Sci-Fi Flix Magazine speaks to Glen Morgan and Lance Henriksen following Season 2 of Millenium.
Sci-Fi Flix Magazine speaks to Glen Morgan and Lance Henriksen following Season 2 of Millenium.
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Melissa J. Prenson - Sci-Fi Flix Magazine.
This is a crew interview with Glen Morgan.
After an intriguing but unspectacular first season of Millennium, Chris Carter's dark, modern apocalypse series, changes were in the wings for the second year. Executive producer and creator Carter distanced himself from the series in order to focus on season 5 of The X-Files as well as production of The X-Files feature.
Carter turned to the writing-producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong, producing allumni from The X-Files' first two seasons, to take the helm as executive producers. Morgan and Wong, meanwhile, were available, having just completed a stint as consulting producers on The X-Files' 4th season. Morgan and Wong sifted through the conflicting opinions of their own ideas, network, studio focus groups, Carter, series star Lance Henriksen, and the online fans to try and resolve how to retool the show in season 2. One main point stood out in Morgan's view: "Chris had said the reason he made the show was because of the yellow house. So, we thought, why don't we take Frank out of the yellow house and make it so that he's on a hero's adventure, where he has to go through the dark forest in order to get back to the yellow house. That was essentially where we started." Then, he adds, "once you find out what you want the show to do, you just try to drive the characters through that."
From there, Morgan and Wong worked out a loose framework for a story arc that would take the series through the end of the 2nd season, into a more religious and metaphysical realm, with the introduction of angels and devils. There were also some major changes and additions to the characters.
At the forefront for Frank was a separation from his wife, Catherine (Megan Gallagher) and learning to cope with - and without - his unique visions, a gift that allowed him to get into a killer's mind and see events through his eyes. That Frank has gone through such a gamut of emotions and experiences this season has kept things interesting for Henriksen, who plays the moody and characteristically dark Frank Black. "It was like removing a limb every day or once a week and seeing how you'd put up with it," says Henriksen of the transformation. "It's been quite outrageous at times because you'd get the next script and you'd think, 'Wait a minute, what have they done now?'" Henriksen also thinks the split between Frank and his on-screen wife, was a particularly good move for the character, if for nothing more than the motivational and dramatic tension factor it provided with respect to Frank's relationship with his young daughter. "I think the idea of ever losing a child out of your life is maybe the worst thing that can happen to you, because they are a part of your blood," offers Henriksen.
The most prominent new face on the block belongs to forensic pathologist Lara Means - so named after a friend of Carter's. Played by actress Kristen Cloke, who starred in Morgan and Wong's defunct series, Space: Above and Beyond (she also happens to be Morgan's fiancee), Lara also works with the Millennium Group and experiences visions of her own. In teaming Lara with Frank Black, many viewers sensed a partnership that was a deliberate attempt to clone Mulder and Scully of The X-Files. Not so, emphasizes Morgan. "We didn't want it to seem like Mulder and Scully when we were doing that. We brought Cloke in knowing that in the last episode she was going to go so insane that she would be locked up forever. When we first did that angel thing in the 3rd episode, "Monster," where she's seeing visions of angels, I think the reaction was, "Oh brother, someone's seeing angels.' But the more you've gone with her, the more the vision has changed, and she's getting more whacked out."
Another change this season is the increased presence of Peter Watts, Frank's enigmatic liason with the Millennium Group. "Terry O'Quinn is just a great actor and he has some good chemistry [with Henriksen]. He needed to be in the series more," says Morgan.
But even with the addition of peripheral charcters, Millennium is still very much Frank Black's story. "It's really like a hero's journey. I think that's what Jim and Glen were trying to do, follow Joseph Campbell's hero's journey," observes Henriksen, of the direction Morgan and Wong went with his character. "You go through all of the metaphors of life and you find out more about what the journey was, what it's meant to be, and what it is."
