What would you do if you could cure cancer, stave off disease, or even live forever? That is the driving force behind Fox’s new drama Second Chance (née Lookinglass, née The Frankenstein Code).
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, Second Chance is a modern-day series about a corrupt sheriff who is killed, then brought back to life in the body of a younger man (Rob Kazinsky) to fight crime. The magical remedy that facilitates Jimmy Pritchard’s return, however, serves a higher purpose: Twin scientists Mary and Otto Goodwin (Dilshad Vadsaria and Adhir Kalyan), who head up a tech empire called Lookinglass, need his blood to keep Mary from dying from an aggressive form of cancer.
However, Pritchard is nobody’s guinea pig and isn’t pleased to discover his new and improved young body will basically fall apart every 24 hours lest he return to the Lookinglass fish tank that keeps him alive. (Kazinsky speaks at length about how Jimmy feels about this here.) Nevertheless, this new life provides Jimmy a blank slate, and he is faced with the age-old question: If you got a second chance, would you make the same mistakes over again?
EW sat down with executive producers Howard Gordon and Rand Ravich on the Vancouver-based set to discuss that question, among other ethical issues that come with playing God, and the dynamic between Pritchard and his highly suspicious son Duval (Tom DeKay). Plus: They address the evolution from the show’s original concept of the Frankenstein story. [Editor’s note: This interview took place before the series title was changed from Lookinglass to Second Chance.] Also, read our full interview with Kazinsky here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Talk about where the idea for this story was born, because initially you were pulling a lot from the story of Frankenstein. How has that evolved since then?
RAND RAVICH: It was kind of two things at once. Howard and I are both men of a certain age, and we were thinking about what it would be like to get a second chance, to be young again. And then also, but independently, we were both talking about the Frankenstein myth, and is there a way to conflate those two things. And they came together in this.
Though the name of the show has changed, are there any aspects you’re still pulling from the Frankenstein story — like, is he afraid of fire?
HOWARD GORDON: Well, the basic trope of playing God, and what are you doing when you interrupt the natural order of or when you intervene with nature, and the benefits and also the consequences of that is definitely a theme that comes back again and again.
RAVICH: Just because you can do it, should you do it? That’s the one thing with technology, eavesdropping, and social media — just because you have the ability to do it doesn’t mean you morally should or can you even control it, which is the Frankenstein thing. Can you control your creation?
GORDON: It’s never been more real. The show lives at a heightened science-fiction place, but you just read the headlines [in October] and you realize that at Google, they changed it to [Alphabet] because they want to include life sciences and longevity projects. We are flirting with immortality, body parts replacement, artificial intelligence — all of those themes are potential grist for the mill.
RAVICH: Treating death as an illness that is curable. I mean, there is a lot of research and funding going into that, which sounds like such crazy talk. Do you want to live forever? What does it mean overturning the natural order of things? What happens to life when there is no death?
Talk about some of the other themes the series plans to explore.
GORDON: Everyone knows, in some ways, one is defined by how you are as a husband, how you are as a son, how you are as a father, as a friend, or as a boss. And at the center of it is a guy who kind of messed things up pretty profoundly with so many people.
RAVICH: At the center of it is [this idea that] you always think like, “If I went back to high school, I would do better in math.” But would you? Or would you go back and not study all over again? Would you go back and make the same mistakes? Would you go back and make different mistakes? And if you try to correct the mistakes you made, it’s like stepping off the path, and you could step on moth and then the dinosaurs are back and everyone’s speaking German. When you try to fix things, the unintended consequences are enormously fascinating, especially as it has to do with relationships, when you try to repair a relationship.
Does Pritchard take advantage of this opportunity?
GORDON: His family, namely his son, his granddaughter and his daughter are there, and they’ve all been damaged in the wake of what his life was. Not necessarily the things that were always his fault, but they are who they are, and those relationships are so very profound and very deep, particularly the father-and-son relationship, Tim DeKay and Rob’s relationship.
RAVICH: More than being young and being attracted to the opposite sex, or being young and being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being winded, going back and getting that time with your family, I could not imagine a wish that is more desired to be fulfilled than those moments that you missed because you were working or because you were not paying attention. To go back and to be able to do those again.
GORDON: Like, Otto and Mary, that interdependence has become grounded with prison for Mary in a way and for Otto an addiction. All those relationships are very interesting and very important. Mary’s gotten a second chance, too, because of this guy. But I mean, just this pure fun with the father and son thing. [It] has become really rewarding. Every time you see scenes with them, they’re very alive, the chemistry is fantastic and, in a way, he’s Felix to his Oscar. I mean, it’s a pretty classic relationship. You have a guy who’s a little uptight, who follows the rules because his father didn’t, and now his father’s come back to help him, and he’s not that receptive to that premise. He didn’t ask for it.
