Trail Tales Creative Staff Interview with Josh Kane

Interview conducted on February 14th, 2002 12noon EST

First, Trail Tales would like to thank Mr. Josh Kane for talking to us about the Young Riders!!

Comments and questions by Raye in Gold
Answers by Josh in White!

Basically... I asked from the begining of his involvement to the end of his involvement.

Do you know that it started at another network?

No!

This originally was developed at CBS. When Mike Ogiens, my partner and co-executive producer was an executive there. The show was pitched to us there, and we had what we thought was a terrific script, but CBS did not want to make the pilot. So, its life was over,... temporarily.

Years later, when we were together as independent producers, we resurrected the idea at ABC. Bless them,

(i wholeheartedly agreed)

So they became the network that supported us. The writer, Ed Spielman, who was someone Mike and I had worked with in the past, he'd originally pitched it at CBS, ...well we were now out of the network and we wanted to resurrect it, had loved the idea... did a little work on it, and ABC was pleased. So, that's how shows sometimes start in one place..

and go somewhere else.

And so it did.

And the ABC executives were very, very supportive... they did not have any other westerns, and they also bought into the fact that this was slightly different, in terms of its youth appeal. Part of what we loved about it was...from the beginning, even going back to CBS, That although it was a western, the idea was to be as contemporary as possible.. and give these kids attitudes, feelings and relationships that contemporary youth and young adults could relate to and identify with..


Exactly..

' they just rode horses instead of cars, but had a lot of the same conflicts..

by the way.. in today's trades, Josh Brolin has a new pilot for next year
.

Really?!

Josh Brolin ("Hollow Man") will play the lead in "Mister Sterling," an hour long drama from Studios USA/NBC Studios revolving around a young man who becomes a U.S. congressman. Lawrence O'Donnell ("The West Wing") is the writer/exec producer.

I'm a big Josh fan-

So were we.
'
so, so now we've a network that was interested in doing it. and a script that they like and the contemporary youth appeal.. and the way the network development process works is...they look at a whole bunch of scripts and decide which ones they want to order, not every script gets made into a pilot, but we were fortunate to be selected and it was done in association with MGM, that's where Mike and I were housed as producers.

So, with us.. our Ogiens Kane company, MGM television, and ABC, those were the producing partners of Young Riders..

so it was ordered as a pilot...so naturally the next thing becomes casting.

'cause we have these terrific roles.. now I don't remember all the details of the process, except that it takes place over a long period of time. New York and Los Angeles, live and in video tape, reaching out to all the agents you have, I mean, pilot season becomes a very frenzied, crazy period. A casting breakdown is sent out from the casting director, and the world starts to come to your door. So you see people in New York, you see people in Los Angeles, you put people on tape. You show those tapes to casting people in both cities... we knew we were going with largely or mostly unknowns... although Josh had some visibility .. this was not *star* value that we were going for. We were to build an ensemble, the exception perhaps was in the roll of Teaspoon.

Where we were hoping for a grizzled seasoned actor, and through ABC NY who was helping us out a lot, we were asked if we wanted to meet with Anthony Zerbe... 'whoa, would I?' And he drove in... he has a production company in Upstate New York, he made a *long* trip, drove in just for the meeting, and he and I met in the .. now he's someone you really need not ask to audition.


We just had an office meeting with the ABC casting director and talked about our vision, I was representing Mike and Ed Spielman... for the series for the character... it was terrific... so we had our anchor in the adult role, the other role where we were going for some depth of acting ability was Melissa Leo, who was in the first season... what was the character name?

Emma

Emma (Mr. Kane chuckles) Thank you... and you know there was a change in the second season when Clare Wren came in...that was a decision that I think the producers would not have made, but the network was going for something different in terms of look and appearance, Melissa is a tremendous actress... and I thought she was great, she really had that *plains, prairie, earth-mother...kind of protectiveness and an iron fist at the same time, and I thought she was terrific.

There were a couple of other big changes, and I'm trying to remember the exact timing...ah.. the role of Marshal Cain, was not originally a part of the show... it was a network request. They felt that a western series needed someone in law enforcement, and you needed someone.. not an enemy, but an adversary in a sense, that they would sort of butt heads. And to the degree that the kids wound up getting into problems, taking law enforcement into their own hands, we needed a town presence. That's where the character of the Marshal was created, he was not part of the original concept.

