Interview:Zach Craley

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In September 2015, Ryan Gibson Stewart conducted an interview with Zach Craley, the writer of the Dark Matters webisodes. For an interview with the director and producers of Dark Matters, see Interview:Dark Matters.


Quentin's board 1.jpg

Ryan Stewart: How did you develop the script for Dark Matters?

Zach Craley: About a year ago I was brought on board to write digital content surrounding Heroes Reborn in addition to writing for the show. I worked very closely with Tim Kring, James Middleton, and the digital team at NBC to develop ideas once the writers room started last year. The idea was create content and stories that would bridge the gap between Heroes and Heroes Reborn, bringing the audience up to speed on what's happened during those 5 intervening years and setting the stage for Reborn.

Since it was destined for digital platforms, I wanted to embrace that by telling the story in a first-person, subjective way, rather than imitating the big, cinematic-style of Heroes Reborn with our limited budget. James and I talked a lot about this aesthetic. I think that was the right choice because it allowed us to tell a lot more story because you're locked into these POV cameras and not shooting traditional TV show coverage, so you're able to be selective about what you show and create drama by not showing certain things.

As the story for Heroes Reborn unfolded in the writers room, I thought Quentin seemed like the best candidate to focus on since his story was all about unraveling the mysteries of the old show and he literally collides with H.R.G. in our opening episode, who is this character who embodies all of that mythology. It felt like the natural point for the prequel to hand off to the series, with this character we introduced literally walking into the show. I pitched that idea to Tim and James and I continued to work with the other writers to develop a story that would fill in Quentin's backstory and link up his story with the show. Once we knew Quentin's sister was going to go missing, that's what was driving him, why he's sought out HRG — I wanted to focus on her origin story, so I created Phoebe's character and her power and that ultimately became Dark Matters. But Phoebe will continue to be a significant presence in Heroes Reborn.


Ryan: Dark Matters is the first Heroes content in several years. It has a difficult job of being the prequel to a sequel. By definition, it can only provide backstory, yet it is a compelling story on its own. It's also the webisode with the most characters, the most displays of abilities, and richest story. Tell us about the challenges you faced in writing Dark Matters.

Zach: It was definitely tricky for all of the reasons you mentioned, this was going to be the first thing a lot of people saw of Heroes Reborn, so no pressure there... but it was an exciting challenge for that reason too. While Heroes has done some great webisodes in the past, it felt like we had the opportunity here to raise the bar, not just in scope and production value, but the type of story we were going to tell. I think we achieved something unique with Dark Matters because it's not secondary to the show. Instead it's very, very tightly integrated with the main series. We established key characters and story points, so it goes way beyond traditional ancillary content. If you watch it all back to back, Dark Matters is essentially Episode 0 of Heroes Reborn. It's going to give viewers a big leg up in what's going on when the series starts, you'll know some key players and organizations that other viewers won't meet until a few episodes in.

The biggest challenge was achieving that level of integration. Because we were writing and developing Dark Matters at the same time that the writers room on Heroes Reborn was breaking episodes, some aspects of the meta story might change as we got further along — so there were always things I'd find myself having to tweak to make sure everything was cohesive. We were filming Dark Matters at the same time as the first episode of Heroes Reborn — so we were casting actors that would recur in later episodes of Heroes Reborn and there were even a few things we had to establish before the show (like the Renautas logo). But it all worked together hand in hand in a cool way.


Ryan: In any script there are always parts that need to be cut. Was there anything that you had to cut from Dark Matters that you didn't want to part with?

Zach: Chris, Tanner and the rest of our team did an amazing job bringing all of this to fruition, I kept expecting to cut stuff because I was dreaming big, but for the most part we pulled everything off as scripted. Carole Angelo at NBC was super supportive of the project and got us the resources we needed. As for cuts once we started editing... Henry [Zebrowski] throws in a lot of hilarious ad-libs so we had to cut a few funny lines in post, but there are a lot of his gems that stayed in and enhanced the character and story.


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Ryan: How did the scripts for the HeroTruther videos come about?

