TCA: Human Target

If you’re finding yourself concerned that Fox’s “Human Target” might tarnish your memory of Rick Springfield’s interpretation of the DC Comics character, then it means 1) you’ve got a really long memory, and 2) your memory is perhaps a little faulty, because Springfield’s version really wasn’t that good. Fortunately, what I’ve seen of the new “Human Target” actually is pretty good…if you like action-packed spectaculars, that is.

“Yeah, the show is a lot about action,” admits McG, one of the series’ executive producers. “But, truthfully, what I respond to mostly about the show is indeed the writing and the ability for these three guys to entertain. My favorite moments in the show are the character moments between what I think is an interesting triangle where you have three characters that occupy very different space. There’s nothing about each that would step on the other’s toes, and that, for me, makes it very entertaining to watch.”

The first episode takes place on a train, the second on a plane, and, yes, there’ll be an episode set on a boat coming up in due course. (Chi McBride claims there’s also one on a tractor, but we’re pretty sure he’s kidding.) Yes, set-piece stuff has been done to death via just about every mode of transportation there is, but McG’s fellow executive producer, Jonathan E. Steinberg, swears that they’re trying to expand beyond the predictable.

“We’re trying to do something you’ve never seen before in every one of them,” he says. “That’s the challenge for us: to kind of wade into a genre that’s been trod over for a long time and find a way to turn it on to you every week.”

Taking the original comic book character and making him into a TV series wasn’t quite as easy in 2009 as it was back when Springfield was playing the part, owing to the reinvention of the Human Target through DC’s Vertigo line of comics. “When I tell people that I was doing research for the character, I was reading the DC Comics,” said Valley. “Then I started reading the Vertigo Comics, and there seems to be a fairly significant departure when it goes into Vertigo. The characters seem to become a little bit thinner, a little more introverted, and a little more obsessed with his own existentialism. And the original DC character seemed like a little more like what Jon has on the page, actually. So in terms of kind of sticking with what the original character was, I think we are right in line.”

“When Peter Johnson and I first sat down and it was just the property and there really wasn’t anything other than that, I think we kind of decided that we would look at it as a bit of a clean slate,” said Steinberg. “There were pieces of it we wanted to preserve, but we would just take what it was and turn it into the best story and the best TV show we could make. And we were fortunate enough that…it took eight months or a year, but Len Wein, who created the character originally, came into our office and said he just fell in love with the pilot. So we must be doing something right. We felt like, at that point, we were on pretty firm footing.”

“Plus,” added McG, “we didn’t want to get caught up in wigs and mustaches and cloaking. We didn’t want to get involved in cloaking Mark every week. It just seemed like the right thing to do to just get out there and let your acting chops do it.”

“We’ll see how that works out,” smirked Valley.

Although Valley is definitely the show’s lead, there’s no question that his two co-stars, Jackie Earle Haley and Chi McBride, are just as important to the show, thanks in no small part to their chemistry together. Jackie’s character, Guerrero, loves to get under the skin of Chi’s character, Winston, whenever possible…and it never fails to work. It’s a character dynamic that McBride is, to say the least, somewhat familiar with.

“I think that I enjoy playing characters who are often annoyed,” said McBride. “And Jackie loves that, because he takes great pleasure as Guerrero in just needling Winston, but I think they still have a familial relationship, but it’s almost like a brotherly kind of relationship. There’s jabs, but, you know, deep down they both have a healthy respect for each other, and that’s what makes us all a family. It’s a dysfunctional family, but we all put the fun in dysfunctional.”

“And we have a blast,” added Haley. “Working with this guy, it’s…well, with everybody, but Chi and I, when we’ve got our scenes and some days together, it’s pretty neat. We were just shooting a sequence in an airport at midnight on Saturday night…”

“In 40-degree weather,” noted McBride.

“…and we’re still having a blast out there,” finished Haley. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great experience.”

As far as his character goes, Haley was intrigued by the idea of such a unique individual existing within the action-hero world of the series. “He’s definitely an unhinged character,” he admits, “and that always kind of fascinates me. It’s a fun process still working with these guys in terms of figuring out exactly where we are going with them. It’s a neat process as every week a couple more little layers kind of come to be. So it’s kind of fun developing and getting to some multi-dimension with this guy.”

Now, when you combine his use of the word “unhinged” to describe Guerrero, then toss in the fact that Haley has played Rorschach in “Watchmen,” and will be seen taking over the mantle of Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake, you may be surprised to find that the real Jackie Earle Haley is actually a pretty normal guy…and he’s certainly not going around, trying to kick people’s asses.

“I guess maybe I like to do things that are opposite of me,” he said. “For some reason, it’s like the characters I play are really kind of nowhere near me. I’m pretty much an amicable guy. I try to avoid conflict, and I definitely walk away from, like, physical conflict. I am an avid exerciser. I’ve done a lot of karate stuff, but that’s more for fun and for physical fitness. I’m not out trying to get into fights.”

We’ll give the final word on “Human Target” to McBride: when asked if he had any expectations for the show, as far as whether or not he could sense if it was going to be a hit, he replied, “Well, I have been on a couple of critical darlings that have lasted all of 10 or 12 minutes, so I would like to say to all of you today, ‘Do me a favor: like us. Don’t love us.’”

  

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