đHgeocities.com/Hollywood/Theater/5331/wolfinthefold.htmlgeocities.com/Hollywood/Theater/5331/wolfinthefold.htmldelayedx3ŽÔJ˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙Č°ĺ27OKtext/htmlŕßj27˙˙˙˙b‰.HMon, 24 May 1999 20:20:42 GMTÖMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *3ŽÔJ27 wolfe in the fold
Wolfe in the Fold
Highlander: The Raven stars Paul Johansson as Nick Wolfe, and ex-cop trying to keep his head in a world of Immortals.
By David Bassom.
Special #6
After three films, a long-running TV series and even an animated show, it would seem only natural if the Highlander franchise had reached its limit. But the latest spin-off series, Highlander: The Raven, proves that there is plenty of life left in the 12-year-old saga of Immortal combat by taking the original concept in a new and unexpected direction.

Much of that new direction is provided by the show's leading man, Paul Johansson. As mortal ex-cop Nick Wolfe, Johansson teams up with the scheming Immortal Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) to fight for truth and justice in situations where the law has failed the innocent. Along the way, he explores the nature of Immortality through human eyes and finds himself enchanted by his extraordinary partner-against-crime.

Although The Raven makes some radical changes to the tried and trusted formula of its hugely-successful predecessors, Johansson is confident that the series will delight both Highlander hounds and newcomers alike.

The Raven is very different from the original Highlander series,” the actor explains. “but from what I’ve heard, it’s in a good spot: most people are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Viewers want to know what’s going to happen and where we’re going to go from here.

“I think the idea of watching the show can intimidate some viewers at first. Whenever you do a spin-off, I think it’s tough for fans to let go of the style or type of storytelling of the original. So I think it’s very brave of the producers to try to do something different with Raven - for instance, to try and make it a bit more contemporary and a little slicker - rather than just play it safe and fall back on the old concept. The flashbacks help keep it in line with the original Highlander, but I do believe that The Raven offers a new sense of what immortality is all about.

“Through Nick, we discover the world of Immortality on another level which hadn’t perhaps been achieved on the original Highlander. We explore that Immortal world from a fresh and fuller perspective, to the extent that you will see the nuances and the trivialities of life as an Immortal, and not just the grand heroics, like the slicing of heads and the Quickenings. So the show takes place on a much more personal, Human level and explores what it’s like to know somebody who is a real-life Dorian Gray - somebody who can live forever.”

Johansson first heard about Highlander: The Raven when he was contacted by the show’s producers about the possibility of starring in the show. Despite his unfamiliarity with the original Highlander TV series, the actor still considered himself a “big fan” of the movies and happily agreed to discuss the project further.

“I had just finished working on a couple of films when I learned about The Raven,” Johansson recalls. “I was not looking for a job at that point; I was actually hoping to write a novel. But when I sat down with the show’s producers, Bill Panzer, Peter Davis and Marla Ginsburg, I found their passion for the project very contagious and they just convinced me that I couldn’t say no. I was also very intrigued by the treatment [outline] they had written for the show, especially for the character of Nick.

nick and amanda While the treatment gave me an idea of who this guy was going to be, they also said they would write him around what they knew about me. So he became a boxer, an avid reader and a man with an Irish temper who still has the capability of logic and rationalization. Obviously, that was very flattering, and helped convince me to take the role. In the end, I didn’t even have to audition for the part.

During the original Highlander series’ six-year run, many actors complained that Immortal characters were far more interesting and exciting to play than their mortal counterparts. For instance, the show’s original leading actress, Alexandra Vandernoot, became tired of playing second-fiddle to Immortals and left the series at the start of its second season, while her successor, Lisa Howard, felt similarly frustrated in season three. However, Paul Johansson quickly dismisses the suggestion that Immortals have more fun, and is actually very pleased to be playing a character with a limited lifespan.

“I would never have taken the job if I had been an Immortal,he insists. “I would have moved forward and passed on the job. What makes the character so interesting to play is the fact that Nick knows he has from ‘A’ to ‘B’ to live. So he must do everything that he wants to do by the time, he reaches ‘B’, because when he hits ‘B’ it’s all over. That raises the stakes for Nick and makes everything far more desperate.”

Of course, there is always a possibility that Nick could follow in the foot-steps of Highlander’s Richie Ryan and be exposed as an Immortal in a future episode. But that’s another thought that Johansson prefers not to entertain.

“I would fight that,” he states firmly. “I really don’t think it would benefit the series, because I think the paradox of the series is the balance between a woman of questionable mortality with Immortality, and a man with unquestionable mortality and a short lifespan. It’s this balance which keeps the tension alive and maintains the constant conflict which makes the characters both love and hate each other.”

“I think that with Nick and Amanda a lot of their chemistry comes from their situation; they desperately need each other in these serendipitous circumstances. I certainly haven’t had to work at it with Elizabeth; it’s been a broad brushstroke and we’ve been very lucky. And I think it’s developing very nicely; we’re finding new elements of it as we go along.”

With each episode, Nick and Amanda’s mutual attraction becomes increasingly obvious, and the couple’s relationship swiftly develops a ‘will they/won’t they?’ angle. While most viewers probably expect to see Nick and Amanda becoming romantically involved eventually, Johansson is hoping for a slightly more original and surprising resolution to this familiar plot device.

“Personally, I think it’s really important to take chances and do something different,” he explains. “I don’t think we should play it safe. It’s not our responsibility to be predictable. We should try to enlighten people, or maybe tick people off. So I hope the writers encourage us to do crazy things. For me, it’s all about challenges. If we fail, at least we fail in the knowledge that we tried something new.”

Obviously, Johansson is always keen to break new ground, and The Raven has not been a disappointment. Prior to joining the show, the Washington-born actor had appeared in a number of film and TV production, including Lonesome Dove, Beverly Hills 90210, Santa Barbara, Soapdish, She’s So Lovely, Matinee and the recent Carnival of Souls remake, and had also gained international recognition as a star of the Diet Coke commercials. Yet despite his range of credits, Highlander: The Raven is still unlike anything Johansson has appeared in.

“It’s a whole new world for me,” he notes. “I wasn’t a part of the original Highlander scheme, so when I get the information and read the scripts, I’m discovering things just as my character and the new members of the audience are discovering them. So it’s servicing me very well, and it’s a very exciting situation to be in.”

Another thing which distinguishes The Raven from Johansson’s earlier screen outings is its rapidly-growing fan base. The actor is genuinely excited by the prospect of corresponding with the show’s fans and plans to attend a Highlander convention one day, although he doubts that his character will ever rival Amanda or Duncan MacLeod in the popularity stakes.

“Personally, if I could meet Dorian Gray or Bob Diller, I would pick Dorian Gray; I’d pick the Immortal. I understand that, I respect it and I’m totally behind it. I’m very happy to be playing a mortal and I’m very happy with the function my character plays in supporting the Immortality idea.”

As far as the show’s future is concerned, Paul hopes to continue exploring the character of Nick Wolfe and also plans to write and direct episodes of the series. Above all, though, he is determined to ensure the Highlander: The Raven remains an exciting, touching, insightful and believable fantasy adventure series.

“From my point of view,, the success of any project depends on the same things” he concludes. “viewers have to believe what they’re seeing on film; they have to believe what’s happening. There also has to be a chemistry between the actors, interesting dialogue and credible action sequences. I don’t want this to be comic book-ish; I’d rather it was something that people can get behind, empathizing with the characters and going through their fights with them.

“My main goals on Highlander: The Raven are to protect the integrity of the show and my character. The show has already done many things that I hoped it would do, and I hope we can continue to develop that.

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