To make room for the Marshal, (in fact again, my timing is off here).. there's a character, who presumably, unless you've seen the original...with all the out-takes, which I've guess you've never seen-


I wish

ah.. do you watch Scrubs?

Yes!

There's an actor named Ken Jenkins, who plays.. I'm guessing he's the chief of staff, Ken was in the original pilot, playing a character called 'DOGMAN'. 'And Dogman was kind of a mystical, spiritual, not quite human, not quite animal, not quite Indian, not quite.. American, he's this sort of mystical presence on the plains. There were a couple of very very important and emotional scenes with the Kid.. who in his travels winds up at a campfire with this guy.. anyway.. the network decided that it was a little too spiritual and that we were lacking in law enforcement. Dogman was cut out and the Marshal was written in..

Oh, okay.. that explains the Sam Cain/Kid scene by the fire..

I gotta tell you, you remember it much more clearly than I do

...there are things that are missing and you've never seen Dogman.. that was especially a disappointment to Ed who, as well as Michael and myself, we loved that character and the spirituality... Ed, who also created KUNG FU was with that spiritual influence, but that character disappeared..


the casting proceeds and we were lucky to get Stephen Baldwin in New York, and Josh.. I mean, we just saw a lot of people, had them read, narrowed it down, .. I think I mentioned the other day that only two actors actually got to the point where we did on-screen, filmed, screen-tests in full costume. One was Ty Miller and the other was an actor named Tim Guinee.


Also a fine actor, a little bit older and perhaps a little different sex appeal. The network and the studio made their collective decisions on the cast, based on what? chemistry, gut instinct, ....how they worked together. We thought that Stephen and Josh had good.. friction.. and in the pilot they are sort of at odds, wise guys.. each one sort of wanting to rule the roost... and so we had a cast.





Then we went to Northern California to shoot the pilot, it's not where the series was done..

it did look very different.

I'm tryin' to think of the name of the town...it's up in the old silver and gold mining area... (he ponders the question for about a minute) You know, for a few years there, I couldn't get it out of my head...Columbia and Sonora CA, that's it...that's where the pilot was done.

We had what we thought were a couple of bad breaks with the weather, which actually turned out to be quite effective...it gave us some rain clouds.



We thought the guy who played Scar Face, the bad guys, we had real good casting luck, David Marshall, a Chicago Stage Actor.. had a real good menacing presence.

The pilot was a very successful shoot. Robert Lieberman was the director, and has moved back and forth between Television and Feature Films.. a very *stylish* director, slow, because he's a perfectionist, methodical with amazing success.. almost every pilot he'd directed was picked up for a series... so he brought us that bit of luck.

Another terrific behind the scenes person was ... we were looking for a great cinematographer, directory of photography, and we knew we wanted a different look, more feature film like, if that's such a thing.. and we cast about for a bunch of people, met with people.. saw some demo reels... and hired a guy named John Toll, who had really not done a lot of television if any.. but a lot of really terrific commercials. Slow, methodical, a real artist. After that, he went on to become so major, I believe he's already won two academy awards, one for Braveheart and for a Spielberg... just put his name in a internet search.. and you'll see.


I did... and he's been the Director of Photography for some amazing films.. like Legends of the Fall, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Thin Red Line, Almost Famous... wow!

Someone else we brought in, who we'd worked with on other pilots, our composer, John Debney.

if you look up his credits you'll see he's a major feature film composer.


Princess Diaries, Liar,Liar, Spy Kids (my son is in heaven)...

We worked with a lot of people who went on to bigger and better things.. I'm happy to say... if nothing else, we had good taste in assembling the crew.

So we made the pilot and MGM had a handful of pilots that year, and ABC had a *lot* of pilots that year... and ours.. I don't want to say it was trouble free, but it skated through fairly smoothly... a minimum of problems, I remember the very first day... you know we had to send the film back and forth in California. ABC would look at the first day reels of film, the *dailies*, and that night, *I'll never forget it* we were in the production office, waiting for the phone call from ABC, cause this is now their first look at what we're filming and generally you have to be prepared to take pages of notes, while they tell you what you're doing wrong, .. so the phone call begins and we're all sitting around, and the guy from ABC in gets on the phone, 'You're all there?'

We said, 'Yeah.'

