Whoosh Interview with Cynthia Hsiung - 1999

From YoungHerculesWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The following text is from Whoosh!.

An Interview With Young Hercules Producer, Cynthia Hsiung

Exclusive to Whoosh!

By Bret Rudnick
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by WHOOSH

3252 words

Author's Note: Cynthia Hsiung is the producer for Young Hercules (1998-). She, along with Executive and Co-Executive Producers, Robert Tapert and Liz Friedman, has worked very hard to get this show off the ground, and now that hard work is paying off in a steadily growing audience. Although it has some of the same talent as Xena and Hercules, Young Hercules is truly a production in its own right, with its own facilities and core staff. All of these people work very hard to make a quality production and Ms. Hsiung herself has been on the road at many conventions to get the word out. That effort has not gone unnoticed, and is certainly appreciated by fans. After the Santa Monica Hercules/Xena convention, on January 27, 1999, Ms. Hsiung graciously took a moment to share some of her experiences with us.

Joel 'Strife' Tobeck, YOUNG HERCULES Producer Cynthia Hsiung, and Kevin 'Ares' Smith.
An Interview With Young Hercules Producer, Cynthia Hsiung

Background

BRET RUDNICK:
[01] Thank you very much for sharing your time with us. How did you come to be the producer for Young Hercules? What's your background?

CYNTHIA HSIUNG:
[02][laughs] I was producing for MTV right before I came to Renaissance [Pictures]. Prior to that I had worked in development for HBO for a number of years. At MTV I was developing and producing. I moved out here to Los Angeles about two years ago. I was very lucky to meet the director of the Young Hercules (T.J. Scott, 1998) pilot, T. J. Scott. We met at a party. I immediately started talking to him about it.

[03] I love action/adventure, I grew up on Bionic Woman (1976-1978), Wonder Woman (1976-1979), anything that was action/adventure. I loved all the Japanese movies, Godzilla (Ishiro Honda and Terry O. Morse, 1956) and all of those types of films. I was a big sci-fi action/fantasy fan. I thought "Gee, if I move to L.A. I might was well produce things I'd like to watch."

[04] When I met T.J., he introduced me to Liz Friedman at Renaissance. Liz and I stayed in touch for about a year when I was producing for MTV, working on projects with The Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, etc. As the year progressed, we talked more and more about Young Hercules. Then I met Rob and we all realized we had a common thought process about the show -- we wanted it to be hip, young, stylized, fun, what have you. When the show got the green light they called me and said "How'd you like to produce this?"

Origins of Young Hercules

RUDNICK:
[05] How did the idea of Young Hercules originate?

HSIUNG:
[06] It was really Rob Tapert and Liz Friedman's invention. They decided to make the pilot, which T.J. Scott directed. He had also directed some of the more famous Xena episodes, like GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204) and the season opener this year, ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402).

RUDNICK:
[07] He also did landmark episodes like CALLISTO (22/122).

HSIUNG:
[08] Exactly. On Hercules: The Legendary Journeys he did HIGHWAY TO HADES (H24/211), THE ENFORCER (H26/213), and NOT FADE AWAY (H42/305). He directed the pilot and then it was shopped around. Fox Kids picked it up.

RUDNICK:
[09] Do you get to New Zealand very often?

HSIUNG:
[10] I've been there. I was supposed to be there twice last year and ended up going once. I was there over the summer and the second time I was supposed to go was for Ryan Gosling's eighteenth birthday. That was in November. But things started taking off, it got busy with conventions and I was needed more here in November to handle things going on with the network. So I ended up staying.

Liz Friedman

RUDNICK:
[11] In the hierarchy of Renaissance, how do your duties fit in? Do you report to Rob Tapert and Liz Friedman?

HSIUNG:
[12] All roads always lead to Rob and, yes, I do report to him. Liz started the show with me and it was a great collaborative effort. She was great to bring me into the company, teaching me, and guiding me. That rascal, she became the president of the company.