As you say, the crux of the show is the dynamic between Pritchard and his son, Duval, who is as yet unaware of what’s going on with his father.
RAVICH: We think Duval always emotionally knows the truth. Like, from the very moment he sees that guy there, it’s there, even though he doesn’t look the same, talk the same, act the same necessarily or dress the same, you know it when you see it. You look into that person’s eyes, because that person is connected to me and emotionally I know it’s deep and profound. He struggles through the first series of episodes to get to the fact of the truth, but he knows it right away emotionally. Then the fun of it is Duval was the little man of the house. He had to be a father, because his father was the child, and now he’s older than his father. The challenge is reminding the audience that Pritchard is the father because Rob is so young and dynamic, and you need to find a way always to remind them that this man raised Duval. This man gave Duval his strength and his weaknesses.
Jimmy is tied to the Lookinglass. Can you talk about some of the side effects he’s facing and how he’s handling this newfound power?
RAVICH: The tank is his kryptonite. As amazing as it is to be young, healthy, strong and back, he is tied to it, and that’s the Frankenstein. He is tied to his creator. He cannot travel further away than 12 or 24 hours at a time from the tank. And so, although you are free, everything comes at a cost, and his cost is he is physically tied to them. If he has to make decisions to go further than that, he puts his life and Mary’s life in jeopardy.
GORDON: The idea that the physical process is ongoing and evolving, things are changing in their dynamics. It’s not like, “Okay, I’m Spider-Man. I have my powers and that’s what they are.” They do evolve sometimes unexpectedly, and that can include certain behaviors too downstream. It really is an ongoing experiment. He is, after all, an experiment and anything is possible.
What’s the dynamic like between creator, in this case Mary, and monster?
GORDON: It’s hugely important.
RAVICH: Because they are tied by necessity. He is saving her life. He is tied to Lookinglass. But then what is their desire for each other? What is their relationship beyond those things is the important thing? And because they are tethered by blood, they have a very intimate relationship and their desire and their ongoing relationship grows out of that.
GORDON: That becomes increasingly threatening to Otto. He may have saved his sister, but he may have destroyed the relationship. It’s the unintended consequences of saving his sister’s life is losing his sister.
RAVICH: And the bizarre and fun of the writing it is that these two people would never have crossed circles if not for this experiment. They are so diametrically opposed in their worldview and where they come from and how they operate and how they think and how they eat, that to have them tethered together by blood is fantastic as a writer.
Is Pritchard driven to right his past wrongs?
RAVICH: Well, he has made a mess of Seattle in good ways and bad ways, and because you can never leave your past behind, those things do resurface. But also, he defined himself by his job, which is why he raised Duval to become an FBI agent. So, being the sheriff was how he saw himself. Now that he’s back, he wants to be the sheriff again. He really finds his value in his work for better or worse. And so, now that he’s back, he wants that more than ever.
GORDON: The show really soars when there is some reference point to something in his past. In one case, he rejected the daughter’s boyfriend and did some damage to the daughter by never approving. Or some guy gets himself in a jam and Pritchard gets to undo that by helping out a guy who got himself in a situation. He gets to untangle some of the knots that he tied.
RAVICH: The fun of it, of course, is that they don’t know him. I’m Jimmy Pritchard and I’m sitting with the kid who would be grown now, but when he was my daughter’s boyfriend I threw him out of the house, and now we’re working together.
GORDON: Right. In a way, it’s like having invisibility without being invisible.
Because the episode order was trimmed before the show even debuted, Second Chance already has a notch against it in viewers’ eyes. What do you say to them?
GORDON: First of all they’re spending money on reshoots, which is great. You don’t do that for [a show you don’t believe in], but it’s also put right after American Idol. We got the Empire slot. There is not a better slot on Fox, so if that’s not a show of faith. … It really is a scheduling issue. They offered us 13 [episodes]. They said, “Do 13, but we only have 11 continuously.” For storytelling purposes we said, “So, then let’s not do it.”
RAVICH: You have these two freaky little episodes hanging out there, what do you do with them?
GORDON: We begged them—
RAVICH: To reduce the order.
GORDON: We said, “Please, then give us a two-parter.” They couldn’t give us a two-parter for that reason and we said, “Fine.” It was our choice to cut the order.
RAVICH: It was our choice to tell the story in the way it should be told and not have these two little episodes hanging out there that had no meaning.
Read our in-depth interview with Rob Kazinsky here.
Second Chance debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.