Steve Harper – Writer! Playwright! Actor! DC’s Stargirl!

Today Casey got to sit down with TV Writer, playwright, actor, and Supervising Producer on DC’s Stargirl!

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Steve Harper – Interview

 

[00:00:00] Casey: All right, everybody. Welcome again, to another episode of spoiler country today on the show, we have writer, actor, screenwriter. He wears a lot of hats. He is currently writing the new television series star girl based on the DC comics heroes. Stargirl and we’re really happy to have him on Steve Harper.

How are you doing Steve?

Steve Harper: Hey, I’m super good. Casey, very happy here and looking forward to chatting and yeah, all of that. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a good day. It’s a good life and I’m happy to be here.

Casey: Awesome. That, that was the dorkiest intro could have done.  It can, you know, when you start at the bottom.

Steve Harper: I thought that was, I thought that was pretty it was certainly sufficient and yeah, it was, it was good.

Casey: So, so, okay. First let’s go ahead and get the the elephant out of the room. COVID has dropped a bomb on how things are going in Hollywood right now. How has it affected you [00:01:00] personally?

Steve Harper: Hmm.

Wow. Well Yeah. I mean, it’s a, how has it affected me personally? So, so, well, first of all, you know, I never leave the house. So that’s like the main thing, you know, I don’t, it’s really just about hunkering down with my machines and communicating and connecting with people virtually the way we’re doing now or on zoom.

You know, I’ve seen very few people I, you know, go to the grocery store, all that stuff, but I. But everything else is virtual as, as I’m sure a lot of people have experienced. And, and and that has meant that you know, my life is fairly certainly the writer’s room and all that stuff. We’re fairly scheduled and we’re, you know, there are a handful of people who, who I see and I connect with and who I work with who I am, sort of never met in person and B you know, I only see them on on zoom or online or an email.

So it’s really, it’s really sort of heightened the [00:02:00] virtual ness of life. It’s also been unbelievably challenging in that. I certainly have, I know people who. Who’ve had COVID and recovered. And I, I unfortunately know a couple of people who passed away from COVID. Yeah, thanks me too. So that’s been a very sobering factor, my life that you know, I I’m, I’ve been really concerned about, you know, myself, my loved ones and you know, I’m always wearing them.

I ask I’m washing my hands and doing what I can. I think it’s really important that. But that’s part of the perspective about what, you know, what we can do sort of as ordinary people in this really challenging time we’re in.

Casey: Oh yeah. Yeah. As, as a writer, as a creative person, has, do you think it has stifled any, any of your creativity, just not being around, like in, in the physical space?

Steve Harper: Think it has. I mean, I, you know, it’s been an interesting. [00:03:00] It’s been an interesting experience you know, probably for everybody, but I certainly have had a lot of, you know, I tend to be, I tend to be fairly productive. That doesn’t mean, I always think that I’m being so productive, but I tend to be fairly productive.

And so I actually have been doing, working on a lot of. Different projects and doing my own writing, you know, doing the writing on star girl. And, and the other thing that’s been happening again for better or worse in our country right now, of course, you know, has all, has been all of this all of the challenges of, of of social unrest and, and the, the the issues that are going on with Law enforcement and people of color.

And, and that has, you know, although that’s been a challenging space and certainly continues to be and I think it needs to be looked at in a large way. It, it, it has facilitated a particular a particular kind of interest in, in black writers. So, you know, before I got the [00:04:00] job on star girl through my manager, I was having a handful of meetings.

You know, there were production companies that were reaching out and saying they wanted to meet me, who hadn’t met me before and wanted to pick my brain and wanted to talk with me about projects they were working on. And so that, so that’s been, and there have been a handful of, you know, the work that I do is screenwriting a bunch of, you know, much of the time, but there’s also, I’m a playwright as well.

So there’ve been a number of. Plays of mine that, you know, new things that have been commissioned short plays that I’ve done you know, sort of all in the, in this space, that’s kind of opened up for dialogue from you know, black indigenous people of color writing stuff. And that, that actually has, you know, kind of created a, you know, kind of a wellspring of opportunity for, for all sorts of things, short plays and short play festivals and contests.

And. You name it. So it’s been a [00:05:00] very busy time for me.

Casey: That’s that’s awesome. It’s a shame that it has taken the lives of, of several people to, to generate, you know, a much needed conversation about this stuff. But

Steve Harper: yeah. Yeah, I agree. It is. It’s really, it’s really tragic and it’s also, I think it’s really good that we’re.

Beginning to have these conversations and that people are beginning to fairness around how how divided in some ways our society has been continues to be. And you know, some of the roots of all of that, it’s, it’s been really good where we’re beginning to be willing to talk about those things.

Casey: Well, you, you, you really interested to help me in that you You’re you’re Harvard and Yale educated, which I myself am a graduate of Jefferson state community college and congrats to the [00:06:00] 2007 moon pie, eating contest winner of

Steve Harper: excellent Alabama.

Casey: So, yeah. Take that. No, but what, what, what I’m saying is you. Started in a very,

 

Structured very there’s, there’s a lot of high art in there I would expect. And you’re able to, to take star girl, which is essentially a genre piece and what some people, you know, maybe 30, 20 years ago, 10 years ago would have considered low art and you’re able to.

Generate conversation with it.

Steve Harper: There’s, you know, there’s so much to say about all of that. I mean, first of all, my my parents are retired educators. My mother was a guidance counselor, and so, you know, her goal and she was right really clear about it with my brother and me was for us to go to schools, you know, to go to schools, educational institutions that were as.

You know, as prestigious as [00:07:00] possible, so that, so that we could compete in, in white society with white people, that was her whole vision, you know, and I think that’s not an unusual thing. I’ve, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve, you know, who have sort of aimed or headed for the Ivy league, who are, who are people of color whose parents, you know, have that same kind of vision of this is the way to.

