Saturday at the C2E2 Comic and Entertainment Expo in Chicago, the CW show “Nikita” had some time in the spotlight at the IGN theater. The panelists were executive producer and show creator Craig Silverstein and series star Shane West, a last minute replacement for series star Maggie Q, who had to back out because of changes in the production schedule. The final episode of the season (and hopefully not the series) is currently being shot up in Toronto.
I’ll issue the SPOILER ALERT right now, but trust me when I say it’s spoiler lite. Both Craig and Shane were very careful not to give too much away. Still, for those that don’t even want minor clues, this report might not be for you.
Everything got started with a nicely produced clip, combining scenes with the past with some really awesome teasers from upcoming episodes. It really captured the tension that’s been building all season long coming to a head. It highlighted the strained relationship between Michael and Nikita, the fight that Alex is facing over control for her father’s company, and Ari and Amanda on the run. It all builds up to Percy on the warpath, and it looks like Nikita will be captured by him. While she’s in captivity, he promises to take something precious away from her (yeah, it’s probably Michael). Trust me when I say, it’s a pretty intense clip. There’s also Birkhoff and Ryan, which always makes me happy.
The moderator of the panel was Curt Wagner, who does the Show Patrol column for Redeye Chicago. He had a bunch of fan questions, and a lot were for Maggie, so he thought it would be fun to ask Maggie’s questions to Shane. The first one, “Is Shane West a good kisser?” Shane - “Absolutely.”
Before I get too ahead of myself, I must say that Shane West was looking mighty fine in that brown leather jacket. He had worked until late in the night and arrived into town earlier that morning, but his fatigue wasn’t showing too much. Perhaps that large cup of coffee he was carrying did the trick.
The Mikita romance was the first topic on the forefront. Shane likes that it happened and in a season or less. They didn’t expect it. “It gives the show some extra life to it.” Craig - “Plus I get yelled at if I don’t put in so many kisses per show.” Craig admitted that it happened sooner than they had planned and that’s brought some challenges in season two. “It’s been in rocky in season two trying to figure out how to keep it together, keep it apart, keep it interesting. We’re getting into really cool places with it.”
“What’s the current status of Mikita?” Craig eluded to the fact that the opening video clip addresses that question. “The episode that airs next Friday answers that definitively. I think it’s one of the best of the season.” Shane agreed. “Yes, it’s amazing. I’m excited to see it.”
The next question, someone has been reading my mind. “We will pay anything for a Mikita sex scene. Maybe the shower scene we’ve been asking for a long time.” Shane smiled, for he’s read that a lot. Craig made a promise. “If we get season three we’ll have a lot of sex.” Shane - “You heard it here first.” Craig said to start campaigning for season three. Where do I sign??
Along those lines, “Michael does really love Nikita though. How far will he go to save her or to help her?” Shane said that question will be answered in the next episode as well. “He’d lay down his life for her at this point, and you get the sense she would too. They’re kindred spirits in that sense. They do in every episode, even in season one when they weren’t together because it’s just the high stakes of what’s going on in their world and in this world and their lives are always on the line. Whether it’s for Nikita, Alex, Birkhoff or any other characters on the show. I think it’s answered almost daily, or per episode. They would clearly put themselves on the line to save each other.”
The next question was for Craig. Almost every character on the show has shifted, in their allegiance, their attitude, their position of power. Is that really important for him as a writer to keep that shifting going? Why can’t other shows do that kind of thing? Craig believes that some detective shows are setup to do that, but in his case he gets bored and restless easily. He thinks that in Nikita that kind of shifting is realistic. “If you’re going to put Nikita up against one enemy like Division or Percy than after a while if she doesn’t win or they don’t win then they both seem weak. Something’s got to give along the way and there has to be real consequences otherwise you feel like everyone’s going to be okay all the time.”
Is it a conscious decision to have these long action story arcs? Craig - “We always start out saying we’re going to have a bunch of standalone cases and then it turns out we’re really not that interested in that, we’re interested in the arcs and the things that happen between the main characters in the show more than like some guest star coming in.”
Have there been any unexpected story lines in this season? They had a lot of things planned out, but they didn’t plan out Amanda and Ari being together. That was a surprise to them half way through the season.
“Speaking of Percy, last we saw him in Division. Is that guy ever going to die?” Craig - “Everyone on the show dies in the next episode. Oh shit!” Shane implored us to watch that one. (Yes, everyone in the room was laughing.) Craig - “He’s got one of those force fields built up around him.”
Percy is a big player at the end of the season. “He’s got a big end of season plan like he had last season. Like last season I can tell you it seems to go one way and turns in another. I think we lay out all the clues so that you can see it if you’re savvy enough. I’m going to be watching to see if people can guess what he’s really up to for the finale, the last two.” The moderator mentions the plutonium in the clip. Yes, there’s plutonium involved.
The next episode is “Wrath.” Any teasers? Craig - “That one is really good. It’s surprising to see where Maggie goes in it. It shows a side of her character that we actually haven’t seen before. There’s a real darkness that’s in her that I don’t think she wants to confront, but it gets forced out of her. It makes sense when you see it, but I don’t think she sees it coming.”
