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Exclusive interview with series co-creator Gary Johnson and writer Joan Considine Johnson

 

This week, the long-awaited complete series of DVDs of the PTC Seal of ApprovalTM –winning TV series Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye goes on sale. Fans of the family-friendly drama, about a deaf FBI agent and her friends on an investigating team, can now purchase the entire series for home viewing. Recently, the PTC spoke with series co-creator Gary Johnson and series writer Joan Considine Johnson to learn more.
 

For the PTC’s previous interviews with Sue Thomas creators Dave Alan Johnson and Gary Johnson, covering the history and development of the show and its cast, click here and here.

 

PTC: The “second set” of Sue Thomas is now on sale. What is in this set, and how is it different than the previous one?

 

Gary Johnson: The first volume, which has been on sale since last November, was the first 11 episodes of Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye, including the two-hour pilot movie that kicked off the series. Sue Thomas has been incredibly popular, both when it was originally shown on the PAX network – it was the highest-rated show PAX had – and among people who have discovered it in reruns on the Gospel Music Channel and the American Life Network. The show’s fans – which included a large contingent of the deaf community, as well as people who just liked programming they could watch with their children and the whole family – are pretty vocal on the Internet, and there was a lot of interest expressed in seeing the series come out on DVD; but it would’ve been a major financial commitment to put out the whole series.  So we put the first 11 episodes out on DVD, sort of as a way to “test the waters,” and if it did well, then we would put out the rest of the episodes. Well, it sold extremely well, so now we’ve put the rest of the series out on DVD.  There are 57 episodes in all, counting the pilot as two, so the other 45 are now available.

 

PTC: Why did you decide to put all the rest of the episodes out at once, instead of doing season sets as many other TV show releases have done?

 

GJ: Well, you can buy them in a variety of ways. There are five volumes total. Volume 1 was the first 11 episodes. There are four additional volumes. So you can buy all 57 episodes at once if you have not already purchased the first volume; or if you already bought the first 11 you can buy what we call the “completer” set, which is the rest of the episodes; or you can buy each volume individually, so if you wanted it in smaller volumes or sets you could buy it that way if you want to. Each volume consists of 11 or 12 episodes. 

 

PTC: Since Sue Thomas ended, the cast has become somewhat dispersed. Do you keep track of what everyone is up to?

 

GJ: Sure.  Yannick Bisson, who played Sue’s sort-of love interest Jack, is up in Canada starring in his own series, Murdoch Mysteries, which has been a very successful program. It’s in its third season. Ted Atherton, who played Myles, is also working in Canada right now, where he’s had a recurring role in the series The Border.

 

Joan Considine Johnson: Enuka Okuma has been working in Canada, too. She’s one of the stars of Rookie Blue, a new police series, which is being made in Canada, but which is going to be on both Canadian and American TV. It’s supposed to start on ABC in June.  Rick Peters, who played Bobby, lives near Los Angeles. He’s been in lots of TV -- Bones, CSI: NY...

 

PTC: It sounds like a lot of the cast has gone on to be in crime shows. Do you think being on Sue Thomas is responsible for that?

 

GJ: Well, police procedurals are big right now, and these are all very talented actors, so I’m not sure being on our show had much to do with it. Of course, if someone wanted to say, “I owe all my success to being on Sue Thomas,” hey, that would be okay with me. (Laughs)


JJ: And some have done other things. Tara Samuel did some theater here in LA, and now she’s starring in an independent movie that’s in production, Ruby Booby. She plays a shy girl who thinks Jose Feliciano is her father, and she sets out to try to find him. And Mark Gomes, I believe, wrote and directed a movie in Guyana, where he’s originally from.

 

PTC: Do you know what Deanne Bray [who played Sue Thomas] has been doing?

 

JJ: She had a ten-episode guest-starring role on Heroes this past year. She’s also been teaching, and she’s very involved in Deaf West Theater…she’s at Deaf West right now in fact, in a play. She kind of got started there originally. And her husband Troy Kotsur is in that play with her. They’re both very involved in Deaf West.

 

GJ: Deaf West is really quite an accomplishment. They’ve done some incredible things. They did the musical Big River with deaf and hearing people both in the cast, and it was so seamless and so unique that it’s just amazing. In fact, their production of Big River went to Broadway. Deanne was not in it when it went to Broadway -- that was when we were still shooting the show, I think -- but Troy was.

 

JJ: Troy also had a recurring part in several episodes of Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye. He was in four or five episodes.

 

PTC: What was his role?

