When Frequency debuted its pilot during Comic-Con’s preview night, I was surprised at how much I loved the series. To the show and network’s credit, the teasers playing on The CW didn’t give away too much of the show’s plot, while still managing to pique my interest. Based on the 2000 movie of the same name, Frequency tells the story of Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), a detective whose father (Riley Smith) died 20 years earlier. Raimy’s memories of her father are tainted by anger and bitterness, as all she remembers is that he abandoned her family when they needed him. Unbeknownst to Raimy, there was a lot more to Frank Sullivan than met the eye. So when a freak lightning strike allows her to communicate with him via a ham radio in 1996, Raimy learns things and makes decisions that impact her future significantly.
We sat down at Comic-Con with the Frequency’s creator, Jeremy Carver, and executive producer Jennifer Gwartz to discuss the show.
And if you’re wondering whether or not you need to have seen the movie in order to appreciate the television series, never fear: you don’t! I had never seen the film but was captivated by the story and by the way that Frequency grounded itself in character development first, and then time-travel shenanigans and police drama second. But if you are a fan of the film, you might notice something a little bit different about the television series — the show chooses to gender-swap the main character. When asked what was behind the gender swapping (from a father/son relationship in the movie version of Frequency to the father/daughter version in the television show), Carver noted: “For me, I just thought it would be much more of a challenge. I always loved that central relationship in the movie. But when I thought more and more about it, the idea of making it father/daughter just felt more dynamic to me. […] I haven’t seen a relationship like this [on television], at least not in the shows that I’m watching. So it felt more exciting and more dynamic and not so tried and true.”
When you watch the pilot of Frequency, you might be wondering exactly what kind of show it is. Because while there are supernatural and time-travel elements to it, Frequency is about more than Raimy communicating with her father in the past. It’s about her present, and all of the moments that led her there. She has a very familial relationship with Satch DeLeon (Mekhi Phifer), who works on the force with her and a case presents itself in the pilot that will thread throughout the remainder of the series. So what kind of show is Frequency, then? “I would consider this show to be of three parts,” Carver noted. “You have a mystery/police drama, a family drama, and the genre part of it. And they’re sort of all mashed together. […] There’s no one template for each episode. There’s a sense of unpredictability for each episode that hopefully people will get excited about. […] One of the fun things about the show is that while we have a propulsive mystery with a ticking clock, we have all of these other issues sort of standing in the way. […] There’s no one template for the show. And while that makes it a little trickier to break these stories, I think it ultimately is going to be more rewarding to watch.”
Frequency certainly isn’t the first television series to be adapted from a film (just last year, CBS adapted the short-lived television series Limitless, based on the 2011 Bradley Cooper film), and it won’t be the last. While shows with source material like comic books, novels, or movies might find it easier in some ways to adapt to a new format, there are always still challenges. Especially when timelines are involved, as with Frequency. Carver said that, “I think one of the other challenges might be cross-time communication and the butterfly effect.” But unlike a show involving time travel like Doctor Who or Legends of Tomorrow, Carver said that “we never want people to feel like they have to keep a rule book by their sides [while watching the show]. […] You will pick up on what the rules are but we aren’t going to spell them out for you.” One of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of shows involving timelines or time travel is remembering all of the different versions of history and keeping the rules, as Carver noted, of each straight. Thankfully it seems like the Frequency writers are cognizant of the fact that audiences get frustrated whenever they’re asked to keep track of storylines and timelines and rules of time travel.
Speaking of time travel, it’s pretty evident just by looking at the shows on television this upcoming season (Legends of Tomorrow, Timeless, Time After Time, Making History, and Frequency) that time travel has become the new vampires or zombies. Audiences have always been fascinated by time travel, from Doctor Who to movies. But now more than ever before it seems like time travel has captivated audiences. And Jeremy Carver has no idea why, but surmises: “In our show there’s an element of wish fulfillment and the idea of having a second chance. I think that was one of the appeals to me about the show. But why’s there so much time travel? I’m sure there’s something about the times we’re living in and people looking to escape.”
Jennifer Gwartz then chimes in, “our [show] was developed two years ago. So we were ahead of the trend, regardless!”
Frequency is a show that relies heavily on the emotional relationship between Frank and Raimy Sullivan. Though there is a lot that is packed into the pilot, the episode never loses its central focus. Everything that Raimy does and everything she is centers around her past. While there are definitely procedural elements to the pilot, the cases and Raimy’s job are not at the forefront of the show in terms of importance. The case presented is easy to follow, and the show uses the relationships Raimy has — both with people on the force and with the job itself — to define and elevate her character. Peyton List and Riley Smith have incredible chemistry together already, and are able to nail some really complex emotional nuances within the span of forty minutes.
If you’re even remotely curious about Frequency, I highly recommend that you check it out when it debuts on The CW on October 5th.
Listen below for the full interview with Jeremy and Jennifer, and stay tuned for more interviews from Comic-Con!