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An Interview With Supervising Producer

Karen Harris

by Scott Thomas

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This September will see the debut of the spin-off series Highlander II (our title, not theirs), which picks up where the original series left off and stars Elizabeth Gracen as the morally ambiguous Immortal, Amanda.

This new series is not a continuation of the Adrian Paul original, but, instead, takes that show's recurring character of Amanda and transplants her to her own series of adventures.

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In the midst of writing the script for the first episode, supervising producer Karen Harris took the time to preview the show. This interview is an excerpt from an article on the spin-off that will appear in RetroVision #3.

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Q: What are the challenges of following up a show that's been on the air for six years and has gained such a strong following?


A: The challenge is to give it its own personality without losing the heart of what Highlander is. To keep the intelligence of the original show but give this its own turn. Give it something fresh and a slightly different perspective because we're coming at it from a different Immortal's point of view. There's also a basic difference in that Duncan, even though he had friends, was very much a man alone. Here we have a woman we're picking up at a point in her life where she's ready to embrace a mortal man as a friend or whatever they may become; where she's willing to share a piece of her life. In my mind Duncan was more of a loner. Even though he had friends, the approach of the series was a man alone and the approach of this series is more of a partnership. That's a whole interesting element to explore. Creatively, the challenge is how do you make these two people equals; how do you make it her not rescuing this guy every week, which I don't think would be necessarily appealing to an audience. Yet we have a character here in Amanda who is anything but a victim. There's an equality to the relationship that is going to be interesting to explore.


We're doing season one of a new series, not season seven of the old series. Not having to do season seven without Duncan is a relief, because that would have been a daunting task. This was a character and background that was introduced previously, and a background that's interesting and a cross to bear in terms of being Immortal, but we wanted to approach it in a fresh way. Amanda is such a great character, such a pirate, that it makes it a lot of fun. Plus on this show we're watching her kind of getting a new lease on life.


You've got to figure that when people live hundreds and thousands of years, then you assume their basic nature is the same but they can still learn and grow. We're going to see Amanda at a point in her life where the last couple of hundred years maybe haven't have been as productive as they might have been. She won't be a philanthropist, but I think her compassion level is going to be raised somewhat. She's going to become a little bit more sensitive. In my mind Amanda is taking, as many Immortals can, life for granted. Something happens in the first two episodes that is something of an epiphany for her, where she realizes you don't waste the days you have. Yet she's going to have old habits she's going to be tempted to fall back on. That's the plan. We very much say this isn't "Touched by an Immortal", absolutely not. Not that that doesn't have its value or its place, but that's not what this show is. This is Amanda rediscovering herself.


Additionally, her past is going to come back and bite her on the ass a bunch. Even if she is making an attempt to do what she thinks is right, if that's her goal whether she achieves it or not, she could turn around and there's somebody she's screwed 250 years ago. There are just numerous possibilities. And the pirate she is is going to play against this guy who's also not homogenized. He was a cop and his life has been playing by the rules. So the two of them, together, are going to be a pretty interesting combination.



Q: In the show she's working with an ex-cop named Nick, and the two of them help people in need. How do these two people get involved in situations?


A: We're still working out the details about that. There's going to be two additional recurring characters, neither of whom have been cast yet. One is Lucy, who is Amanda's housekeeper/confidante. She lives at Amanda's house, takes care of her and knows that she's Immortal. But Lucy is not Immortal. Then there's going to be a young Native American character whose name is Johnny, and he's going to be a computer freak. That may be where the situations come from, they hear of things on the Internet. The first one they're drawn into is Johnny's grandfather, who was a Navajo code breaker in World War II and a spy, and somebody Amanda had once known. They get drawn into that story and that's how they connect up with Johnny. We're now exploring the possibility of Johnny being their window into problems; he'll come to them and say, "There's this guy I've been talking to on the Internet and he's got this or that problem." Again, they're not hanging up a shingle like Moonlighting. It won't always be that way. There will be people from
Amanda's past, but there may not be an Immortal villain on a regular basis. The challenge won't always be who is the Immortal of the week? They will be a little more involved in the world as we know it, but always informed by her background. That will always come into play in one form or another.


It's a daunting process, but I think Highlander gives us a solid foundation to start with because of the history of the show, and the built in fan base which we're hoping not to disappoint. And certainly an interesting character in Amanda, and her partner in this is turning out to be her equal as far as being sharp and fast and on the ball. We'll see what happens and keep our fingers crossed that everyone likes it as much as we do.



The full length article on the spin-off series features interviews with Harris, executive story editor James Thorpe and Highlander guiding force David Abramowitz.