Exclusive: Minority Report producers on exploring the future of murder with Steven Spielberg

Minority Report

Executive producers Max Borenstein and Kevin Falls have a big, murderous challenge on their hands. They are about to delve deeply into the future of murder tonight on their new series Minority Report, the very first TV series based on a Spielberg movie. No pressure! The new sci-fi series, which is based on the hit 2002 Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg film, premieres tonight on Fox at 9 p.m. ET.

Minority Report takes place in 2065 in Washington D.C., 10 years after the events of the movie. The law enforcement agency tasked with stopping murders, PreCrime, has been disbanded, and crime solving has gotten harder The series follows one of the three psychics PreCrime used to see future crimes, a Precog named Dash. Now, years later, Dash is still haunted by his visions of future murders, so he joins forces with a police detective haunted by her past, Lara Vega. The series stars Stark Sands as Dash and Meagan Good as Vega.

In this exclusive interview, I talked to Borenstein and Falls about working with Steven Spielberg, world-building 50 years in the future and turning Minority Report into a TV series.

Why did you want to take on this project?

Borenstein: I loved the film when it came out. I remember it being this really complete story. It felt very timely in a post-9/11 world, and it was immediately post-9/11, as I recall when I saw it. And it was this allegory about the balance between freedom and safety and security.

When I found out that Steven Spielberg and his producers at Amblin wanted to develop a television series based on the film, I rewatched the film, and what struck me most of all was the really emotional and personal story of what it meant to be a precog. It was something that you could build off of in the way the film didn't have the time or the real estate to do it. It felt really interesting to pick up where the film left off and say that the PreCrime has been dismantled. But now we want to ask what happen next to the people at the center of it.

Falls: It's a great concept for television. They're always trying to crack what's the next great crime procedural, and this is a unique way in. You don't start with the dead body. Maybe we do flash on a dead body, but that person's not dead yet. So you're always trying to procedurally approach stopping a crime that's going to happen in the next 48 hours. And that is really cool and fresh and challenging for us, because it hasn't been done before. So it's been fun with this smart writers' room that we have in trying to figure out how to go about doing that ... and I have to tell you, [it's] really exciting to write a crime show in a way that no one's ever seen before.

How has the TV show evolved from the movie?

Borenstein: The interesting things for us in our show is because our characters are not part of a large bureaucratic infrastructure like PreCrime, and in fact contrary to that, they're working underneath the radar illegally to try to bring justice and stop the murders that are going to happen. It forces them to be more circumspect and thoughtful about the way they deal out this justice. So that, rather than sending a SWAT team in and catching someone in the act, because they're are operating with this kind of living-room PreCrime program of their own, they're going to face interesting moral and ethical dilemmas. But it's one that's much more personalized rather than being large and inhuman and Orwellian. They become the arbiters. And so the show really hinges on our main characters' moral centers. What choices they're willing to make.

What's special about the series to you?

Borenstein: It's not only the fun of the futurism of the world 50 years from now, it's these incredible characters that you've never seen thrust into a situation and forced to make these moral and ethical decisions about life and death that they never chose. It's a crime show, but it's one invested in these really deeply personal stakes. For the main character, for Dash, it's about stopping murders having spent his entire life doing nothing but being a filter, an antenna, that's been forced to watch these horrible things from afar, and he's desperate to take action. And I think that's this incredibly relatable, but at the same time very heroic idea that makes compelling viewing.

And for Vega, she's a character who's spent her life as a cop doing what every other cop you've ever seen does, which is pick up the pieces after bad things happen and hope to catch the bad guys. But [she's presented with] this incredible wish-fulfilling opportunity of being able to maybe stop things before they happen. They're also being given, at the same time, this responsibility with that of being judge, jury and executioner to mete out justice.

After the initial set up, what do we have to look forward to?

Falls: Going forward, we're going to be exploring his brother Arthur, his twin, who, having had the same experience, is tremendously different, just as twins can be, and brothers can be, and he has a much more fatalistic, nihilistic and cynical attitude toward the world, which is one most people would have had had they spent their lives witnessing such awful things. But it really is what makes Dash so remarkable that he retains that optimism and his belief in the value of humanity.

What's been your biggest challenge?

Falls: Max and I have always at every turn really wanted to resist cliché. The biggest challenge we've had, no matter what show you're on, is always to create a compelling story, but I think for the most part is really just make sure we're giving the audience something they've never seen before.

Borenstein: One of the things that's challenging that we face every day from script to screen is figuring out a way to effectively and consistently build out this world, which unlike say a post-apocalyptic zombie show, you go, 'OK, you've got zombies, but everything else is the regular world.' But if we're saying this is our world in 50 years, then everything in some way has to be thoughtful.

We get to have a lot of fun thinking about the future, not only in terms of its technological differences, but it's social political evolutions, so that it is really is the full world-building thing that you can do to a certain extent in the film. But television is really unique in providing you the ability to continue to build it out.

What's been your biggest surprise in bringing Minority Report to the screen?

Borenstein: One of the pleasant and amazing things about it is having this opportunity to work on a Spielberg film with Spielberg executive-producing and being able to sit in rooms with him and show him where our creative process is at and get his feedback, which is astonishing. I'm not sure it's a surprise for anyone who's a fan of his, as we all are, but his level of involvement and commitment to the show and obviously everything that he's working on is just amazing. From a creative standpoint it's been one of the really inspiring things about this whole process.

Falls: Yeah, when he talks we write down his notes. We also feel a tremendous amount of pressure in a good way, that this is his first movie that's been turned into a television show. And so we're pursuant to that and we want to pay homage to the movie, but also realize that it was built as a movie and we're trying to make a TV show.

Why should people tune in?

Borenstein: What excites us is the combination of spectacle and scope of this future world and the character dilemmas, which is what makes, for me, and I think for Kevin too, the great science fiction great. It's not just about its spectacle. It's about putting big ideas, high concepts into service of fundamental characters driving human questions.

Falls: We'd watch it. This is going to be a fun show. It's going to be an accessible show. That's not to say there won't be edgy, cool stories, but this is going to be a popcorn television show, but in a really cool, smart way.

Here's a look at Fox's Minority Report:

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