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Another Interview


Here is another interview with So Weird(seasons 1 and 2) executive producers Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson. It reveals some GREAT So Weird secrets. Read on!


1) Is there going to be a So Weird movie?

As far as we know, Disney Channel has no plans to do a movie at this point. But that doesn't mean they won't change their mind in the future. You have to remember that "So Weird" finds a new audience every couple of years, as new viewers come to the channel -- so to them it's kind of an "evergreen" property. I think if the ratings continue to be good over time, they might consider doing a TV movie in the future.


2) How did you get the job as executive producer and lyricist on So Weird?

Ali and I were running "Rugrats" for Nickelodeon (1996-1998), and I guess we caught the eye of the exec at Disney Channel who was developing So Weird -- a very smart guy named Lee Gaither. (Well, I guess we WOULD think he's smart, since he picked us.) (Lee's changing the look of NBC Saturday Morning now.) Lee had hired a very talented writer named Tom Astle to write the pilot, and showed us the script in early 1998, asking if we'd be interested in running the show. (Tom had said all along he wanted to keep working on ABC shows.) We loved the script, and said we were definitely interested. We got more interested when Lee, Tom and a talented director named Shawn Levy went to Vancouver and shot a pilot that was even better than the script. By June of 1998, the show got a pickup for 12 more episodes, and we got hired as showrunners.

(Side note: even before we were hired, we'd started working out the series threads, some of which came to fruition in the first two seasons -- what would happen in the course of Fi's quest for her dad, the role of the aliens, and so on. We really credit Tom for writing a pilot that was so rich in possibilities. And all of the Irish/Celtic witch backstory in Molly's family grew out of the fact that Tom picked Irish first names for the characters.)

Anyway, we were originally going to run the series from LA, but Disney Channel changed it's mind (correctly) and sent us to Vancouver, where we could really oversee the quality of the show.

As for the lyrics, I really wanted to do them myself, but I always expected someone to say "Are you nuts?" No-one ever did.


3) What is the song that is played everytime Rick is mentioned?

If you mean the guitar melody that was introduced in "Medium", it was something that our composer, Terry Frewer came up with. We got him to compose it before we shot the episode, then taught it to the actors. After that, since Terry scored all the episodes, it kind of became a signature for Rick's appearances.


4) Did you write it?

I wish. See above.


5) How did you come up with the lyrics for the songs?

I think part of it was that I personally identified with Molly in many ways. And I knew her character's backstory fully before we ever started the series. In my mind, Molly was a recovering alcoholic (which would have been discussed in an episode called "Chrysalis", the only one Disney Channel ever killed -- the slot went to "Avatar"), and that gave rise to the 12 Step oriented lyrics in "In The Darkness", which is the first one I wrote. "ITD" also continues a habit of mine, of using light/dark imagery, but not simply parallelling dark with evil -- darkness and pain are the things we have to face up to, to get where we're going. And Molly had certainly had her share.

The next song was "More Like A River", which came from a thought I had in the middle of the night. I started with the chorus -- a general emotional statement, really -- then added in the verses, which were very specific to Molly's backstory. In fact, it was really exciting for everyone on the show when we finally showed "the house in the mountains" in "Medium". It's everyone's favorite song on the show that I know of; it sounds like a love song, but of course it's Molly singing to Rick, missing him but knowing he'd want her to move on.

When we were doing our second episode ("Memory") we needed a song but couldn't find anyone to write the music to my lyrics. For "More Like A River", we chose a version written by a local musician named Brent Belke; I gave him some very specific notes about the melody, which he rewrote, and I actually re-sang the vocal line myself till it was what I wanted. The version Mack sings is based on my vocal line. (I was always very proud of that, since I wasn't ordinarily involved in the music that much.) After that, we found Annmarie Montade, and she and I collaborated on almost all the rest of the songs.

I could go into greater detail about the lyrics and how the songs came about, but each one is a story unto itself. If anyone's interested, we can revisit the subject.



6) Why didn't you work in the 3rd season?

Disney Channel wanted to go in a different direction with the show in the third season, so it was mutually agreed that we'd work on other projects for them. (We've since written "Return to Halloweentown" and an animated special that will air at Christmastime.) My biggest regret -- other than missing our cast and crew, whom we adored -- was that the series threads were never paid off. But this wouldn't really have been possible anyway, because of Cara's choice to move on to other projects at the same time. So the ending of "Twin" was re-shot to end Fi's journey (the original ending was much darker), and Alexz's character was introduced at the beginning of the third season.


7) What was the cast like?(they asked for specific occurences with:


Mackenzie Phillips - Mack was a joy, and became a good friend. Some of my favorite times were being in the studio while she sang the songs; she's pretty much a one-take wonder, getting it right the first time. She was often the glue that held the kids together, playing mom when it was dark/cold/rainy (as it often was).


Cara DeLizia - Cara was perfect for Fi because she had such a raw quality; she was so willing to bring up all her emotion and let it show -- she's very brave that way. At the end of the first season she made crystal ornaments for the entire cast and crew (150 people!). We think of her every Christmas when we hang them on the tree.


Patrick Levis - Everyone adores Pat; we keep trying to adopt him as our own but his parents won't give him up! He and von Detten became fast friends and were constantly pulling practical jokes. I was glad they finally found a way for him to sing in the 3rd season; he's a great singer (he started in musicals!).


Erik von Detten - Erik is a sweetheart. We didn't get to know him as well as everyone else, because he was gone so quickly to ABC. (He did come back to visit later, in the third season, which was great for the show -- we heard everyone was thrilled.) Our daughter was madly in love with him (she was 5 at the time -- he was too old for her).


Eric Lively - Eric came out of a difficult talent search -- gorgeous guys who could replace EVD were in short supply when everyone was trying to copy "Dawson's Creek". Although he was good at comedy, my favorite acting moment of his by far was the serious speech he has in "Roswell", by the dumpster. It's a knockout.


Belinda Metz - Belinda was and is a Canadian TV star in her own right, before she came to So Weird. She's also a great singer (going back to the disco days), and has several albums out, though it never really fit for Irene to sing on the show. She always used to hammer at us about Irene having a cell phone glued to her ear, but it was funny!


Dave "Squatch" Ward - Squatch is still a friend too. We were delighted they picked him for the pilot, because he's not your usual TV choice. We loved the fact that he looks like an ex-biker; it made him really interesting as the teacher. He's a good carpenter too; he helped us build our daughter's clubhouse.

8) Did you ever meet Alexz Johnson?


We never got a chance to. Great voice.


9) Is there a So Weird CD coming out?

We keep bugging Disney Channel about it, but they don't seem to be interested. Everyone send them emails! We know that some fans are bootlegging the songs off the air, which is sad, because the quality is terrible. We can't release them ourselves, because Disney Channel owns the publishing. I have them on CD, actually, though there's a few versions that aren't on there -- I'd love to have the version of the Wisp mangling the lyrics to "In The Darkness" from "Destiny" (I wrote a complete set of alternate lyrics and Mack sang the whole thing, but you only hear a bit of it on the show).


10) Has So Weird been cancelled? Is it coming back?

It's been cancelled. Disney Channel only ever makes 65 episodes of their shows (same with Jett Jackson), so they'd never planned to go beyond that. If it ever comes back, it would be as a movie.


11) Did you write all the lyrics?


I wrote all the lyrics for the first and second seasons. In the third season, our composer, Terry Frewer, took over both the lyrics and composing for all the songs.