EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PAT GREEN & TOM BLOMQUIST
27 JULY 2001

Cindy K: In case you weren't aware of it, my site is real one-sided; it's all about Christy and MacNeill. These two have always been the favorite of the fans. Why do you think this is?

Pat Green: I think that Dr. MacNeill is a unique character. He's certainly not your typical romantic hero. And the kind of prickly parts of his personality make him very interesting, his temper and his stubbornness... and that's so opposite to the character of Christy, who's sweet and good and kind that when you get those two opposites you get lots of sparks between them. That's number one. Number two, I think that the actors themselves, both Lauren and Kellie, both of them had chemistry with Stewart and that's something you can't buy. Either the actors have it or they don't, and we lucked out both times because they had it.

CK: What about you Tom?

Tom Blomquist: Well, Pat covered it except probably to underscore the idea that his dark side, the brooding, unhappy side, is so engaging all by itself... he's the kind of character that people, especially women, are going to be drawn to. You want to fix him, you want to help him, you want to hug him, you want to nurture him, and the audience can't do that because he's on the screen. But Christy can. And she's drawn to this man like a moth to a flame. With a character like him, if you're looking at eight people in a scene, your eye is going to go to the one who's hurting, the tortured soul. Catherine Marshall knew what she was doing; that's why she invented him. He didn't exist in real life. Real life isn't that interesting. This is interesting.

PG: And she needed somebody who was not good. Everybody else in the show has a little halo over their head. And he doesn't. You need a character like that. Bad boys are always more interesting.

TB: In real life, Leonora went there, met a guy and married him. There's no complication. There was nothing very earth shattering. And that's not good drama.

PG: Catherine Marshall was enough of a natural dramatist that she knew she needed a character like Neil to spice things up.

CK: When you sat down for the first time to write scenes between Christy and MacNeill, is there one particular scene in the book that you used as your point of reference as to A) What the character is all about and B) What is going on in their relationship? What is that scene and why? And if not, then what did you base your interpretations upon?

PG: Well, I guess it would have to be that first scene where they operate on Bob Allen, which is where she meets him for the first time. My grandfather was a doctor and he was a very strong personality so some of MacNeill came from that, some of that gruffness. A lot of it is in the book, but I guess because we didn't have an actor when I first sat down to write it I was hearing my grandfather and the way he would deal with patients and people who were assisting him. He wasn't unkind, but he was the boss. Actually, he thought he was God. And I think MacNeill shared that characteristic.

TB: A lot of doctors have a God complex. It's very prominent and much discussed in medical schools. You are life and death.

PG: Right, exactly. And you have the character of Christy, who is this young girl coming into this situation which is horrendous. One of the most powerful scenes in the novel is that operation on Bob Allen's head. So you immediately have this innocent, sweet character thrown into this horrible situation, and there's this guy who's ordering her around, who's fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I think that carried through the whole series because there's a part of Christy that was always in awe of Dr. MacNeill. It took her a long time and it took us a long time over the course of the series and the movies to where that went away and she was just dealing with him one on one as a person.

TB: As an equal.

PG: Yes, as an equal.

TB: Because originally they were not equals in any shape or form.

PG: It took a long time for them to become equals. So, here's this extremely difficult man, but on the other hand, she walks into that situation and sees a hero. She sees a man who's going to do this very delicate, dangerous operation on a guy who will probably die if he doesn't do it, so she has to admire his courage while at the same time being terrified of him. I thought that was a pretty good template for their future relationship.

TB: The fans of that show and these movies need to understand that this story required adaptation. Everybody reveres the book on some level. We all love these characters. But that's a book and not the same as what we all saw on television, what Pat created for the actors. Pat had to take that complicated, very dense vignette-filled novel and turn it into a film story that could continue for several years... and the characters all had to change from literary characters to film literary characters. That's quite a difference. The guy everyone has fallen in love with, played by Stewart, was heavily adapted from that novel. When I got the job on the movies I reread the book a couple of times and then saw the pilot again... and I was so impressed all over again with what Pat accomplished. I said to her, "How did you do that?" The task of transforming these characters with the illusion that they were the same people in the book was monumental. And to his credit, Stewart brought that to life, because of who he is and how he acts. But it was really a huge magic trick, a writing magic trick.

PG: You have to dig into the book. Catherine Marshall has all of the stuff with the kids and all the description, but to write it for film you have to go to the emotional through lines that the characters live and find out what's beneath it all.

TB: As Pat mentioned, MacNeill and Christy were not equals until the end, when she could finally marry him. That inequality was a big obstacle for them ever getting together. It wasn't just that he wasn't a man of God and that was unacceptable to her. That's an obvious one, but there are less obvious obstacles that also kept them from being equals. They were never on the same footing. She and David, I think, were equals from the get go. He'd been there longer, but he didn't fit in the cove either. He was struggling with figuring out who he was, just exactly the same—

PG: David also shared with her that they were both do-gooders. MacNeill is a helper because he's a doctor and you know that he wants to help people, but it's hidden under all those other layers of his personality, but if you were to confront him he would never say, "Oh, I want to do good in the world."

TB: David and Christy were both outsiders, they both had privileged upbringings, they both were well-educated. They were the same essential person.

PG: And also MacNeill, because he was a man of both worlds—he had a foot in each world, he'd been away from the cove and had studied but then come back, and these were his people. That was something we really struggled to get across, that these were his people and he felt very possessive about them, like I know them and you don't. That was a good source of conflict between Christy and him and between David and him.

TB: The fundamental difference with David was obviously that he was fumbling with his calling, what his faith meant. Christy knew exactly what her faith meant, yet she was struggling with how to express that faith by her good works. And so their conflict was kind of similar in a way.

PG: But they also shared that, "Oh my gosh, I've bitten off more than I can chew here!"

CK: As a writer, you really have to know the characters intimately. What are the areas of conflict between MacNeill and Christy and how do you predict this couple will be as married?

