Jack Kenny and his dog RG
A few weeks ago, I spoke to Warehouse 13 executive producer Jack Kenny about the new season of the show, his philosophy of writing, and how he makes the characters come to life four and a half seasons in.
The Backlot: Jack! Great to talk to you again. So Warehouse 13 premieres April 29th, right?
Jack Kenny: April 29th, at 10PM, right after the third airing of Defiance.
The Backlot: You’re following up on SyFy’s newest gigantic multimedia project.
Jack Kenny: We are, behind the behemoth. We’re still the same show, action adventure thrillomedy. I haven’t seen Defiance yet. I’m sure we’ll cross demographics quite a bit. I just hope people know we’re on, because we normally return in July at 9PM, and now we’re back early at 10PM. I just hope people know we’re on and watch it within three days of the first airing.
The Backlot: So we’re coming in at the 4.5 season. Where does the story pick up?
Jack Kenny: We pick up right after Artie has been stabbed to get the evil out of him with a dagger that belonged to a Jesuit priest who used it for exorcisms, and Claudia figures it out in a moment, and stabs Artie and tears the evil out of him. But of course, the cliffhanger was that we don’t know if Artie lives or dies, so we’ll find out when we come back.
The other thing that happens of course is that a plague gets released into the world, so we’re cleaning up a lot of that, make that disappear, and bring Artie back. But even bringing Artie back physically, the difficulty is what he’s done. He killed Leena. We spend several episodes trying to come to terms with that. Yes, he was under the thrall of an artifact, it wasn’t his hands that did it, but it was his hands. And he has to deal with that, it’s the worst thing he’s ever had to deal with. The family pulls together in some really cool ways, Claudia especially. They really rally around Artie, and he and Claudia have some really nice missions running around picking up artifacts trying to help him deal with what he’s done.
The theme for the last two seasons has been mortality. We’ve established our family now, and they all know each other, they love each other. It’s a family show where everyone also happens to run around and chase artifacts, but it’s really about this family and how they help each other through their lives. Every family has to deal with mortality one way or another. Some sort of loss, some sort of devastation, and this is our family dealing with it.
Artie killed a member of the Warehouse family this year
The Backlot: We rely on this show for the relationships and the humor. But you haven’t gone too dark with Leena’s death and a plague on the earth, have you?
Jack Kenny: Absolutely not. I think we actually lighten up with the last ten episodes than we did with the first ten episodes. The first ten, especially with Artie being the Big Bad for the season. I don’t think we ever get as dark as killing Leena. We still have humor, we still have lighthearted romps, just like all of life’s tragedies, there’s humor to help you get through them. So it will still be the same show. Pete will still be farting and eating everything he sees and Myka will still be rolling her eyes and trying to make him behave as something other than the twelve year old he is.
The Backlot: Now I’ve seen the screener for an episode that will be very popular with our readers, of course, when we meet Steve’s ex, played by Charlie Weber, and while it has a high body count, Pete is very Pete and stands up and goes “He’s the gay me!” You’ve still got Pete providing the door for the audience.
Jack Kenny: Yes, and part of the casting process, and I want to say that Charlie is great and perfect for this part, but our first reaction when we wrote it was to try and get David Boreanaz to do it because we wanted an absolute dead ringer for Pete. Eddie literally gets stopped at airports by people thinking he’s David. We thought it would be really hilarious to make Steve’s ex a match for Pete, and Charlie with the lantern jaw, U.S. Marshall attitude is close enough for Pete to say to Steve “See! I told you I was your type. I knew I was your type. Want me to take my shirt off again?
Charlie Weber plays Steve’s ex-boyfriend. The photo is from an
upcoming interview and photo shoot The Backlot did with Charlie.
The Backlot: All Charlie needed was a buzz cut and he could have been Pete in a lot of ways.
Jack Kenny: And that’s important. Pete’s whole attitude towards Steve and anybody is “How can I make people laugh with what’s going on?” That’s how Pete goes through life, ribbing Myka about her OCD, Artie about his love of cookies. Pete’s just everyone’s older brother.
The Backlot: In the casting, Charlie can be as emotionally reserved as Steve is.
Jack Kenny: It’s very much not opposites attracting, it’s likes attracting with those two.
The Backlot: And I can see where that sets up some of the conflict we see in this episode. Now I know Charlie Weber gets geek cred with a stint on Buffy in his past. You tend to cast people with a lot of geek cred on your show. Who do we see this year?
Jack Kenny: We’ve been through the Battlestar-repertory company, and we’ve been through the Star Trek-repertory company, and season 4.5 is diving very heavily into the Buffy-repertory company. James Marsters is on the show this year, we have a couple other huge Buffy guest stars coming, including Anthony Head.
James Marsters is a blast from the past for one character on the show
The Backlot: You said we spend a few episodes cleaning up from Artie having been the big bad in the first half of the season. Does that mean you have time to introduce a new Big Bad?
Jack Kenny: Actually, we introduce several characters that could be the Big Bad, but you’ll have to wait and see which one it actually is. We do shake things up a bit. At one point you thought H.G. Wells was a Big Bad, but now she’s a part of the team. I’m not a big fan of absolutes. I don’t think anyone is completely good or completely bad. I think everyone falls somewhere on the Kinsey Scale of good and evil.