RUDNICK:
[13] I was going to say, I heard she'd been promoted recently.

HSIUNG:
[14] Exactly. With her promotion, her newfound duties meant less and less time for Young Hercules. It ended up being that I was pretty much working directly with Rob. Rob's got a very succinct sense of all of these shows and what makes them work as they have. Liz is still very present however -- she's great in terms of troubleshooting or breaking a story.

Chris Conrad, Joel Tobeck, Cynthia Hsiung, and Dean O'Gorman, having a good time at a YH cast party.

Producing the Show

RUDNICK:
[15] So is Eric Gruendemann down in New Zealand your point of contact for all production issues necessary to make the show?

HSIUNG:
[16] Yes, Eric is on the show, as well as a wonderful woman, Janine Dickins, she's our New Zealand "mom" as I like to call her.

RUDNICK:
[17] From what I've seen of Young Hercules the production values look very high. It's almost like a mini Hercules or Xena in that respect.

HSIUNG:
[18] They're shot on film, but we're on an accelerated schedule in many ways. We shoot four episodes in thirteen days, or an average of 3.25 days per episode.

RUDNICK:
[19] Is that both main and second unit?

HSIUNG:
[20] That's pretty much main unit. Second unit follows about a week behind. Second unit will vary depending. Some are shorter and some are longer. We just did one with the Golden Hind that went way over schedule. That's because deer are difficult animals to shoot. [both laugh]

RUDNICK:
[21] Do you have a core writing staff on Young Hercules?

HSIUNG:
[22] We have Eric and Julia Lewald who do a great job of heading up the writing staff. Then we have a core group of great writers, John Loy and Mark Edens. John Loy wrote an episode I know has been popular on the Internet, ARES ON TRIAL (Y15/115). Mark Edens wrote the very first episode, TREASURE OF ZEUS (Y01/101) with a story by Rob and Liz. John Loy also wrote the two hour animated Hercules/Xena (Director unknown, 1998) movie. Hilary Bader writes a lot for Xena and she writes for Young Hercules. Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster write for us too and they're HERC/Xena alum. We have a lot of crossover writers. We have a new group of writers, Mike Wollaeger and Jessica Scott, who came off of X-Files (1993-). It's a pretty exciting writing group.

Anecdotes

RUDNICK:
[23] Do you have any special memories from the episodes you've made so far? Anything come to mind immediately?

HSIUNG:
[24] I'm really proud of the writing and performances of ARES ON TRIAL (Y15/115). That was so well written and tightly put together. I like the Bacchus block [LURE OF THE LYRE (Y19/119), FAME (Y20/120), LYRE LIAR (Y21/121), and A LADY IN HADES (Y22/122)] although there are always questions about that group of four because they've been airing out of order. But I think they're visually beautiful and tell such a beautiful teenage story of love, angst, and rock and roll. [laughs]

[25] A story from the set that comes to mind is one I was talking about with Ryan Gosling lately. They were putting these red contact lenses into his eyes for an episode called FORGERY (Y13/113), which I'm also proud of. Ryan's performance in FORGERY should be nominated for an award. It's great. That's where fire from Zeus' forge consumes him and he becomes a different person. They were putting these red contacts in and they couldn't get them in because his eyes kept watering and watering. I didn't want to pry, but after about 20 minutes, I walked up to the various people who were trying to put them in and asked "Um, does anyone here wear contacts?" They all said "No." I looked at the lens on this person's finger and said "It's inside out."

RUDNICK:
[26] Oh, my!

HSIUNG:
[27] Poor Ryan, his eyes were tearing and tearing for so long. I finally told him this and he'd never heard the story. He couldn't believe they did that to him.

Demographics

RUDNICK:
[28] Would you say it's the teenage audience that Young Hercules is primarily aimed at or is it a different demographic?