PG: I think it will be just as tumultuous a marriage as it was a relationship because that doesn't automatically change when you get married. In the series, if we would have continued after their marriage, there are many areas of conflict that would have emerged. Like, how do you raise your kids? And how does she deal with being alone so much of the time when he's out riding around, and would he want her to work, would he want her to continue to be a teacher, and how would she feel about that?

TB: How would she deal with the fact that she's the second wife, and the only reason she's the second wife is the first wife died—

PG: The first wife died. Or left him.

TB: That's a huge conflict that's bound to be a dynamic in the relationship. And he is older which, while not a terminal illness, is a factor. She is bound to be young and impulsive longer than he is going to be happy about it.

PG: And also the character of David probably wouldn't have just gone away. He would have been there all the time and you know, whenever you have an ex-boyfriend around like that when there's trouble in the relationship. You're going to be worried, oh, well he's just there waiting to pounce.

TB: And she's working with David every day. Because clearly she will be a teacher for a while and she's going to see him every day.

PG: A big, big area of conflict would have been religion. What kind of upbringing do you give your kids if you have been a skeptic or if you are somebody who has very strong faith and you have a skeptic living in your house, it's very difficult with your children.

TB: MacNeill gave himself to God to save her, but that doesn't mean he's going to be a churchgoing standard issue Christian man. He is going to wrestle with it and the way he expresses his faith is going to be different from hers just by definition. And he still might not be comfortable sitting in a church singing hymns.

PG: Yeah, I don't see him ever doing that.

TB: So, does that mean she goes to church alone on Sunday? That's not going to be a happy aspect of their relationship.

PG: And the kind of example he's setting for the children. Do you want me to go when I don't believe in going? There are all kinds of conflicts like those that would happen.

CK: Is there a scene you wrote for MacNeill and Christy that never made it on the air or even in a script because it was edited out later? If so tell us what it was and what happened to that scene and why it was taken out.

PG: You know, there was such gold on the original series, I can't think of a scene like that, because there was such gold between them, there was such good stuff. I don't think we ever cut a whole scene. We may have trimmed bits and pieces of other scenes to make them fit into time but I can't remember a scene that we actually cut.

TB: The notable one is the alternate ending, when she breaks up with MacNeill in the last movie. That was written by Brenda Lilly and it's the pivotal scene between them that will never be used. But it's a lovely moment. What she says to him and what he says back to her is more dramatically interesting than the breakup with David. Your heart goes out to David, but it's on one level: I strung you along and I'm choosing the other guy. But the scene with MacNeill also has the dynamic that he thanks her for bringing him back to his faith, which is a huge thing, and she wants to remain friends. There are so many things—the more interesting way to go would have been to get her to marry David because breaking up with Neil is wonderfully multifaceted.

PG: Again there's that chemistry thing that even though they're breaking up, you know there's still an attraction between them that it's so strong, that even though they're saying the words, "We're not going to ever be together," you can feel that, oh my gosh, they belong together!

TB: The heat would be ever present even if she were married to David. Separate the fans' thinking from the ending they were rooting for and ask yourself, what is the most interesting dramatic situation? It would be for Christy and Neil not to be married. It would be for them to stay apart and have that heat smoldering, that unrequited love.

CK: Tell me the defining scene or lines that you wrote for Christy and also MacNeill that you feel nails that person to a T.

TB: I'll go first. "I'm not a monk, and I'm tired of living like one." And "What you do is your own business, doctor." That defines them. That line is the classic MacNeill. It says everything.

PG: I think it's the story he tells about the Selkie in "Eye of the Storm," because it gives you his background, it gives you who he is and where he comes from. But it also shows a side of him that you never see, which is this man trying to keep this kid from being afraid and Christy's watching him tell the story. Suddenly this is a guy who has a huge heart, he just doesn't show it very often.

TB: That was a very poetic, gentle story.

PG: I think he does see himself, as a little bit of a man who doesn't really belong anywhere, he's sort of a supernatural creature. I think he identifies very strongly with that. There's also that mysticism, that Celtic mysticism that we wanted to bring into his character and into the series because these mountains are so mystical and magical and he's such a part of them. We wanted to make that clear. For Christy, let's see... oh, I'll tell you, we did an episode, "The Hostage" episode, and Christy has a speech about her little sister that died. It was very interesting when Kellie did her speech, we were working with a director she'd worked with before on "Life Goes On," Michael Lang, and you hardly ever do this, but when somebody has a very long speech you always get coverage around them so that you can cut away to reaction shots. He didn't shoot it that way. The speech was about a two and a half minute speech and he shot it with the camera just coming in on her face because he trusted his actress to be able to convey that emotion of what her sister's death meant to her. I felt we really peeled back a layer of her character because you hadn't seen that. That was a tragedy she had kept to herself, which also was not in the book. Pushing in on her face like that, allowing her to get the emotion and doing it in that one long take, I thought was one of the most powerful moments that Kellie had in the whole series.

TB: When you do shows like this, you call that peeling the onion... of the characters. Some onions are thicker and have more peeling to be done than others. Alice being the most obvious. That character had many, many layers in the series as opposed to the book, especially played by Tyne, and we were writing to that, peeling the onion of her character. Neil was a close second. They had the most complicated backstories, that complicated their present lives. There weren't that many opportunities for Christy. She's not that complex, she's young, she's na´ve and sheltered.

PG: But you don't want her to be boring, so you have to give her a history that will make her more interesting.

TB: And that's again where Pat's adaptation of the book transcended it, because she was creating a life and a dimension for a character that isn't terribly complex as presented.

PG: It also gives you a sense of time, because in those days it was not at all unusual for someone to have lost a sibling; medicine wasn't what it is today. So it help placed them in time, that even an 18 year-old could have had the tragedy of losing somebody very close to her. It also made it more powerful because of her relationship with Dr. MacNeill, and medicine and all of that. So we felt that that was a good thing to do with her.

TB: A similar thing was the arrival of her father and the mild stroke that he had. Presenting that dimension complicated her present and presented a more dramatic relationship with her father.

