Past Conventions - HLDU 2
Donna Lettow's Q & A
Transcript of the phone hook-up with Donna Lettow
Intro by Carmel: Donna was listed for Season 6 as Associate Creative
Consultant. On an American network show, it would be similar to Story Editor.
Because of the Canadian/French restrictions...
Donna: Well, I started on HL in Series 3 just as Script Coordinator,
but because Highlander was such a small show in terms of the size of the crew, I got very involved in
all aspects of it. Season 6, since it was the season I was promoted to Associate Creative Consultant
and was responsible for creating stories and writing scripts, will be "my glory or my fault" depending
on how you felt about the season.
Carmel: What was the general reaction to Series 6 at Chronicles '98
Donna: It was interesting because of the way HL is shown in Britain.
There were lots of people who saw it only on British Terrestrial TV; some had only seen up to Season 2
or Season 4, depending on where in Britain they lived. The ones who watched on Satellite or who were
there from America had seen up to Season 6. There was all kinds of reaction. Some people have really
liked the season. Some have not forgiven us for the end of Season 5 and can't enjoy Season 6. Other
people didn't like what we had to do on Season 6 -- that part of HL was to be given over to create a
new show. However, many who have already seen the finale, To Be and Not to Be, were positive and
could finally see how it all fit together - even some of the Richie fans!
Carmel: What are you most proud of?
Donna: The episode I first got to write a part of was "Take Back the Night,"
so that was very important for me. The series finale, "To Be/Not To Be," was my idea. I am also really
proud of the work I did on "Armageddon". Despite some problems that happened in production of the episode, I think the
script is very good.
Carmel: What about frustrations?
Donna: I often joke with Gillian Horvath, who was Associate Creative Consultant
for the three years before me, that she had all the fun and I had most of the good women! Season 6 was very
frustrating. At first we thought we had twenty-two episodes, then there was to be no Season 6 at all -- we were cancelled;
then, because of the interest of USA in a spin-off, there were
thirteen episodes; then we found out that was with a 15%
budget cut. So it was only thirteen episodes on less money, but that was better than none. Then we found out at least
episodes had to be about new women Immortals -- with no interaction with the main HL characters other than Duncan.
So, in the end we really only got nine episodes to do what we wanted to do. [She is happy with about
three out of the 4 spinoff women episodes. Of course, she would have been happier if they had had the original
twenty-two episodes with fourgiven over to women, in lieu of only
thirteen with four given over to women.]
Jenny:If you had had twenty-two episodes, where would you go?
Donna: DA had a vision of what he wanted -- but they would have needed a
full season and a full budget to do it. [Talked about the same episode that Peter Wingfield had talked
about in the Q and A session - about Duncan going into the monastery - not for
one year but for twenty years,
after which he has to face responsibilities - that evil has been in control for
twenty years (... because of
his inactivity and he had to try to fix it.). This was filmed as the Tag of "Archangel" -- a very short
scene set twenty years in the future with an older Joe etc, but as PW said in the tag, there was no money
and so it wouldn't happen.]
Carmel: What is David Abramowitz's influence on the show?
Donna: DA is "The Highlander" as far as I am concerned. In my opinion,
HL only started with Band of Brothers. They had six Head writers in the first seven shows. DA's first
episode that he had complete control over was the first episode with Darius and the whole tone of the
show changes then. I think DA IS Darius. He has a varied background, he is a very spiritual and loving
person -- just like Darius. He is the heart of the show! Without David, Highlander may well have ended
up just another Kung Fu show.
Carmel: Initially Darius was only going to be in a few episodes?
Donna: It was always planned that Darius would die in "The
Hunters." It was a sad irony that Werner became ill and couldn't film it, and then died soon after.
The original plan for Darius was that he would reappear in flashbacks, much like Fitzcairn does now.
Faye: Can you tell us anything about the episode entitled "The Last
Temptation of Methos"?
