Daniel Knauf tells us his plan for the end of Carnivàle

Daniel Knauf tells us his plan for the end of Carnivàle

Carnivàle creator Daniel Knauf recently sat down with The A.V. Club to talk through the complete run of the cult HBO series. Part one, which deals with season one, can be found here. This part deals with season two and his plan for the four seasons of the show he never got to make, due to its cancellation.

The A.V. Club: The show has rich interpersonal relationships, especially with Jonesy and Sofie, or Jonesy and the Dreifuss family, which have nothing to do with the genre content. How did that come about?

Daniel Knauf: I’ll watch Lord Of The Rings, and he has to get the ring, he’s got to throw it into Mordor, but who gives a shit without the relationship with Sam? At the end of the day, all of that big sweeping stuff is just an excuse for interaction between characters. For me—especially with TV, because TV is a really instant medium, and you’re having these people in your living room—it’s not only their relationship with each other, but you’re vicariously having a relationship with the characters through other characters. To me, storytelling is all about the interaction. It’s an excuse to vicariously live through other characters. That’s just always been my definition of storytelling. The rest is just an excuse to throw all these characters together.

One thing I’ve never seen, and felt fortunate… My father had polio as a child, and he recovered from it, but he had post-polio syndrome. He was 32 years old, and he literally woke up and couldn’t walk. Never walked again. This is like, 1960. Back then, if you were in a wheelchair it’s like, “Okay, you’ve been cut from the team. You don’t go to work. You’re invisible now.” My dad didn’t know that. He just opened up shop in his hospital bed. He was an insurance guy. He just kept doing what he did. He put three of four kids through college and made a really good living. In those days, going out with my dad, he was just my dad, only in a wheelchair. He’d go fishing and bowling, whatever he could do, he did. But we’d go out, and people would always react, so there was always this… I remember he took me to the track one time, to Hollywood Park, and Latinos were walking up and brushing up against him, and I said to my parents, “What’s going on, Dad? Why do these people keep…” and he said, “Well, I’ve been told it’s good luck.” That if you brush up against someone that’s unfortunate, it’s good luck. A lot of people never saw him, they saw the chair. 

In this show, when I was writing Samson, I didn’t write a little person. I wrote a guy. What I really wanted to do is have people like the bearded lady, like Lila—three or four episodes in, I always pictured some guy looking at Lila, finding himself getting a little bit of a hard-on, like going, “Oh my God, what am I thinking! She’s got a fucking beard!” [Laughs.] And that’s what Tod Browning did with Freaks, where you just stop seeing the differences and start recognizing what we all have in common. 

TV is so full of beautiful people. People who look like that are bigger freaks than my freaks were, I think. I mean, how often do you see a nine out of a physical 10 in the course of a day? I just loved casting people that looked like people. There was nobody on there that… even the cooch girls, I remember the first thing out of my mouth when we were casting was, “I don’t want to see any hardbodies. I don’t want to see any silicone. I want to see girls that look like girls that are comfortable in their own skin.” Which, to me, is the sexiest thing in the world. Sure enough, that’s what they did. And some of them were big girls. Dora was a big girl. But she was fabulous. You couldn’t take your eyes off her. It was neat to be able to do that.

AVC: When you’re balancing out an ensemble cast, certain characters get priority. There were a number of characters from season one that didn’t carry over to season two. How did you decide who you were going to focus on and who you were going to cut?

DK: A lot of them were, it was just being told [by HBO], “Okay, we didn’t do as well in season one as we expected to do, and we’re going to pick it up for season two, but you’re going to need to cut some characters.” I had plans for the Siamese twins. We probably would have been better off casting them in seven out of 12. I had plans for Gecko [John Fleck]. It was just one of those things. We hadn’t written for the twins. We really hadn’t given John enough to do. John Fleck is a great actor, and he was wasted in the first season. Every time he was on, he was terrific. But we were just sort of handed it. And you just sort of go, “Okay,” and move on. But we had some pickups later in the season. The he/she character, I forget what we called him [Bert/Bertha Hagenbeck, played by Paul Hipp]. But the he/she character, Marilyn Manson wanted to do it. That fell through due to a stupid set of misunderstandings and miscommunications. 