HSIUNG:
[29] It's on FOX Kid's network which really caters to children mostly boys 6 to 11 as our target audience, but we also have been known as a show that has a huge teen audience. Our teen numbers have been growing and growing. We've noticed a steady climb in all our numbers but teen numbers have been shining. At the Santa Monica convention last weekend it was quite obvious that the show is extremely popular with young girls in particular.

RUDNICK:
[30] You've got some great stars with those actors playing Young Hercules, Young Iolaus and Jason, but you've also got Ares too, and that can't but help.

Kevin Smith, at the same YH cast party.

HSIUNG:
[31] Absolutely. If the convention was any telling sign, the only photos they sold out of was the Young Hercules photos.

RUDNICK:
[32] There also isn't a huge amount of merchandise for the Young Hercules audience, so people will be grateful for what there is.

HSIUNG:
[33] I think that's true. What was just so great was watching these girls. After awhile they got their nerve up a bit and were asking the boys to sign their body parts.

RUDNICK:
[34] I saw a couple of people with autographed midriffs.

HSIUNG:
[35] It was amazing. I kept telling people I thought I spent the weekend with Hanson or something. [both laugh]

More on Production

RUDNICK:
[36] Because you are dealing with a younger audience I was wondering about problems you might have to solve. I heard for example that Ares can't say "I will kill you," he has to say "I will destroy you" instead.

HSIUNG:
[37] Yes. It's true. We have something called Broadcast Standards and Practices. HERC and Xena don't have to deal with that but we do. Understandably so. They don't want children to imitate our characters in the schoolyard and say "I'm going to kill you." That's true, our dialogue has to be tweaked in that way. Ares can't say "kill" or "stupid" or other clinical terms like "idiot", "moron", or "retard". We can get away with a "kill" in a context like "He was killed". We can't say it as a threat.

RUDNICK:
[38] It has to be passive rather than active.

HSIUNG:
[39] Yes. Everyone is quite careful. It presents some interesting creative problems because we have to get through it somehow. The boys spend hours in ADR [Automatic Dialogue Replacement] to get it right because something might pass at script stage that doesn't in footage. If it comes across too strong we have to tweak it.

RUDNICK:
[40] Do you view that more as a challenge or a problem?

HSIUNG:
[41] We've gotten into a good rhythm now and FOX pretty much trusts us. We know what we can and can't get away with. We've only had to reshoot one scene so far and the reshoot came across really well. That was fine. It was a little bit too violent.

[42] Lucius, which is Hercules' half brother, was a character designed to be to Hercules what Callisto was to Xena. There was a scene between Lucius and his mother Iambi. Iambi was throwing a bowl of hot soup and it looked like she was throwing the bowl at him. So a mother doing that to a son, it was too strong for FOX Kids and we had to reshot.

RUDNICK:
[43] I notice in the production of the shows that you were contracted for 50 half hour episodes to start with. It's not like a regular prime time "season". You've just finished that first order. Is there going to be another order for more?

HSIUNG:
[44] We don't know. That's the question right now. We're not sure. It's supposed to be determined within the next couple of weeks. We're hoping for a large order.

RUDNICK:
[45] Does that make a problem with the other shows like Hercules and Xena? Do you share facilities and personnel?

HSIUNG:
[46] Ah, now that's interesting because a lot of people think we do. People think we have the same prop houses and so forth. We don't. We're quite independent on that level. With the exception of some personnel, our directors for example, who do all the shows, and the crew, are shared a little, but our compound is separate from Hercules and Xena.

RUDNICK:
[47] We've heard that the actor who plays Young Jason may be moving on to other things. Is this true and how does that affect you?

Chris Conrad smiles for the camera while Ryan Gosling plants one on Cynthia.

HSIUNG:
[48] Chris Conrad (Young Jason) is a very popular actor and he did a movie during the course of the Young Hercules production year. I think this is when the rumors began. Since we don't have a new season pick-up yet, people might be hearing from the actors what other projects they are interested in doing, but thus far, there are no plans to have any of the characters leave the show.

Upcoming Episodes

RUDNICK:
[49] So all fifty of the first season episodes are completely done.