'We want you to keep doing what you're doing.' And that was the end of the conversation. So we hung up and celebrated, we were very pleased. And MGM, our studio, had pilots that were having much bigger problems than ours. So, we were doin' good and were kind of left alone.

Once the film was shot and edited, put together the pilot. Now ABC is sitting there with a couple of dozen pilots, and ready to put together their fall lineup.

Clearly, we were the only western, and although westerns were not that popular.. they're still not, they make their scheduling decisions in April or May and announce their fall schedule at a very big bash in New York.

You kind of sit on pins and needles, waiting for that answer. It's as big a moment in our professional lives as there had been. Mike lived in Los Angeles and I lived in New York.. and we got the news in New York.

Mike first said he was not going to come to New York... he said, 'I don't wanna jinx it. If it'll be good news.. it'll be good news.' And then at the last moment, he couldn't resist. So I guess the day before the announcement he said, 'I'm flying in. I'm coming in this afternoon.'


I said 'OK. Pick you up at the airport, take you into the city, bring you to the hotel.'

My wife and I drove out to the airport and picked him up... and on the way to the hotel, from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan, the car phone rings and the car phone was the announcement from the studio that ABC was ordering the series.


Great!

It was, so we got to his hotel room and ordered a LOT of champagne. Stephen Baldwin was the only one in New York at the time, we called him... said we were goin' out to dinner, meet us. He came with his, now his wife, don't know if she was his girlfriend at the time, and celebrated the announcement. Here we were, with no major stars, a western, just on the merits of the show, ABC saw what they liked.

Then the trouble begins-


This caused me no small amount of alarm and worry...

Well now.. you have to make a series!

Phew! I thought he was goin' to say something went wrong

Now, MGM doesn't have four or five shows to worry about, just yours.. and ABC doesn't have 30 pilots, they have just the couple of shows they are goin' to put on the air. So now everyone starts to lavish attention on you... in fact I think that's where the Marshal came in... and Dogman went out. We actually had to go shoot scenes with the Marshal. Cast the Marshal and shoot scenes that didn't exist and cut out the others and edit the film. Still it was good news!

It went for three seasons, there were time period changes... and it sort of held it's own regardless where they put it, even opposite of shows like Cheers. Mike and I were less involved in the second and third seasons... we moved on to other projects and MGM brought in some others.. Ed stayed around, and if you watch the credits.. you'll always see the Ogiens Kane logo at the end of the show.. you will not always see .. Michael Ogiens, Josh Kane as the executive producers. You'll see Jonas McCord, and ... I forget everyone else that came in... but if you see us as the executive producers, you'll know it's a first season episode.

Still, you'll always see the Ogiens/Kane tag... the apple and orange at the end of the show. So we had much, much less to do with it, although I continued to watch it, of course, be a supporter and a fan.


Cowboy Camp?


We wanted to look somewhat authentic, ..it's still bothering me that I can't remember the name of the city.


Anyway, one of the unsung heroes on the show was the man who was credited as the wrangler, responsible for all the animals. Richard Lundin, Richard and his family were in that business, they provided animals from many different shows and we felt that.. and I didn't go to cowboy camp...I didn't want to see that much of horses. Mike and I had an agreement that if the show got picked up, I would actually have to ride a horse... and I did. There's a picture of me sitting in a New York Mets Baseball cap and sneakers, riding a horse like an idiot... anyway I fulfilled my part of the bargain.



So we said, you gotta take these kids and turn them into... making them look somewhat authentic... and considering... actors lie. On resumes they put down skills,... no actor's gonna say no if it means a role. Like Ty, for instance. He had us convinced that he grew up on a ranch. Ranch? Later we found out that it was a Christmas Tree Ranch!

So, the actor's that didn't know how to ride had to learn... Especially on a western show...

Some of them could and some of them couldn't. Some of the ones that could didn't look like cowboys. Not only did they get better.. but they would ride when they didn't have to. It was just a couple of days, but they came out of it, better than they went in... and like I say if you look at the last scene of the opening credits, where they are sort of riding in a row, there's a lot of bouncing around... which real riders wouldn't do. That was part of the training process and now when you look at these press junkets for films.. like Blackhawk Down, all the actors talk about bein' sent to *bootcamp* to become soldiers... that process is not that uncommon. We tried to make them all comfortable with the horses and comfortable with the guns, ...