There are some characters that break out, and everyone wants to write for them. Amy [Madigan] as Iris. I mean, here’s somebody who wasn’t even in the pilot, and she was amazing. These things just happen in the course of any kind of TV show. Some people break out and work. Others, not as much.

AVC: What were your plans for some of those characters who had to be cut?

DK: With the twins, I wanted them to kind of be like Radar O’Reilly was in M*A*S*H, sort of the harbingers of what’s coming up next. We never really got to play them that way. Their usefulness became less apparent. There was something creepy about Siamese twins. Well, even twins, like in The Shining and shit. 

Gecko, I always thought he’d be our Mr. Spock. That he’d break out. He sort of did, a little bit, and probably could have if we’d written to it a little more. But we never did. I never thought of him as big in the context of Ben’s arc, or hyper-arc, or meta-arc. [Laughs.] [Aside.] That’s really Hollywood. But you want those characters that are a little off. A little oddball. A little strange. They have this relationship, he and Dora were best friends, and once Dora dies, I think it really kind of sucked a little bit out of the Gecko character. And it’s funny, because I had to fight really hard to keep him in the beginning. 

There was one character I had, his name was Shoton, who ran the medicine show, and he was a full-blood Indian, lived in a teepee. There are these characters that didn’t even make it out of the living room. [Laughs.]

AVC: One of the interesting things about the series arc is that Ben is so reluctant to do what he ultimately has to do. It’s very hard to write a character resisting the series’ premise. How did you approach that as writers?

DK: You just have to activate him in other ways. You can be actively reluctant. That’s the way to do it and play it—he’s never passive. He’s actively turning away from his destiny. You’re his audience. You’re going, “No, no, no! Just seize the day. Be what you can be!” and he’s saying, “I don’t want that. I can’t have that. I can’t support it. It’ll kill me.” To me, it’s part writing and a large part acting, performance. And Brother Justin is a reluctant Antichrist. He doesn’t want that. “Take this cup away. I don’t want to be the devil.” And Clancy [Brown] did the same thing. He just actively said, “No, no. I don’t want it.” So when you actively try to deny your faith, you do things like Ben does in the pilot. “Okay, I’m out of here,” and walking away to find yourself walking right back into it. Eventually, you reach a point: “Okay. Fine. What the hell. Let’s do this.” Once you start riding the horse in the direction it’s going, that’s where you find your power. 

I didn’t realize I was a TV writer until I was writing TV, and it was like, “Oh!” With films, you’re writing it, and three years later, it comes out, and you have no connection to it. With TV, you’re writing stuff in the morning, and in the afternoon, they can actually be shooting, so it’s like heroin for somebody like me. “There it is! I just wrote that yesterday!” I didn’t realize that as a TV writer until I ended up there. But in the meantime, people were like “What about TV?” And I’d be, “I don’t want to write TV, I’m a movie writer.” Things like that. You’re actively not doing something. That’s basically how to write it and how to act it.

AVC: What were other ways you made budgetary sacrifices for season two?

DK: I think between the two things I recounted before, which was cutting a few of the characters and then streamlining production and eliminating company moves and maximizing the number of days we’d be inside as opposed to outside, that pretty much fixed the issues. A lot of people say, “Oh, it was the budget that killed the show.” And I think what killed the show is just the ratings. Really. Because they expected us to do much better. 