You know, navigate society, this is the way to succeed. This is the way to do it. You know, my kids need to need to be able to navigate in this way. So, you know, I really, obviously I studied and all that stuff and took all those, but, you know, my parents were very in a loving way, were cracking the whip and really had.

The kind of sense of possibility. Like th they, they really laid that out and it was really part of the way I was raised. So you know, I’m, I’m super happy to have gone to Yale and Harvard and had done, have done my playwriting stuff at Julliard. Like that’s all super cool and [00:08:00] amazing. And you know, one of the things I say sort of that I joke is, you know, that and a Metro card will get me across town.

You know at the end of the day you know, what I love about the education is I learned some, some stuff. It certainly gave me the opportunity to do some super cool networking. Cause there are a lot of people who went to some of the places I went to who were in the business and that’s been really useful.

And at the end of the day, you know, I’ve got to produce, I’ve got to, you know, I have learned how to you know, and I have to sort of be On point in terms of my art in terms of my presence in the writer’s room, in terms of the scripts that I write in terms of all of those,

Casey: a lot of shoe leather. In other words,

Steve Harper: I mean, it’s basically like, no matter what the degree on the wall says, like I got to show up and produce and keep sort of, you know, putting out the work and moving through the work and all of that stuff.

And yeah. So yeah, all of that. And you know, as far as star girl I have, I [00:09:00] have honestly wanted to be, I grew up one of the things about my parents is my, you know, as I said, my parents were educators, my, my father spent his professional life as an art teacher and you know, and also as a visual artist and I.

Fell in love with comic books when I was, you know, 10 or some.

Casey: Well, what was that first one? That was what hooked you?

Steve Harper: Well, I think Spider-Man always has my heart. Like, I’m just, I’m such a Spiderman freak. Like I just feel like the sense of, of you know, what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did in that, in that book.

And just the sense of that character as. A person who was trying to figure out how to live in the world, like had these amazing powers, but also, you know, was struggling to just survive. And how do you survive? Even though, you know, on the one hand, you’re able to do these superhuman as an amazing things.

And on the other hand, you know, how do you make a living and how do you, you [00:10:00] know, how do you have, how do you have relationships? How do you live with your aunt? How do you go to school? Like all of those things I really related to. So. It was really, you know, it started out about Spider-Man and then it just become, became about so many different, you know, the X-Men and the Avengers and, you know, Shizam and Superman, the flash, and, you know, you name it.

And I, you know, I still have like my collection of. I think it’s like 1200 comic books at this point that I, that I’m, I keep thinking. And they’re all like from the seventies, you know, I keep thinking like, Oh, I really want to, part of me really wants to sell them. And yet just looking at them makes me incredibly happy and, you know, but it was, it was fascinating that before I before high school, I went to Catholic school and there were some families, you know, you talk about the low brow art stuff.

There were some families in my elementary school and some kids I knew who, you know, the more I was talking about comic books with some of my [00:11:00] friends, you know, there were, there were kids whose parents. You know, who told me like, Oh my parents don’t let us read those things. You know, like that, that is like too low brow or that is too like, you know you know, so I was hearing that from,

Casey: I heard that in the South too, just not, not that it was low brow, that it was a that’s of the devil.

Yeah. Yeah. A lot of Pentecostals, a lot of Baptist around here.

Steve Harper: Yeah. But it’s interesting because I think ultimately, you know, I became an English major and you know, and then started to write, but before in the English major phase, what I realized that, that I think that kind of line of thinking doesn’t really give, give credit for, is that a lot of the.

You know, anybody who’s a comic book reader and knows and knows literature. Like a lot of the the characters in comic books are based on or names named after like famous literary characters or famous [00:12:00] tropes or, you know, and you get into that sense. You get, you start to realize that there’s a huge connection to, you know, classical literature and classical characters.

And. You know, geography and history and culture, and all of those things are, are, are wrapped up in the comic book world in a way that I didn’t even know I was being sort of educated about these things until, you know, until much later. And, and I was like, Oh, well, here’s this, you know, not only was I having fun, but here’s this education, I didn’t even know that I was getting so.

I’ve, I’ve been really eager to be in the television space on a superhero show. And this is the first time it’s happened in whatever, like five shows I’ve been on. And I’m super grateful

Casey: that that’s part of the Berlanti verse, correct?

Steve Harper: It is. It is part of the Berlanti birth. Yes. And in fact, you know, the show that I was on before Stargirl, which.

It was God friended me on CBS was also a part of the Berlanti. Oh, [00:13:00] really?

Casey: You have no idea.

Steve Harper: Yeah. Yes, but not a superhero show. So in some ways I’ve sort of, you know, transferred to a different branch of the family. But but really happy to be in the DC universe.

Casey: So. You you also do quite a bit of acting.

 

Are, are you transitioning away from that now and focusing more strictly on, on your writing?

Steve Harper: Well, you know, when I first moved to Los Angeles, which was in 2010, my intention was to get TB writing work. And so I had spent decades really in the industry as an actor, and I love. I love that space. And, and really when I, when I moved across the country, you know, the intention was to make a shift.

So I’ve certainly put riding in the driver’s seat which is what I came here to do. And you know, I love acting. I was, you know, I was in a, I created a web series that I was in. I, you know,

Casey: well, it was lovely by the way the [00:14:00] send me.

Steve Harper: Yes, yes. Yeah.

Casey: Really, really well done.

Steve Harper: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Yeah, we’re we’re, we’re talking about doing more of it, which is a whole conversation, but but yeah, so know I’ve done that I’ve done you know, I’ve had a commercial agent I’ve been on a ton of episodic TV. Uh I’ve I’ve, you know, I’ve really got, I’ve really got the acting space sort of in my blood and in my DNA.

And, and for me now, you know, given my schedule with Stargirl and, and, you know, The television world. I’m grateful to say, cause it doesn’t happen to everybody. But the TV world as a writer is what currently pays my bills. And you know, I’m still interested in I’m still interested in doing, doing a lot of acting and being in juicy roles and in things that I create, things that other people create.