PG: We did that for two reasons, one was for the relationship, but the other was because Barney Rosenzweig didn't want to do the prologue in Asheville. He wanted to start with her on the train, so we'd get right into the story. But we always ached to show her parents. Brenda Lilly had actually written a script for the original series where Christy went to Asheville, but it was never shot because Barney felt that it was too early in the series to go back there. So we dispensed with that, and when it came time to do the Thanksgiving show, we thought it was a perfect time to meet her parents.

TB: What you need to understand is that Pat was what is known as a show runner. She was in charge of the stories and the series was her design. But Barney, as Executive Producer had veto power. He would read scripts and offer a preference or a criticism when necessary.

PG: I was so glad that you used the part of the prologue with old Christy in the new movies. I loved that in the novel.

TB: Now on a weekly series, I'm not sure you'd want to see that. So Barney wasn't wrong in the sense that parts of the prologue would become really awkward, but for a movie it works like gangbusters. One of the reasons the novel is so interesting is that it's in the context of a flashback. That you start in the present with this old woman remembering what she'd gone through. Context is everything in drama. Conflict and context make drama work, which is why the ever-controversial Margaret returned.

PG: I'm going to talk about that tomorrow in the Writers' Workshop.

TB: It does achieve a few of the things.

PG: It does. The difference between who Miss Alice is in the book, and who Tyne Daly chose to play. When she was considering doing the part, she called me up, because we had worked together on "Cagney and Lacey" and knew each other and she said, "How are you going to write this?" I said, "Well, I'm going to adapt the character from the book." And she said, "Well, I have a problem with that, because this is a woman in the book who has been through being raped at 15, giving birth to an illegitimate child, she's gone through all this turmoil. The character in the book is too serene for me. I can't play that. I have to play her as struggling for that serenity.

TB: The difference between being one-dimensional and multi-dimensional.

PG: If they've solved everything in their life, then they're not interesting to play. There's no drama there.

TB: In print it's fine, because you can always go into her mind and what she remembers.

PG: The actor has to play emotions. And if the only emotion she's given to play is serenity, the character is not going to work.

TB: So, Pat brought the backstory into the present by having Alice continuing to struggle with some dynamic of a relationship with her daughter, and therefore with Christy. Neil is her son-in-law and Christy is her surrogate daughter who reminds her very much of her real daughter...and lo and behold, she's alive!

PG: Christy actually brings all of this back up for her, which is wonderful, that's dramatic gold.

TB: Not only does it bring it all back for Alice, but it brings it back for Neil; he's now grieving anew over that utterly selfish thing that Margaret did to him. The scenes he had with Margaret were some of the most interesting in the entire series. And Tyne and Kellie, when she's telling Christy--

PG: If you've seen Margaret, and you see her resemblance to Christy, those things become twice as powerful.

TB: The big eyes and the voice, same voice, same eyes. If you look at Kellie and Susan Diol side by side, she could be her older sister. That haunting similarity was a revelation that Pat very wisely put in the show.

PG: And memory, you know, you can only do so much of it. Then it becomes boring.

TB: "Boy, I remember how sick I was ten years ago, man that was really bad..." Who cares? In a novel you go to the inner voice of the characters and you can have 20 pages of description to describe a feeling that someone had 30 years ago. You can't do that on film.

PG: This is not from Christy, but "Cagney and Lacey", in the episode where Lacey gets breast cancer, there's this one point where her little boy says, "Mommy, are you going to die?" And I had written in the script she reassures him, "No honey, I'm not going to die." And then she looks at Harvey and you can see all the fear in her eyes. And of course you have to have an actress like Tyne Daly to play something like that, but it was one of the most powerful moments in the show. I could have written her speech where she told Harvey how scared she was, but she did it all with that look.

TB: You have to have an actor who can do that and they don't come along very often. That's why Tyne won an Emmy for the show, because she's great. But she also demanded material that allowed her to do her best work. If she had been reduced to just playing Alice in the book, it wouldn't have been as good.

PG: Purely practical, in a series if you have an Emmy winning actress, you've got to give her material to work with.

TB: In the movies, Alice was the subordinate character that she was in the novel. The novel is Christy goes here, Christy goes here, Christy goes here, Christy goes here. Alice is one of the stops along the way, a supporting, peripheral character.

PG: Literally supporting. She supports Christy and guides her—

TB: Christy goes off and gets in trouble and Alice counsels her. We returned to that in the movies both because we only had Diane Ladd for a limited number of shooting days and because the nature of the stories had to be much more about Christy going off and dealing with this and that. So, sometimes the tools that you have dictate how you tell the story.

CK: Of the episodes that you wrote or co-wrote, which one has your favorite Christy-MacNeill moments, and what are they?

PG: That's a hard question. "To Have and to Hold", the first episode of the second season, where Christy's thinking that she may get married, she's struggling with her feelings for MacNeill... I'm trying to come up with a particular moment and I can't! I thought that the acting between the two of them in "Eye of the Storm", and then the episode in I think it's in "Eye of the Storm", where she has the scene about Margaret, where he tells her about Margaret in his laboratory.

TB: My favorite MacNeill moment about Christy—though they're not in it together—was in "Echoes", when he and David are getting drunk and are talking about Christy. That aspect of his regard for her was special. It was the only time we ever played it because they were both drunk, so it was the only time they could ever talk about the unspeakable.

CK: Why do you think Christy is so clueless about MacNeill; in other words, what takes them so long to get together?

PG: She's clueless because she hasn't run into anybody like him in her life. He's more complicated, more angry and more intense than anybody she has ever known. He's such an interesting combination of the mountain people. In a way, MacNeill is symbolic of how she grows to love the mountains and the people in the mountains.

TB: But if you take your mind back to the time of prim, proper and ultra politically correct behaviors, the minute she finds out that he is Alice's son-in-law... and Alice being her mentor, surrogate mother, benefactor, friend, everything, that would remove him as a romantic possibility because of her view of correctness. How could she allow herself to be romantically interested in Alice's son-in-law?

PG: ... knowing it would be offensive to Miss Alice because it was her daughter that he was married to.

TB: That's also part of it.

PG: Also in terms of bringing Margaret back, one of the things that you always have a problem with is that you don't want to pay off the romance too soon because if you want to run a series for five years, you've got to keep that tension going. So if MacNeill had a living wife that would automatically keep him and Christy apart, because you just didn't do that back then.