One thing that did give them pause in the first season, not when they finally cancelled it, was the Internet activity, because they’d never seen anything remotely like it. The Internet activity on Carnivàle was just like a tsunami, and they didn’t know what it meant. They had no way of quantifying it, to this day. I think we had 4,000 followers on the Yahoo board when the show went off the air. I think it’s up to 7,500 or something now. So the fan base has actually grown since we went off the air. When you go off the air, the fan base normally doesn’t grow. Genre shows tend to do that more often because it’s a cult show. But I was on Wolf Lake, and it feels like we had a bigger fan base then than we did when we went off the air. 

It’s a show not everybody got to see, and they sort of turned each other on to it. That’s another aspect of pay cable. I’m a little surprised that nobody has picked it up on basic cable or somewhere else. More than a little annoyed that I can’t get a Blu-ray version of it. Sometimes I feel like we’re the redheaded stepchild of HBO, that they want to forget they went to the carnival and move on to other things. But then I go to HBO, and I see people in their offices, and they still have their Carnivàle blankets, and they’re fans, big fans within the next generation of people who went to work for HBO, so that’s probably not so true.

AVC: When you started season two, the network wanted a confrontation between Ben and Justin. What were some other directives you were looking at for that season, either self-imposed or network-imposed?

DK: They definitely wanted Brother Justin in the mix, and we were given that from the top. “Brother Justin and Ben are going to go head to head in the finale.” It was like, “Yeah, I know. Of course.”

AVC: Had that always been your plan?

DK: Oh yeah. We couldn’t tease that out any further than we had. They didn’t want to pace it out a little bit more, but that was more, we wanted to do more of what we were doing at the tail end of season one. We had a lot of creative freedom on the front side, but on the back side, sometimes we’d shoot things, and they’d go, “Oh, this needs to be reshot,” or “We’re going to cut these scenes.” When I get into the horror aspects, they were really queasy about… I had to fight like hell for the masks episode, and it was a big fight. I remember saying, “This is a horror show. This is in the horror genre,” and they’re going, “That’s not the way we see it. It’s drama.” “No. Come on!” 

They would always pull back on things like that scene where Brother Justin had that fit in front of Balthus [Ralph Waite] and Iris where he’s on the floor, he’s got the black eyes and shit. And I’d actually written in, I wanted to give him baboon teeth. I wanted actually to have him open his mouth and have this mouth full of fucking baboon teeth. Like big, yellow, ugh, totally George Romero, and it was like, “No, we’re not doing that. No, it’s not going to happen.” Again, I can’t say whether that would have been over the top. Maybe it would have been. It probably would have been. But at the time, hey, I would always be pushing those horror, those genre things. We were writing about demons and angels here, let’s show some flash, you know? The crying Jesus with the blood, and we had, like, maggots coming out. The producer’s cut was much more horrific than what they cut it back to. Most of the creative control or compromises happened after we shot.

AVC: Were there any choices that the network imposed that you think actually hurt the show? Because the things you’re talking about right now are matters of degree. Was there anything—

DK: That really fucked us? [Pause.] No. I’d like to come up with something, because we all love to paint the networks as bad guys, but I can’t think of a single thing. I really can’t. Given how demanding and challenging the material was, they gave us a surprising amount of creative latitude on this show. Much more, probably, than we deserved, especially given our ratings. So HBO truly was what we think of HBO. At least at that time, and even today. They serve as the last bastion for artistic freedom, to some degree. But other than the fact that we had to cut a few characters out, and that hurt, it certainly wasn’t crippling to the show. It maybe even streamlined it. Maybe made it a little bit better. It certainly snapped things into focus. So no, not really. The only thing they did that was terrible was cancel it. [Laughs.]

And I remember writing to [HBO exec] Chris [Albrecht]. I wrote him a long letter. I said, “Please reconsider this, because I think the next season is going to be the season.” Because our numbers were trending upward. I think we beat Deadwood in our finale. It felt like it was poised to… having been an old insurance man, I was pretty good with trends. I really was sad to not have it go forward. It’s still sad. 

