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Wednesday, June 12, 2002
YANCY BUTLER TALKS WITCHBLADE
By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum
Yancy Butler is back.
Butler returned to the Witchblade set in Toronto on Monday, after a three-week hiatus where she voluntarily checked in for alcohol rehabilitation, and production resumed on the TNT series.
Six of the 13 episodes for the second season have already been shot, with the series launching with a two-parter on Sunday and then settling into its regular time period of Mondays at 9 p.m. Despite the hiatus, it appears the show's broadcasting schedule will continue with minimal interruptions.
The Continuum caught up with Butler, 31, recently after four shows had been completed, and she explained where the show - Top Cow's first foray into Hollywood - is headed for the second season.
Following is an edited transcription of the interview.
The Continuum: The show's been a big success, it seems.
Butler: It's just amazing. As I've always said, if we would have stopped at the movie, it certainly would have been disappointing not getting a pick-up. But all the work is standing on its own. We did the 11 last year, and I could not be happier. It's really been phenomenal.
The Continuum: The first season was such a roller coaster, and then the last episode yanked you back to the beginning.
Butler: Isn't it great? We just defied any rules of formulaic television. We killed off everybody. (laughs)
The Continuum: And now you're coming back full circle?
Butler: Exactly. Therefore, we pick up this season - and the first episode is just amazing; we come out of the gate with quite a bang - we actually pick it up prior to Pezzini having the Witchblade. So she has to acquire it all over again.
But where her emotional kind of chronological state in her head is as if she had kind of a weird dream or kind of a bad case of amnesia. She runs into people, for instance such as Gabriel, and he looks vaguely familiar and she's not really quite sure why.
She not only has to acquire it again, but she's really more confused than ever in terms of who knows what and what she knows. Or is it all just a dream? The possibilities are endless.
The Continuum: It must a challenge for you because you're treading the same ground sort of but with a different approach.
Butler: It's quite hard actually. But, as I told you last year, the moment this gets boring I'm going to do something else - become a vet or something. But this does keep me on my toes. I have copies of all of the scripts we've ever shot. Because we mess with and manipulate time so much, keeping order of chronological events is very hard to keep track of. And because of that as well, it gets hard to remember exactly what I know, but it's very challenging and very fun. How much does she know? And why does this person look familiar?
This year, we see more acceptance of getting the Witchblade, but we've come to the point where the audience knows more than she does about the thing. So she's kind of playing catch-up.
Which leads to a great twist in itself. It's kind of like when the audience can see the killer in the shed door but the actress can't. (laughs) They have all this information that she doesn't have.
The Continuum: They've recently publicity shots from the second season. The cast looks different this year, and Sara seems sexier.
Butler: Well, thanks. It's nothing a little hair and makeup won't do. (laughs)
The whole look, we're trying to get everybody a little sleeker. We might be the best-dressed cops in New York, but yeah, we're trying to sleek it up and make her a bit sexier, I think.
The Continuum: In the first season, you said it was important for Sara to have a lover life. Will it be important again this time?
One of the purposes of that was that we needed to see her smile more. Because of all the losses she's had to deal with, it was important to see her giggle and smile. Again, like most she things she cares about or covets, they end up getting terribly slaughtered.
But I think we will reprise something of that ilk again.
The Continuum: With Danny now being alive, that really changes things?
Butler: Well, we come to the same crossroads in terms of the Rialto Theater, where he was killed in the first episode, so I think people will be pleasantly surprised about that.
But with Danny, he is her equal with the sense of humor, and he is the one person she feels he can hold things up to. But she can't. The difference with Danny being around is that it's the same kind of interplay between them, but he doesn't have the information about the Witchblade and he's just left in the position of thinking that she's freaking out. So it's quite a complex relationship there.
The Continuum: A lot of action for you in Season 2?
Butler: Oh, yeah. Always. A day in the life of a homicide cop, Rob. The thing I like about the action stuff in our show is it's not just blowing it up for blowing it up's sake. Or let's kill this person just because it looks cool.
Most of Sara's physical stuff and the action sequences are borne out of self-defense or really doing her job. So it's not this gratuitous visual stimulus that doesn't need to be there. And I dig that about our show a lot.
