Jennifer Johnson stays as unflappable as series’ star character

Copied from Duane Dudek: by a proud father.

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“‘Chase’ creator keeps cool

Jennifer Johnson stays as unflappable as series’ star character

By “island” I mean network television, by “who” I mean which series, and by “voted off” I mean cancelled.

“Lone Star” and “My Generation” are already gone. “Outlaw” is as good as.

“The Whole Truth,” “Running Wilde” and “Detroit 1-8-7” are running on fumes.

Even NBC’s plucky Thursday night sitcoms – including “The Office” and “30 Rock” – have taken hits. “Community” is in such a fight against “The Big Bang Theory” that Dan Harmon, “Community” creator, Milwaukee native and ComedySportz alum, fretted on Twitter he would kill himself if ratings did not improve. “Last night saw 3 tweets not digging the (episode) and sunk low. I KNEW it sucked! Then saw good review. Instantly fine. I KNEW it ruled,” he tweeted. Later he wrote: “The outpouring of mild-to-ironic concern for my life,” from the Twitter community, “has gotten me off the ledge.”

Three shows that could be next on that ledge all air on NBC tonight, their ratings dropping one after the other like dominoes: the science fiction series “The Event,” the spy comedy “Chuck” and the action show “Chase.” But if the publicly aggrieved Harmon is one extreme, “Chase” creator Jennifer Johnson is his unflappable opposite, not unlike the action heroine of her series, a federal marshal named Annie Frost, played by Kelli Giddish.

“I pay attention to the ratings,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “But they are not my main focus.

“My attitude is let’s make something we all can be proud of. And make sure its got lots of action and lots of scenes of Kelli running.”

Johnson’s confidence might stem from her track record on shows like “Lost,” on which she was a first-season writer and producer, and “Cold Case,” on which she was a producer. Or it might stem from the clout of the show’s ubiquitous executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has seven shows on the air this year.

“Everyone knows he knows how to craft a procedural,” Johnson said.

You would think the producer of “C.S.I.” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” would learn how to delegate but Bruckheimer “is very, very hands on.”

“He cares passionately about all his shows,” is involved in cast and crew decisions, watches dailies “and reads all the scripts,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s four years on Bruckheimer’s “Cold Case” were formative. She called it “my writer’s boot camp.”

“We were so diligent in our research and telling tight, well-crafted stories, that I don’t know how to do it any other way anymore.”

And writing for and producing the first season of “Lost” taught her “about creative surprises, twisting plots and keeping an audience on its toes.”

She was part of a “think tank” hired during the making of the “Lost” pilot “to help figure out what the show would be. How do you sustain a show where people are on an island? So we came up with flashback concepts and backstories for the characters.”

The flash forwards and parallel universes that came later “are very much Damon (Lindelof’s) way of storytelling,” she said about the “Lost” creator.

But, like other viewers, she lost track of “Lost” over the years. She admits she hasn’t even seen the final episode yet, as she was too busy creating “Chase.”

Bruckheimer approached her last summer with the idea for a show about fugitives.

And her creative process was influenced by an act of violence against a family member, which “fueled my desire to catch the bad guys.”

Right away she zeroed in on the marshals, who she said were “the first cops of the United States. There were 13 of them,” one for each colony, when they were founded, she said. And since she “didn’t want to do a suffering dark L.A. urban cop show,” setting it in “Houston was always part of the pitch. I wanted to do more of a big blue skies and the return of the American hero and the American cowboy.”

Anyone who saw the promo for “Chase” over the summer, featuring Giddish in a footrace with a felon, got an idea of what the show was about.

But the title can mean several things.

“It’s a psychological chase, and it’s a physical chase,” said Johnson.

She called it a “game of chess” and “a battle of wills” between Annie Frost and the fugitive of the week.

“Chase” is an example of how a show is often a reflection of its creator’s mind-set. As a kid Johnson “grew up watching action movies. My younger brother and I spent a lot of time chasing each other in the back yard. As an adult woman you don’t get as much of that as men do. And I miss that.”

“So,” Johnson said, “I live vicariously through Annie Frost.””

Written by Duane Dudek:

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One Response to “Jennifer Johnson stays as unflappable as series’ star character”

  1. oszust Says:

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