Press > Exclusive Interviews > Howard Chaykin (Co-Executive Producer: Escape TV Series)




How did you end up being a comic book artist and writer?

As noted frequently and elsewhere, I became obsessed with comics at the age of four, and from that point on, it was the only true ambition of my life. Anything else I've done was the direct result of this ambition. Working in television was the choice imposed on my when I came to realize I had the potential of becoming an old man, and that I was never going to be a star in comics--so money was needed. Hence, twelve years staffing television shows I'd never watch.

How did the Escape TV Series come about and how did you get the assignment to be the chief writer for it?

I was working on what might arguably be called the worst television show ever, Earth: Final Conflict. Another writer on the show--I should actually say "writer," as, as far as I can tell, he's never had anything other than the utter shit he wrote for this video train wreck produced, was fired by one set of the executives, and I was a counter-fire--to just show them.

I immediately rolled into development on the TV series version of Escape From New York--and there's no such title as "chief writer." I was hired to be the showrunner and co-executive producer. Trust me--these titles, as ephemeral and irrelevant as they may seem from the outside, are an imperative.

How come that you decided to set the show before Escape From New York, aim for 100 episodes and having Snake be a roving agent for the U.N. visiting surviving cities around the world and helping to bring normalcy to the devastated populace instead of being a notorious outlaw? Who's idea was it were more ideas discussed?

As in so many decisions made in the world of low to no budget shitty television in that now lost era of utter dreck, any and all of these decisions were logistic rather than creative. Tribune had a pending deal with an Australian entity--the landscape thus dictated our creative choices. My wife and I were already preparing to relocate to Australia when the ax fell.

How involved were John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Kurt Russell in the project and what kind of requests and input did they have? Was there any talks who was going to take over the role of Snake Plissken or Bob Hauk for instance?

John seemed to take a very laissez faire attitude to the whole enterprise--he seemed, for the most part, not to really give a shit one way or the other. Debra was deeply involved, contributing absolutely nothing but obfuscation and pointless digressions that served no one. Kurt was very engaged, and had the strongest sense of what could, should and would be possible in a television series. He was also, I might add, a total pisser--funny and fun.

We were seriously talking about casting Gerard Butler as Snake. Go figure.

How far was the TV Series developed before it was cancelled and were any treatments or drafts written? If so, are there any stories, characters, ideas or plans you'd like to mention or discus?

Any documents are long lost to systems crashes, as well as staff changes and indifference at Tribune--so, no--and sorry.

Is it true that Tribune Entertainment canned the plans for the series after 9/11 and that it was turned down by all the major networks for being "too dark and bleak"?

It is true they pulled the plug, but well before 9/11--and I've never quite understood why. And there were no "major networks" in this mix--as all Tribune developed product, this was intended for airing on US owned Tribune stations, then for foreign sales after the fact.

Were you disappointed that the TV Series was canned and what did you look forward to the most about working on this TV Series?

Yes, I was deeply disappointed... and the idea of moving to Australia to start this franchise seemed like a dream job back then.

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the project?

Russell was the highlight of the experience. I can't put a wonderful anecdote about Kurt up for the world to see. Unfortunate, as it's a beautiful story, a perfect reflection of what I gather is an honest man's genuine character--but this isn't the place. It quotes him saying something he might not want out there. Nothing scabrous, or scandalous--merely self aware and not necessarily appropriate for the current virtue signaling culture in which we find ourselves marooned.

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I'm working on book from Image, entitled The Divided States of Hysteria, about the aftermath of the next successful terrorist attack on the United States, which seems to have angered a tiny but loud chorus of willfully ignorant narcissists. My spare time is spent obsessed with television and brooding.


Thank you for your time, Howard.