SDCC ’17: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Is Only Getting Smarter And Weirder
by Hannah Means Shannon
Moderated by Kevin Smith, the panel kicked off with plenty of fan applause for Dirk Gently’s first Hall H Comic-Con panel in the BBC America block, to be followed by Doctor Who.
Smith told a story associated with Doctor Who talking about interviewing people on the IMDB boat, with Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi. For him, he’s just like the audience, and loves fictional stories “more than his own blood relatives”. He told Moffat that one of his favorite hours of TV is something that came from Doctor Who. It was the “school reunion” episode with Sarah Jane Smith. Moffat corrected him that he didn’t make that episode, and embarrassed Smith in his “blunder for Comic-Con”.
Smith said he changed his plans just to stay in SDCC and host the Dirk Gently panel since he believes the show to be “bold, daring” and defiantly determined “not to help the audience in any way”.
The audience was shown a sizzle reel from the previous season which acted as a pretty solid introduction to the craziness of the first season.
Smith asked about the “everything is connected” aesthetic, and how challenging Season One was to create. Robert Cooper said that a large part of his job is just listening to Max Landis. He compared it to being a surgeon and trying to save the life of a stab victim while he’s being stabbed by a murderer. It’s also, he said, like trying to take a sip of water from a “firehose”.
Smith observed that “everything in this business is personality” and said that Landis is excellent at pitching. He asked what the pitch for this show was like.
Landis said he didn’t pitch the show, since it would be a “no” no matter how hard you tried. He decided that he’d have to pitch “as he went”. He had to write a really good pilot that was fun enough to read to be a pitch. So folks would have the Bible and didn’t need the Preacher, he said. Then he wrote a 68 page Show Bible with long sequences in it written in Dirk’s voice.
The show itself became a pitch, since anything else would have been doomed to pitch in short form in a simple way.
Smith said that in the business, one of the things you lose right away is your willingness to do work for no money. In this case, Landis was doing all this work without any surety that the show would be picked up. So proceeding in this way was unusual.
Landis described himself as “someone who you gave Microsoft Office to and the rest has just been a mess”.
Smith asked the cast if Landis’ way of working is frustrating to them. Samuel Barnett says it’s fine at first reading and then you ask, “No wait, how are we going to do this?” on a more serious level. He finds you don’t need to know everything, and thinks, “I’m just going to stay with this and see where it goes”, like the audience.
The characters are “in the dark too”, Elijah Wood said. That is very “present” in the dialog, and everything is just a “storm right around us”. Wood said the pilot created “a million questions and no answers” when he read it. But he loved that. He felt he had “fallen in love”. The “beautiful reveals” would happen mid-Season with Landis saying, “Oh I didn’t tell you that thing?” He finds it thrilling.
Hannah Marks was asked if her characters’ disease exists in the real world, and she confirmed that it does not. But to her it feels like the symptoms of her own anxiety issues.
Jade Eshete was asked if she knew she’d be “the muscle” on the show, and she said she did know, and it made her want to back away from the role. She just couldn’t see herself in that role. She’s not a big person, and didn’t see how that was going to work taking down 10 guys. But now she goes to the gym a lot and works with fight trainers. She’s “legit doing it!”, she said, to applause.
Fiona Douriti was asked if people are now terrified of her, given her role. She said she gets recognized on dating sites now in Vancouver and people send her little jokes. She said that as a woman it’s rare to get to “physically let yourself go” and be “totally un-sexualized” in a role.
Mpho Koaho said that in the first year filming, this was a great opportunity to play comedy for the first time, really. It’s fun to play an “uncomfortable” character who’s probably running to the bathroom in every scene.
Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are joining the show in Season Two, Smith said, to applause.
The audience was shown a clip from Season 2 where Dirk experiences an elaborate dream-sequence and wakes up in a prison-like room with guards.
Landis said that people on the show “exist anomalously” in the world of the show, not as powered beings. They create or heal distortions in the universe and produce different results. In the show, these characters are being killed off, and having close encounters. He explained that in the sequence we viewed, Dirk was being held and contained for dissection by these people.
Landis said they’re over half way through filming Season Two.
Labine said the way his character was pitched was being a “highly underchallenged Sheriff” and when this comes into his life, it’s the “coolest thing he’s ever seen” and is accepting of the weird stories they tell.
Cooper reminded the audience that the whole idea behind the show is that each season is a “new case” and kind of an exploration of a different genre each time with different settings. Season One was time travel. Now it’s something else and set out of a city, in the country.
Tudyk says he plays a “bad guy” who is tracking the anomalies and wants to lock them up. He said he has a big gun and he shoots it, which is not a euphemism. What’s great about firing a machine gun, he laughed, is that you don’t have to act. You’re suddenly a “badass” he said.
Tudyk said that being “mean and serious takes so much work” and wishes his character were instead a “buffoon” since that comes easily to him. His character never stops coming at his enemies, Tudyk warned.
The audience saw another clip, which Landis said was really hard to choose since the first episode was full of spoilers. In the clip, an organization was attempting to work with “powered” people, and feeling disillusioned by the lack of good powers now cropping up.
Barnett said that Dirk is becoming reluctant to use the powers that he has. Todd is now preaching about the Universe with the same enthusiasm Dirk once had, though.
Wood said that Todd needs to believe that the Universe hold the answers, and Dirk is asking him to “tone it down”.
Marks said it’s getting hard to even talk about this season without spoiling a season that’s “10 times weirder” this time.
Douriti said it’s more “simplistic” this season, simpler, but “way weirder”.
Kevin Smith asked if he could direct an episode, and Landis said that if helps them get renewed for Season Three, Smith will have to direct two episodes.