How did Midnight Grindhouse come to be, as a production company? Who’s idea was it?
JR: Midnight Grindhouse is officially part of the title. “Midnight Grindhouse presents Blood Drive” was on the very first script, but isn’t actually a production company. The idea was that if the show is successful it could expand into other things and use the brand Midnight Grindhouse to connect it all. I really miss event TV like TGIF and Disney Afternoon when I was a kid. Thought it would be amazing to tune in to Syfy for a full night of Grindhouse programming. Might not happen but you gotta dream big, right?
How much have ya’ll been influenced by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, of “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof?” Or the original “Death Race 2000,” with David Carradine?
JR: For me, in terms of Planet Terror and Death Proof, a lot. But not as much as you might think. The original double bill Grindhouse was freaking awesome, but it cost 40 million dollars. Our entire season was the entire budget of ONE of those movies so we had a lot less to work with, which oddly made us a lot more genuine in terms of exploitation cinema. We had to pull all the cheap tricks the old timers used. In terms of Death Race 2000, never referenced it intentionally, believe it or not, but definitely subconsciously. When people started making the comparison it really clicked and I was like “yeah, that sounds about right.” Love that original movie. David Straiton used parts of it as a sort-of tone reel to help pitch the first season.
Did casting play a big role in the writing of the characters, or was it the other way round?
Will “Blood Drive” be hitting any of comic cons in the near future?
JR: We’re still waiting to hear, don’t know for sure. But hope so!
How did you three blood drops (James, John Hlavin, and David Straiton) meet? I know James worked on “Shooter” as asst producer and John wrote *alot* of the episodes, but how does David fit in?
JR: Actually IMDB might be misinformed. John would not let me work on Shooter after I pitched him “Bob Lee Swagger makes a shot … from the moon.” I actually met John in a coffee shop in beautiful — not at all a boring place people move to when they get married — Encino, CA. Syfy set it up to see if we liked each other, which is code for they sent John to meet me to make sure I wasn’t a crazy person. We absolutely did not have sex.
As for David, he was one of the first directors to read the script. He was in Columbia working on a show and got injured. He flew back to LA for a surgery then I met him the next day, hopped up on pain killers. My first thought was “this guy is WAY more rock and roll than I am … that’s a good thing for the show.” And I was right, he was a part of Blood Drive on the ground floor and really shaped the tone and feel of the show, even being in the writers room. He’s the reason for the badass opening of episode 6, that was his idea.
Did ya’ll really expect “Blood Drive” to be so insanely popular? Or that the actors would get the love they’re getting?
JR: Regarding the show, with genre niche fans, absolutely.
Regarding the actors, hell yes. Alan Ritchson was Arthur Bailey from his first audition, he just walked into the room and it was a given. Christina Ochoa was relatively unknown other than Animal Kingdom and now she basically runs Hollywood and will have THREE TV shows going at the same time because, holy crap, she’s talented. Thomas Dominique and Marama Corlett (Christopher and Aki) are going to blow people away. Fearless. The shit they did for the show and the honesty they brought to every weird moment was amazing. And of course Colin Cunningham. No joke, a year after watching his audition tape I still pull it out to show people, it’s that good.
I could go on and on. All the actors rocked it and the talent pool from South Africa was pretty amazing. Brandon Auret as Rib Bone was actually the first actor we cast for the entire show. I saw his tape, called John, and begged to just hire him before we lost him. Perfect Rib Bone. He practiced for like a month for the audition, even grew his hair out, it was intense.
I wrote the characters Domi and Cliff for two of my friends in Los Angeles who obviously couldn’t move to South Africa, but now that I’ve seen Jenny Stead and Craig Jackson in those roles … who ELSE could play them?! No one.
I love the way ya’ll introduce the drivers. When will ya’ll start assigning points to people?
JR: There were a lot of side-rules we created for the race, like Carnage Points and “Pop Chases” where the racers had to achieve mini goals along a certain leg of the race, but all of that fell by the wayside as the show evolved because we realized it was really more fun to just have them drive, get into trouble, fight their way out, and keep driving. At least for the first half of the season, the second half dives more into character and mythology.
I also love the way ya’ll slide the main storyline in…almost as if it was an after thought. Very slick….Let’s see where Karma takes us.
JR: Can’t wait to show you.
Where did the cars come from? And how many stunt drivers did ya’ll go through?
JR: Surprisingly, we had very few injuries on set and all of them were minor. Every episode had fighting, jumping, fire bursts, car chases … but we had an amazing stunt team lead by Kerry Gregg and an awesome SFX crew that kept us safe. As for our cars, David Straiton had the foresight to fix up two Camaros and bring them to South Africa from the States, along with Clowndick’s car — a Ford Mach 1 I think. Everything else was from Africa so we constantly had to hide the fact the steering wheel was on the wrong side. As for the engines, they were designed by Alex Wheeler who is insane. And a fucking genius.
Who runs the two twitter accounts? Or is that an “I could tell you, but then I’d have to feed you to an engine?”
JR: I run @BloodDriveTV and @heart_a_tech but some mysterious person from Universal runs @BloodDriveSyfy and they do an incredible job with it. We absolutely have not had sex.
Darren Paul Kent is beautiful as the Scholar. Who came up with such a sensitive character, in such a harsh world?
JR: Originally The Scholar was a much darker character. I won’t give away his ending, but it’s not nearly as bleak as our original pitch. As the show evolved he became so much more empathetic, and when we cast Darren who is just like a raw conduit of emotion, there was no other choice. He was so perfect and he shines on screen. All the lead actors do, in my opinion, and so many of the day players from South Africa. We had amazing casting directors.
Favorite characters from the show: who and why?
JR: My wife likes to say that I’m half Arthur, half Slink. We absolutely have not had sex.
When do we get to the Suck Bus?
JR: When you pay your $2.99 (also the Suck Bus gets a LOT of play in episode 5)