love Me", "Torchwood", "Rome", and "Deadwood". All right, those last two aren't on any more, but damn they were great!

That's it from sunny Los Angeles! Thanks for watching the show. It's fans like you that have kept "Smallville" going strong for so many seasons, and we really appreciate it!

Elsa Claus - myFanbase