Lilja: For those who don’t know you and your work, tell me a bit about yourself.
Sam Ernst: Jim Dunn and I were college roommates at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. We were computer-assigned freshman roommates, big city Jew (me) meets small town Catholic (him) and we got along. We always knew we wanted to write movies, but we also realized after college that we were 22, had been in school most of our lives and really had nothing to write about. So, oddly, I convinced Jim to open a restaurant with me. We figured, what the hell, we’ll meet a lot of people, have stories to draw from; and it actually worked. Finally, one New Year’s Eve we found ourselves with two restaurants, lots of employees and no writing happening. We decided to meet up the next morning and start writing. Soon after, we took a trip to LA and while there we stumbled across some TV scripts. We sat in a crappy Chinese restaurant reading them and we both realized TV was what we wanted to do; the way we feel about it, if we’re going to all that trouble to create cool characters, we’d like to hang with them for awhile and see what they do.
Lilja: How did you get involved with Haven?
Sam Ernst: Haven came about when a producer, Adam Fratto, approached us with The Colorado Kid. He thought it would make a cool series. We agreed and came up with an angle that was fairly close to the book. Then we were told that Stephen King thought we should add a supernatural element to it and that’s when came up with idea of people with “supernatural afflictions,” essentially supernatural abilities that no one would want. We actually wrote the pilot before Heroes and Fringe came out, but it took awhile to get Haven made.
Lilja: What exactly is your part in Haven?
Sam Ernst: Jim and I created the show, we’re executive producers and will write roughly half the episodes this season.
Lilja: Are you involved in the scripts for every episode or just a few?
Sam Ernst: We’re involved with every episode. The ones we don’t write we help develop in the writers room and then give notes on throughout the writing process. We are lucky to have three other hugely talented writers; Scott Shepherd, our showrunner and guru, Matt McGuinness and Jose Molina.
Lilja: Haven is based on the book The Colorado Kid. What are your thoughts on the book and its open ending?
Sam Ernst: Open endings are tough; they can be frustrating. Hell, even Stephen King talked about it being a tricky way to end a book in the afterword. In Haven, we start with the idea that our afflicted people can’t have stories that wrap up too neatly. Sure, their stories will resolve, but they’ll still be afflicted and will have to learn to live with that. We’ll meet one or two afflicted people in each episode and tell their stories. The rest of the episodes are devoted to the larger tale of Haven.
The Colorado Kid did something that most King books do; build a real and richly imagined world. We took that world, created a supernatural element, and shook it together.
Lilja: I have seen the pilot and there isn’t that much in it that is taken from the book. What was the plan when you wrote the script? I get the feeling the book’s plot will be used as a backbone to the series.
Sam Ernst: Adapting Stephen King is not for the faint of heart; there are legions of King fans that will be watching your every move. I hope the fans dig the show for what it is; a riff on King’s world, more than specifically tied to just The Colorado Kid. All our writers are huge King fans and we’ve woven elements from lots of his books into the show for the true fans to find.
Lilja: I read that Stephen King liked the script and the series. That must be a great feeling.
Sam Ernst: Unbelievable. He said nice things to us along the way about our writing and ideas and I plan to have them tattooed on my back.
Lilja: What are your hopes for Haven? An ongoing series or just this season?
Sam Ernst: My hope is many seasons. We have a rich mythology to unspool. There’s a ton going on in this town, everyone has a deep back-story. While there are shows that sort of figure it out as they go along, we actually know the last scene of the series. There is a reason why all this stuff is happening in Haven, a reason Audrey Parker is back, and well, a reason for everything.
Lilja: How much of the casting were you involved with and can you tell me a bit about why we see the actors/actresses we see in the series?
Sam Ernst: We were involved with all of the casting. Emily Rose read for the part of Audrey Parker (named for my daughter) on the first day and blew us out of the water. We went in to audition 100 more actors, but she was always tops. We needed someone who felt like she was figuring it all out WITH us, not FOR us, and Emily has that quality, in spades. With Nathan, we needed a laconic dude who was suffering an affliction of his own, and Lucas Bryant is that guy. Eric Balfour came along just in time for Duke. We had seen a lot of actors and couldn’t seem to find just the right guy. He came in, read for the part and we couldn’t believe it. Here was Duke, standing front of us.
Lilja: Anything else you want to tell the fans of Stephen King?
Sam Ernst: Episodes 1 and 2 are sort of a package; they work together to explain the show. We answer a bunch of questions – and of course, pose a number of questions. Hopefully, folks will stay around a lot longer, but those are the two episodes they need to really get a sense of Haven.
Thanks for reading this far!
Lilja: Thanks to taking the time to do the interview and good luck with Haven.