Bryan Fuller’s Munsters reboot is one of the most anticipated projects in the TV development pipeline and has inspired plenty of reader curiosity: How will the Pushing Daisies creator turn the classic sitcom about a monster family into a modern-day NBC dramedy? Why did the show’s title change to Mockingbird Lane? How dark, how funny, and how odd, exactly, will the show be?
Below, Fuller gives his first interview about the project, and offers a peek at the Munster mansion (photo on the second page). If all goes according to plan, Fuller says Mockingbird Lane won’t simply chronicle the familiar Munster family of Frankenstein’s monster, vampire, and a werewolf boy, but will enjoy a monster upgrade — adding other classic creatures from the Universal library.
“We want this show to be an American Harry Potter,” Fuller says. “To have that sense of a magical world that you get to go to with your family and find stories told in a fantastical way that are instantly relatable. It’s an American Horror Story that the whole family can watch.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you first become involved with this project?
BRYAN FULLER: It started when I was at the Tim Burton exhibit in New York and he had all these monster family portraits. And I thought there should be a show about a family of monsters. But any show about a family of monsters is going to be calling back to the original show about a family of monsters. We are reinventing The Munsters because if we didn’t everybody would just say, “You’re ripping off the Munsters!” So why not just make it official?
What excited you about the idea?
I always loved the original and was much more a Munsters child than an Addams Family child. The Munsters were the more relatable family. The Addams family looked normal but they acted weird and were sort of mal-socialized in a way. The Munsters were a more functional, sane family unit, they just looked different. [The shows] were almost inverses of the same idea. Obviously, Addams came first, then The Munsters took advantage of the Universal monsters and what they brought to the table. What excited me was to tell this story — and it’s going to sound strange in regards to this property — in a grounded, more realistic way.
And that tonal focus is why you changed the title?
The script is such a dramatic departure from the tone and style of the original show. If we continued to call the show The Munsters, people are just going to to think we’re doing The Munsters. We’re doing a reinvention and re-imagination of this property. I love the Universal monsters. I love The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy. There’s so many great characters we can run through this metaphor of family storytelling that it just felt it was ripe to do as a one-hour dramedy. Having all those elements to play with, the toy box is really, really full.
So assuming Universal clears the rights to more creatures, you’ll add the other monsters into the show?
Absolutely. There’s some great stories going forward in the series. Any story you can tell on Parenthood we can run through a Universal monster prism and tell it in a very twisted, off-kilter way. What I love about the pilot story is it’s about a family who loves each other and they have a child [Eddie, the werewolf] with a disability and they’re trying to craft a path for that child so he can have a happy life — they just happen to be monsters. And, unlike in the original, we’re going to see our monsters do monstrous things.
The pilot production was pushed back at one point, what changed?
There wasn’t a huge amount changed. The primary issue was finding the right cast. I tend to write in a very tricky tone. It’s hard to find actors who are agile enough to navigate the turns. There’s mouthfuls of dialog. Fortunately, we went to Eddie Izzard as Grandpa very early in the process. He’s a great piece of casting for us.
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FULLER: We wanted [the mansion] to have feeling of the original. We wanted a house in the neighborhood that children would walk past faster than other houses.
And the costumes?
We’re not doing bolts in the neck and Bela Lugosi. It’s almost the Real Housewives of Transylvania. These are a blinged-out representation of what monsters would be doing if they lived in our society today. How they would look, how they would interact. Our wardrobe is heavily influenced by Alexander McQueen and his use of animal textures. For instance, with [the vampire] Lily, all of her wardrobe comes from nature. The first time we see her this nest of spiders weaves her dress on her body as she’s standing there. We’ll see ravens come in and assemble her blouse out of their feathers. We won’t see animal skins because the animals are donating as opposed to dying for it. She has domain over nature and nature has a fantastic esthetic.
You’re also adapting another remake, NBC’s upcoming series take on the Hannibal Lecter films.
I’m personally, as an audience member, not afraid of remakes. I’m afraid of bad remakes, which is unfortunately more commonly the case. Which is why I think people get up in arms when they see a remake idea — “Oh, they’re remaking something that’s been done before, what hackery, there’s no original thoughts in Hollywood.” But there’s a great quote that no art exists without the art before it. We’re doing our work to make our versions distinct and respect their source material. One of the things we did so well in the first season of Heroes is we delivered on each of those [superhero] metaphors. When you come to The Munsters and have Herman — who’s essentially a zombie in a constant state of decay — and he’s married to a woman who doesn’t age, there’s something very poignant there. These stories will surprise audiences.
For more exclusive images from NBC’s Mockingbird Lane, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.