Butler: People are just all over this show. The weirdest incidence of how big the show has become is one of my girlfriends picking up her kids from ballet class and we're in a cab, and I was talking on the phone the entire time.
And we pulled into Times Square and right across the street from a (Witchblade) billboard that's about the size of a hotel and all of a sudden I looked, and just went, "Oh, my God!" And it was a Saturday around the holidays in between the matinee and evening performances on Broadway, and I was like, "I gotta get out of here!"
The response has been incredible. I think people are responding to the uniqueness of our show, and that they were ready to be challenged visually and intellectually, and to see a real human being, let alone a woman, on television.
We could not be happier with the response from everybody. It's just been overwhelmingly positive.
The Continuum: And there are even conventions now?
Butler: Well, there's always been the comic-book conventions, and they have, in fact, whittled it down to Witchblade conventions. I can't wait to see it. Maybe some of the men will be dressed up as Pez! Anything's possible!
The Continuum: TNT has really been behind the show, too.
Butler: One of the great things about TNT and Warner Bros., and cable as opposed to network, is they've really given us carte blanche within understand parameters to let us do what we do best, which is to create this really, weird great show. They've stood behind us and been patient to give us the time to let us develop.
Unlike a lot of shows, like Cheers and Seinfeld on network, which did horribly in their first season, we did do wonderful with our ratings and the movie. But they've always had the patience to stand behind us. Because we've done some pretty weird, envelop-pushing stuff.
The Continuum: I understand your father's in the show?
Butler: Yes, he is. He's in the first episode. It was actually presented to me by Ralph Hemecker, our exec producer, as a surprise. And he only told me prior to the day. And he said, 'Is it OK? Is it going to be weird?' I said, 'No, it's great.'
And what's really wonderful - and somebody just pointed it out to me - is that my father is playing a retired a cop. And his father in real life, my grandfather, was a cop. So everything really is connected, Rob. It's really quite special, and he did a fantastic job. He really is quite wonderful.
The Continuum: How big of a role is it?
Butler: He's in a couple of scenes. It's a nice guest spot and he just did phenomenal. It's very hard material, and he has a very small spot in the second episode, too.
He's calling me to this day. He keeps saying, "Did I do OK?" It's a funny story because up to me in between when they were turning the camera around for my close-up, he was so nervous that I was literally feeling like I was going to projectile vomit for him. He said, "You know, when I finish a song, people come up and applaud." And I said, "Dad, they definitely don't do that here." And they don't come up to me after every take and say, "You know, you were absolutely fantastic." And to this day, he's still thinking he did really bad, but he's going to be pleasantly surprised.
And we just come out of the gate with this one. It looks phenomenal. I'm very excited with it, if you can't tell.
The Continuum: How many of themes are characters from the first season, like the White Bulls, will appear in the second?
Butler: As of yet, the White Bulls aren't to fruition and we haven't met Capt. Bruno Dante yet. Again, we're not quite sure. We don't know if Jake is really FBI as he touted to be last year at the end of the season. Again, anything is possible.
There are certain things that are carried over, but some things we just don't know yet.
The Continuum: Is it like last season, where you as an actress don't know where the season will ultimately take you?
Butler: We really don't know. It was quite a surprise when Ralph gave us the script from last year. I kept calling him up, after every two pages, saying, "You can't do this!" And we was like, "Keep reading and stop calling me." And it was such a brilliant move.
So we don't have a clue, just as Sara doesn't have a clue. She's accepting it more, but that doesn't mean she has more information. I guess that means she's really accepting the unknown, but is more willing, instead of this reluctant wielder, to find out. And, in the meantime, to defend her life at times.
But we really don't know where she's going to go. I'm sure somebody does, but they don't let me know. (laughs).
The Continuum: Ralph Hemecker told me that she's really more interested in how to use the Witchblade than its background.
Butler: That's actually a very good take. That's exactly how I would put it. Gabriel fills in her somewhat with the history of it, and people like Nottingham continue to fill her in on the mythological aspects of it.
But, yes, this thing still pops up sometimes, and she doesn't know what the heck is going on. First things first, she needs to figure out what's going on and if this thing will turn on her. She can't get it off her wrist. So I think it's very apropos of what's going on in the scripts.
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