HSIUNG:
[50] Yes. We finished shooting main unit two weeks ago and we are now posting them. February we premier new episodes. Would you like a glimpse at some of them?

RUDNICK:
[51] Absolutely!

HSIUNG:
[52] For those Kevin Smith fans, and I know there're a lot of them, there will be a lot more Ares. In particular, Kevin Smith is going to sing, as Ares. We are also going to have the much-awaited coronation of Jason, or at least we hope he becomes King since there are still one or two demons he has to fight. That's in February too. The big "wait and see" is which one of our cadets is possibly going to "be destroyed". Yes, we might be losing a cadet and you'll have to wait and see which one of our own we might lose. Also, Apollo is coming up. He was in Hercules with Young Hercules, so Apollo will be in our show. And mayyyyyybe a visit or two from the Amazons again.

RUDNICK:
[53] You can't go wrong with Amazons.

HSIUNG:
[54] I also get asked a lot if Zeus is ever going to come into the series and normally I say "no" but now I'll say "maybe".

Ratings

RUDNICK:
[55] How have the ratings been for you?

HSIUNG:
[56] The ratings have been consistently building, which is great. I think what most people were concerned about was that we did not premier with an amazing bang. We premiered fine. We were a new show, people didn't know where to find us. We did fine to start, and we've been consistently building to the point where it's obvious we have a great core audience. That's why it was important for us to get out there with the conventions to tell people when and where we were on and that we're here.

Future Directions

RUDNICK:
[57] When you do get a renewal for more episodes, do you have plans for what directions you might want to go? Will you be getting a regular female character, or will Jodie Rimmer continue to make occasional appearances?

Cynthia and Jodie Rimmer on the set. The sign thanks Liz Friedman for casting Jodie.

HSIUNG:
[58] I keep hearing one resounding thing: "More Kora!" Kora is a great character. She's only been explored briefly. She's our innkeeper and we've hinted she has a link to Artemis. We now know she's a devotee of Artemis. She's essentially enslaved to Artemis because Artemis saved her inn. Artemis taught Kora how to hunt so she could use the food for her inn. She turns into the Huntress. Kora has become a popular character but she's not a cadet. We do have a couple of new cadets being introduced in this last batch of 18 episodes coming up. Jodie is definitely in them. We have another female cadet that might be coming along with an interesting back story. Female cadets are great, but FOX has asked us to concentrate on boys. Sometimes we have to ease off on the female story lines a bit.

Amazon High

RUDNICK:
[59] We've also heard a rumor that there's a possibility Amazon High might be paired with Young Hercules.

HSIUNG:
[60] Man, wouldn't that be great? I'm amazed at how many people care about Amazon High.

RUDNICK:
[61] I have to say, that's among the most frequent questions I get. People want to see that show. We know it's been recut drastically at least once and promo reels have been made. Fans want to know and want to see it.

HSIUNG:
[62] I wish you guys could be at NATPE this week.

RUDNICK:
[63] I wish we could too!

HSIUNG:
[64] The first convention I ever went to people asked me about Amazon High. We originally thought it would be great to put Amazon High back to back with Young Hercules.

Santa Monica Convention

RUDNICK:
[65] It was great to see the success of the show at the Santa Monica convention.

HSIUNG:
[66] We wondered if people would know about the show and ask intelligent questions about it. What idiots we were! It was so successful. We heard comments such as "Not since Hudson Leick have we seen the audience get so excited." I'm sure that comment refers to outside of Kevin and Lucy's appearances. But the reaction of the Young Hercules show was unexpected. And the three boys want me to pass on their thanks to all the fans who keep supporting them! They truly appreciate their fans and are very grateful to them. They really like doing the show and want to let their fans know that.

RUDNICK:
[67] That's very good to hear. And thanks for your time.

HSIUNG:
[68] Thank *you*!

Biography

WhooshInterview06.jpg

Bret Rudnick
Whoosh! Staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP, 30/206; Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)