JJ Abrams is one of the busiest—and most sought-after—writer/producer/directors in Hollywood. He just finished promoting the opening of his Mission Impossible III and preparing the Alias series finale. Now he turns his sights to the three other shows he created for television: the returning Lost and What About Brian, as well as the new Six Degrees. He is also beginning work on the next movie in the Star Trek franchise, which he will produce and direct. Abrams spoke with B&C's Ben Grossman about changing up Lost, balancing so many projects and whether Sydney Bristow is really going away for good.
One of ABC's big moves is the decision to air Lost in the early fall and then in midseason with no repeats. Whose idea was this?
It was what we all wanted to do given the frustrations of viewers we heard anecdotally. It's just too hard to sustain ratings when the show is there one week and not the next. We went to them and said, 'This is what we need to do to make this show work the way we want it to.' I'm very surprised and incredibly impressed they went with it. It's a bold move for them, but I think it will pay off in the long run.
What exactly is your new show, Six Degrees, about? It sounds like the Kevin Bacon game.
Yeah, it's a show about how people affect your lives and are part of your lives without your knowledge. It's very funny, and it just feels like nothing else that I have seen on television.
How hands-on will you actually be on Six Degrees?
I'm going to be more involved this year than last because of Mission Impossible. We are just crewing up for the new show, but my involvement is as much as necessary, and I just have to surround myself with good people.
Is there a shift taking place in drama development to more character-driven ideas rather than focusing on formats?
My guess is, any show you've ever seen that you love is rooted in character, so it doesn't seem surprising to me it's going this way. It's refreshing because if it works, more people respond to it.
Six Degrees is very much a character show. It's got its own structure, but to me the characters speak to the unique voice of the series.
With three television shows and another movie in the hopper, how can you balance this and still produce high-quality content?
I'm still learning with every project how to do my job better. I think you need to make sure that people are doing for you what you want to do for people. My goal is to be creatively and fiscally responsible and do my job, and I want to make sure that everyone from actors to writers to composers is doing the same. I will get the credit or the blame; my goal is to help the showrunners that I work with do their best work. If you are puppeteering every move they make, it won't work.
Do you think a lot of people were surprised ABC brought back What About Brian?
Even I was very surprised that they chose to bring it back, because I felt there were some other shows they would go for. I guess they see the potential in the show. We are going to rework some things and try to make it a better show. We have a rare second chance.
Is Alias signing off the end of the franchise, or will Sydney Bristow live again?
I think the show had its beginning, its middle and end. If the show comes back in some form, it would be great, but it is not in the works.