Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Saul Rubinek, who plays Artie, the gatekeeper of secrets on "Warehouse 13," recently revealed the secret of his show's success. He told BTS the Syfy series was successful for five seasons because its showrunner, Jack Kenny, was on set.
One might think that's a minor point - something that surely wouldn't have an impact on a show's longevity. But consider this: When a cast member or director wants to make changes within an episode, they can't - not easily, anyway, and typically not without prior approval.
So, the final result is not what it could be had the change been granted.
The cast and crew on "Warehouse 13," on the other hand, were together in Toronto. They could work together to create the most dynamic episodes.
Rubinek described it this way:
"What was really - the biggest thing that I learned, since I'm also a writer, and in fact, Jack Kenny and I are working on two projects together. ... I learned a tremendous amount from watching Jack work.
"Here's a guy who started right after the pilot. He came onboard when we started doing the show after the pilot and stayed on till the very end.
"(He) insisted on certain things that made the show great - that I wouldn't have understood if I hadn't been working with the show runner of such high caliber and such good humor, grace, and the ability to both be a father figure for his writers and a leader and a father figure for us as actors on the set.
"So, things that I didn't understand are very practical things that your very sophisticated fans now understand. As I've gone around to conventions, I see how sophisticated and knowledge people are, about how the industry works, so an answer like mine might not seem out of place, even though it might be a bit technical. ...
"Jack insisted with NBCUniversal and Syfy that he hire his writers early. Why that made a big difference is they could break stories and get the scripts - a number of scripts ahead. When he got a number of scripts ahead, that meant Jack could travel from Los Angeles, where the writer's room is, where 10 to 12 writers are working together, and travel 3,000 miles to Toronto and be on the set with us.
"Why is that important? Well, if you talk to most actors who are doing television series, far distant, whether it's in Texas or in, you know, in Atlanta, or wherever they're doing shows, in Vancouver, far away from where the writers are. If the head writer is 3,000 miles away, there's a time difference that makes things difficult if something happens on the set. The directors and the producers that are working at far distance, say, 'Just, you know, do it as written,' and they have to keep that general rule in play, because chaos might reign, although one actor may be really good at changing things.
"If an actor who is not good at changing things sees that one actor changing things, they may also want to. It's much easier to have a general sense of rule. And actors on a series get very frustrated when those edicts come from afar. It's all done with the best of intentions and trying to keep the show of a certain quality, but what creeps into a show is a certain amount of disgruntledness from a cast when they don't feel that they're being heard. And it's usually a question of time distance, time and distance, not because people are, you know, totalitarian in nature.
"And here we are, because of Jack's particular brilliance and the way he was able to fight and the support that he got from both the studio and the network, that because shows were broken early, he was able to be on the set with us for over 70 percent of the time, which meant that he could see as things were developing in the blocking, that it wasn't quite as was imagined in the writers' room. The actors were bringing some goofy stuff to the table or serious stuff or a poignant moment here or there, and he would rewrite on the spot. And as a result, we felt, collaboratively, we were blessed.
"The reason, one of the reasons the guest stars wanted to come back - we were all reasonably nice, that's true, but a lot of shows have reasonably nice people - it's that they felt you could collaborate. They felt our joy of being on the set with the head writer there in the flesh, and things changed on the spot - sometimes improvisationally.
"Very unusual, that creative collaboration, which is not simply a result of will, but a result absolutely of planning and dollars support from the network and the studio, so the writers have more time to write, which costs more, which allowed that to happen on the set, created an atmosphere that gave the fans what they got.
"That was the thing I learned and something I'd never experienced before and difficult to repeat unless you have somebody of Jack's caliber and that kind of support."