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Interview: Moira Kirland

Chances are if you’ve watched any of the popular television shows in the last fifteen years, you’ve seen the work of Moira Kirland.

Moira has written and produced episodes for series such as Madam Secretary, Dark Angel, Medium, Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and The Dead Zone to name a few.

Now, she’s back with a new series she’s created for NBC called The Inbetween, which airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c. The series follows Seattle medium Cassie Bedford, who struggles with a gift that sometimes feels like a curse. Haunted by the dead in search of justice, Cassie is called upon to help these unsettled souls find peace.

We had the chance to sit down with Moira Kirland to talk about her new series The Inbetween. We talked about the journey from initial idea to the small screen, what type of research, if any, she did before creating the series and if she sees Cassie’s gift as a curse or not.

Pop Culture Principle - How did you come up with the concept for The Inbetween?

Moira Kirland - It was actually a feature that I started writing about 20 years ago. I’m not sure where the original notion came from, but I wrote the first act, and I knew where the story was going, and every year or so I would take it out of the drawer and read those 30 pages and think “there’s something here,” but I never finished it. And then I started to think that it could be a cool, limited series. The first draft of the pilot was much more cable, and the crime was open-ended. I sent it to my agents and they immediately said, “No, this is a network idea.” So I took another two months to adjust it for a network audience, and then we sold it.

Pop Culture Principle - How long did it take from the original concept for the series to its actual debut on NBC?

Moira Kirland - Well, about 25 years. ; > But if we start with the first draft of the pilot, I think it was three years. I didn’t pitch the idea (which is when you go to a studio and network and tell them a story and they pay you to write the script). I had a very specific tone in mind, and so I thought it would be better for the project if I wrote it, so people would understand what I was going for. And I think that helped sell it, absolutely. I had a full-time job on Madam Secretary, so it probably took a year or more to write, over vacations and on my Sunday afternoons.

Pop Culture Principle - What type of research, if any, did you do in preparing to write and work on The Inbetween?

Moira Kirland - No research really but my love of police procedurals, my weird fascination with serial killers and a less-weird life-long fascination with ghosts and psychic mediums. The idea for this show pre-dated my work as a professional television writer, so all the shows I worked on after writing that first act of a feature that was never finished – Medium, The Dead Zone, Haunted, Twilight Zone – that was really just me getting lucky, and finding a job on a show that was in my wheelhouse. When I went to pitch The InBetween, I led with “I’ve worked on or developed more than five shows about psychics, mediums or ghosts, and I know what to do and what not to do. I know all the pitfalls.” That wasn’t really true, of course, but it made for a confident opening.

For those who haven’t seen the series yet, can you give us a brief description of the premise for The Inbetween? Here’s the logline we wrote for UTV: Cassie Bedford helps her adoptive father, Major Crimes Detective Tom Hackett, and his new partner, Damien Asante, solve Seattle’s most perplexing murders using her unique psychic gifts. At the same time, Cassie must deal with the restless ghosts who visit her, including a malevolent spirit named Ed Roven, an executed serial killer.

Pop Culture Principle - Did you have the season mapped out before you started shooting?

Moira Kirland - I had the personal stories mapped out, and I knew I wanted Cassie’s journey to have a nice even arc because we wanted to transition her from helping out only reluctantly to being “all in” by the end of season one. I wasn’t really sure where the Ed Roven story was going, but it began to reveal itself as we broke more stories, and then when one of our writers, Lauren Barnett, suggested we do an Ed Roven origin story, it all started to come together. We knew where we wanted Roven and Cassie to be at the end of the season, and how we wanted it all to play out.

Pop Culture Principle - Harriet Dyer plays the lead Cassie Bishop and she is fantastic. How have you enjoyed her performance in the series?

Moira Kirland - Harriet has been such a gift in so many ways. She’s a brilliant actress, of course, and she has this wonderful, natural vulnerability, which makes her performance seem effortless and genuine, and hides the effort she puts in, and how spot-on her technique is. I don’t think she ever played a scene “wrong” as far as I was concerned.

She always struck the perfect note. We fought very hard, Harri and I, to keep Cassie’s edge intact. I wanted that sarcasm and that deflecting humor, because she’s not that ball of empathy you sometimes see in these stories, in which the female medium is so worried all the time about ghosts not being at peace, or murders not being solved. Cassie’s not running around begging ghosts to let her help them. She wants to be left alone.

Harriet always played Cassie’s reluctance perfectly. And then, just as a human being, she’s an incredibly giving, loyal and wonderful person. She took being number one on the call sheet very seriously, and always made sure that the other actors and the crew felt appreciated.

Pop Culture Principle - Cassie’s parents are a gay couple, but the series doesn’t make a big deal about that. Was it important to you as the creator of the series to show them as just a normal couple?

Moira Kirland - Absolutely. We underplayed it to such an extent that we had actors coming in for the audition and asking, “Okay, these guys are gay, right? Just checking.” And I’d be like, “Yes, that’s why you’re kissing him at the end of the scene.” I honestly can’t remember why I went that way, except I thought it was an interesting dynamic – and it turned out to be good for the story as well, because Cassie has mother issues which play out over the course of the season, and it helped us for her really not to have a “mother figure” to talk to. Brian fills that supportive role, and it’s just lovely. The relationship between Cassie and Brian (Michael Silver) is one of my favorite discoveries about the show. It just grew into such a beautiful relationship, which really plays out at the end of the season.