CK: And you needed a reason to keep them apart because it would be silly if she went for five years saying, "I don't know who I want."

PG: She also looks like somebody who's shallow and can't make up her mind because of her ego, not because of any feelings that she has.

TB: I can say with all confidence, regardless of which of the original writers had done these three movies, all of us would have immediately said that we have to resolve the triangle. Because we all felt that, painfully, by the end of the series. We knew that even with Margaret back it was temporary, and then what do you do to forestall the inevitable? The triangle could not be resolved and yet we were living it, breathing it, the characters were suffering from it. It had to be resolved with these movies.

PG: You always want to play fair with your audience. You don't want them to feel like they're being jerked around.

TB: And you have to protect the characters' integrity. David and Neil both were starting to look emasculated, they were looking jerked around. What self-respecting man—

PG: Would put up with this.

TB: And that's exactly why in the first movie, David says, "I've had it, I'm moving on." He had to. And it was high time he said that, because somebody had to. Conversely, Christy, because of her indecision, was becoming unappealing. How unheroic for somebody to be that indecisive about something. Get over it. Marry one of these guys or leave town. You have to protect these characters and their integrity in your writing.

CK: Tell us about a scene with Kellie as Christy in the original series...what do you feel was her best scene?

TB: Well, Kellie has many, many, many qualities. One of her finest is her reactive quality. She says more in her eyes and on her face than most actors can. The scene with Alice in the church, which show was that—

PG: "Amazing Grace", where she's talking about Margaret.

TB: That was stunning. Even though Alice did all the heavy lifting in the scene, it was Kellie's reaction that made it. The other I would say, which is a close second for me, and it's not just because I co-wrote it, but, in "Babe in the Woods", her stuff with the baby. Kellie conceived that story and she was emotionally invested in it in a way that's special because it's the first thing that she ever tried to write and her scenes were full of honesty.

PG: Also she's a girl who really wants to have kids, and I think this is her projecting herself into motherhood. That was a wonderful thing to watch.

TB: It was wonderful, a wonderful idea from her, and there's a truth to that performance that wasn't acting. It was really terrific.

PG: Also there was a scene, the scene with Ruby Mae and the wedding ring, where they're up in the window, in "To Have and To Hold." She was so...you know, you can't buy innocence. You either have it or you don't. And that sort of purely innocent, "This is my dream," kind of scene, playing off of Ruby Mae. What we liked about Kellie was she was a little girl but she was a woman in some scenes and that was one where she was a woman. And she has that giggling, bubbly enthusiasm. That's hard to do and make it real. You can't really act that. You have to have it come from somewhere inside.

CK: How about Lauren, what was your favorite scene with her?

TB: She was absolutely at her best in the cabin scene, where she was sick and hallucinating, remembering Alice and all that stuff. That was an astonishing performance.

PG: Also Fairlight's death.

TB: Yeah, that was amazing work, too. In the original storm script I'd asked Brenda to write flashbacks to Asheville, when Christy was recruited to work at the Mission. We never got to see Asheville in the original series because Barney was reluctant to leave Cutter Gap. And we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to finally recreate the big tent revival—

PG: And her first meeting with Alice.

TB: --with cars all parked around and family picnics. It was the one thing that the original series never showed and I think we all regretted it, not seeing the contrast of what she left—

PG: Of how she'd grown up vs. what she was living in now.

TB: What did she give up to be here? That context would have given the series so much more power even than it had. But we never got to see it.

PG: Part of it was budgetary. It was a very expensive series to do and that would have entailed building really complicated sets or traveling to a place that looked like that.

TB: And so we thought this would be our opportunity and then, again for budget reasons initially, something had to go from the third movie. And Asheville was the most expendable. It was the most expensive and expendable.

PG: It was a luxury.

TB: But ironically, when I reworked that scene so she was just remembering it and telling it to Neil, it became so much more intimate and so much more powerful because we weren't leaving that room. We were on her face, and Lauren acted it. It was amazing. That was a tremendous bit of acting.

PG: This is really hard for an actor because you have to do the illness, you have to do the "I'm not in my right mind," and you have to make sure that all the words are there and--

TB: And the love in her heart.

PG: And the feelings. It's a very difficult thing and she's very young as well.

CK: What about Stewart as MacNeill in the original series? What do you think was his finest scene?

TB: That's a tough one. Maybe the fixing of Becky's eyes. That relationship was really wonderful. Also in his lab when he's remembering Margaret, telling Christy in his lab. That was tremendous, very truthful acting.

PG: Also he was wonderful when he was telling the kids the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie. That was Stewart's seriously Scottish moment.

TB: And I would say just because he was so goofy, Stewart in the Highland Games competition. He was hysterical!

PG: We were really lucky. We had a guy who's a wonderful dramatic actor, who is also hilariously funny when he wants to be.

TB: And Joel Rosenzweig nailed that in directing it. That episode (Babe in the Woods) may have been the best single directing effort that we had in the entire series. Certainly one of a couple. And he so nailed that stuff with Stewart in those Highland Games. It was great. In the movies, his conversion moment was very special... he was right there. He'd been waiting for eight years to play that moment and all day long you could see it building inside him, and he got there, He was so focused, he did two takes and said, "That's it. I have nothing left. I'm done." He'd said everything that he had to say about that character. It had all been building to that moment.

PG: He was wonderful with the kids in the original series, but I thought he had some fabulous moments in the movies, like the one with Sam Houston where they're trying to make sure he goes to heaven. We also lucked out that he was really good with the kids. That was just an added dimension to both the series and the movies.

TB: He is a father, a proud father. And whenever you have children in a show, no matter how professional they are, they're still kids. Their concentration is not adult concentration. And there are so many distractions. There's 80 people standing on the other side of the camera watching and keeping them on the dime is tricky. You need an actor with commanding presence to keep them focused.

CK: All right, now we get to be silly. You can not escape this topic when you are interviewed for my fansite. This is a standard question. First, I want your definition of swooning, Pat.

