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Director Derek Johansen takes us through his work on the final season of Charmed, which brought seven years on the series to a close.
To some people, 1999 might seem like a long time ago, but it feels like only yesterday for Derek Johansen. That’s when he was hired as a second assistant director on Charmed, working his way up to first AD and, ultimately, a producer/director on the show over the years. But now the final season has left the air, Johansen admits that this last year brought special challenges with it.
”Because of our budget, which had been reduced, we weren’t able to go on location off the studio lot,” he comments. “So if we had to film an exterior on the back lot, we had to become increasingly creative as the year went on so that it didn’t appear as if we were using the same locations all the time. We were able to do that thanks to our production designer Paul Staheli, who came up with different ways of reworking existing sets, as well as us finding areas on the lot that we hadn’t really shot or filming from an angle we hadn’t previously used. We just wanted to make it look fresh and different so that the audience wouldn’t feel as if they were being ripped off.
“We faced that same challenge for a number of seasons on Charmed with our cave. We did, I think, 80-plus variations on that set. In fact, the third episode I directed this year, The Jung and the Restless, we had to do a Darklighter lair and, of course, it was going to be in the cave. Fortunately, we were able to find a way to make it look like a demonic workshop rather than our same old cave. So we were successful, and pulling something like that off is rewarding. Part of what makes this job satisfying is when you identify creative obstacles and then figure out how to overcome them.”
During his seven years with Charmed, Johansen had the opportunity to direct nine episodes of the series, three of them for the final year. The first of these, Run, Piper, Run, revealed that the disguise that Piper, like her sisters, had adopted after faking her death at the end of season seven made her a double for a woman wanted for murder... It was an unusual episode in several respects.
“For starters, this episode did not have a supernatural demon,” explains Johansen. “We had a district attorney who was evil, but not magical. We always have an evil in the show, but usually its one with some sort of supernatural powers. So the sisters had to figure out how to deal with a bad Human, but they can’t kill Humans. They’re supposed to protect innocents. That presented a quandary for them.
“Of course, because Piper has assumed the identity of a woman who is connected with this evil mortal that she and her sisters are fighting, that sets this story in motion. So the big challenge for me was trying to convey the threat to The Charmed Ones that was in the script and getting it to come out on film in a way that was convincing to the audience. I think I accomplished that. At least the response to this episode by viewers was a pretty positive one.”
Read the full interview and more on Charmed in
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