Jeremy Carver doesn’t necessarily consider his new series “Frequency” a time-travel show, though it’s a handy shorthand in a season lousy with time travel programs.
“Let’s put it this way: It’s a lot snappier to say it’s a time-travel show than a cross-time communication show,” the showrunner told TheWrap in a recent interview about his series, which is an updated remake of the 2000 Dennis Quaid film of the same name.
This time around, it’s 2016, and police detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) inexplicably finds herself able to communicate on an old ham radio with her father, Frank (Riley Smith) — shortly before his death in 1996.
Carver, who is a big fan of the film, also discussed why he gender-swapped the main character, why he kept the central communication device a ham radio despite such a tech-savvy world and how List and Smith developed and maintained their chemistry even as they never shared the screen.
TheWrap: Why “Frequency?”
Jeremy Carver: It came together from always having loved the movie. I loved the central connection between father and son, and saw an opportunity to expand on that for a potential TV series.
Why gender-swap the main character?
For me, it was the most exciting way to go. Pretty familiar with father-son relationships, and I really enjoyed movies and shows that delved into that — everything from “Field of Dreams” to “Frequency.” I thought it was a neat idea to have the daughter, there’s a little bit more of a mysterious relationship, particularly when you rip away the idea that every daughter has to be daddy’s little girl. It became more of a dynamic way to go.
How did your cast develop this father-daughter chemistry despite being almost the same age and never sharing the screen?
The cast has been extraordinary. Riley Smith and Peyton List, basically every scene they had together, they’re not in the same room. So it requires a tremendous amount of preparation and trust between the two actors to give as much as they do in each of these scenes. In fact, they made this promise to one another to be in theses scenes, huddled off-camera, in these ham radio scenes, to lend help with the intimacy of the scenes.
As far as the rest of the cast, from Mekhi Phifer to Devin Kelley, those guys are pulling double duty, playing the older and younger versions of their characters. In many ways, they’ve got the really heavy lifting of the show. They’ve been tremendously versatile in how they’ve approached it. The thing that’s been the saving grace for all of them has been the incredibly natural and organic ways they’re coming to these characters. At heart, it’s a high-concept genre show, which never feels like it, because of the naturalness our leads are all bringing to their parts.
Do you consider “Frequency” a time-travel show?
I know we’re lumped in it, there’s a bunch of time-travel shows this season. Let’s put it this way, it’s a lot snappier to say it’s a time-travel show than a cross-time-communication show. So I’m happy to be labeled as time travel, even though we’re really not.
Are there time-travel rules in this universe?
There are butterfly-effect rules in this universe, although we try and keep them contained to a very personal level. It’s not something like every episode ends with, this episode so-and-so is president, another episode the Germans have taken over — it’s on a personal level. We do use certain rules of the butterfly effect, very much in our storytelling. It’s part of what stretches it beyond your normal police or drama drama.
Why did you keep the ham radio even though the show is set decades after the original movie, in a very post-Internet, tech-savvy world?
There’s something very sweetly nostalgic about this ham radio. Even for people out there who don’t know what a ham radio is, you sense there’s something special about this sort of, I’m calling it a “golden box.” It’s its own living, breathing thing, and it just feels very special. I think because it’s so lo-fi, it lends itself to create a greater air of authenticity in the show. I don’t think many people are, after watching the pilot, questioning the high concept. People seem to be taken in by the characters and go with it. Whether they realize it or not, the ham radio, because it’s so nonthreatening in a way, it’s not some hi-tech computer, is almost a comforting way into the sci-fi.
“Frequency” premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.