When it came time to do the series, Northern California was not a practical location. We had a big weather problem... and after looking in some parts of California, Utah, New Mexico, ...we wound up with Tucson. It really turned out to be ideal, to shoot this on a back lot of a studio... like Old Tucson, which is a little *as you know* movie town, it's very very limiting, but by going about thirty miles east, there's a place called Mescal. There was a western town that had been built for movies. They had used this location for many many years for classic western films. The good news is.. it was not confined like a back lot or Old Tucson, you could point a camera in almost any direction and not see cars, telephone poles and all that stuff. It's rather isolated and that was real important. That became Sweetwater.


We took what was there and augmented.. and built...added new stuff. Sometimes we changed the look of a backstreet to stand in for other towns when they had to be somewhere else. We got a lot of use out of Mescal and then our location scout, Bruce Margolis, found a lot of tremendous nearby locations. Mountains, streams, and all the other stuff we had to do.

So that became homebase for the series, a couple of the guys fell in love with it. Stephen moved there, Josh moved there...not just when they were shooting, but the *moved* there. They really loved it. So, Tucson and Mescal... you're right the pilot did look very different
.

It went from lush and green to cacti and tumbleweeds.

One of the ways we covered that, not.. covered it.. I mean the lighting and everything looks different. I mean, the town in the pilot where the KID signs up for the Pony Express is not Sweetwater, in other words.. we didn't have to duplicate the original town someplace. Was simply where he signed up. The 'training ranch' where they meet Teaspoon, that was a bit more of a problem, because simply.. that was goin' to be *homebase*.

And I don't think when we got to Arizona that we duplicated it .. or tried to.

I mentioned just little anecdotes.. along the way... the last scene of the pilot, Teaspoon's sitting with the guys and takes a big bite of this onion. AH.. and that's the last line...or close to it, 'that's a good onion.' We offered him an apple, you know a peeled apple that would look like an onion.. you know, no one should have to do that. You know, for professional reasons and because he sort of became a rock.. a seasoned, terrific, award nominated stage actor with great film credits and a couple of young kids, and I think he felt to a certain degree like a role model. But, for whatever reason he said, 'No, no.. give me the real thing.'

So, my job as executive producer, that I took on myself.. I think I told you, I was ready with the tictacs.. and as soon as the scene was over I was there to help him be livable. There were more scenes to be filmed.


(I was tryin' to compose myself)

But that was Anthony.

Way behind the scenes thing.. and this is not very important. Ty Miller and I are not the same size. I'm a little bit bigger than he is. When it came time for his final audition,.. not the one where we put him on tape in costume... the final network audition... he came in with these .... ripped jeans. I don't know if he thought it was the style.. but we decided it was not a great look. I was packing up, 'cause I had just come in... or was just due to fly back to New York, so I had my suitcase in the office with me. Pulled out a pair of my jeans... and Ty Miller auditioned and got the job wearing my oversized jeans. He belted them up and put something over to not reveal the belting. Maybe that was good luck...


Wearing the producer's jeans.. that works.

Maybe it should become a tradition...we should do that for all of our pilots.

So.. among the people I remember seeing..


Yes? :)

I know that Lara Flynn Boyle read for Lou. '
You know who Christine Elise is?


Yes.

She *definitely* read for Lou.


 

Yvonne had all of the elements, ABC liked her a lot, they had found her in Chicago and put her under some network 'holding' deal. They knew they wanted to find a project for her. So that, helped a lot. Stephen came to us through New York. Gregg and Travis where.. I think more traditional.

You know an actor named Dermot Mulroney?


Yes.

He read.. I don't remember what.. I think I told you the other day.. the Hickok's and the Cody's were sometimes interchangeable. Someone would come in and read for one...and read for the other..

So definitely Brad Pitt, definitely Dermot Mulroney.


   

There was another actor that came close to Hickok.. he did the TV Show *Route 66* ...

(after thinking about it .. Josh went to the internet to look up the answer...)



James Wilder

Many Many Thanks to Josh Kane for his time and generosity with the information locked away in his brain... It was real honor to talk with him and hear his enthusiasm for the show even after all these years.

Note: The pictures from the Pilot and the two pictures of Josh Kane were lent to us by the Man himself! Thanks Josh... they are just AWESOME!

Thanks to WendyW for helping scan in the photos from Josh. I was in Tucson at the time with no 'puter during my move back to Hawaii... so Thanks Wendy!

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