PG: Swooning?! My definition of swooning?

CK: Yes, everybody has one.

PG: Swooning, well, I'm not sure I can do it in words, but it's when you get that hot flash feeling that when you're watching two actors and the chemistry between them is so intense that your temperature goes up.

CK: That's good, I like that. What about you, Tom, what's your definition?

TB: Every time I'm with Pat.

[General laughter]

TB: Let's see, my definition. Usually for me it's all done in looks. You know, the eyes meet, kinetic energy cackles. Or it's the touch of a hand— like in "Judgment Day", when Neil's taking care of Alice and he asks Christy for something and there's a thing in the script where their hands touch, and they look at each other, and it's like "spspsps." Those are swoony moments. There's an unspoken moment of chemical "Whooha!"

PG: They're generally not dialogue moments, they're generally moments with no dialogue, and what holds your interest? The intensity of the feeling between the two characters.

TB: A lot of people call the river scene in the first movie a swoony moment. It isn't for me at all. That's just conflict and fire. A swoony moment is Christy looking through the bushes at Neil and Harriet, and he looks up and sees her. Because now you're talking about unrequited love and high romantic melodrama... he sees the hurt on her face and she sees the compromising moment... that's swoony stuff.

PG: We got a swoony moment in the original series, and I can not remember which episode it was in, but it was the horse who did some acting. MacNeill gets on his horse and the horse reared. And he looked so handsome and dynamic, and then we went back and got a reaction shot of Christy, and when you put those two together of him, riding off and looking back at her and the horse rears up, the moment really worked. And you thought, "Oh my God, this guy's a real romantic hero" and she's smitten.

TB: A classic example for me is when he comes back in the movies to ask her to marry him and they're up on that hill and the storm is brewing, and Lauren gives that little look. It was phenomenal when he's telling the story about Jeb missing Fairlight and how the man can't sleep. Oh wow. That one was so subtle and it was all acting. You saw the moment it clicked for her. That's swoony stuff! That was off the chart as far as I'm concerned.

CK: This is a question I get different opinions on. How often do you think that MacNeill makes Christy swoon and how often do you think she affects him in the same way?

TB: Interesting.

PG: I think it's rare, because I think that they're both on their guard and so you have to have a moment when they've both let down their guards and that happens only very infrequently. It's either at moments of intense feeling, and not necessarily anger but intense feeling like when he's talking about Jeb, or little moments like with the kids. We had a couple, and again I don't remember which episode, but she'd be watching him with the kids, and she'd get that flutter. Just because he was unaware that she was watching.

TB: I think that's exactly it. And it's by design. In real life, if these were real people, they're in their environment, it is 1912, they have roles in life that don't allow for telling their feelings, and in the era they're in you don't communicate—

PG: You didn't wear your heart on your sleeve in those days.

TB: You masked feelings and you lived your role and your station in life and all of those things, so they were mired in all of that. They would be in real life.

PG: As opposed to something like "Dawson's Creek" which is so modern that's all people do and "Once and Again", and "Thirtysomething", that's all people do is talk about their feelings. Back in the old days people didn't, so I think their feelings because they were unexpressed were deeper and more shattering and more shaking.

TB: It's not an accident that those moments are designed into the scripts; sometimes in a scene description there's a moment, she meets his look and then quickly looks away. That's a swoony moment designed into the story as subtext that comes to the surface that buttons a scene with passion. That's all feathered in very specifically to advance this little triangle.

PG: But even when the scene is not about that, you always want to continue that as subtext.

CK: Tell us your favorite MacNeill and Christy swoony moment from each of the following: the book, the original series and then the PAX movies.

TB: You're tough!

PG: Did they have a swoony moment in the book?

CK: Well sure!

PG: It would be the end when he realizes how much he loves her. That would be that moment for me in the book. And in the original series—

TB: Or when he sees her in Margaret's dress, in the cabin.

PG: Oh yes. In the cabin, that's in the beginning of the book.

TB: And in the pilot, it's unbelievable, that moment stops the show right there. Kellie in that dress, holy smoke, every man watching would fall in love with her and so did Neil. That was special.

CK: What do you say, Pat?

PG: Well I was really moved, like I said, at the end of the book when he realizes he's in love with her. That would have to be it for me. And in the original series...and I think it was in "Amazing Grace", before Margaret comes, they have this scene where she's fixing him dinner, there was such chemistry between them—

TB: It was sexy.

PG: My knees got weak when I watched the dailies on that.

TB: Remember that scene, she's cutting vegetables, and he says, "I like a little spice." Oh man. Those two, the two actors, especially Kellie on that day, understood the subtext, the context of that scene, and what had to be happening.

PG: And they both were at the top of their game.

TB: They just, she just knew what had to be going on and that this was not about vegetables.

PG: And we also needed her to do that because that was a scene where she needed to be a woman. She had to be a credible romantic rival for Margaret, because we were going to bring Margaret back in. And so therefore she had to have a mature, woman's reaction to him. And that was, when I saw those dailies, I thought, oh yeah, they did it.

TB: And in the movies it was without question in the woods when David's carrying her off and she looks at Neil over his shoulder, and that look from her, and that look back from him, it was amazing.

PG: All the longing in that.

TB: You could feel it on the set. It was as thick as a heavy, humid day, emotionally on the set at that moment. Those people transcended anything else that I'd ever seen them do in those movies, and that look from Stewart was so loaded with 58 emotions. It was fabulous.

CK: Speaking of swoony scenes, fans have noticed that some of the swooniest moments between Neil and Christy are oddly enough after Margaret's return and disappearance again and you two wrote one of the swooniest in "The Lie", which has one of the fans' favorite scenes. What was your strategy as writers in this unusual plot development and what did you feel this accomplished?

TB: First of all, In "The Lie" Pat wrote all of their stuff and I wrote Dan Scott's story.

PG: The strategy was once Christy realizes she's got feelings, really deep feelings for MacNeill, how can we portray these feelings without going overboard and depriving ourselves of stuff to play over the rest of the series. So that was the challenge, to deepen her feelings, to show that she was now aware of her feelings for MacNeill without paying them off.