What’s happening with Nikita right now, especially with the most recent episode where she began to have her doubts about her role in Division, she feels a lot of guilt and inner conflict. Craig - “It’s really important for where we’re going to end up at the end of the season. That’s what this season’s about, the mix of that.” Can she ever forgive herself? “I think she works it out by trying to forgive other people. Gotta start somewhere.” Will Michael help her? Shane - “I think he has. Those are deep rooted issues for anyone so I think it’s trust over time. I think we’ve established that already. It’s baby steps, especially on a series.”
The topic of action vs. character dynamics came up. The character dynamics certainly have given the show something more than being all action. Craig - “We can’t afford straight action. We had to break for some of that budget. It makes the action mean something.” Shane - “From an actors prospective, it makes it worthwhile. The action for me that’s wonderful, like being a kid again. That’s always exciting. The depth in the character you want, the story arcs you want, that’s what makes it truly interesting. It keeps you come back for more. The action is the icing on the cake.”
Speaking of action, Craig promises a really cool Michael fight in episode 21. “It’s been a while since there’s been a big Michael hand to hand fight.” Since they’re on the subject of fights, are they really surprised after filming a fight sequence with the finished product? The big body slam in episode 17 of an MI6 agent comes to mind. It looked like they broke the guy’s back.
A disgruntled reader had a less than cordial question for Curt to ask (gotta love readers on the net). “Hey loser, ask Shane to demonstrate on you what Michael does when he has to “cancel” someone.” Obviously he didn’t want Shane to do that, but it did lead to another good question, what sort of training have they had to do in prepping for the show? Shane didn’t expect as much gun play but he had some prior experience with guns. As for the fighting, he didn’t realize Michael was as talented with that. “The fight coordinators are really amazing.” The craziest has been knives. Shane loves the training and endurance aspect, even though they don’t get a lot of training time. They did a great job of hiring actors with an athletic background which really helps because they don’t have much time shooting schedule wise.
Any bad mishaps from these fight scenes? Shane accidentally kicked someone in the face once. Craig talked about two off camera that really scared him. The first was Maggie, who had her fingers hurt when a sewer grate fell on her. She went to the hospital. The other was the actor who plays Ari, Peter Outerbridge. The day before he’s supposed to shoot his 7 year old jumps on his back all of a sudden they hear he might not be able to walk. Turned out to be a disc that got pushed out. If that hadn’t worked out, that would have meant a big change on the show since he’d already been shooting scenes. When Maggie’s fingers were hurt, that affected the action on the show. They had to change some hand to hand scenes to guns. Shane also remembered Maggie knocking out a guy in the Pilot, literally.
The next question was about bringing everyone together, Nikita, Michael, Alex, Birkhoff etc. into their own gang. Was that always planned? Craig - Yes. “We call it Team Nikita, it’s sort of her arc. She’s kind of a loner last year, she had Alex on the inside but she has a hard time trusting people and she still wants to make decisions for everybody else. It’s been her process of her coming together and she’s had to figure out how to do that, how to be part of a group."
"We’re adding Ryan into that group. In an episode coming up we show that he’s good at some stuff she’s not good at. They have to figure out where they are as a group. There’s a moment where Michael and Ryan turn against Nikita, not like violently but they decide to go another way. She’s not used to that. Is this a group, what is this thing?"
Is Owen coming back? Craig - They won’t see him at the end of this season. There were various behind the scenes economical reasons. “I know that Devon had tweeted something like ‘I guess I’m no longer on Nikita.’ I don’t know why he did that because we didn’t say that.” Shane - “That was surprising. I think I tweeted back.”
Will Amanda join the group? Shane - “If she did, I’m certain she’d be the leader.” Craig says no. They’re good.
Here it is, the BIG question I’ve been waiting for all panel long. What’s the outlook for season three? “We’re going to come back after this week, the last week of shooting, I’m going to pitch season three out to the network and hopefully they like it.” Shane - “The finale is great.” Craig - “I think we’ll do another big shift. We have a big plan for season three. Our outlook is good. We’ll see how it goes.” Shane says they’re leaving everything open to change, just like they did with season one and now season two.
Open now for fan questions. The first one is for Shane. Out of this season what has been the most trying scene emotionally? That’s a tough question since there have been so many. One is coming in the next episode, “Wrath.” Wrapping up the Max and Cassandra story line was pretty painful too. “It was emotionally taxing.”
Are there plans to bring Michael and Cassandra back? Craig - “No.” “Good,” replied the fan.
"Will Roan ever die?" a woman asked. Shane - “Never.” Craig - “The Terminator? But if he dies, will he ever come back?” They don’t really have an answer for that. They asked if she wanted him to die. Craig - “If he dies, it will be pretty epic.”
For Shane. What is it like doing the fight scenes with Maggie during season one? Shane fondly recalled the first one they did together. It was episode 3 when he was still in the process of hunting her down. “It was 100 degrees fahrenheit it was just a sweating mess and it was so much fun. Of course she won. To feel like I wasn’t slowing the scenes down is good enough for me.” “When you get a scene with her (Maggie), it’s so much fun and worth it, that it rubs off on you for the rest of the year.”
