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March 26,2012
Melanie Jo   /   0 Comments   •   Headlines & Rumors The Killing

Joel Stillerman, AMC’s senior vice president of original programming and production – aka The Boss – and the programming executive most responsible for The Killing, knew he had arrived in Vancouver: It was raining.

Stillerman had Mad Men on his mind, as well as a new season of the filmed-in-Calgary western Hell on Wheels, this summer’s return of Breaking Bad, and record-busting ratings for last weekend’s season finale of The Walking Dead.

The Killing was uppermost in his mind, though. The controversial, picked-upon, pored-over and prodded-at thriller made headlines in June when the first season ended with the killer question – who killed Rosie Larsen? – unresolved, and the series’ followers in open revolt.

The moment Stillerman felt the drizzle on his face, he admitted with a rueful laugh, he knew he was “home.” A little known fact is that, for all the Emmy attention showered on Mad Men and Breaking Bad, for all the ratings records racked up by The Walking Dead, The Killing has a special place in his heart. As debated and damned as it is, The Killing is a passion project of his.

And, no, he makes no apologies for that ending. The way it was handled, perhaps, but not the ending itself. “If I had to do anything differently, I think I would certainly have taken a different approach with respect to managing expectations about what was going to happen within that season,” Stillerman said, in a moment of candour.

Of course, that was then, this is now.

“I’ll save you the trouble of asking,” he said, interrupting. “You will find out who killed Rosie Larsen this season. Definitively.”

The Killing’s sophomore season premieres Sunday, (April 1) on AMC.

“And I might add,” Stillerman continued, “(series creator) Veena Sud has an incredible vision for the season. I’m incredibly excited with what I’ve seen.”

The Killing’s official renewal came late during the first season, but that doesn’t mean the cliffhanger ending had any effect on AMC’s decision to go ahead with another season, Stillerman insisted.

“I will tell you we actually gave that some thought before we committed to the controversial ending, but the truth is we move pretty deliberately at AMC,” he said. “It’s not unusual for us to pick up a show late in the season. Each one of the these shows is a big decision for us. We made the decision at the time we thought was right.

“We were certainly optimistic that there would be a season two, though. It would have been a shame to leave it at that.”

AMC has been on a tear of late. Industry trade papers have flagged the cable upstart as “the new HBO.”

The secret to AMC’s success, Stillerman said, is both risky and not easy to replicate. The Killing, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels and The Walking Dead are not just unlike each other: They are unlike anything else that’s on television at the moment – including HBO.

“I’m happy to be in a place that allows us to take some risks. And I think everyone will agree that, in the grand scheme of TV programming, The Killing was a bit of a risk – and one I’m glad we took.

“I don’t want to say I look forward to similar risks in the future, but once we committed to it, we jumped in and stayed the course. I’ve worked at AMC for four years now and I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone knock on my door and say, `We need this,’ or, `We need to break out a new night.’ It’s been all about, `Find the right stuff, find the right venue and find the right programming strategy to put it on.”’

It’s the reason Stillerman was comfortable ending The Killing’s first season the way he did. There was no exit strategy, either. Had AMC cancelled The Killing, the season would still have ended the way it did, Stillerman said.

“We didn’t have a bailout plan.”

Viewers shouldn’t expected any tonal changes in the second season, Stillerman said. The story is being told chronologically, after all, over a period of consecutive days, with each hour-long episode representing a single day. When The Killing returns, the investigation into the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen will be in its 14th day – just two weeks in story time, since her body was found in the trunk of a city mayoral candidate’s campaign car.

“At the end of the day, this is much more of a deep-dive character exploration of what it means to get wrapped up in a crime like this than it is about who done it? (which) is a great way into a story, but the true brilliance of The Killing is that it’s telling a crime story in a way that we never see. I’ve never seen the victim’s family explored the way that Veena has done with the characters of the mother and father. Michelle Forbes is wonderful. Brent Sexton is wonderful, but it goes deeper than that, all the way to the supporting players, the smaller characters and the actors who play them, that don’t get the same attention,” said Stillerman. “It goes into the life of the suspect. We watch the news and we see all these people dragged through the news cycle, and that’s all they are: They’re a blip on the newscast. What The Killing does is take you behind the scenes and ask, `What does that mean for that person?’ It’s potent, remarkable storytelling.”

Larsen’s murder will be resolved by the season’s end, probably in the final episode, which is tentatively slated to air on June 17.

And Stillerman thinks there’s still room for a third season.

“There will be some things this year that will allow us to seamlessly move into a new crime. I’m hopeful there will be a third season. If we can get people focused on the show for what it is, and appreciate it for what it is, it could be a very long-running series,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll build any more seasons around this mystery but, you know, life goes on.”

Live or die, The Killing will likely continue to be set in Seattle, which means the production would likely remain in Vancouver.

Stillerman even likes the rain – within reason.

“Seattle, as shot in Vancouver, is very much a character in the show. We put a lot of time and energy into shooting second-unit in Seattle, but Vancouver is where we’re at. And we’re happy to be there.”

The Killing returns Sunday, April 1 for a two-hour premiere on AMC at 8ET/PT. [xx]

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