‘For All Mankind,’ ‘Outlander,’ and ‘Justified’ Showrunners Discuss Building Expansive TV Universes at Variety’s Sony FYC Showcase

How do Hollywood creators forge massive universes for their characters? For Ronald D

Published Time: 10.05.2024 - 00:31:31 Modified Time: 10.05.2024 - 00:31:31

How do Hollywood creators forge massive universes for their characters? For Ronald D. Moore, executive producer of “For All Mankind” and “Outlander,” it all began with the question: What if the Russians landed on the moon first? From this starting point, “For All Mankind” was born. Moore and his team explored their alternate timeline, weaving cultural, societal, and political shifts with historical events, crafting a rich universe for the Apple+ TV series.

Diving deeper into the intricacies of world-building for Variety’s Sony FYC Showcase, Moore was joined on the “Building a Television Universe” panel by “For All Mankind” co-showrunners and exec producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, as well as Maril Davis, who serves as an exec producer on both “For All Mankind” and “Outlander.” Also on the panel: “Justified: City Primeval” co-showrunners and exec producers Michael Dinner and Dave Andron, as well as Sony Pictures TV drama development exec VP Andrew Plotkin. Variety’s TV editor, Michael Schneider, led the conversation about how some of television’s more expansive and beloved worlds are created.

Moore explained that as a kid, he hoped the Apollo space program would grow so that he could go to the moon. But the space race with the Soviet Union fizzled out after the U.S. made it to the moon first in 1969. “For All Mankind” was a chance to explore the future, where space exploration continued to expand.

“I thought this is an opportunity to play that out,” Moore said. “Let’s see that future and let’s do a show that is about how things can be better. It’s not just a show that says, ‘This is how the past could have been better, and we could have done all these other things.’ By implication, we’re also saying we can still do these things today… We can still reach for the stars in a literal and a figurative way and we can still make a better world for all of us.”

Shadowing NASA’s lost dreams was a huge part of the season one development process. “We looked at the plans that NASA had and realized, their plan wasn’t just to go to the moon and stop there,” Nedivi said. “The plan was to keep going.”

Nedivi said the decision to jump a decade every season in “For All Mankind” allowed the show to explore the evolution of the world over time, often catching up with contemporary scientific advancements. “In Season 4, a big part of it is asteroids and the idea of mining asteroids. Instead of researching what was happening in the ’ -

60s and ’70s, we’re now doing research on what’s happening right now. We’re finding out things as we’re writing that we’re putting into the script. So it’s kind of exciting in that way too, as we’ve evolved, I feel like the science has evolved as well.”

Davis spoke about expanding the “Outlander” universe with a spin-off, “Blood of My Blood,” which tells the story of Jamie Fraser’s parents and returns the fanbase to Scotland, where everything started. Davis explained how the spinoff moved into a new narrative away from the original “Outlander” books by author Diana Gabaldon.

However, Gabaldon is still intrinsic to the material and offered the writers and crew support, even as they diverged from the book’s source material. “We have her input,” Davis said. “We’d never do anything she didn’t love. She’s very honest about things. She watches daily, she watches the cuts and certainly gives us input. But she’s been incredibly supportive of what we’ve done.”

As for “Justified: City Primeval,” Dinner and Andron discussed how the new show moved to new geographical locations from the original Kentucky setting of “Justified.” “Detroit is a character in the piece — or ‘faux Detroit’ since we shot in Chicago,” Dinner said. “I think that Aunjanue’s Ellis-Taylor character kind of represents Detroit, Vondie Curtis-Hall’s character represents Detroit. It was a great opportunity.”

Andron revealed that Detroit was easy to navigate, thanks to Elmore Leonard’s “Fire in the Hole,” which the new series was partly based on: “Detroit was Elmore Leonard land. He lived there. That was his backyard. When he was writing about it, he was really writing about the people he knew and the places he saw.”

The panelists also teased upcoming projects, including the potential for more “Justified” installments following the teaser of Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Goggins) at the end of “City Primeval.” As for “For All Mankind,” the producers are prepping the spinoff “Star City,” which tells the alternate space race tale from the Soviet perspective.

Watch the full conversation above.

Most Popular

Must Read

Sign Up for Variety Newsletters

A Variety and iHeartRadio Podcast

More From Our Brands

ad To help keep your account secure, please log-in again. You are no longer onsite at your organization. Please log in. For assistance, contact your corporate administrator.