A fan brought up the original “La Femme Nikita” to Craig and what did he want to change the most with his reboot? The tone of the two shows are very different. “I hadn’t watch all the show. I knew that expanded from the story from the movies. I was concerned with ‘How do we not repeat it?’ that’s all. Because they did a good job, why just do what they did? It was a conscious effort to try to do something else. It involved also not changing everything that’s key to the concept. The two things that made me think I could do it were starting the story after Nikita had left the agency and adding in the Alex character to keep some kind of point of view inside the agency and watching a character be transformed by it. That was enough to start moving in a different direction. I think we purposefully tried to not say this is a continuation of the show or this movie or this remake of a movie. It is an amalgamation of all of them. We have Birkhoff who’s only in this show. We have references to the movie that weren’t in the show.”
This question is for Shane. There’s a little chemistry between Nikita and Ryan. Is he going to threaten Michael in any way? “I think that any guy or any couple that is as passionate as they can be with each other is going to have jealously pangs to an extent especially under these circumstances and the world they live in. He definitely felt it more last year. I think with right now with trying to make this team I don’t think we’re really going there year. What’s fun by having this team Nikita he have these huge scenes together, six or seven characters, you can drop acting little pieces in there whether the dialogue is there or not. That’s the fun part of it. Michael’s a little bit more humble right now. With every episode it changes. It’s hard to say without not giving away too much on the finale. Yeah, sorry about that.”
What is it like working with Melinda Clarke? She has those cold eyes and can be so evil. When the camera is off, is she nothing like the character she plays on the show? Craig - “180 degrees.” Shane - “She’s amazing and always smiling. Always the opposite. Ten seconds before we’re rolling she shuts down and makes that face.”
Curt the moderator jumped in since we were on the topic of Amanda. He liked how we got to see a human side to her. Are we going to see more of that? Craig - “Amanda doesn’t come back until the final episode.” She’s out with Ari regathering. They have plans to go forward to explore her deeper.
Are we going to see more of Ryan anymore in the second season? Yes, he’ll be back in episode 21 and they’ll reveal what he’s been doing for them. Then he’ll be back until the end.
What is going on with Alex’s love life? Craig - “There are scenes with just Alex, Birkhoff and Sean together in episode 21. And some fun stuff in 20 where Birkhoff gets taken out of the team for a little bit and actually Alex has to be Birkhoff for a little bit. She’s pretty funny trying to do it. She’s chugging energy drinks. The question about her love life really a big turn in (episode) 21.” She’s getting into a better place where romance is more possible.
Nikita addressed that she is not mother material, but Michael loves his son. Will there ever be a baby Nikita? Craig - “I think it would be hard to do the action show with the pregnancy.” How about a baby scare? Craig still isn’t sure about that. Shane - “A puppy?”
The shooting schedule was brought up. They wrapped at 5 am this morning and will be shooting Sunday and all next week. The last day of shooting is Friday. Craig is still writing the finale. What will they do in between seasons? Craig has to edit the last two episodes, then pitch season three. He’ll still be in the office. What about Shane? If there is a season three, they’ll be back shooting in early July. They can shoot anything in that time or travel, but last year they all relaxed. He has a few possibilities but this year they won’t find out about Nikita’s status in May which doesn’t leave much time.
In relation of Alex’s love life, what about Nathan? Especially he was rushed off. Was he too perfect? Craig didn’t like how they handled that. He was supposed to be her Daniel. Craig - “We called him Nathan Awesometon.” Sean came along with a point of reference in her world. They joked Nathan’s alive in San Francisco somewhere having no issues with the fact that he killed Jaden for her.
A question came up about location shoots. It’s all Toronto. They can come up with any locale possible in Toronto. How did they find Yemen in Toronto? “Toronto’s got some rocking architecture there. You find the angle, you basically say you look this way you don’t put the camera there, we can go “Yemen!” They’ve done Chile last year, they found an appropriate looking warehouse and did a digital backdrop. The fan also asked if they’re coming back for season three for sure? “We’re coming back for sure,” Craig said jokingly.
Will there be a Nikita soundtrack or an album for the instrumentals (score)? Craig doesn’t know about that kind of stuff. He’s involved with securing the rights for the DVD, but he doesn’t know much about doing that. He can check into it. Maybe their composer, Dave Russo, can do some digital distribution if Warner Brothers will let him. “We need some more Nikita swag,” the person said. Craig suggested action figures. Shane loved that idea.
Does Shane get really sore after the fight scenes? It can be for days sometimes, but usually they get padded up, especially the guys. The women not so much because they’re in sexy outfits. It’s natural that they do get sore though because the body is not meant to go that way. A bath with salts fixes him up.
The final question, he asked about the African-American lady in season one. She was killed off in episode 20 (I assume he was talking about Jaden). Any chance she’ll come back? Craig - “This isn’t The Vampire Diaries.”
Here's a two minute video clip taken by us of an early part of the panel:
Here's a small photo gallery from the panel (mostly of Shane):