Donna:Not really - It was a story idea only. Nothing was ever put on
paper or anything. Originally it was hoped that the AAA arc would go on for like six episodes. Methos was
to remain skeptical until Kronos reappears. I wanted to do the flashback which would have addressed why
Methos left the Horsemen. But then, Peter was unavailable...
Chris: Will you be writing any scripts for "HL The Raven"?
Donna: No, because I haven't got the right passport! My spot on the
team is being filled by an English writer, Karen Harris, who wrote "Timeless" and "Rite of Passage".
I love her work, and if I can't be there, I'm glad she is.
Carmel: Are there many changes to what you write?
Donna: Always. It's part of the collaborative television
process. For example, in Indiscretions DA and I almost came to blows! At one stage I thought
the whole idea might be cancelled and I thought, childishly, 'Good!' Bill Panzer and David wanted
to make a Joe and Methos "buddy" picture a la Lethal Weapon. I wanted most of the story to be a
romantic New Orleans flashback. Obviously, there had to be a lot of compromise, sometimes painful,
before we were all on the same page. I went to Paris for the filming of Indiscretions - being the
last episode filmed; it was part of my grieving process. It was a tremendous experience and in the
end I loved the way Indiscretions turned out.
Trish: "Shadows" seems to portend the AAA arc. How long did DA have
his ideas about Demons?
Donna: We did not have the demon idea for "Shadows". David's wife,
Randi, inspired Shadows when she said "What if Duncan had a dream about his own death?" "Ahriman"
came out of a joke because we needed to top the Horsemen. I mean, where do you get a scary bad guy
after you've defeated the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Gillian laughed and said "It could be Satan!"
We did some research on the nature of evil and found the Zoroastrian legend of the Immortal champion
chosen to fight evil every thousand years. We had our story!
Peter: (a) What about flashbacks? Is money a factor in using
flashbacks? You know, sets etc? Was this affected in Season 6?
(b) Are you writing any more books?
Donna: (a) Yes, money is a factor. In Season 6, because of the
reduced budget, sometimes it came down to a decision: Quickening or a flashback. "Avatar"
and Armageddon were too expensive for flashbacks because of all the special effects we
needed. Also, flashbacks were limited to one time period in Season 6, except for some of
the spin-off episodes. Black Tower had a surreal quickening because it had a flashback
and couldn't afford a "big" explosive Quickening.
(b) Books: I am finishing the Watcher Chronicles CD-ROM at the moment. My next novel is called
Barricades, which comes from a story idea we almost used in Season 6. It is set in 1968 in
Paris during the student uprising. Duncan is a Professor of Journalism at the Sorbonne. The
events of the riots flashback to an earlier Revolution in Paris in 1848 (Les Mis period).
May be out (US) Spring 1999.
Carmel: Methos gets great lines.
Donna: Good to get a character like that. Every writer likes characters
who can quip and Duncan tends to be too serious. But we have to be careful not to make Methos just the
Carmel: Is Methos a good foil?
Donna: Yes, but we don't like to go overboard - there is more to
him than fun.
Carmel: We have just had a Methos Panel. What game do you think
he is playing? Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? Is he a survivor?
Donna: Methos is whatever he needs to be at that moment. The ultimate
survivor -- and if that means betraying friends, maybe setting up MacLeod to take his head, it's all
about his own personal survival! He says something in the finale like "I am doing something. I'm
surviving. Sometimes that's all you can do." (2B/N2B)
Carmel: Is there a grieving process now that the series is at an end?
Donna: It is very hard for every one - after six years with this "family".
I had to have closure, to grieve, and that's why I went to Paris to watch "Indiscretions" - to see the
end of it all.
Carmel: HL is so very popular. You must be very proud.
Donna: I really am. Ken Gord is convinced that in five or six
years after it's off the air, people will finally get it and it will take off in popularity like
Star Trek did! When that happens, Gillian and I want to be the executive producers on "HL -The
Carmel: Thank you so much for your time.
Donna: Thank you. Will I see anyone in Anaheim?
Carmel: Yes... me!