I wrote a letter to the fans when we got cancelled, and I remember writing, “I know a lot of you are going to write angry letters to HBO, but keep in mind that no one else would have done this show.” So it’s really hard to be, “Oh, those bastards. What a bunch of fuckers.” There’s no way anyone else would have done this. With someone who had never written a TV show before? To make me an executive producer and give me the kind of creative control I had, even though I had to kind of earn it and keep it, the fact that they did that was so great. And the money! Fuck, this was the most expensive show on the air at the time, I think by far. I think they were spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.7 million per episode, which today is nothing… Well, not nothing. That would be a lot now. But then, it was insane. It was almost irresponsible of them. [Laughs.] If I was a stockholder at HBO, I’d be calling to get their head examined. It’s hard to really resent people that took that much of a leap for finally waking up in the morning and realizing, “Oh, who did I drunk-dial last night?” [Laughs.] I can’t get mad at them for coming to their senses. 

Since there’s five years between season two and season three, I secretly kind of wonder, “You know, we could pick the story up. All our actors would be older.” Even if Ben was, because Ben gets really hurt. We start out season three, Ben is really living in that niche where Management was living, and he’s kind of fucked that up. Brother Justin is similarly fucked up. It was hard living, too. You looked older. So I’m thinking, “We actually could pick it up.” 

AVC: How much did you tell the actors about their ultimate arc, particularly Clea DuVall?

DK: Generally, actors are not as interested in where the character is going in the long term. They’re more interested in where the character has been, because that’s the main thing of their performance. I suppose you would behave very differently if you knew what your future was, and that definitely would be inexplicable to the audience. “Why’s he avoiding air travel? What possible reason could he have?” So actors, I think, are focused more on “Where has my character been?”

I don’t remember talking to any of the actors about where they’re ultimately going to end up, because that didn’t interest them. They didn’t need that. What they really needed was, “Okay, what’s my relationship with my mother? When did this happen?” All those things. And all that stuff was in the [series] bible. I’d given them all very detailed character descriptions of their pasts, and they would fill in the blanks and write their own character descriptions, and do what they do as part of their process.

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AVC: Season two moves at a much faster clip. You said some of that was because you condensed 16 episodes of story into 12. What were some of the choices you had to make along the way to make it move more quickly?

DK: We had this incredible runner where they find Lodz’s body, and no one knows the situation with Ben. And Tracy Tormé [a writer on the show], this was sort of his dream. And it turns out [Lodz’s] body has been… They still meet up with that other carnival, and they’re saying he’s, like, the body of some archduke. It’s one of those things they used to do in carnivals, where they say it’s the body of John Wilkes Booth, but it’s fucking Lodz, and it’s a glass coffin. [Laughs.] And they’re like “Oh my God, he’s dead!” And Lila goes, “Oh, somebody killed him!” So they get into this whole thing, and Ben becomes, obviously, a suspect. I don’t remember a lot of the details, but the ending to it was just so perfect. They have the carnival for a funeral. They have one of their little party funerals, and Samson, as I recall, is struggling to figure out what nice thing he could say about Lodz, and he can’t think of a thing. He’s at this glass coffin, and they throw the dirt on him to bury him, and Ben and Samson are standing there having this conversation, and right at the end of the conversation, you hear this crack, and the dirt goes “Thwoomp!” [Laughs.] 

I remember that as being a sort of runner. We were going to play that whole thing of Lila trying to prove they had murdered Lodz, and bring them to justice at the wagon. So we had to abandon that whole thing. 

AVC: What were your plans for Lodz?

DK: Honestly, it wouldn’t have worked. The plan I had for Lodz is that he would continue all along to be serving the wrong master. I always had an idea that at the very end, he has this sort of Alec Guinness at the end of Bridge On The River Kwai moment where he realizes for the first time, “Oh God, what have I done?” and is instrumental in saving Ben. But that would be six seasons down the line, and we wanted to keep him alive as an instrument of evil inside the carnival, and maybe moving over to Brother Justin’s side and feeding Brother Justin intelligence and so forth. Back to almost a spy. But it wasn’t to be. We just used his ghost.