Zach: The viral videos were a part of my original concept for the digital prequel as a way to show how the world at large was reacting to Evos. At one point that was really the focal point of the series, with multiple stories playing out on various platforms, but as we continued to develop the series, the narrative story about Quentin and Phoebe took center stage. I co-wrote the scripts for the viral videos with Marisha Mukerjee, another of the Heroes Reborn writers. We actually wrote several different scripts for these, but ultimately we narrowed them down and only produced the four that you've seen.


Ryan: Whose idea was to re-introduce Micah Sanders as Hero Truther?

Zach: I think in my earliest drafts the story was sort-of told out of time and Quentin was actually going to become Hero_Truther in his attempt to expose the truth... but as the story developed and became more linear, it was clear Hero_Truther was going to be this other mysterious figure that Quentin would seek out. Micah was the obvious choice for his identity, it felt like the natural evolution for his character since we'd already seen him as "Rebel" in Heroes. I wasn't sure if Noah Gray-Cabey was going to be able to do it, so his identity was a question mark for awhile, but that was always my desire. When people read the first draft of the script everyone was like — "It's Micah, right?" and I was like — "Yes! Can we make that happen?" Once we found out Noah was available and interested it all fell into place.


Ryan: We know that Dahlia, who is first introduced to us in Dark Matters, will be the focus of an upcoming Heroes Reborn video game. How closely did you work with the video game designers on Dahlia's character?

Zach: Pretty closely. The video game stories were developed by a couple of the Heroes Reborn writers, so we all had a hand in [the] discussion of Dahlia, her casting, etc. She first appears in Dark Matters, but we'll see her make an appearance in the main series and then you can take an even deeper dive into her backstory through the video games.


Ryan: Can you tell us about the Frady siblings' parents? Where are they now? Do they share a father since they have the same last name?

Zach: Actually they have different fathers. Quentin and Phoebe share the same mother, who was killed in the car accident. After she divorced Mr. Frady, she kept her married name so the siblings share the same last name. Phoebe's mom and dad were never married and he left when she was still very young. Phoebe was raised by her single mom and hasn't spoken to her father since he left. It'd be safe to say Phoebe's dad also had powers (since Quentin didn't inherit any) and that could be why he hasn't been around... but for now his identity will remain a mystery. [There's nothing else to know] at this time. Maybe it's something we'll explore in subsequent stories featuring the Fradys. But it's certainly a story I'd like to tell.


Ryan: In Part 2, Aly says that there was a guy from her hometown who could breathe underwater, whom Quentin calls "Fish Boy". Any connection to Alex Woolsly, Claire's love interest who could breathe underwater?

Zach: Haha. I'm glad people picked up on that one. While people in the Heroes-verse have been known to share the same ability, I definitely threw that one in as a little Easter egg. So, yeah, the intent was for it to be the same guy, but of course Aly would know him by a different name...


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Ryan: Any other cool bits of trivia that we should know?

Zach: There are a lot of little things hidden in there... the string map has some shout-outs to the Heroes mythology, as does the computer server in Renautas when Quentin breaks in. There are some clues on that screen about what Renautas is cooking up later in the season. The video game Quentin is playing in the first episode is called Evernow and there are also posters for it in his apartment... There are some other references too, but I won't say any much more yet and leave them for people to hunt down.


Ryan: Thank you! You've given us a lot to think about and get excited for!

Zach: Thanks, Ryan!


For an interview with the director and producers of Dark Matters, see Interview:Dark Matters.



Interviews edit
Cast

Sally ChamplinAlex FernandezMike FoyJames Kyson LeeNtare Guma Mbaho MwineJoshua RushJames RyenRoberto SanchezDiana Terranova

Crew

Adam Armus and Kay FosterYule CaiseZach CraleyNate GoodmanChuck KimTim KringJason La PaduraDebra McGuireJoe TolericoKevin Tostado

Graphic Novel Crew

Robert AtkinsMicah GunnellR.D. HallJoe KellyChuck KimKotzebue brothersRyan OdagawaJG RoshellMark Sable

Specific Works

BlackoutDark Mattersdirectors / writerDestinyEvs DropperGolden HandshakeInto the WildiStory (follow up) • Nowhere Mandirectors / writersThe RecruitRoot and BranchSlow Burn

See Also: LinksInterviews