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ANGEL: Supervising Producer Tim Minear
Guiding the repentent vampire on the road to redemption.
By Edward Gross
July 24, 2000
Try as he may, ANGEL supervising producer Tim Minear seems unable to remove himself from the sci-fi and horror genres. Alright, admittedly he's probably not trying all that hard to escape a form of storytelling that has been very good to him, but it is certainly peculiar how he continues to be drawn toward it. Minear has worked as story editor on LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. He served the same function on THE X-FILES. And, more recently, he served as a producer on STRANGE WORLD. Although only 13-episodes were shot and of those ABC aired only three, it was this show that more or less led to Minear's writing for ANGEL, as STRANGE WORLD'S producer Howard Gordon, who had been a creative consultant on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, was serving for a brief tenure in the same capacity on ANGEL.
'Howard was really pushing me for ANGEL,' Minear explains. 'We sort of still wanted to work together after STRANGE WORLD. But I was resistant about was going back and doing a genre show. There was actually interest in me in other mainstream shows like LAW & ORDER, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do the genre thing again because I had sort of done it. But the notion of working with Joss Whedon was the thing that sort of pushed me over the edge and I ended up taking it. They offered it to me very early, before any of the other shows were firming up any other offers. They were trying to staff quickly, and [executive producer] David Greenwalt was pretty persistent.
'I had had experience before where I'd be on a show and the leading man was, let's say, only okay,' Minear continues. 'What I learned was that if you had a star, a guy who could really carry the show, then you could probably have a success, and I thought David Boreanaz was just that guy. I think a lot of people weren't sure, based on his role in BUFFY. He sort of played this one-note thing, but I thought he could do a whole lot more. I also thought that he was a lot like David Duchovny in that this is a guy you want in your living room. In television it's very tricky. You can go to a movie and you can see somebody like John Malkovich. You could go specifically to see that guy, but do you want him in your living room every week? I think David [Boreanaz] is sort of a classic leading man, action star-type guy. I think he's definitely got the charisma for it and I think he's got the chops for it, as he proved all year. He's just gotten better and better.'
Boreanaz probably best proved his range in the second season of BUFFY, when Angel lost his soul and reverted back to the evil Angelus, spending most of the year torturing, maiming or killing those closest to the Buffster. 'He just blew everybody away,' enthuses Minear. 'He's really good, and the nicest guy ever. No attitude at all. He totally sets the tone on the set, and the crew loves him. He's a real workhorse. He's got to be, because he's in practically every scene. Just a pleasure.'
The proof of the actor's strength is the fact that the show's ensemble has shifted and changed over the course of the season, and Boreanaz has continued to be its anchor. First we lost Doyle, then we gained Wesley. Faith came aboard briefly, went in an unexpected direction and will hopefully return next year, and then there was the addition of Gunn - a street kid who passed the time killing vampires, until he ran in to Angel.
'Building an ensemble definitely gives you more places to go,' Minear opines. 'I think it's like the difference between a combo and an orchestra. Oboes are great, but you don't want just oboes. You want to have the full complement of the sound so you can create what you want. I think we're getting there, and you can see that Joss has done it brilliantly on BUFFY. He just kept adding characters and you're thinking there's just no way he can service all of them, but he does. Each one brings something interesting to the dynamic and changes it in some fundamental way. I just think he has been really brave in doing that. And each character is so specific.'
He thinks that Faith, in particular, is a good example, the character seemingly coming to kill Angel, but ultimately putting a wedge between Angel and Buffy in her quest for redemption. 'That story just really fell into place,' he says. 'Joss had some very specific ideas. It was just so clean and simple that I loved it. Wolfram and Hart hire Faith to assassinate Angel and, really, she's got a death wish. It's just that simple. The turn doesn't come to the very end, and it's just beyond powerful. The way they played it, it gets me every time I see it. I also have to say that Joss continues to amaze me. He's my favorite person I've ever worked for. The other thing that I like about, for instance, THE X-FILES, BUFFY or ANGEL, is that there's somebody at the top who has a specific vision, and I think that's what makes a great TV show.'
And what has made ANGEL a great experience for the writer are the themes that the show - and the character of Angel himself - try to explore. 'What I like about the whole idea of ANGEL is the concept of redemption,' Minear offers. 'And this idea of recovery as well. You look at the show on its face and wonder how anyone can relate to it. It's sort of about twenty-somethings, but the lead character is 240 and change. The truth is, here's a guy who's choosing
to be good. He's got stuff in his past that he's got to make up for. I keep saying this, but one of my favorite experiences was writing the episode where he 'eats' his family. To me, that's so interesting. You don't see that on television every day. The lead character has not only got a past, but he's got a huge
past and it's horrible
. So the darkness appealed to me. Actually, the Joss Whedon sensibility combined with that darkness is right up my alley. And I really appreciate the humor and trying to make it smart, and the inherent drama. The thing about BUFFY and ANGEL is that sometimes Buffy is called campy, but it's really not. It's incredibly dramatic and I don't think Joss ever resorts to camp. I think that it's more of a sensibility; it's such a specific voice. But the thing I like about ANGEL is the dark aspects of it.'
One thing that ANGEL has in common with such shows as HIGHLANDER and FOREVER KNIGHT is that it features a lead character that has been alive for several centuries. That enormous lifetime opens up the possibilities for flashbacks into the character's past, which in turn inform the current storyline. 'I definitely love going into his past,' Minear enthuses. 'I've noticed that on some of the Internet boards they say we're ripping off FOREVER KNIGHT, which I think is funny because apparently they're both vampire detective shows. So you're going to go certain places with a guy who has a couple of hundred years under his belt and who has a violent past and is trying to redeem himself. Obviously, there are similarities. I don't think we want to overdo the flashback stuff, but I love it. I know that David does, too.
'If you look at our flashbacks over the course of this season anyway, they're sort of a piece,' he adds. 'In 'Prodigal', the flashbacks took place before he was turned into a vampire and up until that moment, and then in 'Five by Five' it was after he got his soul back. Actually, right before and right after he got his soul back. So we're telling the progression in the flashbacks, but in separate episodes, and I think that that's interesting.'