And, and for me now, it’s really, it’s a matter of you know, it’s a matter of when I have room to do that and making those connections and all of that, but I, I I think, you know, acting [00:15:00] as part of my soul and I certainly certainly continue to, and want to continue to do it.

Casey: So it was you, you mentioned this as part of your, your soul, like the, what, what feeds it.

Like when, when I do creative stuff it really does feel like you’re, you’re kind of feeding your soul in a way. And just kind of, not, not just as a means of like self-expression, but just otherwise you have that stuff in there and there’s no other way to get it out, man.

Steve Harper: Yeah. I mean, I think what, you know, To me, it goes back to the caveman.

It’s like this, the notion of storytelling, the notion of. You know, sitting around a campfire, but you know, as, as, as we know that ancient people did and on some level we still do sitting around like, whatever it is, whether it’s in a theater space or, or television, like the, the sense of exchanging [00:16:00] stories and the idea of, and in some ways, you know, it’s the same thing that makes a podcast like yours.

You know, so inviting and so exciting like that we are, I think as human beings, hungry to hear and exchange of ideas and exchange of experiences, you know, to have something that happens to me. You know, that is either challenging or joyful. And to exchange that story with somebody else who has either had that experience and can relate to it and feel uplifted by it or who hasn’t had that experience and is super curious about what that experience was like.

I feel like, you know, that’s, that kind of exchange is. That’s really part of what, I don’t know, lights me up on the planet. And I think has lightened as you know, lit people up for, you know, for centuries, like that sense of, of having those kinds of exchanges. And so to me, You know, everything that I do I think is [00:17:00] about storytelling.

Like as an actor, you know, I’ve been, I I’ve had, I’ve have a lot of experience about interpreting stories. You know, as a writer, I’m creating stories, you know, and I also have, have worked and continue to work as a coach for writers and you know, encouraging people to, to tell their own stories.

And as a coach, you know, I’m interpreting, you know, I’m sort of helping people channel. Their own basically sort of giving them encouragement around ways to channel their own stories. You know? So, so for me, it’s, that’s, that’s the part that’s connected to my soul. It’s all about storytelling either like interpreting or creating stories or or blessing people to tell their own stories.

Yeah. I really feel like that’s, that’s why I’m on the planet. And I feel like that’s why there are, you know, there are so many people who have the gift to tell their stories and know, I feel like that’s part of what life is really about is that [00:18:00] exchange. I mean, there’s so the other thing is like, there’s so much connected to that.

There’s so much isolation in, you know, perhaps, especially in a time, like, These COVID days where we literally, you know, need to be either by ourselves or with our loved ones. And, you know, how can we, you know, we know that statistically that Netflix and streaming services, or, you know, those industries are booming and companies like zoom are booming and, you know, it’s all about making those connections.

So I really feel like, you know, that’s a worthwhile, it’s always going to be a worthwhile thing to. To spread that, to learn, to do that, to do that more, to challenge myself, to do it differently, to encourage other people, you know, to watch stuff. I just feel like, you know, I’m really hungry for it. And I think a lot of people are too.

So yeah.

Casey: Do you, do you miss the collaborative acts aspect of good cause w when you write, especially now you’re, you’re kind of giving [00:19:00] up the collaborative association of, of when you act, cause, cause you’re not among other people.

Steve Harper: Well it depends. I mean, that’s the thing that I think is miraculous.

So first of all, you know, to me, the big, the big Magilla around the acting space is there is nothing like. Using yourself, you know, your physical self, your body, your voice, your, you know, the way you, whatever, the way you stand, the way you gesture, the way you speak, the way you, you know, all of that, to actually use yourself as an embodiment of story and kind of channel the story through your physical being is like nothing else, you know, sort of like being, you know, whatever possessed by the spirit of whoever that’s incredible.

That’s like, No, that’s incredible. The writing space though, especially in, certainly in theater when things get produced. I mean, look, I’ve had a couple of, you know, three or four of my my pieces [00:20:00] that are, that have been produced during COVID and the sense of, you know, I directed a short piece for some theater producers got together and did an evening called wildly breathe.

And and I created a piece. For that, which was a 10 minute play about you know, a brother and sister speaking to each other on zoom, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic. And one of them is checking on the other and trying to make sure she hasn’t gone out. You know, so they’re having this very intense conversation.

And I, and I chose to ask the producers whether they were cool with me directing the piece, you know? So then in, in this collaborative space, you know, there we were on zoom, not in the same room. You know, one of the actors is, was in Denmark, you know, the other actor and in Los Angeles, I actually was in, when I directed it, I was actually in Nevada at the time.

And so there we were, and then there were these other producers who I’m not even sure where they were. I’m sure some people were in New York and we found this mutual, hi I’m [00:21:00] and there we are all on zoom and talking about it and, you know, doing this kind of crazy rehearsal and where we’re, you know, we’re both talking to them and they’re talking to each other, but not, but we’re recording one at a time and we had to sort of do all this, you know, how do you do that?

How do you, do you know, how do you figure out those different ways to kind of piece a thing together, you know, hugely collaborative. You know, obviously different from channeling it through my own body, but collaborative nonetheless. And so, you know, so that kind of thing, other theater pieces that I’ve done where either I’ve directed it, or I haven’t, I’m at a rehearsal and there’s a rehearsal of a piece that I’m.

Of mine, that’s being done in New Jersey and I’m intending to be at a rehearsal on Sunday and that’s going to be the same thing and it’s going to be like, we’re all being well, we’re all on zoom. I’ve written the piece. I’ve never met these actors before, you know, so I think the sense of collaboration certainly in my experience at least continues.

And that’s, you know, that’s really exciting. I think that’s what it’s all [00:22:00] about. And I, I, you know, and I guess I want to say too, like, that’s my big advice for anybody who’s. Who’s out there looking to do stuff is to do stuff like, you know, even in COVID days, like get on zoom, get on whatever, get on Skype, get on FaceTime and, you know, rehearse and talk and connect.

