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Dawson’s Creek at ATX: 13 stories from the writers' room reunion

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More than 10 years after Dawson’s Creek went off the air, some of the brilliant minds behind The WB’s beloved series gathered for a writers’ room reunion at the ATX Festival in Austin on Saturday.

In a panel moderated by Vampire Diaries and Originals showrunner Julie Plec, Creek alums Kevin Williamson, Paul Stupin (Switched at Birth), Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City), Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), Gina Fattore (Gilmore Girls) and Anna Fricke (Everwood) gave fans an inside look at their process throughout the years. Here are some of the highlights from the panel:

-When Williamson first pitched a show based on his life to Stupin, “I was winging it,” he said. Added Stupin: “That relationship [with the Joey character] and that world, even when he was winging it, was amazing,” though they added a new friend in Pacey.

-They initially sold Dawson’s Creek to Fox, but the network dumped it. “I was told they were struggling with Party of Five and they didn’t need another one,” Williamson said. Around two years later, new network The WB picked up the pilot.

-Thomas may be a seasoned showrunner now, but he was very green when he joined the Creek. “Like Jon Snow, I knew nothing,” Thomas said, noting that the first script he turned in had copious revisions throughout. “I felt humiliated. I thought every writer on the staff was laughing at me because I had been humiliated.” Interjected Williamson: “Keep in mind, I didn’t know what I was doing either.” Thomas’ biggest lesson being part of the series: “Do not delay gratification too long,” Thomas said.

-In a bid to buck the formula of every other angsty teen show, Williamson decided to have Joey and Dawson kiss in the pilot. “It’s just a kiss,” he said. “It’s not like they fell in love and got married.”

-Because it was his first show, Williamson didn’t understand the hierarchy of the writers’ room, from staff writers all the way up to executive producers. He was open to working with everyone on everything, despite some dissension “That’s how Greg Berlanti came in as a staff writer and leap-frogged to EP,” Williamson said, to which Plec added: “In five minutes.”

-Despite the nature of the series, that didn’t deter writers from joining. “When I got a call about it, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, I don’t want to work on a teen show,'” Bicks said. “They happened to be people in high school.”

-During season 3, Fattore recalled doing the Rashomon-style episode where Dawson finds out that Joey and Pacey are together, which she called a “creative highlight” for her. “The actors and everyone in the room responded in the moment to the story,” she said, noting they hadn’t read it in advance of the table read. “It was an awesome experience.”

-The writers owned up to a number of regrets they had throughout the show, including the introduction of Eve as well as Pacey becoming a stockbroker. “We were really into the movie Boiler Room,” Fricke said. “It felt right for his character to be incredibly intelligent, but not bookish.”

-Williamson felt like each character had a piece of himself. Thus, the introduction of a gay character. “Now it seems so obvious you can put a gay character on TV,” said Bicks, noting that back then, the reaction was: “That’s insane and fantastic.” Williamson didn’t tell anyone Jack (Kerr Smith) was gay until they had already introduced the character. “I didn’t even tell [Smith],” he said. As for Jack’s first kiss, broadcast standards and practices requested it be filmed up close as well as from across the street, though Berlanti charged Fattore with making sure this was a real kiss since Jack’s coming out story mirrored his.

-The penultimate episode was originally intended to be the finale, but the network thought they should bring Williamson back for what would become a special two-hour series finale. The big time jump was pitched to Williamson, which “gave him a freedom” to find a way into these characters after having been off the show for a while.

-Plec had asked for an Andie and Pacey scene in the series finale, which was shot but ended up on the cutting room floor (it is on the DVD). As for Andie’s journey through her mental health issues before cheating on Pacey, “It felt like there was almost no getting her back” from her spiral, Williamson said.

-“It was a coming of age story,” Williamson said of why he killed off Jen. “They had dealt with every issue under the sun… but they hadn’t dealt with the death of someone in their circle. Until you deal with death, that’s one more way of coming of age. I wanted to see what that would look like.” It also pushed Joey into making a “real decision,” he said.

-Speaking of that decision, the finale initially had a different ending. “It was pretty clear to all of us that it would be [Joey] and Dawson who would wind up together,” Stupin said, but Williamson changed his mind. “My mother hates me. She went to her grave hating me for that,” Williamson said, though noting that everyone in the love triangle were soul mates.

For more on this year’s ATX Festival, follow us on Twitter at @ew.

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