The creators of The CW’s new “Beauty and the Beast” know their show is technically considered “genre,” considering it’s about a genetically mutated former soldier (Vincent Keller, the beast) and a gorgeous New York City cop (Catherine Chandler, the beauty — not really the genre part of the equation). But when Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper wrote their pilot, they didn’t intend to tell a supernatural story.
“We weren’t interested in a supernatural creature. We were interested in a beast that we experienced in our lives,” co-creator Levin tells Zap2it at Comic-Con in San Diego.
She and Cooper made sure that their beast would be more human than animal — he’s not a lion or super-hairy. Cooper says that cutting down production costs were a consideration in that decision, but there were more practical reasons involved too.
“We thought, ‘We’re going to hire some obviously good-looking, talented actor, and with all of the heavy prosthetics, it’s hard sometimes to see them act and be present in a scene,'” Levin says. “The beasts in our world don’t come across obviously as beasts; beasts don’t advertise. You fall for a guy and you think he’s great. He looks great, and then you find out the baggage later.”
That’s why they were so thrilled to find Jay Ryan, whom they came across via Cooper’s casting director sister-in-law and poached from a Jane Campion miniseries set in New Zealand.
“He felt like someone who could kill you, but that you could be in love with,” Levin says.
Adds Cooper: “We just saw this raw intensity. We felt like he could pull somebody up against a wall and make out with them or hurt them. I don’t know!”
Changing into a beast isn’t exactly the most realistic experience, but Ryan says he gets that intensity by trying to make the character’s struggles as real as possible. “I just try and personalize everything so it becomes true to me even though it’s supernatural and may seem very far-fetched,” he says.
Says co-star Kristin Kreuk, “He’s very emotionally connected, so the intensity comes across really strongly and I think it’s very raw.”
Because Keller’s beastliness comes from an experiment gone wrong, there’s no telling how it will affect him as the season goes on. Ryan says he’s excited about where the beast element can go, and about telling Keller’s back story.
“It’s huge. It can just go everywhere. There can be other beasts, because they were part of a military experiment, so he has other friends of there,” he theorizes. “Most of them are supposed to be killed. There are so many avenues you can go. Because it’s a chemical mutation, I like the idea of it getting bigger and bigger inside of him and what that can do.”
That’s a sentiment Levin and Cooper echo. “His beastliness will increase” as Season 1 goes on, says Levin.
Sums up Cooper, “He’ll get beastlier.”