Exclusive: 'Damages' execs on moving to DirecTV and the Patty/Ellen twist that kicks off season 4
Image Credit: Craig Blankenhorne/FXNow that the initial burst of excitement surrounding DirecTV’s two-season pickup of Damages is fading, it’s time to take a closer look at the deal’s fine print: Will the ex-FX drama have to alter its unique formula in an effort to pull in more viewers? Will the show’s producers be forced to make do with a smaller budget? And what’s next for Patty (Glenn Close) and Ellen (Rose Byrne)? Damages EPs Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, and Daniel Zelman tackled those three questions and about four or five others.
Will the FX version of Damages differ from DirecTV’s version?
Daniel Zelman: Basically, the answer is no. DirecTV wants us to do the show that we’ve been doing. If anything, they want us to push what we’ve been doing even further. They’re encouraging us to be as bold as possible, which is something we strive for anyway. There have been no discussions about altering the show in any fundamental way.
Todd A. Kessler: What’s exciting for us as creators is that on the 101 Network there are no commercials, so it’ll be an uninterrupted hour. And that lends itself to the type of storytelling we do.
Will the show’s budget be cut?
Daniel: The budget has basically been kept the same, which we’re very grateful for in this climate. Our show has a very affluent audience and is one of the most Tivo’d shows on cable, and that sits very well with DirecTV’s consumer base.
The season 3 finale easily could have worked as a series finale. Did you write it that way because the specter of cancellation was hanging over your heads?
Daniel: We want to bring every season to a satisfying conclusion. As you know, we have a different case every season and we have different guest actors every season. So we always want to bring every season to an endpoint so that there’s a sense that you sat through a complete experience. Had we known the series was definitely coming back, or if we thought the series was not coming back, the third season would not have ended much differently—if differently at all. The scene with [Patty and Ellen] on the dock was something we would have wanted to do regardless.
What can you tell me about season 4?
Daniel: Patty and Ellen will be in a new phase of their relationship, one that we haven’t seen before.
Who’s returning aside from Glenn and Rose?
Daniel: Right now it really is just Glenn and Rose. But if you know our show, we’re very creative about who we bring back. Zeljko Ivanek died the first season and yet he’s been back every season since. Tate Donovan’s character died at the end of last season, but we certainly wouldn’t rule out him coming back in some form. Anyone in our show can make an appearance. We would love to have Frobisher back in some form.
As a fan of the show, I never understood how Ellen could get past the fact that Patty tried to kill her.
Daniel: That remains out there as an issue between the two of them. One of the questions of the whole series is, Will Ellen ever really get past that? And will that resurface to cause Ellen to take extreme action against Patty at some point? A huge part of Ellen’s arc in the second season and continuing into the third was her own personal need to forgive and let go. And in a weird way, when you forgive someone for doing something that extreme, you end up having power over them. That being said, there’s always an element to our show that’s heightened and hyper-realistic. We don’t look at that relationship and Ellen’s choice to forgive Patty as something that would happen in real life. We see something mythic in their relationship. But the real answer to that question is we’ll see if Ellen really ends up being okay with that.
When do you start production?
Glenn: It’s scheduled for January.
Are you looking at season 5 as the last?
Daniel: We have an idea in our head of the evolution of Ellen and Patty that takes us through five seasons. And really that’s all we’re focused on right now. There’s time to work that out and consider where it might go in a [possible] sixth.