AVC: When did you first start to get the sense that season two might be the end of the road?

DK: Not until well after we completed it. Let me put it this way: We felt doomed from episode three on, because the numbers were not coming up. The numbers were going down. We had this amazing, set [ratings] records, opening episode. Then it went [makes declining noise], so we felt doomed every day. Whereas other shows, two or three episodes in, HBO would have these huge announcements: “We’re only three episodes in, and we’ve already ordered another season.” We didn’t get that. So we finished the first season, and we were waiting and waiting and waiting. It wasn’t until literally almost the last possible minute that they could contractually do it, we got that order for season two. 

Then after we finished season two, I had hopes, but it really wasn’t until they called. They called and said, “Look, we want to do a two-hour movie to wrap up all the stuff that hasn’t been wrapped up,” and I said, “I can’t compress 48 hours of story into a two-hour wrap-up.” And that’s not why people watch the finale anyway. I mean, no one gives a shit about how the story ends. They give a shit about what the characters do, the interactions. I just felt like, “Why don’t we just write a synopsis and publish it? It would be as gratifying.”

[The movie] was on the table for a little while, and I took a big old pass on it. It wasn’t because I was holding out or anything. It made no sense to me. It still doesn’t. I don’t even know how I would do it. That came and went real quick. Then they were moving on to other things, but in the meantime, shit, they were getting death threats. The fans went apeshit. Thousands of letters. They crashed their servers multiple times. When they made the announcement, people went completely out of their minds. Our fans were just ardent. It was shitty. You’re sitting there, and you’re in the middle of a book, and somebody comes and takes the book away. That made them crazy. But what are you going to do?

AVC: In season two, you have more references to things like Rennes-le-Château and the royal bloodline of Christ. Did you have plans to incorporate Jesus into your overall mythology?

DK: Jesus was an Avatar, so no. I mean, yes, he’s part of the bloodline, but he’s not… The way I figure, Avatars are like anybody. You can have a really good agent; you can have a really shitty agent. There are really good Avatars, and there are kind of shitty Avatars. Scudder was a really shitty, half-ass Avatar. Jesus had it going on. Caligula was a great Avatar of darkness. He had his shit together. Other than that, no.

Where I was going with that was in the third season, we were going to end up in World War II, with a search for information to bring down Brother Justin on the carnival side, so the carnival would actually return to its roots. Then [Ben and Samson] have to pull everyone together. Sort of a simple, “Avengers assemble!” In the third season, we were sort of reassembling, and then the following season, the carnival would go on tour. That tour would take them through places where they’re gathering things they need in order to go to battle. Brother Justin is supporting the Bund. He is up against [the U.S. war effort]. He’s kind of like the voice of Father Coughlin, literally. Then I think the final episode really was about them trying to keep the bomb from going off. Just trying to stop this thing from happening. And you can’t.

AVC: In other interviews, you’ve said free will does exist in this universe, but the characters seem to get jerked down the path they’re supposed to go down anyway. 

DK: Personally, I think we have the illusion of free will. It’s like, say I pick this book up, and I read to here. I don’t know anything past here. Well, that doesn’t mean all this doesn’t exist. The way the universe makes sense to me is that I can’t imagine the universe turning on a dime, like there’s two entire, separate futures because I decided to have donuts this morning instead of an Egg McMuffin. That universe makes no sense to me. How can you have precognition in there? How can you have an instinct of what’s going to happen next, if the entire thing changes because a butterfly got squashed on a windshield or some bullshit like that? I think the whole thing is just written out pretty much like a book. But the thing is, just like a book, you have the illusion of moving through time, even though time exists. Even if it’s already been written, we have the illusion of free will. And you’re accountable for it. I mean, just because technically it’s all written, you choose to do things. You don’t know you don’t have a choice. If you choose to do bad things, maybe you’re going to be held accountable for them if there’s an afterlife. You’re still responsible for being bad. To sit there and go [deadpan] “Yes, well, it’s my destiny to be a prick,” [Laughs.] that doesn’t cut any ice.