CK: The fans love the tension, the competition from Christy's two fellows. Tell us your favorite competition moment from the series or the mini-series between MacNeill and Grantland.

PG: Oh, it has to be the Highland Games.

TB: Yeah, and the arm wrestling.

PG: The arm wrestling moment, yes! Any time you can physicalize something like that, number one. And number two, invest it with humor. Then you get—

TB: They're like a couple of ten year-old boys. They're ridiculous.

PG: Yeah. Anytime you can do feelings that are real and genuine and make your audience laugh, that's gold.

TB: It's interesting, like the drinking thing—

PG: The drunk scene.

TB: Because it's the only time these two will ever connect, really connect as men, and almost as friends. It was so much fun to write that.

PG: And we had to do it in such a way that it wouldn't offend people that David got drunk. It had to be by accident.

TB: It worked on many levels, and the boys did it just right. It was the ultimate in terms of them actually acknowledging the competition for the first time and taking it to a new level. Because they now took it to a level of confession. Here's what I feel, and here's what—it was a special moment. They could only do it in that context—

PG: That one time.

TB: And it is all unspoken again after that.

PG: Until you get to the payoff at the end.

CK: Pat, Tom Blomquist has said that he has absolutely no preference over which of the two men that Christy marries. Yet he also tells us that everybody has a preference and everybody has an opinion. So Tom, which is it, no preference or preference, and if no preference, why?

TB: No preference.

CK: Okay, no preference. None at all. What about you, Pat?

PG: My preference would have been MacNeill.

TB: If I had an expectation, it would have been Grantland.

CK: Really?

TB: I say this now, having gone past the series and the three movies. After all that David has done for her, he's been there for her time and time again, he removed the obstacles that prevented her from loving him... because he did find his true calling, he really did find his true ministry and all that... and he was quite heroic and became more of his own man by the end of the movies. The expectation would have been that she then might have married him. He became Neil's equal.

[Pat was shaking her head in bemused disagreement]

PG: I disagree. I think that he could have become Superman in a telephone booth and whatever bound her to MacNeill was so big and so cosmic... if there had been no MacNeill, could I have seen her marrying David? Absolutely. They would have made a very good couple. But this is even more than the love of her life, it's a love on an epic scale with MacNeill.

CK: This is something that men don't get. We've had this discussion before. Men do not get this. They don't understand it.

PG: But you get it.

CK: I get it! Brenda Lilly gets it too.

PG: Brenda Lilly gets it.

TB: Pat and I may disagree on this, but I think we both agree that it should have been Bob Allen all along.

[More general laughter]

CK: Okay, now here's a question that is important to me. I don't know why; this question is my favorite of all of them. Here's your bonus question. You've just been given an odd assignment. I want you to add one more scene to the end of "The Road Home" as in somebody please write what happens next. Tell us what you would have had happen.

TB: Because of that stupid three-shot. Remember?

PG: Oh, I tried to block that out of my mind, but yes I do.

TB: We were not happy with the way that was filmed and left hanging. With her literally in the middle of two guys in a three-shot. One guy here, one guy here, I mean it was so bad... we didn't like it then, we don't like it now.

PG: I would have done something like having her go off with one of them, probably David, doing something like what you did do in the movies, which is, looking back over her shoulder at MacNeill and having a look between them, so that you think, okay, she's got a commitment to this guy but is she going to stay? What was wrong with that moment at the end was it was so obviously contrived, it was so obviously what the director thought. It was schematic rather than coming out of any kind of emotion.

TB: It was very choreographed. Very self-conscious, and especially since at the end of the season you don't always know if you're coming back. And we had no way of knowing, we didn't know our fate. So you want to resolve it visually or present it visually in a way that doesn't leave you with this cornball freeze-frame moment.

CK: Ok, so you would have had a similar scene to what was written for the movies. What would you have done at the end of the scene instead? The next scene after that.

TB: The next scene? Well clearly, MacNeill is still a married man and Margaret is still back in his life, so he was not coming back to say, "Marry me." He was coming back out of some emotional desperation to somehow make sure she wasn't going to marry Grantland. He was powerless to do anything, what was he really there for? Because he loved Christy, maybe he would come to tell her, "I love you, I can't marry you, but please don't marry that dude." You know he might have said that.

PG: I doubt if he were to use that word.

TB: I'm guessing that he would have pulled her aside, "Christy, I have to talk to you," and David would have been proper and waited, and he would have said something like, "Wait for me. I'm in love with you. I know I'm not available for you but you can do better than him. He doesn't deserve you. Wait for me." Something like that. But he would have made a heroic grandstand play like he did in the third movie when he came and said "I've come back to marry you." It would have been a similar moment of truth, he would have been at a high rev emotionally and he would have finally blurted out everything that he felt. But he also could not have said "Marry me," because he's married.

PG: She could still have gone off with David and looked over her shoulder.

CK: You two think along the same lines.

PG: That's why we work well together, as you may have noticed.

TB: That's what happens at a story meeting. When you have like-minded people, even if you disagree on certain things you click into how it's going to work, and boy it flies. It flies.

PG: You would have known more about their feelings but it still wouldn't have been resolved.

TB: A couple of months later and they've had that conversation and she's still churning inside over it and David who would have been aware of what Neil said.

PG: Well, you could have wired it up that he'd been intensely pressuring her ever since that conversation with MacNeill to marry him.

TB: Or maybe in that sense I would have opened the movies with David thinking he was going to leave the cove.

PG: And, "Come with me. Marry me and come with me to my next ministry."

TB: David breaking it to her that he's been offered a position in Boston, at his home church, and he wants to take over from Father Flanagan or whatever.

CK: Tom, this is a question for you just because I need this on tape. I want you to explain to the fans what happens with MacNeill and Harriet Quimby that makes her tell Christy that it's her that he wants.

TB: Do you want what I really think happened?

CK: When you wrote it. I want you to explain to the fans what you think really happened.

