Kingdom Comes


Visions of Snow White, the Evil Queen, Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad Wolf will soon be dancing through the dreams of television viewers, when THE 10TH KINGDOM puts old ideas of fairy tales and fables in the heads of the young and younger alike.

NBC's 10-hour mini-series, scheduled to premiere Sunday, Feb. 27, takes a peak at nearly every childhood story, putting bits and pieces together to form a comedic, fantastic flight through parallel universes ranging from medieval Troll's kingdoms to present day New York City.

"If we went back as adults and revisited the fairy tales we read as children, would they still possess their magic?" asks series writer Simon Moore (GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, THE QUICK AND THE DEAD). "Would the excitement, the humor -- and sometimes the fright! -- still work?"

The mixing of old and new, truths and make-believe, join together in THE 10TH KINGDOM to take TV audiences on a wild ride through time, following a young New York City waitress named Virginia (Kimberly Williams, JUST A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX, FATHER OF THE BRIDE) and her janitor dad Tony (John Larroquette, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK) as they travel through updated, alternate realities of fantasy land.

"I wondered whether you could reinvent the whole genre for an adult audience and make it work in a hip, modern way, with some slapstick -- and some sophisticated -- comedy," Moore says.

Scott Cohen (THE CRUCIBLE, NYPD BLUE), who plays Wolf, a hybrid of man and wolf -- or a werewolf in more fairy tale-ish terms -- calls the series a tale of adventure and romance.

"It's like a road movie," he says. "An incredible epic journey, a psychological drama with fairy tales, fantasy, magic."

Both the cast and the crew went on a road trip of their own in filming the series, a seven-month long project that took them to England, Austria, Germany and France in search of the right settings for fantasy.

Camryn Manheim (THE PRACTICE, ROMY AND MICHELLE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION) plays the part of Snow White, a part she says she accepted for "political reasons" to show that beauty comes in all sizes and shapes. That, and the opportunity to film in Austria, led her to accept the role without even reading the script.

"I was so thrilled that they were moving away from the conventional Snow White," she says, adding that even getting trussed up in a corset was fun.

But then there was a change in location shooting, with her scenes being moved to London's Pinewood Studios.

"They said they were moving the location to London," she says. "What's the name of the studio? I don't know if you've been to that studio, but London is very proud of it. It looks like a prison block, really."

Location, as well as the right cast and the right script were important for directors David Carson (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, ALIEN NATION) and Herbert Wise (THE LIFE OF JOHN PAUL II, I, CLAUDIUS) because they take their fantasy very seriously.

"You see, all of us grew up with fairy tales when we were young children," Wise says. "Then we forget about them -- and we carry this psychological baggage around with us for the rest of our lives. Because -- make no mistake -- fairy tales do have a powerful effect on our individual and collective psyches."

He explains that THE 10TH KINGDOM is completely different from anything that's ever been broadcast on television.

"It's not real," he says. "But it's almost real."

Helping the audience understand the root of their fantastical psychosis is only part of the job. Carson explains that helping the characters in the series come to the root of their problems is also part of the fantasy.

"Wolf is trying to bury the fact that he's at least part wolf," Carson says. "He even goes to see a shrink, and he's forever reading pop-psych self-help books."

Moore, in writing the script, actually keyed on the idea of fairy tales as part of self-improvement.

"I actually started writing the script 11 years ago and worked through it in different forms," he explains. "And then a few years ago, I found a whole shelf of books in a book store that were like 'Women Who Run With the Wolves' and 'The Cinderella Complex,' and I thought, 'This is the thing'. These stories are being used for therapy and help for adults."

He then set out to re-read the classic fairy tales and found what he calls a "genuinely new twist" on the old fables.

The screenwriter wasn't the only one reading old stories. Both Cohen and Williams checked out the fantasy and fairy tale section at the bookstores.

"When I was a kid, my mother used to read me fairy tales out of this book that came from the late '30s, and the pictures were always very spooky to me and very scary" Cohen says. "I never really got into them. Now, when I did the show, I went back and re-read all of these fairy tales and tried to discover what they meant, what they were about, how they used to kind of create these moods for children."

Williams agrees. "I think the thing about great fairy tales is when you go back as an adult and re-read them, you see new things in them," she adds. "The best fairy tales have elements for young children and for adults and humor as well as a dark side."

Larroquette also admits his fondness for fables, but for a different reason.

"I always loved 'Hansel and Gretel' because I've many times wanted to cook my children," he says.

Moore, the writer, likens the script to many fairy tales, including an allusion to the story of 'Beauty and the Beast.' He hopes the story will help viewers determine what is actually frightening in the terms of men and women so that they may better deal with their own relationships.

Larroquette, however, has different ideas on a more recent phenomena that conjures up fright for him, giving the old stories a comfortable familiarity.

"It's a different viewpoint [for me] because Pokemon scares the hell out of me," he says. "All of those little gerbil things running around with lightning coming out of their asses. Doesn't that scare you?"

Thanks to Kimberly for pointing this article out to me!

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