So in a sense, I think the whole thing is about destiny, but the characters in the context of that are still making choices based on who they are, what the circumstances are, who’s to benefit, who’s to be hurt. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got at a given time. It’s basically a tapestry, and we’re all standing with our noses against it, and what we see are a bunch of threads. We can’t make out this big hunting scene that if we step 30 yards back, we’d be able to see. I think each one of us gets so close to what’s going on that we can’t see it. I think everything is pre-written. You can try to escape your destiny, but eventually, you’re going to end up doing what you’re destined to do. And that carries through. You see it constantly throughout Carnivàle. But that’s just this writer’s worldview. 

AVC: What were your plans for what would have come in the four unmade seasons?

DK: Like I said, I’m not going to claim I knew the minute detail. Season three is five years later. We find Jonesy—he survived his gunshot wound and is pitching for a professional baseball team. His wife [Libby] is a typical baseball wife back in ’39. The carnival is completely split up; everybody’s gone their separate ways. The only vestige of the carnival as it was is Ben and Samson, and they’re working at another carnival, still on Management’s trail. 

Then on the Brother Justin side, we find he’s become this incredibly politically influential radio preacher. And there’s Iris and Sofie, and they’re both in this fight. He’s a shell, almost, and these two women are in a power struggle over who’s controlling Brother Justin. Sofie is Brother Justin’s wife. Of course, she’s his daughter, but he doesn’t know that. She knows that. She could bring him down pretty easily, but she’s afraid of herself now, too. 

Then we introduce, in the very first episode, you see this 4-year-old kid come running up and hugging Brother Justin, saying “Daddy.” Is this Brother Justin’s child, or is this Ben’s child, because they both had relations with Sofie? That would kind of tee us off to the second one. That would take us through the war. And then the first half of that would be, “Avengers assemble,” winds of war calling them together, gotta get this group back together again. Ben’s like, “This isn’t just about me. This is about us.” And pulling everybody out of their lives and answering this call, and moving into going to Europe to try to acquire these documents or… I knew they were going to be talismans. What they’re going to need when they’re engaged in this war. Then there’d be a confrontation of some sort at the end of season four. 

Then taking us to the end, it’s all about the [atomic] bomb. It’s all about the Manhattan Project and worrying about it, finding out what it is. The Germans have a competing project, and trying to stop it. Trying to stop the bomb from happening, because in Ben’s mind, detonation of the atom bomb is the end of the world. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s just the end of his world. To him, it’s an end to Avatars; it’s an end to everything. But he’s misinterpreted it. He’s interpreted it as the end of the world. He thinks he’s saving the world, but what he learns before the end is that, “I have to let this happen, because if I don’t let this happen, mankind will remain in a state of adolescence.” He learns that’s really why Sofie is called the Omega. She is the only female, the last Avatar. What it’s all leading up to is two Avatars, she and Ben having this child. They actually have to sacrifice this child in the blast. That was my crazy notion. 

Now I have to kill you because I told you. [Laughs.]

AVC: Have you ever considered trying to do it as a novel or a comic book?

DK: Constantly. Yeah. Marvel, we had it all set up. At one point, they wanted to go forward and do a series of graphic novels, and they just couldn’t turn the corner with HBO. Since then, yeah, I’ve considered it. But one of the things that makes me a little crazy about Hollywood is, they’re idiots when it comes to their contractual stuff. If I write a novel, it’s like Random House publishes the novel, copyrights it, but when you do business in Hollywood, they say, “Everything in this thing, in all forms, in all potential forms invented and uninvented…” The language is draconian! “…throughout the universe. We own everything in your head. We own everything.” And it’s like, “If you own everything, at least exploit those rights, please. Could you please exploit the rights? And if you’re not going to exploit the rights, can I at least have them back, so I can exploit them?” It’s just a silly way of doing business. They do it because they can, and that’s all. 