Pop Culture Principle - Do you feel Cassie’s parents are conflicted when it comes to her gift, especially Detective Hackett who not only worries about her, but her gift does help him in solving crimes?

Moira Kirland - I think they worry for her. I think they would prefer she didn’t have to deal with this, but they’re at a place when the show begins where they’ve realized she’s not growing out of it, it’s not going away, so how do we turn this into a positive? How do we help her take back her power over this and learn to control it a little, so she doesn’t feel so lost and helpless?

Pop Culture Principle - Do you see Cassie’s gift as a curse?

Moira Kirland - I did at first because she just sees and experiences these terrible things and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. As the season progresses, she starts to see good things happen because of what she goes through – people are saved, spirits are set free, she can give friends some peace of mind – and she starts to understand that, as awful as this can be, there’s clearly a method to the madness. Once she accepts that, it becomes less of a curse and more of… well, it’s always a burden, isn’t it? It’s always going to keep her from having a “normal life,” but she starts to see the benefits.

Pop Culture Principle - Ed Roven keeps appearing in Cassie’s life and seems to be an important part of the story. Will we find out more about him as the season continues?

Moira Kirland - Oh yes, much more. 🙂

Pop Culture Principle - In a recent episode, we saw Cassie try to communicate with Detective Assante’s girlfriend, but didn’t get anything from her. Is there more to that situation as the season evolves?

Moira Kirland - I really liked the idea that Cassie can’t turn this ability on and off. So she can’t stop it from happening, but she also can’t will it to happen when she wants information. We talked a lot in the writers’ room about what Sally could tell Cassie if Cassie were to get through to her, and ultimately I came back to what Damien tells Cassie, which is that there isn’t anything she can tell him he doesn’t already know. But Sally comes back into the story later on in a really surprising way, and it’s more about Cassie and her relationship with her dads than it is about Damien.

Pop Culture Principle - How do you personally feel about things like premonitions, spirits and the afterlife? Do you believe in them at all?

Moira Kirland - I’m an open-minded cynic. I’ve had psychic readings that were shockingly on point and predictive, and others that were completely off the mark. I’ve heard crazy stories from friends about experiences they’ve had that I can’t explain. I wouldn’t say I’m a believer, but I would never shut anyone down either. I’m always willing to hear a good story.

Pop Culture Principle - The series has a nice balance of action, drama, but also a little humor as well. Would you agree with that?

Moira Kirland - Yes, very much. I like characters more when they have a dry sense of humor about the things they’re dealing with, no matter how important or dire they may be. I like the idea that Cassie just soldiers on after these visions and experiences, and doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself.

Pop Culture Principle - As the creator of this series, do you find yourself constantly looking at the reviews and ratings for the show or you don’t bother with that?

Moira Kirland - Well, you have to look at the ratings. All of that gets broken down and parsed and explained and it’s all very important and the key to your survival, so it matters. I did avoid looking at social media, at first, because I didn’t want to be savaged. But once it started airing, most of the tweets and Facebook comments were positive, and that was really gratifying. People seemed to really love the show. Reviews are a little trickier, and I honestly don’t go looking for them, but I have had some nice ones sent to me.

Pop Culture Principle - Some viewers are comparing The Inbetween with series such as The Ghost Whisperer and Medium. What are your thoughts about that comparison?

Moira Kirland - I think that’s a natural comparison. I mean, I can sit here and list all the ways The InBetween is different from The Ghost Whisperer, which is also really a very different show than Medium, but they do have at least one important thing in common, and that’s a woman at the center who receives messages from ghosts. No getting away from that! I said at one point that the show is like Medium or the Ghost Whisperer, but written by a woman who loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I stand by that.

Pop Culture Principle - Are there any upcoming episodes that you are especially excited for the fans to see?

Moira Kirland - There’s something that I love about every episode, and something I thought we could have done better. But there were two episodes we did which really stand out for me, and it’s probably not a coincidence that music figures very heavily into both of them. One involves Cassie dealing with the ghost of a local Seattle singer who her mother used to say wrote the soundtrack to her life.

He’s got a favor to ask of Cassie, and it seems simple but the story takes some fun twists and turns. The other is our Ed Roven origin episode, which takes you back to the 1980s when Roven first started killing. I was a teenager in the early ’80s, and it was very important to me that the music and the wardrobe be right, and not cheesy. There was so much great music in the 1980s.

Pop Culture Principle - What can fans look forward to with the rest of Season 1 of The Inbetween?

Moira Kirland - More cool mysteries and ghost stories. We’re going to dive a little deeper into our characters and their relationships. It was important to me that if the audience thinks they know where a story is going, and they think they’ve seen this play out before, that we find a way to mix it up. Go in a different direction and subvert expectations. We aim to surprise you. The joke in the writers’ room was, “we’re bringing the scares and the feels!”

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A huge thank you to Moira Kirland for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us. You can watch new episodes of The Inbetween every Wednesday night at 10/9c on NBC.

**All photos from The Inbetween courtesy of Sergei Bachlakov/Christopher Fragapane/NBC**

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