TB: Well, okay. I don't believe that the kiss by the river was their only kiss. I think it was followed by several others, and I think they hurried back to the cabin. I think she probably did fall in the river and had to change clothes. I think it was all leading somewhere between them, but at some point he couldn't go through with it because he kept seeing Christy. So I think it was a lot more than the one kiss. But you notice that's never discussed. Christy assumes the worst happened, and I think it came very close to happening. I really do. I think, and the purists will hate this because they don't want to believe it, but he was a man and he was intensely lonely and Harriet was quite alluring, and she wanted him.

PG: She was available.

TB: Very available. And at his place in life, at that moment in time, I think he would have gone with those emotions to a point. I don't mean anything lewd here or improper, except that they were both available adults and she was quite available. And emotionally he was quite needy. Christy had been rejecting him and stringing him along and I think he would have gone with that but then been unable to pursue it any further. You see, Harriet is an interesting distraction, but she's a dramatic device. She's the catalyst for him to finally know what he feels about Christy. And so it's a dramatic device, because when you're offered something like Harriet--

PG: "And I'm not a monk, Christy!"

TB: And you're offered that, and you're a man at his place in life, that can be a catalyst for what you really want. I believe that it was a very important scene for him, even though it happened off camera. This was one of those times where you don't need to show it. What you imagine—

PG: Is far worse. And it also puts you in the position, you the audience, in Christy's position. You can let your imagination run away and you know what she's feeling.

TB: You don't see much of it in the show, but I'm telling you, Claudette Mink in that shirt, whoa! I mean--

PG: Talk about swooning.

TB: There wasn't a guy on the crew who wasn't swooning. She was gorgeous. There's nothing like a woman in an oversized man's shirt anyway. It's a very alluring image, and she in particular was.

CK: Patricia, this is for you. If the CBS series had continued, what did you anticipate happening plotwise between Christy and MacNeill the next season?

PG: I think we would have wanted to do two things. We would have wanted, instead of making it an unspoken romance, I would have wanted to bring it out of the closet a little bit, number one. And number two, I would have wanted more conflict between them. I'm not sure exactly what we would have done to achieve that. Something to get them together more.

CK: You would have had Margaret die?

PG: I don't know as I would have done that, at least, not at the beginning. I think it might have been more interesting if, for example Margaret is still alive and a kiss happens between them. So you've got all this guilt that you can play on Christy's part, you've got a lot more emotions, things that you can play if Margaret is not dead. Not to say that we might not have killed her off sometime during that last season.

TB: I think we would have had to kill her off.

PG: We had made her so sick, and they couldn't cure that, so—

TB: It might have been a fabulous season ender to have the Knoxville TB ward and Alice holding her hand and the whole death scene would have been very good.

PG: And you also paid that off into MacNeill. It must have been terrible to be a doctor back then and not to be able to save people like that.

TB: Including your ex-wife.

PG: Including your ex-wife. And Christy's conflict, because a part of her which, my God what a sin, part of her would have wanted Margaret to die and part of her would have felt horrible about wanting Margaret to die.

TB: And then Neil's grief, and Alice's grief would have filled a vacuum of emotional plotting that would have taken the series in some very nice directions and given Alice—remember I said you have to service your leads and protect them a little—giving Alice that privilege—

PG: If you had Alice have a crisis of faith because of this. "Why would God bring Margaret back to me only to take her away again?" You know? That would have given you a lot steps to climb.

TB: It doesn't move killing Fairlight, which would not have happened until the end, if ever.

PG: If ever.

TB: So you give Alice the crisis of faith, and you write it and have Christy maybe be a component of Neil's grief and healing that would have brought them even closer together emotionally.

PG: And she would have been conflicted about, "How much am I trying to comfort this man and how much of this is my feelings of love for him.

TB: So that would be really interesting.

PG: Like conflict's supposed to be. And if we could only have sold that to CBS!

CK: Tom, I want you to explain because I don't know if you're going to be able to do this at Q&A and so therefore I want to make sure it is at least for my fansite. I want you to explain about your wedding scene selection. You know you told me, it was selected highlights.

TB: Oh yeah. There's nothing more dull than real life, real time. A wedding, even a garden wedding like they had, would have been an hour, or forty-five minutes.

PG: Especially back then.

TB: So we have ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, whatever it is. So you have to present something that creates the illusion that you're really seeing whatever you need to see. But it's truncated. So we went to the 1910 Presbyterian ministers' book and then I deleted out the long prayers, and we just got through the wedding ceremony to the kiss. "You are now man and wife." Because it was really the wedding reception, and all the resolutions of the characters, that were important. The wedding dance and the confession, and the long kiss. That's what you want to get to. Everything else is leading up to them dancing together and that moment you've been waiting for, for almost forty years. You've got to get to it and you only have so much time. So we shot that wedding in its entirety, everything you see, but some of it's played over David's closeup, some of it's played over different stuff, and then the different time cuts, the wedding portraits being done, the girls and the punch bowl, and the quilt and Jeb. We had to resolve Jeb and Fairlight and the quilt, as well as Alice and Christy, Alice and Dr. Ferrand, John and Bessie... there's all this stuff going on plus the wedding dance.

PG: And you have to do it in such a way that it doesn't appear to the audience that you are doing resolution-resolution-resolution, because it has to be a natural dramatic progression.

TB: Don McBrearty did a really nice job of choreographing in his directing to make it flow. Then it was just a matter of editing. Like the kiss at the end, which we extended to the full length of the kiss that the actors really did. It's a very long screen kiss, but you want to be there—

PG: Talk about your swoony moments!

TB: That's what you pay for. That's what you want to see.

PG: Everything, the series and the movies have been leading up to this.

TB: People have asked why the yard and not the church, and it's simply because when you're in Cutter Gap, it's all about the mountains, it's all about nature. For them to not be married out there would have been dramatically wrong. We could have moved into a church, and we were going to if it rained that day. That was our backup plan. But it would have been less interesting inside.

PG: You want the sense that everybody from miles around is at that wedding, and they couldn't all fit in the church.