Let’s say I take a new-project idea to Sony, and they give me that language. I go, “You know, this whole copyright-influential-property thing, I’m not so hot on that. I’ll take less money if I can retain the copyright or the ancillary rights,” they’d say, “Take a fucking hike.” If I go, “Well then, I’ll take a hike. I’m going to go to Warner Bros.” And Warner Bros. has the exact same contractual language. It’s basically an illegal trust. It’s like the mob. Artists are first to give up intellectual rights to do business with Hollywood. But they’re not rights you give up in any other medium. It’s BS. 

Carnivàle is one thing. I hate telling people I can’t… I did a Kickstarter campaign for BlackBxx, and I had a person who donated $1,500, a really generous donation, and I had something in there, the Kickstarter-type stuff, “I’ll take you out for dinner.” And I did, I took him out for dinner. It was his wife’s birthday, and he said, “Would you mind sending my wife an email? She’d get a big kick out of it.” And I sat down, and I thought, “I’m going to get this guy so laid.” He was going to give it for her birthday or Christmas or something, and he wanted me to write a note. I sat down, and I just wrote a scene with Jonesy and Samson at Christmastime, and it was like putting on the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever had in my life. It was like, [exhales] “I can’t believe how good it feels to be walking around in these shoes.” The dialogue just spilled out, and they were alive and three-dimensional. The characters are still alive, and they have so much to say, and it was joyful writing it, and then sending this to another person who got immense pleasure from it. And I’m going, [disbelieving pause] “What the fuck? Okay. It didn’t make sense to spend $3.5 million an episode. So let’s do a graphic novel. Let’s tell the story!” But they’re on to other toys now. It’s like doing business with that kid down the street whose parents give him really bitchin’ toys, and he’d just leave them broken in the backyard. It makes me crazy, Hollywood.

AVC: What do you think it would take to make them interested?

DK: I think somebody who was a super Carnivàle fan who went to work for HBO going, “I’m so excited to work for the network that did Carnivàle,” and just being a vice president or president and championing the idea of it. It’d probably jump back in. There’s also the possibility, too, that I may be able to go and approach them with another project they really want to do, and I might be able to say, “Look, as a condition to the deal, I’d like you to sell me the novelization rights.” There’s always horse-trading that can happen in the future. You just never know. Maybe in a few years, somebody will approach them and say, “Hey, let’s move forward.” It’s awful not having it in your own hands. To be dependent on fate. Whim. Whatever. 

AVC: Is there a certain thing you had really wanted to show in those last four seasons that you’re sad you never got to do?

DK: It’s the full scope of the idea, the big idea. The big idea that we were children until we detonated these two bombs out in the desert. We always say, “Oh, isn’t it a horrible thing? Oh, it’s the nuclear age. Now we wrestle with destroying ourselves as a species,” and it’s looked upon as a completely negative thing. But in a way, I look at it as when we were able to put away childish things. That’s when we got our first apartment. That’s, people started to go, “Hey, wait a second.” I think right up until that moment, the idea that we could destroy ourselves was absurd. Now we take it for granted. We start to look at it, “Well shit, we got the holes in the ozone layer.” We become aware that we’re capable of existential destruction, and I think that’s part of growing up as a species. 

I mean, homo sapiens rock. When you see a bunch of people trying to push a whale off a beach, I go, “Okay, what other fucking species does that?” That just makes me feel like we are different. We aren’t a part of the animal kingdom. We’ve got something going on. Yeah, we’re capable of horrible things. We’re capable of holocausts. But we’re also capable of such amazing things. To me, the exploding of the nuclear bombs was in a way a declaration of independence from nature. In a way, to almost celebrate it. But it’s a cautious celebration. It would be nice to have gotten that idea all the way out there. It didn’t make it.