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One of the enormous double ballrooms of the Anaheim Convention Center was packed nearly to capacity Friday for the WonderCon panel spotlighting Beauty and the Beast, the freshman CW drama that took home the People’s Choice Award for favorite new drama.
A reimagining of the classic fairy tale, and the 1980s CBS series of the same name, it stars Smallville alum Kristin Kreuk as New York City homicide detective Catherine Chandler, who risks everything for the forbidden love of former Army specialist Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), a victim of government experiments that transformed him into a “beast.”
The presentation officially began after a screening of almost 40 minutes of footage from the series’ 18th episode “Heart of Darkness.” No lighthearted romp, this gritty, atmospheric work mixed romantic moments (“… like any other couple on a lazy day …”) with intense action scenes (a black ops squad with automatic weapons prowls the underground weaponry) with a dash of humor (a Men in Black joke, a Manimal reference) along the way.
Moderator Jenna Busch of Fanhattan.com guided Kreuk and Executive Producer Kelly Souders with the skill of a late-night talk show host, giving plenty of time for fan questions but never letting the energy dip.
For example, Busch noted there was no drawn-out “will they or won’t they” between the two leads, and wondered whether that means there would be a problem finding story grist. “I think you’ll find there’s no problem keeping the drama going,” Souders said. For the remainder of the season, she said, “every episode has some massive reveal, some major turn, some twist. There isn’t a quiet one among them.”
The decision to have such a strongly female cast was a conscious one, Souders revealed. “There’s so many guy, cop, buddy TV shows,” she said. “They really wanted to show the female version of it. There’s so much we don’t get to show, there’s always these great moments of them cracking up.”
Kreuk admitted she’s lost none of the gregarious nature she had as a young actress on Smallville, and she’s still a bubbly presence on set. “Everything makes me laugh,” she said, laughing again, “so there’s that, I guess it just happened.” She referred to one of her good laughs from the screened episode, saying, “the funny moment where we look at each other, look at the red button and sprint across — in heels!” She also confirmed that her character had “hooked up” “a few times” with Vincent, which made fans titter with delight.
“I love the girls on this show,” Kreuk said. “Nina [Lisandrello, who plays her partner Tess Vargas] and I have become close friends, and Nicole [Gale Anderson, who plays Chandler’s younger sister Heather] is, like, the sweetest person on the face of the planet. That leads into this sisterly relationship. I don’t think it’s a secret how goofy we all are. All of us sing, often. Kelly doesn’t know this, but we sing all the dialogue.” Busch lamented that this hadn’t been caught on camera outside of outtakes.
Souders gave a lot of credit to Kreuk. “It’s hard to find people who can really carry a show,” she said. “They work insane hours, Jay has to put on beast make-up, that takes hours and hours before they even get to set. You have to bring that kind of enthusiasm.” She said to Kreuk directly, “You really are carrying the show.” Kreuk took some of the air out of the moment by revealing she only spends 30 minutes a day in hair and make-up.
Kreuk and Souders were appreciative of the fans, called “Beasties.” “They’re the most passionate fans, it’s true,” Kreuk said. “I haven’t quite experienced anything like it.”
“We owe a lot to the Beasties,” Souders agreed. “Hopefully, we’ll have a Season 2, and if so, we owe that to the Beasties.”
Another intentional decision was playing to the ethnicity of the characters. “I think it was the way when we started,” Kreuk said. “Knowing that I’m half-Asian, we went with [the character] half-Asian. Nicole is half-Asian — she’s half-Filipino and I’m half-Chinese. I really like that, too. It just feels honest. One of my favorite things about the show is that everyone’s kind of a mutt, it’s not a whitey show at all!”
Kreuk was revealed as a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, saying, “that is the reason why we got a color television with channels.”
For the final question, a fan asked which one-liners were favorites, given the quippy nature of some of the dialogue. Kreuk pointed to Austin Basis’ character JT saying, “We’re all gonna die, I’m gonna go get some Tums.”
“The entire cast can do comedy,” Souders said. “Usually you sit there like ‘who can I give this joke to in the scene?’ The entire cast can do one line zingers.”
Beauty and the Beast airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. The episode “Heart of Darkness” can be seen April 17.