BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Emmy Award-winning producer Howard Gordon has created a different perspective for the new FOX series “Accused” slated to launch at 9 p.m. Jan. 22. Instead of being a standard courtroom drama where the audience watches all of the legal tussles, Gordon wants viewers to feel like they are part of the court proceedings.
“Rather than being passive bystanders, our viewers will be actively engaged as invisible jurors challenged to lean in and find out moment‑to‑moment what really happened,” Gordon says.
In each of the 15 stories of crime and punishment in the anthology series, there will be a new character in a new setting. It is an average person whose life suddenly has been upended by a choice they make that changes their life forever. The series – based on a BBC’s crime anthology – starts with viewers knowing nothing about the crime or how the person ended up on trial.
Gordon comes to the production having created such TV dramas as “24” and “Homeland.” The anthology format – that allows for different casts and directors each week – was an easier format for him than a more standard way of making a series.
“There’s no fat on the bone of these stores. It is really lean, I think, compelling storytelling that you watch kind of in any order. And so I think as a viewing experience I think it’s going to be a promising one,” Gordon says.
Because there will be a new cast each week, Gordon has been able to bring together a long list of actors to help tell the stories. Those appearing on “Accused” include Rachel Bilson, Abigail Breslin, Michael Chiklis, Whitney Cummings, Jack Davenport, Margo Martindale, Molly Parker, Rhea Perlman, Wendell Pierce and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
Directors include Marlee Matlin, Tazbah Chavez, Billy Porter and Michael Chiklis. The anthology format was a very freeing experience for Chiklis.
“One of the things that was really refreshing as a director is I didn’t feel constrained. You know, when I’ve directed episodes of ‘The Shield,’ that was a very specific template and you had to really adhere to it,” Chiklis says. “Because this is an anthology series, they’re sort of standalone featurette and there was a huge difference in terms of tone and tenor between the pilot episode that I starred in as an actor and the episode that I directed.
“So I didn’t feel constrained at all, which was wonderful.”
Chiklis directs with an actor’s vision. Instead of just barking orders, he will engage his actors in the process. Often his directions will come in the form of a question such as “What do you think is” or “do you think there’s any room for her to be angry here?”
He has found that actors appreciate that style of directing because their voices are being heard and they are being shown respect. Chuklis knows actors want to be treated with respect and dignity and that is what he does as a director.
Being part of “Accused” was a way for Porter to expand his work as a director. He directed his first feature two years ago and has been directing in the theater for approximately 20 years.
“Accused” is the first directing work by Marlee Matlin. She found the experience to be so different from all of the acting work she has done because that only required her to focus on what she had to do and say.
She had been warned that as the director, she would be asked questions from the start of the filming day until the end. She wasn’t sure how she would handle that but came up with the plan to give four answers – yes, no, maybe and I don’t know.
“As a director, my time passes so quickly. I mean 12 hours has already happened? I’m so focused on every aspect of production, you know, that takes on a set,” Matlin says through her sign language interpreter. “I have to be involved with a crew. I have to work with the creative team. I have to work with the cinematographers. It’s a completely different experience, and it accesses a different and creative side of my personality at the same time.
“The pleasure of mine was to be able to learn about how each and every person on the set works and how my fellow actors work. I get a chance to watch them work as actors, as actors to actors, and I became enthralled. It was a treat for me to be able to direct.”
“Accused” is scheduled to have a special debut on Jan. 22 and then it will make its regular time period premiere at 9 p.m. Jan. 24 following the fourth season debut of “911: Lone Star.”