In an ever-expanding and innovative television landscape, veteran actor Richard Gunn has found a chance to start anew. Known for being a regular member of the short-lived yet beloved ‘Dark Angel,’ Gunn has earned small roles in film and television over the years. It was only recently though that he had an opportunity to be a central figure in a series that was going to get a lot of support and be afforded plenty of creative opportunity.
‘Granite Flats’ is a period drama from BYUtv (Brigham Young University Television) now in its second season, with Gunn playing Police Chief John Sanders in a bucolic 1960s Colorado town at the height of the Cold War. Tensions rise though as mysterious circumstances unfold, and both children and adults have to deal with geopolitical concerns as well as their personal and professional lives. It’s the network’s first original scripted series, and while the university has a strong religious affiliation, the show itself is more intent on appealing to families than it is in proselytizing.
Having wrapped Season 2, Gunn chatted on the phone with TVRage from his home about navigating a network’s inaugural series, working with plenty of creative people, and what’s to come for him and the series.
TVRage: Can you take me back to when you first heard of the network as well as the show? What was your reaction to this opportunity?
Richard Gunn: Well, I was of course familiar with BYU, but when I heard about the show, I learned that this network had already garnered quite a few Emmys, and they were doing some really excellent work in the unscripted reality show arena.
I was interested because when AMC first aired ‘Mad Men,’ they hadn’t had any scripted TV before. I was thinking this was an opportunity to get on with the network at the ground level, and be able to create possibly very cool work, and that’s how it turned out.
Also, when I met the people in charge of this show -- [producers] Scott Swofford, Terri Pappas, Derek Marquis; the President and CEO of BYUTV -- I was very impressed with their resumes, backgrounds, and their vision of what they wanted to do with the network.
They have a slogan, the motto is “See the Good.” They have done a lot of market research into the area of what was missing in TV, and what they came up with was scripted TV that a family could watch together. When I was growing up there was 'Little House on the Prairie.’ Today, it seems to be there is a void in that area of programming, and they wanted to fill that and make something that families could enjoy together.
It wasn’t going to be too adult for the kids, and it wasn’t going to be too immature for the adults to appreciate, and I think they’ve accomplished that. The critical response has been positive.
TVRage: Were you ever concerned that the series was being made by a religious school? That is, did you have to convince yourself or others that this wasn’t a religious show?
Gunn: That was something I was initially wondering about, whether it would be a show that was trying to preach Mormonism, for lack of a better way to say it. It’s not that, not that there is anything wrong with that, it just that it’s not the goal.
The goal is to put out programming that families could enjoy together that doesn’t have a religious bias per se. The families in the show do happen to be Christian, but it’s more general. I’m not sure what the denomination is, but they go to church on Sundays, which is much more of I think a sign of the times as well; families went a lot more in the '60s. They have a pastor and it’s more of a generalized church-feel than any particular denomination, and certainly not a Mormon Church.
The thing is, I’m very comfortable with it, I don’t have any sort of prejudice against religion, and certainly not Mormonism, because I was raised Mormon until I was about 13. My mom’s side of the family is very active in the Mormon Church, and I’m very comfortable with it. I don’t have any odd notions; I think some of the general public has some misunderstandings, and that’s not the case with me.
TVRage: Season 2 has welcomed a pair of accomplished actors in Christopher Lloyd and Cary Elwes. What is it like working with them and what does it mean that they have joined on?
Gunn: They are very nice people, very good actors, and I think that’s the general feeling. Everyone is very happy to have them on board.
I think what it means for the show is frankly that it will allow the show to draw in more audiences that might have not been as predisposed to watching it before because of these two actors who have such huge resumes and have been very successful.
TVRage: This is a family show, but having watched Season 2 so far, it seems that this year the story is darker. Is that a fair assessment?
Gunn: I would agree with that. The show does have certainly a darker feel. The stakes have been raised, and the intensity of the show has been heightened. It does have a darker edge to it.
TVRage: What are the thoughts about a potential Season 3?
Gunn: Well, there is no official word on that yet, but probably as we speak, they’re looking into seeing the reality of it. I very much hope for it; I really enjoy this process and the people I’m working with. We’re very lucky to have talented people, not only writers and actors, but the crew as well is very talented.
We have this amazing cinematographer named Reed Smoot who really adds a huge amount to the show; he’s a great guy on top of that. We have the set designed by Christopher DeMuri, he is the one who did all of ‘Touched by an Angel’ before he did this; he’s just a very talented guy and the sets are just amazing.
I could say that about all the crew, we’re very blessed.
TVRage: And I think that goes back to what we were saying before, there is more opportunity in TV and to work with different people on something new.
Gunn: I have done network shows, been a regular in the past, and that’s a great experience. This has been different I think in a very positive way because there is no set formula that they are following. They are coming up with different ideas and seeing what works best, and I think that’s very exciting, especially from an acting standpoint. I have more creative input.
The show in general is unique because of that, because of the fact they haven’t done scripted television before. It’s come out of all these different people’s creative input, and it’s become a unique product and frankly something I’m very proud of.
TVRage: What then is next for you?
Gunn: I’m filming a movie in July called ‘Ghost Station.’ It’s a psychological thriller being produced by the producer of ‘The Ring’ in Toronto with Mischa Barton in an actual haunted subway station.
On ‘Granite Flats’ though, it's still exciting to me. The biggest plus is that people mention they are able to watch it with their family and don’t have to worry about covering their kid's eyes or ears, and so I’m very pleased by that.
‘Granite Flats’ airs Sundays at 7/6c on BYUtv.