And it’s entirely possible to do that. So, you know, we, we should all be doing it more.

Casey: Yeah. Yeah. It’s I write comics. And one thing I’ve, I’ve told a lot of people is that, you know, stop bitching about it and actually do it. Like you gotta, you gotta get out and, and actually start doing things. And then you realize either a, this is awesome.

I love collaborating with other people and, you know, making this thing or B this is awful. I hate this. This is not as good as I wanted it to be. And then you go and find something else, but because creativity doesn’t stop, [00:23:00] you know, in any one space, which is you know, kind of your whole deal.

Steve Harper: Yeah. I mean, I’m, you know, I’m trying for that to be, I mean, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m grateful and I, yeah, I, that is my intention for that to continue to be my whole deal.

It’s it’s I feel really blessed and really excited about. Being able to, you know, live the life I have and have the career I have and keep creating stuff.

Casey: So, yeah. You, you, you went to Hollywood in 2010 and now you’re you you’ve been involved with some, some very big shows so that you kind of hit the ground running.

So what’s what’s next? Like, like right now you’re, you’re doing the star girl thing are, are, have they that hasn’t even premiered yet. Have it

Steve Harper: has. Yeah. So Stargirl yeah, there’s so much to say about Stargirl. And so, you know, certain things I’m allowed to say certain things I’m not allowed to say,

Casey: but I can get in trouble.

Like I want you to [00:24:00] be around for season two.

Steve Harper: No, not to have anybody mad at me, but I so star girl is it’s it’s it’s on the CW. It’s it’s based on a comic book character created by Jeff Johns. Who is my boss and also created the series.

Casey: And now I want to talk about that in a minute too. Yes.

Steve Harper: Yes. So, so Stargirl was originally created for DC universe, which was a streaming series that, that DC had and the first series, the first season. So it has premiered the first season premiered on DC universe. And then when the pandemic hit and the CW, I guess, was looking for more content star girl then moved over to the CW and actually did you know, all 13 episodes of the first season were shown on on the CW.

Yeah, kind of in the late summer, I think anyway, so, and you can now see them on CW, tv.com. So you can find it all of the episodes there. And it’s, it’s [00:25:00] just a beautiful season. One of the things about Jeff who is, you know, who I’ve discovered, and perhaps I should have known this when I had my interview with him, but he’s.

You know, I mean, you, you probably know, and a lot of your listeners know, but he’s like super famous and super accomplished in the world and movies and TV staff. And he’s just an amazing person he’s kind and generous and funny and humble and talented. And he’s a great person to work for. I feel so fortunate.

But he based our girl on his sister. Passed away in a plane crash some years ago. And so, you know, one of the reasons why that’s really powerful to know is that it really, on some level, it really speaks to how and why Jeff comes from a really sort of open-hearted space for this particular show.

You know, he’s very Our show is so, [00:26:00] and I’ve been on other, obviously non-super superior shows that we’re not like this, but our show is super character based. And we’re always talking from a character perspective about, you know, how is this character sort of moving ahead? And what’s her emotional space.

And where’s the, you know, where’s the big emotional peak in this particular story. And you know, how does she feel about X and how does she feel that why and what are these challenges? And, you know, so it’s. You know, one of the great things about Jeff is that he in wanting to create a show and he succeeded in this, that, that looks and feels different from a lot of other superhero shows, you know, even in the DC universe, even on the CW, you know, we’ve got certain things that we do in our show that other shows perhaps don’t do.

And one of those things, for example, the Jeff talks about a lot is our show does not have. You know, a super super battle, every episode, you know, [00:27:00] we will always build up to a confrontation and, and then perhaps have episodes where there isn’t one, you know, and it’s all about kind of you know, creating the energy of and the momentum of a particular storyline of a particular conflict.

Jeff thinks of the entire season of an entire season of television, like a movie. And so, you know, so we’re moving through like, you know, beginning, middle, and end within our 13 episodes and creating several different arcs that, you know, that. That you know, it just creates a really beautiful structure for what we get to do.

And it also means that our episodes are incredibly, can be incredibly different from one another because, you know, We’re we’re on a journey with these characters and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Casey: Is it hard to write within that structure, especially when the character of star girl [00:28:00] is there’s such an emotional attachment to that character by your boss, I guess.

Is it is it obviously, you know, like, Oh, I got to respect this character as much as possible, but also is it, is it hard? To write anything for that character that th that puts her in an emotional spaces?

Steve Harper: No, I don’t think it’s not that it’s not that Jeff, I think believes that the character can only do.

I dunno, it’s not, it’s not really like we’re trying to, you know, paint her in any sort of saintly way. I feel like, you know, the character of Courtney Whitmore is, is flawed and is you know, she she’s, you know, there’s, there’s a ton of humanity sort of that flows through the character. And, and there are times when she has a different perspective than her [00:29:00] stepdad or You know, and, and, you know, for those who haven’t seen the show know our actors are really amazing and she’s amazing.

And Luke Wilson plays a stepdad, a pet Doogan, and, you know, the ton of other really amazing actors in it, in the show. But I, but I really think that, that, you know, They’re one of the core things that happens between Courtney and her stepdad Pat, is that they, they clash. We know they clash, you know, and part of the challenge is, you know, one of the things that we talk about in the room is how the best clashes, the most appropriate clashes between Pat and Courtney are when both of them.

Right in their way, you know, Jeff talks about this show and I think it’s true that the show is a show for. People pass age, you know, like they’re, they’re adults can really dig this show and, you know, the majority of characters in the [00:30:00] show are in high school. So are like, you know, Courtney’s 16 in the show.

So, so the sense of having a show that appeals to both adults and to kids, you know, is really partly what we’re trying to do. And, and in, in preserving that, and then preserving the sort of energy of these characters, you know, we have these, we have these classes between the two of them where. Both characters are, have a reasonable perspective.

It’s just not the other character’s perspective. And that’s super fun, you know?