 

GJ: Well, the original one he was in, he was a deaf kid who is a member of a car hijacking ring. He’s caught, and when Sue translates for him, a sort of a friendship develops between him and Sue. It turns out that he was under the thumb of an older guy, a criminal who had sort of looked out for him, but who also got him involved in this gang. After meeting Sue and talking with her, and learning that he has more options in life, Troy tells the other guy, “I won’t do this anymore,” and he ends up helping out the FBI. That story is in the first set, the first 11 episodes.

 

JJ: Later in the series Troy comes back and goes to work for Charlie, the mechanic who owns the gas station near Sue and who is friends with her. There was also a very nice episode about Troy where he meets his brother, from whom Troy has been estranged for many years. When they were younger, the brother was a big deal in high school, and always felt a little embarrassed about Troy, because Troy was deaf. Now Troy’s brother has a son who is deaf, so he comes back and wants Troy in his life.


PTC: Now that it’s been a couple years since the show was on, and you have a little more distance, when you think about Sue Thomas, was there a particular episode you would say is your favorite?

 

GJ: To pick just one that was my favorite – boy, that would be hard. I’ll tell you this. We had to do quality checks on all the DVDs before they were pressed, right off the master, because you want to make sure there are no glitches or freeze-ups or anything like that. So it was part of my job to go through and watch all these episodes. Out of the 57 episodes of Sue Thomas I’ve probably watched 50 of them in the last couple of months. And y’know what? It’s a delightful show!

 

I mean, I always knew we were doing good work, and I knew it was going well and was very successful, but when you’re in the middle of making a show -- especially when you’re doing two series at once, like we were with Sue Thomas and Doc -- there are some episodes you’re more familiar with, like the ones you write, but then there are some episodes that kind of go through the pipeline that you as an individual are not that involved in. Because I was writing the script for another episode, or was writing a Doc script, or whatever, when a particular episode was being made. I’d seen every episode of Sue Thomas F.B. Eye before, but some of them I’d probably seen only once. It’s fun to go back now, after I’ve been removed from it for two or three years, and watch it. And I’ve found that they’re delightful. It really was a delightful show. That cast — I don’t know where there’s a better cast on TV than that cast. Everyone on the show genuinely really liked each other, and I think that comes across very clearly.

 

As far as my favorite episodes, that’s so hard to say. Probably my favorite ones to watch are the ones that were the most fun to write. I really liked the two-parter, “The Newlywed Game” and “Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do.” Jack and Sue go undercover as a married couple. As you can imagine, there was a lot of fun to be had there. The Christmas episode is also one of my favorites. Joan wrote the Sue Thomas Christmas episode. I’m kind of a sucker for those Christmas episodes.

 

JJ: Kim [Beyer-Johnson, another Sue Thomas writer] and I wrote that one together.

 

PTC: It’s probably an obvious question, but are you and Joan related?

 

GJ: You could say so. (Laughs) We’re married. She goes by the name Joan Considine Johnson. It’s kind of funny. On the writing team for Sue Thomas there was Gary Johnson, that’s me; there was Dave Alan Johnson, my brother; there was Joan Considine Johnson, who is my wife, and who previously wrote for Rugrats and Wild Thornberrys; and there was Kim Beyer-Johnson, who is actually no relation to any of us! Kim and Joan wrote a whole bunch of the episodes together.

 

JJ: I imagine people who watch the credits must sometimes think, “How many Johnsons are there, anyway?”

 

PTC: Do you have any news about Doc coming to DVD?

 

GJ: We’re trying. We – Dave and I -- control the rights for Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, so we didn’t have to check with anybody else to put them out on DVD. But with Doc, Sony has partial ownership and controls the DVD and syndication rights, so they would have to want to put Doc out on DVD. We’re hoping that the success of the Sue Thomas DVD releases will kind of light a fire under Sony. And Doc would do just as well; when they were on PAX, Doc and Sue Thomas were neck-and-neck in the ratings, and both had just as big an audience. Doc would do very well on DVD, too, I’m sure.

 

PTC: Finally, do you have anything you can tell us about the Sue Thomas movie?

 

GJ: We’re still hoping to do it. We have a really good idea for the story, and we’re well into the formation of the script. We kind of got hit a little bit by the economic slowdown in the last year or so, as did everybody else. Money is a little bit harder to find now. So hopefully the economy will come around. I’ll say this: with the success of movies like The Blind Side and Fireproof and the TV movie on NBC, Secrets of the Mountain, which did quite well – it won its timeslot – and with the great sales that Sue Thomas has seen on DVD, it’s more obvious than ever that people really want good, quality, family entertainment. And we’re just glad and grateful to be providing it.

 

To purchase Sue Thomas F.B. Eye on DVD, click here.

 

 

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