Emerald City: EP, writer break down 'They Came First'
Every week, Emerald City executive producers David Schulner and Shaun Cassidy will bring EW behind the scenes and explain the ins-and-outs of the new NBC dark fantasy series inspired by the Land of Oz books. Here, Schulner interviews supervising producer Tracy Bellomo, writer of this week's episode, "They Came First."
DAVID SCHULNER: I want to talk about the title of the episode, "They Came First." Now, this phrase/idea wasn't something we ever talked about in the writers' room, but when I read your script for the first time, it blew me away, and I realized it answered an essential question for Dorothy (and then Lucas) that we had overlooked. I guess my question is, did you know we missed something essential when breaking the story and how did you fix it so beautifully?
TRACY BELLOMO: We missed nothing —our break was flawless! I'll explain. Because we're working from an original story in which Dorothy's aim is to get back home, we never had to ask ourselves: What does Dorothy want? It's a given. In addition, our version adds a relationship with Lucas in direct conflict with that. If Dorothy finds a way home, she loses him. The inevitability of that became the emotional drive of the episode.
As they get closer to Calcedon, Dorothy's attachment to Sylvie grows. Dorothy and Lucas are desperate to hold onto each other before everything changes. After they act on their feelings, a new question arises. Why would Dorothy leave Oz now that she's found happiness? If her life is what she chooses, why not make a different choice?
There is the obvious: Dorothy had a whole life before she met Lucas and Sylvie. There are people she loves, people who love her. There are obligations. They came first. There is also what's underneath. Dorothy's been shaped by abandonment. Despite the love of Em and Henry, she's been deprived of a love she imagines she would have had from the mother who gave her away. She doesn't believe she's lovable. She will leave Lucas before he leaves her. When things literally turn upside down, Dorothy realizes the pain she's causing Sylvie, a child who's also been given away by her mother. Dorothy can't do to Sylvie what her own mother did to her. Dorothy can't abandon her. She proposes another option. Dorothy will bring Lucas and Sylvie home with her, to Kansas.
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When they reach Calcedon, Lucas' fate intervenes. After Glinda kisses him, he remembers all of who he is. Roan. Dorothy is gut-punched. It's everything she feared. These are his people, this is his love. And they came first. I'm pleased I found three words that got it right. The fact that it worked in both stories is evidence the break was solid. Or we're lucky. Or I'm a genius. The break was solid.
Which scenes were the most fun to write?
Lady Ev's inscrutability played against Jack's no reason to care makes their scenes incredibly enjoyable to write. When Stefanie Martini and Gerran Howell auditioned for these roles they just left no one else a damn chance. They are that good.
Did you have to do any rewriting on the set?
Not much. Some clips/adds to dialogue in the moment. There was a scene I remember reworking with Vincent [D'Onofrio]. Not from this episode, it was a scene between the Wizard and Anna. The scene succeeded in advancing the plot but was missing a point of view. Vincent saw an opportunity to reveal an aspect of the Wizard's character while giving the scene its necessary drive. He was very thoughtful about building out layers of character to fully inhabit the Wizard.
When I arrived in Budapest the entire crew was disappointed to see me because they loved having you there so much more. Colin [Watkinson], our DP, even called you the "Tarsem Whisperer." Why were you so much cooler than me or Shaun?
I'm told I smelled better. So, hygiene? Tarsem [Singh's] an amazing director. Not just in his visual style, his command of the set, but in the immense volume of information he holds in his brain. We were filming scenes from 10 episodes out of sequence yet he always knew exactly where we were in the story, what was going on with each character, and a million other things. I have deep respect for that type of insanity and maybe also understand a bit about it. And I smelled good.
Emerald City airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on NBC.