Casey: Yeah. Yeah. I remember the comic the stars and Stripe comic back in the, like the nineties, I guess and is when I found out that they were doing a show based on and it was going to be you know, for, for the audience that they made it for it.

I was like, That’s a no brainer that, that it it’s, it makes sense completely. So has it, what are the challenges for writing for an audience that is, you [00:31:00] know, not just a youth oriented audience, but you also have to keep the adults kind of happy and you know, into it. Is it, do you, do you have to. Work any different on your scripts?

 Steve Harper: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know that. I don’t know that we, I don’t know that these scripts are constructing. These scripts feels different really from other shows I’ve been on.  Really, because we’re so focused on the characters and it’s really about you know, it’s really about how to lean into whatever the conflicts are that are happening both, you know, between the, between and among the characters, but also.

But also sort of within them, you know, I mean, there is, there’s always this sense and this goes back to my love of Spiderman and Jeff and I talked about this in my interview, you know, cause I, I, you know, that whole sense as I was saying, like of what, what does it mean to be [00:32:00] a regular person, but also to have.

You know, the power to save lives. And how do you use that in a good way? And what does it mean when you don’t or, or even when you think you don’t, you know, perhaps you’ve done something that you, that you’re, that, that ostensibly was quote unquote, the right thing to do in the heat of battle and yet, you know, and yet maybe it’s problematic to you sort of after the fact, you know, those are the kinds of things that, that that our show is full of, you know, lots of different kinds of conflicts about.

About that kind of thing. And I feel like that’s a very human those are very human questions then I think very similarly, like in, in God friended me, you know, the whole notion of, of miles finer, like having this superpower, this ability to help people, but not necessarily knowing how to do it or, you know, or how not to do it and, and, and bumping up against.

Challenges with, you know, with his dad or with his sister or [00:33:00] with his girlfriend, or, you know, those, those things are you know, those are the building blocks of drama. I think there, I think it’s the same here. You know, there is, there is a sensibility that star girl has, which I love, which, which is.

No, we definitely lean into, you know, it’s definitely a fantasy and, you know, and, and there is a sense of you know, we spent, we spent a lot of time in the writer’s room this year, and I know they did last year as well, doing things like watching movies and you know, and talking about the movies after the fact.

And you know, and a lot of those are movies, like, you know, back to the future or. You know, young Sherlock Holmes, things like that. And there’s a real sense of trying to mind the sort of energy of those kinds of, in some ways, family friendly, but in some ways sort of seminal you know, at least from the seventies, eighties those movies that sort of felt like they were for everybody.

You know, like these, the kind of the [00:34:00] sweep of those movies and like kind of Americana of those movies and sort of the energy of those movies. And, and on some level, even though there’s danger in those movies, there’s a lightheartedness to that. We, I think the show sort of manages nicely even in the space of danger.

So, you know, all of those elements actually make it really fun to work on this show. And yeah, I just it’s, it’s been a really. Really delightful experience. I also have to say too, because, you know, speaking of collaborative, like in TV, we write in teams and you know, we’ve got this amazing group of writers that are funny and talented and experienced and generous and like it’s it’s, it’s perhaps one of the best writers rooms I’ve ever been in in terms of like, People are really cool.

It’s really cool. Have a really good time together. And that’s, that’s gold. And I think I, I make up that and of course, we’ll have to see you when the new season premieres, but I, I [00:35:00] make up that, that really sort of shows in the work like, you know, we’ll create the stories together and then one of us will go off and write that particular episode, but you can really, I can really feel, but the sort of.

I dunno, the love in the scripts and I feel like that’s pretty cool.

Casey: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I I also see that you’re you. Have another show in the pipe. Tell me your secrets. Are you able to talk about that at all?

Steve Harper: That’s a good question. Yeah. I can talk a little bit about telling me your secrets.

 

Casey: It seems like such a departure from, from Stargirl I’m curious, you know, the, the dichotomy between that

Steve Harper: it is, it is, it is quite a departure, so, so. So the thing about telling me your secrets was I was on this. I was on tell me your secrets in I want to say 2018,

Casey: Holy smokes. So it’s

Steve Harper: been a while.

And and, and it was, it was originally created for [00:36:00] TNT. It’s sort of a, it’s, it’s hard to describe in a way, but it’s kind of a, it’s kind of a Slightly David, Lynchian sort of a female centered sort of dark story. That’s sort of pulpy and weird and yeah, it’s, it’s hard to describe it’s it’s basically.

Yeah, it’s, it’s basically about it’s basically about kind of moving through grief and starting your life over and. You know, it’s, it’s got some sort of creepiness to it. It feels very yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a really sort of interesting it’s an interesting show created by a woman named Harriet Warner and and you know, starring Lily, Ray, and she’s amazing.

She’s amazing Hamish Linkletter. You know, it’s just, it’s an incredible cast. And so. So I was on that show in in 2018. And then the show was we made it for a [00:37:00] TNT and then it didn’t air on TNT, but then it got sold to HBO max, and it was going to air on HBO, max. And then, and then HBO, max ended up not airing it, but Amazon has now purchased it.

So it’s got cool crime. Yes. In 2021. And actually all episodes of tell me your secrets will drop in February, February 19th.

Casey: Well, I’m excited for that. So just your description of it. I was like, Oh, David Lee, I’m sold. Yeah.

Steve Harper: It’s it’s quite it’s quite a ride. And you know, and I think on some level.

I’d never written any, I’d never written on a show like that before either, but, but again, like we tried to, we tried to sort of follow the path of these characters who are who have very sort of particular and strange you know, life problems, but are trying to sort of get on track and. Yeah, I, I can’t say too much about it, but it’s, it’ll all drop on February 19th on Amazon prime, so people should check it out.

Cause I mean, the other, [00:38:00] the other thing that’s interesting is that was a show, the rare show for me, where I didn’t get to go on set. And so I haven’t seen any of it.

Casey: Oh, really?