A concious decision was made to further flesh out the mysterious Millennium Group, and to make the group a source of conflict for Frank. "In the 23rd episode they'll come to Frank and ask, 'Do you want to be a member?' It's a group that he's at odds with. He's coming to believe in what they believe in. Yet Frank doesn't trust secrecy in these elite groups and covert activities, so he's not really sure. He has a responsibility to his family and he's also trying to save the world from Armageddon. He's not necessarily approving of how they're going about things."
Adds Henriksen, "I think they had chosen just about the hardest thing you could choose to write about - the coming Millennium and what that would mean. Good and Evil. Philosophers have been at that for centuries, since I guess year 1, trying to decide what mankind's moral direction ought to be, or lack thereof." Aside from the decided shift away from being a serial-killer-of-the-week show, Morgan and Wong began developing stories that for all appearances lacked a concrete resolution at the conclusion of each episode. While that layer of ambiguity added depth to the show, it was always Morgan's intention to tie up dangling plot lines and bring the various tangents together to make sense by the end of the season. "I haven't been watching a lot of X-Files, but I've read that people feel like they just never answer anything," explains Morgan. "But, you have to have an end. So if some of these things [in the show] are being left open, they'll be dealt with later. That's something that I'm happy with how it's turned out." Aside from the angelic-visions arc involving Lara, the introduction of the Old Man played by Archie Armstrong in episode 2, "Beware of the Dog," is another example of an element in the series that didn't make any sense at first, but was revisited and explained in a later episode.
Although the producing duo stayed fast to the course they chose for Millennium, it took time for audiences to adjust. "I think for the first third of the year reaction was really very mixed and there were a lot of angry people," remarks Morgan, who semi-regularly monitors fan conversations on the Millennium newsgroup as well as on the Usenet groups for The X-Files and Space: Above and Beyond. Although at first it seemed that viewers missed the violence of the first year, people seemed to slowly adjust to the show's new direction. "It took a while to see where we were going. Now, when I do log on, the messages are criticizing the logic of where we're going, which is absolutely fair."
Introducing mythology to Millennium proved to be a different experience than on X-Files. "Jim and I always stayed away from the mythology episodes on The X-Files," admits Morgan. "I didn't want any part of that. But doing it here was kind of a neat challenge." In expounding on the Millennium Group, Morgan conducted research on secret societies, early Christian ties, the Mafia hierarchy, and real life groups whose works revolve around the coming Millennium.
"The Millennium Group is an early Christian group that lost out," explains Morgan of the back story. A factional splintering of the Millennium Group introduced over the course of this past season, adding an extra level of intrigue and mystique to the organization. "The group itself is divided between those who think that there's a theological event coming and those who think there's a secular event that's going to change the world," says Morgan of the split.
In bringing Millennium together, Morgan and Wong brought aboard the writing team of Erin Maher and Kay Reindl; Morgan also snapped up the unique talents of his brother, Darin Morgan, the reluctant genius who was the creative mind behind such classic X-Files episodes as "War of the Coprophages," "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," and "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space.'" "Darin had said he felt bad that he didn't come and work on Space," remembers Morgan, who agreed to give Darin the opportunity to both write and direct on Millennium. As consulting producer, Darin wrote and directed two episodes for this season: "Jose Chung's "Doomsday Defense'" and "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me." In the case of Jose Chung, it was Darin's idea to bring the popular character, as personified by the inimitable Charles Nelson Reilly, to Millennium. "I think that was one of the better shows," enthuses Morgan. Surprisingly, even though Fox aired The X-Files' Jose Chung episode prior to the Millennium crossover, the audience didn't carry over between the two shows. "The ratings just went down," he laments. "It wasn't like they carried over and they dropped in the second half-hour. After The X-Files, people just turned it off. It was one of our lowest rated shows, and I really believed it would be one of the highest rated shows."
Doing the Jose Chung episode provided the year's most unexpected twist. "The Scientologists were not happy with us," remembers Morgan of the reaction to the episode by representatives of the Curch of Scientology, who objected to Jose Chung's criticism of a millennial self-help movement. "We kept saying, 'This is not about you.' But they wouldn't believe us and went back and forth. Ultimately, the episode was a great experience, and I wouldn't trade that. However, you don't like being called a religious bigot, and you don't like getting constant phone calls." That Darin Morgan wanted Jose Chung to die at the end of the episode struck Morgan as being a natural fit. "I don't know what else you're going to do with him. When I was a kid, everybody in a movie died. It's weird, because now you never see anybody die. That's just the way that character ended. As an audience member you're going to miss that guy. But you should be happy and leave that character alone, where he wanted to go."
