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Feature: Angel

DeKnight of the Dark Realm

Trouble in store…

Steven S DeKnight did such sterling work on Buffy that he’s now plying his writing trade on Angel. We quizzed him about death, destruction and the coming of the latest apocalypse

Most newbie writers making their grand début on a successful series like Buffy The Vampire Slayer are given a test drive with a standalone episode before letting them muck around with continuity. Not Steven S DeKnight. Fresh off MTV’s teen sex comedy Undressed (“It was a crappy show that required so much work,” he notes), the former English as a Second Language teacher and UCLA graduate was initially hired to pen a couple of stories for the Buffy animated show. Impressed with his talent and after “shooting the shit about comic books and movies,” creator Joss Whedon asked DeKnight if he was interested in taking a shot at a regular Buffy script. “The sky opened up and I heard angels singing,” chuckles DeKnight. “I said, ‘Hell yeah! Of course I would!’”

Just as quickly, the sky fell. Sort of. What was supposed to be a fluffy fill-in episode turned into Season Five’s Blood Ties, an hour with major ramifications, as Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) was revealed to be the Key. Suddenly, there was pressure to deliver. “Oh, absolutely. I was horrified when I found out what story I was getting,” recalls DeKnight. “And Dawn was a new character and the one I didn’t know that well. Once we got into the story, the excitement started to build because I realized it was a pivotal one. I can’t say I did an amazing job on my first draft because I had to rewrite quite a bit of it. In retrospect, I’m glad I got that kind of episode. I always tell Michelle she was responsible for getting me this job.”

DeKnight knocked a few socks off and Whedon scooped him up on a full-time basis. Since then, he’s been a Buffy staple – until this season when he shifted over to sibling rival Angel. So why the move? In a word: Firefly. “At the end of last year, Joss dropped into my office and wanted Tim Minear to run Firefly,” explains DeKnight. “But if he took Tim off of Angel, David Greenwalt would probably quit in protest, which is funny when you think of it now. So he said the only way I can do this is to send somebody down to Angel, and would I be interested with a raise in pay and promotion. I really liked Angel, thought it was a really cool show, and the fight scenes were fantastic.”

Ironically, Greenwalt left anyway, heading for ABC’s new Supernatural drama Miracles. To fill the void, DeKnight was once again offered a plum assignment, this time cooking up the season première Deep Down. But for someone who maintains his strength lies in the booting bottom department, dealing with the broken Angel/Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) and Angel/Wesley (Alexis Denisof) relationships proved to be a challenge. “For me I’m an action man, so the quiet stuff is a lot harder because it takes a lot more of my brain to make those moments work,” offers DeKnight. “Dramatic moments are so tricky because you go too far one way and they get mushy and melodramatic; go too far in the other direction, throw in a joke, and it ruins the moment. It’s really a high wire act when you get into the deep emotional scenes.”

by Bryan Cairns

Get the full interview, PLUS an interview with Vladimir (The Beast) Kulich
Cult Times #91

Photo © Warner Bros
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times #91, see below for ordering options
Cult Times #91
April 2003
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