Steve Harper: Yeah. I wrote, wrote two episodes and of course collaborated with the team on all 10 episodes, but I haven’t seen any of it. So I’m curious to see it too.

Casey: So you’ll watch the show and be like, Oh my gosh, I’m clever. I’m amazing. It’ll be all brand new to you.

Steve Harper: The thing is, and it’s just part of the process. Speaking of collaboration is that sometimes you write stuff, I’ve written stuff. And you, you know, if you’re not on set, you hand it over or you hand it over to your, to your show runner.

And they hand it over to a director and actors get involved and production people and production decisions get made. And you know, the look and the style and, you know, you can see something that was. You know, it becomes a little bit like a game of telephone and, and, and ultimately you’re you know, [00:39:00] it’s, it’s, it is possible to be like, Oh, that’s what they, that’s what they did with that home.

That’s interesting.

Casey: So as someone who has written also a lot of theater going from writing. What I assume in theater is, is mostly kind of insular and you write the script and then you give the script to the team or whatever. Is it hard to see somebody mess with your script after,

Steve Harper: You know, it can be, I think the thing, the big difference for me between theater and television is, you know, and somebody said, I think on my first show, somebody joked.

Somebody said this, and I’ll never forget it. You know, they were kind of like, well, you know, whatever happens, it’s going to be on. So the idea that it’s like, it’s going to get produced. And in theater, I can’t tell you how many things I’ve written that, you know, some of which have been produced, which I’m really happy about, but I bring a ton of stuff, the agriculture that [00:40:00] has not been produced.

And so, and, and also that, you know, I wrote for the love of it and there was no financial. Like there was no money. It didn’t get produced. It’s in a drawer. I love it. You know, it’s like one of my, I think of all the things that I write, like my children. So yes. So some of my children have sort of been out in the world and others, like, I love them, but they’re sort of sitting in the drawer, you know?

So, so on the one hand, it can be really disappointing to see something that you’ve created that turns out differently than you imagined at the same time. I’m so thrilled to see the things that I’ve created actually get made, you know, and to know that in the TV world, you know, millions of people will see this thing.

Like more people will see one episode of television, five minutes of some tellers and piece that I’ve written, then we’ll ever see my plays. Like that’s. That’s kick ass. That’s incredible. You know, so I, so I, [00:41:00] I, you know, I can’t, I don’t get too upset. The other thing is, you know, so far, at least, except for, with send me like, these are not my babies.

Like I do think about, and it not in a bad way, but it’s a good analogy. I think of television writing sorta like babysitting, you know, it’s like, you’ve got all these. Writers. So there’s a hierarchy, there’s like a head babysitter, and then there’s like the new babysitter. But the show runner is the only person who gave birth to that child.

So even though as a babysitter, I’m trying to do my best by the baby. Like, you know, give it the right kind of food or dress it well or whatever, you know, that person who’s, the parent really gets to say, you know, no, no, no, no. She doesn’t wear blue or no, no, no. She doesn’t eat. You know, oatmeal and they get to say that.

So, so unless it’s my baby, which is all of these T television cases, it has not been my baby, you know, on some level you got to give that up, that’d be like, yeah. Okay. [00:42:00] It’s, it’s his show or it’s her show or, you know, I just don’t get to have the last word. So I don’t, I think it’s really important professionally to, you know, define this level of detachment and B be willing to sort of see things.

Transform because I can’t wrestle it to the ground and make it what I want. It’s.

Casey: No, no man. Okay. So I live about 30 minutes outside of Birmingham and I don’t know what the deal is. Occasionally we get craziness with our internet, but it’s never happened mid interview.

Steve Harper: Right.

Casey: So,

 

Oh yeah, yeah. So

Steve Harper: we were, yeah, we were talking about I was saying how the, you know, the material isn’t mine, it’s like, I’m not, you know, sort of my babysitting analogy, like, so I try to be really detached about the notion of, you know, of how it all goes, ultimately.

Cause, cause it’s not my baby.

Casey: Can we talk about something that is your baby?

Steve Harper: Sure. Yeah.

Casey: I have both of your kids now send [00:43:00] me an original web series. When I read the premise of the show, I love Tommy whammy stuff. Also, I’m a history buff. The last thing. Any sensible black person would want to do would be go back into the past.

Oh my goodness. What was, what was the impetus for that?

Steve Harper: Yeah. You know, there were, there were a bunch of inspirations for it. It was great by the

Casey: way.

Steve Harper: Thank you. I’m really, I’m really proud of it. And you know, it’s Send me as on it’s on YouTube, you can find it, you know, like you did. So, you know, people can go check it out.

And I I’m really, I’m really pleased with it. I mean, we, you know, our, our lead actress, Tracy Toms was nominated for an Emmy in 2016 and

Casey: it’s gotta be a good feeling.

Steve Harper: So exciting, so exciting. You know, there were a couple of things that sort of [00:44:00] led to it. One of the real world things was that I.

I had been on the TV series corporate affairs as a writer for two seasons, and then the job ended. And then, you know, I was, I was in the process of looking for the next job and actually, you know, that took a handful of years, like three years, I wasn’t in a writer’s room which, you know, sometimes it’s the way it happens.

And I was really looking to create some of my own material and. Somebody told me I was working with a mentor, a guy named Mark Scott, Zachary, who wrote the Twilight zone companion and has written a lot of a lot of scifi stuff. And he was saying to me, look, if you want to be a showrunner, then create a show and run it, you know, prove to the industry that you can do that, you know?

And I was like, Oh, what a great idea. And I had just watched, there was a news report at the time. About a middle school that was teaching about the civil war by having their [00:45:00] students do reenactments. And my mother and I had both exotic, we’d both seen this news report at the same on the same day. And in the news report, this, this reporter had interviewed this young white girl and she was playing a union soldier.

And she was like, yeah, it’s really hard because. Your friends, they die and you know, and the whole report, you know, really kind of annoyed me. And I was talking to my mom who, you know, as I said, retired educator, and I was like, mom, that’s just wrong. Like, if you want to, if you really want to do the civil war, Then you should have all the, all the women sit out, all the girls should sit out.

