Exclusive interview with
series co-creator Gary Johnson and writer Joan Considine
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
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,
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
Joan Considine Johnson: Enuka
Okuma has been working in Canada, too. She’s one of the
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,
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
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
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
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
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,