The Backlot: Since you brought it up, one of the top questions we get is where is that H.G. Wells spinoff?
Jack Kenny: I would love for that to happen. Bob Goodwin and I have written three different outlines for a pilot episode focused on H.G., but SyFy has been very focused on getting Defiance up and running, and she’s a big part of that. I would love to do it, I would love to write it, and I think it would be a great series.
We have some really cool ideas for her to be a sort of Sherlock Holmes-type character in New York in the 1890s.
The Backlot: But H.G. is back this season, right?
Jack Kenny: She is, and there are some really fun moments between her and Myka. Unfortunately we were only able to get her because she’s been tied up doing Defiance, and I think she spends the bulk of her time there getting into makeup.
Mrs. Frederick and Claudia have a shared destiny
The Backlot: So let’s talk about some the future of the characters on the show. Mrs. Frederic seems to be very up in the air once her hair changed.
Jack Kenny: Mrs. Frederic is pretty heavily tied into Claudia’s future as a caretaker of the Warehouse. I think what you’ll find in this half of the season is Claudia’s future, how Mrs. Frederic is tied into that, and how it gets impacted by our Big Bad.
The Backlot: If you’re moving Claudia towards her future as a caretaker of the Warehouse, that has to have a huge impact on her mission partner and gay bestie, Steve, doesn’t it?
Jack Kenny: It definitely does. Claudia and Steve have a lot of stories together this season, they bond a lot more, they go to England. But there is a big shift that happens this season that lands on Claudia’s shoulders, and it affects everybody, but it hits Steve and Artie the most, because they’re closest to Claudia.
Isn’t it fun having a gay man and his bestie save the world instead of going shopping together?
The Backlot: They go to England? One off the great mysteries of the show is how they travel around the world so quickly on missions. They seem to be able to be anywhere instantly.
Jack Kenny: Yeah, critics and network executives are the only ones who ask those questions. Most people who watch TV don’t really care. I think the last thing anyone wants to see is them going through baggage claim and picking up a rental care. We try and cover it as best they can. If one episode happens in nighttime in Las Vegas and the B team is in England, we try and make the time zones match up, but I’m always more interested in what’s happening on the ground more than how they got there as a story point.
The Backlot: When you do all these trips, do you actually go on location?
Jack Kenny: Oh, no. We’re always in Toronto, although in this back half we actually go to Niagara Falls, and we have a really cool shot of the team crossing a bridge over the falls. One of the advantages of Toronto is that it can look like anywhere.
The Backlot: The last time we talked, you told me about some of the artifacts that were coming up, like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. What’s coming up that might catch people’s eyes?
Jack Kenny: Well, we have Joel Grey coming onto the show, he’s an old friend of mine, and he plays a Vegas magician with an artifact that helps levitate people. There’s a lot of wire work, with Eddie getting thrown in the air, which he hates because it hurts his balls. If there’s a scene where Eddie’s flying through the air and it looks like he’s having a good time, he should get an award for acting because he’s usually in agony.
There’s an artifact that helps create minor earthquakes. Another episode that was one of my favorite that we did visually has an artifact that sends Pete and Myka into a 1940s noire novel, and it’s all in black and white with period costumes, it was really fun.
We follow a pirate in the Niagra Falls episode, and we go to a pirates lair, and that episode was directed by Howie Deutch, who directed Pretty In Pink.
We also find the salt from Gomorrah. We don’t delve into the gay aspects of the story, but the salt makes you relive your sins.
No matter what happens to Myka, Pete and Artie will be there for her
The Backlot: We’ve heard a bit about most characters except Myka.
Jack Kenny: Myka has a very deep personal issue that pops up near the end of the season, but I have to have some secrets. It hits Myka and Pete very powerfully.
The Backlot: Do we have new characters that join us this season? With Lena gone, who takes care of the Inn?
Jack Kenny: Kelly Hu joins us as a Regent-installed innkeeper, and we find out that she has more to do with our Warehouse agents beyond taking care of the Inn. She’s also a psychiatrist to help the agents deal with their lives.
The Backlot: Well, everybody on that show is a little nuts.
Jack Kenny: You probably need someone to talk to about the fact that you died and were brought back to life.
The Backlot: I know you have to go, but is there any one thing we should know about this season that kicks off tonight?
Jack Kenny: I think that season 4 and 4.5 are probably our strongest season. We were able to explore more interesting artifacts, how artifacts affected people, and more important to me, we dug deeper and deeper into our family and how they support each other. How they support each other and how they take care of each other on a daily basis. The more this show goes into those relationships, the more watchable and relatable it becomes, and that’s my goal every season. Having 20 episodes this season really brought us to a better understanding of our characters.
And just like we did with the end of the last season, we throw a bomb (not literal) into the middle of our characters and I don’t think anyone knows how that will affect any of them, and that will allow us to explore that in a cool, unexpected way.
The Backlot: Which sounds like a perfect argument for renewal for a fifth season, just so we can see what happens.
Jack Kenny: I hope so.
The Backlot: Jack, thank you so much for talking to us.
Jack Kenny: And thanks for watching.
Warehouse 13 returns tonight at 10PM EDT on SyFy. We’ll have our recap in the morning, but don’t miss our other coverage with Allison Scagliotti, Aaron Ashmore, or the photo shoot and interview with Eddie McClintock last year. If you need to catch up, our recaps last season are here.