You should just have the guys you should, you know, not usually to have to have all the black people sit out like, okay, maybe there’s some black troops, so maybe they have a few black guys, but the black girl should sit out. Like all these people should be sitting out, you know, and then, and let them deal with that.

You know, my mother was like, that’s terrible. [00:46:00] Cause people would feel left out and I was like, mom, this is the civil war. It’s all about like. You know, separating people out, like that’s the whole thing, you know? So we got into this little discussion about path and then I ended up writing this short play, actually called how to teach the civil war, which is sort of about some of that stuff.

But you know, that idea and it was combined with this other thing, you know, as you said, you love time traveling stuff. I’ve always thought as a kid growing up that as I watched time travel stuff, I always thought. That I would never want to do it, you know, for exactly what you said. Like, why would I like, you know, and so, so all these time travel movies have, you know, these, these white protagonists who ended up, you know, they can go back to wherever and they just have put on an accent and a hat and they can blend in.

And I was always like, I could never do it.

Casey: It’s so much savior complex too. In a lot of the time-travel things it’s really annoying.

[00:47:00] Steve Harper: Yeah. I mean, it’s just like, you know, so anyway, these two ideas kind of collided in my brain and then I thought, well, what would happen if, you know, I could go back to this one particular time or what I want to do that, or, you know, and I just started playing around with it and it just started to kind of, you know, grow in my brain and and I thought, Oh yeah, this is juicy.

Like, let’s do something with this.

Casey: That’s that’s awesome. One thing that, that always get stuck in my craw is people teaching, you know, basically the truth of slavery and, or excuse me, not teaching the truth of slavery, not teaching the truth of the civil war, because it it’s, the history has been.

Molded in such a way that nobody is wrong, nobody has any, you know, there’s no [00:48:00] responsibility for any of it. And it, you can thank the daughters of the Confederacy for a lot of that. You can think And yeah. So when that building burned a few months ago, I was very happy.

Steve Harper: Well, I think, you know, the thing is for, for anybody who, for the people that haven’t seen it out there, you know, send me as basically it’s about a black woman who has the power passed down through generations to send black people back in time to the days of slavery and, and in the series, people want to go and you know, they have to pay money for the privilege to go.

So, you know, so it’s a little off the hook and, and her husband, which is the part that I played, doesn’t want her to continue doing this. And she has her reasons which we, which we find out sort of later on in the series. But what became really fascinating to me is the idea of, you know, black people who are in the series.

You know, basically like black people who are [00:49:00] interested in taking this journey and why they’re interested. And so the first part of that process, you know, the part of the vetting process is for people to send in a video, you know, like a little talking head video saying, here’s what I would do if I went and here’s why I would go.

And so the, the series, which has all of the whole first season is all 40 minutes long and it, and it’s 17 parts. And the first. The first several parts, the first like 11 parts are these like one minute or little more than one minute videos of these people who are talking to the camera, you know, hoping to be chosen.

And, you know, it’s one of the, it’s one of the, my favorite parts of the series, just because you get all these people with all these different perspectives, some of them want to go back and like, Kill people for revenge, some of whom want to sort of, they w they would like to kind of prove that they could do it.

Like, could I survive that? Am I tough enough? Am I black with them? I, you know, and those, the [00:50:00] idea of those kinds of pretzels that we put ourselves into as people of color, as black people, to me, that’s a really interesting exploration. And then the last six the last six episodes. Of the series are the sort of narrative episodes where you find out who gets chosen and used kind of, you know, get into the story of this woman who was able to do it.

And and it becomes a little, you know, just sort of takes all the momentum of those interviews and kind of molds it into this. Dramatic space and yeah, we, we had a great time making it.

Casey: Do you have any more stories in, in that arena? Do you, do you think that you’re done there?

Steve Harper: Is that okay? Well, I’m definitely not done there.

In fact, it’s been interesting because, because as a result of making that I got my next job, which was on American crime, working with John Ridley. Who’s brilliant. That’s amazing. Yeah. And he and I have you know, have become friends and, and have been [00:51:00] in the process of trying to trying to market a version of that for television.

So there’s been a whole bunch of stuff that’s happened with it in terms of different versions that. I’ve created. And, you know, we had this whole process of trying to sell it which, which didn’t pan out in the way that I had hoped. And so in the moment, and when we talked about a film version and we talked about a number of different things at the moment, I’m considering creating a season two that That might actually be animated.

Oh, wow. So, yeah. So because there’s so much in developing it for television, there’s so much more story there about, you know, both what happens back in time and what happens to the family and what are the, you know, there are bunch of things. I mean, I, in, in creating the material for, you know, pitching it you know, I’ve got five seasons of ideas.

That, you know, directly come out of that story and, you know, I’m, [00:52:00] I’m itching to to explore it. So so we’ll see what happens. I mean, I’m currently looking for an animator and beginning to you know, the, in the baby steps of that process. Yeah, there’s a lot more story there.

Casey: I would love to see that expanded.

I could see that on you don’t need to me to tell you how great you are. However, I mean, I could see that on like HP or sorry, small ears. Now I could see it on HBO or something like that, especially today, you know, in 2020, when it seems like people are more willing to take. The chance to, to watch shows that deal with harder truths and harder

Steve Harper: subjects.

I think you’re right. And I think one of the things that I love about it is literally I think the truth is that whatever you think of that period of time in our country, it literally lives [00:53:00] in the DNA of all of us who live in this country. Like, whether you want to talk about it or not, whether you want to think about it or not, it’s part of who we are as a people.

And so the, the, you know, the metaphor really is, is exactly that. It’s it’s how do you take these 21st century black people? And how do you talk about how this thing, this history lives within them? Like that’s the core of the show. And so I think everyone, everyone who lives in this country has some relationship to, to that past, whether they want to look at it or not.

And. And the show kind of explodes that idea.

