It takes major talent to write any successful television series. Whether it’s action, comedy, or drama there is so much that goes in to the process of threading a story together and making it work. While I respect any writer that is able to pull off a comedy or a drama I believe that it takes a very special kind of writer to create a truly amazing science fiction series; one that not only captures the very essence of what makes science fiction so appealing to a wide range of fans but also adds the perfect mix of action and drama to keep us hooked. Mickey Fisher is that writer. His hit television series Extant has recently began airing its second season and continues to gain new fans from around the world. Add in Steven Spielberg as the executive producer and Halle Berry as the lead actress and you have a recipe for a show that is sure to stand the test of time.
Extant follows astronaut Molly Woods (Berry) who was sent on a solo mission in to outer space. After spending 13 months alone aboard the space station Seraphim, Woods returns to Earth to her husband, a robotics engineer, and their son, Ethan. You soon realize that Ethan is not an ordinary child. He is instead a prototype android called a “humanich”; the creation of none other than Woods’ husband. Soon after returning back to Earth Woods finds out that she is pregnant. Not only is this surprising, due to her long term struggles with infertility, it is also impossible since she has been alone in space for over a year. This is only the beginning of a long road to finding out the truth. But who can she trust?
Berry, as expected, delivers a flawless performance. The series as a whole is exceptionally written and well thought out with no threads left untied. Top all of this with a carefully structured set of songs to accompany the storyline from artists such as We Are Twin, Oh Travioso, Trentemøller, among others and you have gold.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mickey Fisher about the success of the series, his personal experiences along the way, and what part music has played in the process.
Mickey Fisher Interview
Thompson: What has been your most memorable experience since the show first premiered?
Fisher: My most memorable experience since we started filming has to be the first day that Mr. Spielberg came to visit while we were shooting the pilot episode. I came on to the stage and saw his director chair set up near mine and when no one was looking, the script supervisor and I repositioned his chair to be next to mine. Then she took pictures of our chairs next to each other, and me sitting in mine looking over at his. When he showed up, you could feel the electricity in the air. It meant so much and he was so kind to everyone, from the stars to the grips and PA’s. At one point we were all standing in a circle talking and he told us that it was one of the same stages he shot E.T. on.
I have to say another stand out for me was the premiere of the pilot episode, which was held at the science center here. CBS had rented out the hall where the space shuttle Endeavor is hanging and we actually sat underneath the space shuttle to watch the pilot.
Thompson: Do you have any specific bands/artists that you like to listen to when you are in your “creative bubble”?
Fisher: I didn’t start listening to music while actually sitting down and writing until some point in the middle of the first season. I never listened to music while writing because the lyrics tended to be distracting. I LOVED writing in noisy coffee shops and if there was music playing in the background there, even better, but if I tried to listen to songs with lyrics it clouded my thinking too much. At some point in the middle of last season, I started listening to film scores over my headphones and it functions in the same way as noise from the coffee shops where it creates a kind of din that helps me zone out. My favorite scores to write to right now are two James Horner scores that I downloaded after he passed, APOCALYPTO and LEGENDS OF THE FALL, and the new MAD MAX score.
As far as bands and singer/songwriters go, I do listen to them a lot when I’m hiking or walking and that’s usually a time for the thinking part of writing that goes on in my head. Right now, I’m listening to Jason Isbell a ton, Peter Gabriel, the new Dawes album, the new Kacey Musgraves album, a bunch of old Joni Mitchell, and the new Florence and the Machine. They’re all feeding into whatever new stuff is cooking up in my brain.
Thompson: How does it feel for you when you find the perfect song that really helps to pull a scene together?
Fisher: I have to say that I don’t have a lot of input into the music of the show right now. One of our show runners is really into working closely with the composer and picking out songs so I don’t do as much of that for EXTANT. But after making three independent features I can tell you that some of my favorite moments of the whole filmmaking process were when we would drop a piece of music into a scene and see it all become something much more than the sum of its parts. It was like a magic trick.
Thompson: What can fans expect from season 2 of Extant?
Fisher: We’re a few episodes in right now, so I think fans are getting a pretty good sense of how different this season is already from season one. But, there are a lot of twists and turns ahead. What they can expect is the unexpected. We were always looking for the surprising turn of events or shocking twist that hopefully no one would see coming, and just having fun with this new energy of the characters. I hope that by the end of the season the fans of the show are sitting there thinking, “How the heck are they going to top that next season?”
Thompson: What advice do you have for other writers who hope to one day reach your level of success?
Fisher: My advice to writers is always the same. Watch/Read/Write/Repeat. Over and over, thousands of times. Watch great movies and TV. Study the shows you love, binge the things that are similar to what you want to do, get a feel for how they move. Then read scripts, as many as you can get your hands on and read books about the process of writing. I’m still doing that, every day. I spent three hours tonight reading Stephen King’s book on writing and I learned a lot of new stuff. Then you have to sit down and write. You have to sit in the chair and put in the time. There is no short cut. I write seven days a week right now. It’s hard and there are days when I think nothing good is going to come of it but I do it anyway. I developed that habit when I was around nineteen or twenty, back when I started writing in journals. Some days it would just be nonsense, stream of consciousness kind of stuff, but I made myself put something down until it became a compulsion. The good news, if you’re willing to work hard enough and sacrifice long enough, you will get better. I spent twenty years working at it before I finally got my break with EXTANT. So, it does happen and who’s to say it won’t be you?
Extant airs on Wednesday nights at 9/8c on CBS. It is truly an amazing, thought provoking series that steps outside of the box. Mickey Fisher is proving with every episode that he is a force to be reckoned with in the writing world. Not only do I look forward to the future of Extant but also the future of Mickey Fisher as a writer and creative talent. Hollywood shines a little brighter thanks to his fearless writing style, hard work, and persistence. Extant is only the beginning of a long, fruitful career for this artist.