Joel Wyman Discusses ‘Dead Man Down,’ the Final Season of ‘Fringe,’ & His Upcoming Show with J.J. Abrams
Joel Wyman doesn’t sleep. That’s how he managed to oversee the final season of Fringe, write and produce his new film, Dead Man Down (in theaters Friday, March 8th), and work on his upcoming series with J.J. Abrams, all within the last year. But don’t worry—he took at least one day off.
The writer/producer says that after the Fringe finale aired in January, he needed a little time to process it all. “It really affected me to finish [Fringe] and put these beautiful people to bed, for the time being, anyway… It really was hard for me, so I needed to take a break and sort of step back and let everything be.” After giving fans (and himself) a day to ruminate on the finale, Wyman says he returned to Twitter and read, “literally every tweet” about the episode, which marked the end of the sci-fi underdog’s five-season run. Since then, Wyman has been keeping busy. His new film Dead Man Down hits theaters this Friday, and he’s got a new series in the works with Fringe creator (and newly appointed Star Wars director) J.J. Abrams that starts filming next month.
Dead Man Down stars Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace, who reunited with her Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev for the film. A pulse-pounding, noir-infused thriller, Dead Man Down is a drastic departure from the sci-fi world of Fringe. There are no alternate universes, no time travel, no sentient fungi. There’s just a man on a mission of revenge. When asked if it was a challenge to write about a world without the gruesome imagery and fancy gadgets of Fringe, Wyman said, “[Dead Man Down] is so emotional based, plot based, that it’s kind of naked in a way.” He also talked about the differences between writing for television and writing for film. Movies, he notes, “are about the here and now, because you’re sort of focusing on one theme, and it’s got to mean something to the people.”
For Wyman, that theme was violence. “I was really concerned about violence and evil out there, and I felt so vulnerable… Out of that vulnerability I wrote this movie because I wanted to tell others that it’s okay.” Despite living in fear of the rampant violence that has permeated our culture, Wyman says he wanted to remind people that, “it’s your job as a human to connect.”
Wyman’s as-yet-untitled new series will address similar themes, he says. “It’s about humanity, and it’s about technology… It’s about love; it’s about connection; it’s about really cool visuals.” Billed as a futuristic buddy cop drama where humans are paired with android partners, Wyman describes his new series as “Blade Runner, and Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford are partners, and they’re cops. And they get to go and investigate these incredible stories.” So far the cast includes Michael Ealy, who already has the buddy cop dynamic down pat from his time on the little-watched USA series Common Law. The show will also feature a dense mythology, which is sure to delight fans of Fringe, whom Wyman calls, “the greatest fans in the world.” (We think you’re pretty great too, Joel.)
Regarding the legions of devoted Fringe fans, Wyman says, “I felt, if anything else, this new show has to be up to snuff, because I don’t want to let these people down.” Wyman is nothing if not grateful for the immense support from fans throughout Fringe‘s five seasons. “They’ve been so supportive, and they really are concerned with the same things I’m concerned about in life, and I kind of feel like we’re all part of the same thing,” he says. If Fringe fans can bring the same enthusiasm and tenacity to Wyman’s new show, he just might succeed in reasserting sci-fi’s place in network television.
With a new show in the works, it seems hard to believe that Wyman will have much time for more films, but he says he’s excited to pursue new projects, including possibly branching out into directing. He says he’s glad to have had the opportunity to learn from his time working in television, of which he says, “it’s such a great place to be to sort of hone your craft. I really honestly feel now that I have a unique perspective on things, and I really can’t wait to go and do some more of that.” And we can’t wait to see it.
Look for Dead Man Down in theaters on Friday, March 8th.