Following the great success of Castle’s recent steampunk episode, “Punked” (for anyone in need of background on “Punked”, please see author G. D. Falksen’s recent review), we asked G. D. Falksen to conduct an interview with Castle’s creator and executive producer, Andrew W. Marlowe, and ask him a few questions about the show. As you may or may not know (but as Mr. Marlowe will soon reveal), the idea for the Castle steampunk episode was born from a blog post written by G. D. Falksen last year. It’s funny how you never know who is reading what, or where it might go.
G. D. Falksen:Where did you first get the idea to do a steampunk episode of Castle?
Andrew W. Marlowe:Well, honestly, you know we like going into subcultures, we like pulling back the layers of all the places in New York you can go, but it was your article on NCIS that actually inspired us. We pull articles and press on the show, and you were talking about “Vampire Weekend” and you mentioned your disappointment with the NCIS steampunk episode. So I tucked that away in the back of my mind thinking that it would actually be a great kind of episode for Castle and Beckett because of the kind of person Castle is. It felt like a subculture he would easily slide into and have some fun stuff to say about. And then when one of my writers came to me with an idea of antique dueling pistols and secret societies in New York, I thought it was a real natural mix. It’s something that when you put it on screen, you have a great deal of production value; it looks fun, it looks interesting. If you stepped out to do just a steampunk episode I think finding an access point for it might be challenging, but since it wedded so well with what my writer David Gray had come up with in terms of the duel, I just wanted to pursue it to see if we could do it really well.
GDF:You clearly did very thorough research on both the steampunk genre and the subculture for this episode. How did you go about researching the topic?
AWM:Well, you know there’s a lot of stuff online. We also talked to a couple of people in the field and we had really good conversations. Our wardrobe department met with some of the people in the field out here in Los Angeles. And for us, where so many other shows take a look at these cultures from a derisive point of view because they’re outside the mainstream, we want to do exactly the opposite. We want to bring them to the forefront and celebrate the differences. So for us, having that level of authenticity was just honoring what you guys are doing out there in the community. As a science fiction fan, I think I was a steampunk guy long before the term existed, having been a huge fan of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells and even early cinema, the stuff that Méliès was doing, where you mix those Victorian elements with the futuristic elements. For me it was a way to delve into that as well. So, you know, we just did our research. There are certain steampunk-themed evenings down here, like at the Edison downtown. So we explored some of those as well and talked to some of the people who were into it.
GDF:Was the concept for the plot developed alongside the steampunk aesthetic of the episode, or was it developed separately?
AWM:The kernel of the idea was separate, but once we had the idea of these antique bullets and the duels, we brought steampunk into it and then developed it as one story. What I was presented with was a concept that was missing story execution, but it was a really delicious concept of pulling a bullet out of somebody and the bullet’s from the 1800s. That was really exciting. But how do you service that credibly was the next step, and bringing in the steampunk aspect felt like it was a real value add for us.
GDF:The steampunk club presented in the episode was a wonderful realization of the concept. Is it an actual club, or was it more or less a set or location dressed for the part?
AWM:It was a location that was dressed that way for the part. As far as we know there is not a secret steampunk society in New York. We do know that the clubs in New York have steampunk-themed evenings, but we also know that New York is rife with secret societies. You know these brownstones in the Upper East Side where you might have a literary society; some places that are very Skull and Bones. So we took a little license with taking those ideas and putting them together.
GDF:How did the cast, crew, and production team of Castle take to doing a steampunk-themed episode? In particular, Nathan Fillion is quite popular among steampunk fans; what did he think of the episode?
AWM:For the production team, whenever we go into a world they take it as a real challenge, and our conversations are always “how do we do it well?” and “how do we do it authentically?” “How do we get the most bang for the buck visually?” “Who in the community can we go to, to become partners in this with us?” So they really took it as a challenge and they wanted to put their best foot forward, and I think they just did a terrific job. I mean it really pops onscreen. And Nathan knows what his fan base is, and he knows how many people who are big fans of his are interested in this and are participants. And as somebody who has a huge presence at Comic Con—and he’s a guy who walks the floor at Comic Con—I think that he was really thrilled and excited to have this opportunity. He got a huge kick out of the arm. He had a lot of fun with that.
GDF:Having tackled steampunk, what can viewers of Castle expect to see as the current season progresses?
AWM:Well, as much fun as it is to go into the worlds, they also have a price tag attached to them. So we can’t go into them as often as we may like, and I think that’s probably a good thing because every season needs balance. But we have a really fun one coming up, which honors some of our X-Filesroots on the show. My executive producer/director/partner Rob Bowman directed many of the X-Filesepisodes and our director of photography Bill Roe was the cinematographer on the X-Files. And in this episode, despite Beckett and Castle’s attempt to keep their focus on an earthly suspect, everything keeps pointing back to alien abduction. We start with a body, a body that presents having been killed with explosive decompression, which is something that can occur in space. But the episode is actually surprisingly grounded at the end of the day. Just like with the steampunk episode, there is the danger of becoming too fanciful for the story you’re telling, and you always have to bring it back to reality at some point. So with this we’re very cognizant of when we step into one of these territories that we have to do it justice by doing it well and also figure out the real life motives and the real life underpinnings. But it’s great, we have Lyle Lovett in the episode and he’s playing a government agent, i.e. a man in black. And Lance Henriksen is in it as a UFO abduction specialist.
GDF:Do you have any closing remarks or a message to the public that you’d like to leave?
AWM:We’re just very excited at all the people in the community who helped make the episode great, who came out and supported us that day, who participated, and we’re happy to be getting the great feedback that we’ve been getting on the show. It was just as exciting an experience for us to be able to mount it as it was for people to see it.
We are all extremely pleased at the opportunity to share some insight into the creative minds that brought you the first real coverage of steampunk on a mainstream TV show. Our congratulations to Mr. Marlowe and to all the people working on Castlefor their hard work and a job well done.
Evelyn Kriete is extremely grateful to G. D. Falksen and Andrew W. Marlowe for taking the time to do this interview. If you want to follow more of what Evelyn is up to, keep an eye on her Facebook and her Twitter, as her website is in the middle of an overhaul.