Casey: Well, th there’s so much like, as an example the What does, does it love craft country show has introduced people to so many things. I think that they would not have been [00:54:00] introduced to otherwise, like I knew about black wall street and the bombing of that, but my wife looked at me and said, what the hell is this?

That they never taught us about this? And things like colorism. It never occurred to me.

Steve Harper: And I think it is be great to be, you know, in an age where, you know, where you can, where these things are happening, you know, Watchmen and, and shows like that. And Lovecraft country are taking these, you know, these pieces of history and, and You know, developing them and expanding them and telling stories about them in ways that are now illuminating a whole new audience.

That’s that’s exciting.

Casey: And, and this is the medicine you need with a spoonful of sugar. So you don’t even realize you’re getting, I, I honestly think Lovecraft country should be taught in a college course because there’s so many concepts in that show just [00:55:00] within the confines of like one episode that Holy crap.

Yeah. It’s not preachy. It’s like, Oh, this is a thing. Here’s how it happens. And you see it. So yeah. Yeah. So what writing in the process of writing?

Steve Harper: Like, do you, do you

Casey: have to have anything going on in the background?

I always ask people, this is, I always get a different answer.

Steve Harper: Yeah. I think for me, for me, it really did. It depends on the day, you know, it’s kinda like one of my metaphors that I use and I’m always searching for a good metaphor, so God help me. But is it sort of, I think of writing or try to think of writing the way I think of eating and, you know, Obviously it’s one has to eat to live.

So you do it. We all do it in different ways. Like sometimes you do it, I’ll do it on the run, you grab something, I’ll grab something and it’s like, you know, grab something for 10 minutes and I’ll [00:56:00] run some days I’m sitting there for hours and hours, like if it’s Thanksgiving or holiday. And so I think my writing has the same kind of.

I don’t know amorphousness to it. Like sometimes I’m listening to music and sometimes it’s silence and sometimes I’m writing for hours and hours and sometimes I’m dropping in for 15 minutes, you know, and sometimes I’m doing stuff and I’ve outlined every moment out and other times I’m just sort of, you know, I’m just kind of like, you know, just letting it rip and sort of seeing what I can download.

So. For me all over the map, it just, depending on the day and the mood and the piece that I’m working on, just depends.

Casey: So you’re inside your head a lot. I’m sure when you’re writing, even in a group setting, what, what do you do? Cause I’m sure it’s exhausting getting all this stuff out there and especially making sure that everything lines up.

Steve Harper: I don’t know that I’m always in my head. I mean, [00:57:00] look there’s a, and I’m going to get it wrong, but Jeff Johns talks about how there are four places that people write from you know, your head, your heart. You know I don’t know what the two others are. I can’t really remember at the moment. Although I will remember, but you know, but I think that, that it’s not always yeah, he says your head, your heart, your muscle, or your gut, you know?

And and, and I think that in that way, it’s not always. I mean, the heads things seems to make it sound really intellectual, but I think it’s, I think there is something really visceral about, you know, I talked about in the acting space, kind of like the channeling of it. I think there is some channeling that happens in my writing.

That’s not necessarily intellectual. You know, so I do feel like there are impulses that come from all kinds of different places and Yeah. I mean, I think it’s important to kind of like release that. Like what do I do to release [00:58:00] that? You know, I try to try to meditate. I try to exercise. I try to like, you know, get out in the world and take walks and be in the sun trying to read stuff.

I try to, you know, I tried to sort of mix it up. Yeah. I mean, yeah. Do you feel like there are, there are a bunch of different places that different kinds of Sectors that I write from, it’s not all, it’s not, it’s not always in the head. And I also think too, like I’m always wary of both in my own work.

And in, you know, when I coach writers, I’m aware he, of even using the word perfect, like in, I, nothing is perfect. Right. But you can say like maybe a newborn baby is perfect or a leaf or a flower is perfect. But I think in the world of art, my explorations with art are always about. Trying to make peace with the imperfectness of it.

And just commit to putting something down.

Casey: I hear you. One thing that I always [00:59:00] like to ask people in the comics community, especially it’s it’s hard on small businesses right now. Comic shops are the lifeblood of the comics industry. Do you have one that you can shout out?

Steve Harper: Wow. I don’t, I don’t, I could pretend, but I don’t

Casey: really,

Steve Harper: I think what I’ve been doing mostly is, and this is really sparked by, you know, working on a superhero show is I’ve suddenly gotten into the, the digital comics kind of.

Casey: Nice.

Steve Harper: Yeah. It’s just,

Casey: especially when you have so many in your basement already. Yeah.

Steve Harper: It’s like a, yeah. So, you know, so I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been getting emails from Comixology and, you know, and, and, and downloading downloading some titles onto my iPad. And that’s really the that’s really what I’ve been doing of late.

 Yeah, so I’m not really sure. I, I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure there’s some great comic book stores out there and yes, I I’m with you. I, I [01:00:00] think they all deserve to be patronized and I don’t have one on the tip of my tongue.

Casey: It’s all good. Well, Steve, I don’t want to take too much more of your time up.

Thank you so much for coming on the show

Steve Harper: and really fun. I’m really happy.

Casey: It’s been fun.

Steve Harper: Yeah, I’m looking forward to to you know, continue, you mean the listen to your podcast and cheering you guys on, and I’m really glad to be on.

Casey: It’s been a pleasure and I’m sorry. I dropped out in the middle there that’s the first time that’s happened.

 So, but we’ll, we’ll stitch it back together. If you ever have anything else you want to talk about by all means hit us up. We’ll be more than happy to talk to you. I, I enjoyed I enjoyed our time.

Steve Harper: Yeah. Super fun. Thanks.

Casey: Take it easy, please. Stay safe. It’s it’s getting scary,

Steve Harper: man. It is. It’s getting really scary out there.

All right. Be well, take care.

Casey: All right. Same to you. Goodbye.

Steve Harper: Bye.

 

Author: Spoiler Country

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