TB: And we had those cool old cars in the background. And that ties into the road, the road that David built got them there. That's what you want to be there for. The way it was all done worked really well, the mission yard and the gazebo and then those beautiful mountains. I guarantee you, if we had married them on the original series they would have been married on that hill facing the mountains.

PG: Absolutely. Got to have the money view.

TB: It's called the money shot on a series. And we had two of those, one out of our church and one off the mission house porch.

PG: Do you remember how the original pilot opened up; the very first words she speaks are about the mountains. She says, "The Great Smokies," because the mountains are a character in the book and in the series and in the movies.

TB: And that allowed for a dramatic transition after their dance, the camera lifts up and pans off the mountains. And then you come back to the present.

PG: And the mountains have endured. They haven't changed. The mountains are the same.

TB: The gazebo's all falling apart and the shingles are off and everything is all broken and overgrown, and it's many years later. It's symmetrical and poignant, it's what we call bookends. If you look at the original pilot when Kellie opened that door of her room and saw those mountains, it's a really wonderful shot, and then the movies end on a similar shot. That makes it a complete thing.

PG: That was one of the reasons I wanted to do this project, because I grew up here, and as far as I'm concerned nobody before the original pilot had ever captured this area on film the way that I knew it could look. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do the series, to show people how beautiful this place was.

TB: To capture the essence of the people. We talked a little bit about how the people speak, because if you noticed in the novel it's almost impossible to read the dialect, it's so thick. Pat found a natural conversational way for them to sound that was authentic.

PG: All I had to do was listen to the people I grew up with, which is sort of a modern version of how the people talked back then. So it gave me something that people now could relate to but that sounded authentic from back then.

TB: That's literary vision, that's what writers do. She gave you Cutter Gap, how people talk, rather than how they talk in the book. That's a complete invention of Pat's. When you go back in that book and read how Gaelic and archaic they sound—

PG: The network did express their concerns to me because they had read the book, and they said, "We're afraid people won't understand what they're saying.

TB: Because it was so thick.

PG: It was almost like a foreign language.

TB: And if you did that dialogue on film, it would sound like—

PG: Sound like Lil' Abner, because it was too regional.

TB: To a large extent, how the characters thought was an invention of Pat's as well. And being from Bristol, from the state, this area, resonates in every scene, in all the characters, in all the sensibilities, because much of that is not in the book, either. Or it's suggested in the book but not really dramatically developed.

PG: I tried really, really hard, because I have friends who are from the south, like Michael Lilly who played Bob Allen in the movies and is a dear friend of mine, Brenda's husband, and he gets so put out when people do accents that are not correct: if they're supposed to be from the mountains and they sound like they're from New Orleans. And the other problem he has, he says, "Just because we have southern accents doesn't mean we're dumb." You want to make people sound like they're intelligent, sentient human beings, but still give them that regional flavor. One of the challenges of the series was to get you to love and respect these people and still be true to the way they would have sounded.

CK: Tell us what happens next. Just in case we don't get to see any more, in case there isn't Movie Four.

TB: I'll be very vague. I have thought a little bit about it but I don't have anything specific in case we ever do get to do the show. Suffice it to say, Alice and Ferrand must be resolved. That's one of the first things that has to happen, because he has proposed and he has said, "I'm not going to get out of your face until you say ‘yes'." So that must be dealt with. It's a big decision to make. David rides off—I want to know where he goes, I want to know what he's feeling, we have to bring him home. We have to get him back there, we have to get him back on his feet and get him working. And I would think that both Christy and Neil individually will be a big part of that happening. Whatever it is. I don't have a real specific idea of how that would work but David right now is a broken man. He's been slammed hard and somebody is going to have to pick him up and he only has two people who could likely do that, and that's Christy and MacNeill. The man that beat him also must respect him, too. I think he's got a new respect for David as a result, He won this girl and David is trashed. And I think bigtime.

PG: Well, I think what would make him respect David more is that David could come back and deal with it. He goes away for awhile but for whatever reason he's able to come back and go on.

TB: Oh yeah, it's not a crisis of faith, it's a crisis of spirit, a crisis of the heart.

PG: The interesting things you could do, if you really wanted to surprise your audience, you could have him go away for a couple of episodes, assuming it was a series, and come back and be married. He's got a bride. And there's somebody for Christy to deal with, whoever that character is could be very interesting. Did he get over her or did he marry this girl on the rebound? And therefore you've got a lot of complexity to play there, especially if she's really in love with him and then all of a sudden she sees this woman and she goes, "Oh my God, he's still in love with her!"

TB: You also have the unresolved aftermath of the storm. You saw the Allen cabin flattened into the dirt. They have to have a house raising, something's going to have to take place. How many other families were displaced? Would they all be living together, would they all be living at the mission? And how are we going to rebuild Cutter Gap? How much was really devastated?

PG: And how would Dr. Ferrand or David or Christy be able to get the mission society to help do this and how would you do that? And do you want to sell out to the lumber interests or the coal interests who would come in and say, "Here, we'll give you all this money and you move to Asheville and we'll take your land," which is what they did.

TB: And a very primary interest I think to a lot of people, you have Jeb, who has passed through—

PG: Fire.

TB: Fire, and now he's a single father with all these kids. Opal can not begin to carry his family too.

PG: And John and Bessie, are they going to get married that young or are they going to wait?

TB: Something's got to happen with them. They tabled it for the moment, but they are still there.

PG: The other thing is Christy getting used to Neil being gone that long. Here they are married, which doesn't necessarily make everybody live happily ever after. If anything, this will be yet another shock for her. You know with those two, what made them interesting were the sparks and that's not going to stop just because they're married.

TB: I certainly feel that they would start a family, that's something all the fans want, for them to have a child.

PG: Of course, then you get to that episode he's gone, he's away, and Christy's going to give birth...

TB: And it looks like Bob Allen.

PG: And sure enough, the kid comes out and somebody drops him.

TB: (laughing) It looks just like Michael Lilly. He's lobbying for that, you know.

PG: Bob Allen faints dead away.

TB: And he's a method actor, so Lauren goes screaming into the night...

CK: Very funny!! Guys, thanks so much.

TB: You're welcome.

PG: It was our pleasure.