Morgan feels that, overall, the season had its hits as well as its misses. "It's my opinion that shows 6 through 9 were a good run , while shows 1 through 5 were very consistent. I've felt pretty good about the stories since the Halloween episode, but the first five were really trying to figure it out." Morgan was particularly pleased with how the Halloween episode, "The Curse of Frank Black," turned out. "I really liked that one. Ralph Hemmeker directed, and he did a really great job. We got incredible stuff from him." The Halloween and Christmas episodes were particularly interesting experiences for Henriksen. "There are some things in these stories that are, to some degree, paralleling my life. When those parts come up, they reach me. They get to me. They nail me. A lot of these shows are about real things, about people's lives, along with a bit more of the fantasy-oriented or bizarre. Those are things that anybody can relate to. I feel as long as I don't trivialize anybody elses' pain, then we're on the right track."
Look no further than "A Single Blade of Grass," the 5th episode of the season, for an example of one of these misses. "Because there were groups of people who said, 'No, no, no, the show should be what it was last year,' I screwed up one of Erin and Kay's scripts," he explains. "I was trying to balance it out, but their script should have gone a whole new way. I just turned it into a mish-mash. You can't make two sides happy."
One of the things that frustrated Morgan to no end was Fox's ban on resurrecting the Peacock clan made infamous in Morgan and Wong's 4th season X-File episode, "Home." "I wanted to do the Peacock brothers on Millennium, where the mother and the one kid survived and Frank comes across them," laments Morgan. "I had this whole story thought out." Morgan got his hopes up when he heard that Fox planned on airing "Home" again this spring, but once again the network balked the idea. "It just drove me nuts," he sighs.
In an effort to subtly lighten up the series and add a sense of irony - if not outright humor- Morgan turned to the skill of composer Mark Snow, whose score and use of vocal standards helped set the mood and tone of many an episode. "I don't know if we were just trying to be funny or just trying to be creepy," Morgan says of the decision to enhance scenes with music from the likes of Bobby Darin. "We might have overdone it at first, but then we backed off from it a bit."
Adding any degree of humor to a show like Millennium was no easy task. "You just try to find humor where you can," explains Morgan. "It's a much more difficult show than the X-Files because sometimes you're dealing with more victims. It's harder to pitch your response. But Lance is funny. Lance as a person is nothing like that character. So sometimes it's just trying to tap into what kinds of things Lance normally does."
The early 2nd season episode, "Sense and Antisense," however, took Millennium off on another tangent, one that Morgan feels was an erroneous path. "Chip Johannessen did a good job writing that show, but I knew it was a mistake because government conspiracy is not what this show's about. It made it look like we were going after The X-Files, and we've been very careful not to do an aliens conspiracy here. Millennium is religious, theological, based upon events and not a conspiracy. I think some people saw [that episode] and went, 'Fox is trying to do another X-Files.' And that's not what we wanted to do. What we're trying to show is that the end of the world isn't just the apocalypse or a meteor coming to hit you. It's about the breakdown of communication."
Reflecting on the course of the 2nd season as production was drawing to a close, Morgan notes that, "Making Millennium has been a great experience. Chris just let us go. We haven't talked to Chris about this show since last June, and that's been really nice."
As for Millennium's future, Morgan is uncertain of the direction the series will take next, assuming Fox renews the series for a 3rd season. He and Wong will be leaving the show to pursue films and non-genre television projects; but he did make sure to complete Frank's journey this season, bringing the story full circle from where it started. "...after doing these 24 stories, I would feel that not having him get back to that house wouldn't be right. And then they're free to go wherever they want next year."
Melissa J. Prenson - Sci-Fi Flix Magazine.