EXCLUSIVE: UNNATURAL HISTORY Creator Mike Werb Interview

Unnatural History (Cartoon Network)

My favorite new show this summer, UNNATURAL HISTORY will air its season one finale tomorrow, September 21, and Daemon’s TV was lucky enough to talk with creator Mike Werb about what we can expect in this last episode, and some of his plans for season 2, which he says is likely to happen (can I get a woot, woot!).

In case you’re wondering, Unnatural History follows the adventures of Henry Griffin, a teenager who has acquired some exceptional skills while being raising around the world with his anthropologist parents. Sent back to live in Washington D.C., Henry now faces a new side of challenges, and with the help of his cousin Jasper and friend Maggie, he solves some of the most exciting modern mysteries.

If you haven’t seen the show yet, it’s never too late to get started. So don’t miss the season one finale tomorrow, September 21, at 8pm on Cartoon Network. But for now enjoy the interview, including Mike Werb’s tease of a possible Jaggie romance next season (OOoooh).

Congratulations on the first season. It was a blast to watch and I can’t wait for the finale.

Mike Werb: It’s pretty dope. I think we did a decent job. There are little surprises in that one.

Is there any word on a season two?

Mike Werb: I know it’s looking very good but there’s no official word. They’ve been very positive.

Good. We wouldn’t want to leave it after one season –

Mike Werb: No. That would not be fun for me either. I’ve already mapped out all this stuff for season two. The good thing about this show is even if it doesn’t happen or if I’m working for stuff for season three or four or five, they’re just a bunch of movie ideas anyway.

Can you tease the finale? Will we be left on a cliffhanger?

Mike Werb: I would say, yes. There’s a cliffhanger. I can’t say too much about it except that the whole thing kind of kicks off with a real and very recent event of old American history which is that Henry finds a very long lost overdue library book of George Washington. That leads to a lot of trouble. If you may or may not know last year they did find an old overdue library book of George Washington. Apparently the Mt. Vernon estate owed like $300K which was forgiven and I think they sent a replacement copy or something. It was ‘The Law of Nations’ which is actually the book that we used in the finale. We’ve got a great department.

Is there any hope for a Maggie/Jasper romance? Is that something you’re thinking of?

Mike Werb: It’s always been on my mind from day one, the deepening and expanding relationships between the three of them. I know there are a lot of Jaggie fans out there. I don’t believe that I’m going to be disappointing them in season two. The intention was always to hold this back a bit. So if you noticed, in season one Henry has a couple of flirtations between Whitney and in ‘Sleeper in the Box’, the Sputnik episode and then Hoshi in ‘Heart of the Warrior’ and Maggie, I think some mentioned it, put the Momba tag on the Maggia/Tamba date that happened off screen in ‘The Liberian Candidate’. So Jasper ends up having a bit of fixation on Arianna Gish in ‘Speedlemania’ but that sort of deflection will probably be a little more retired when we move on. Is that vague enough?

Is there a reason that you never thought of Maggie and Henry?

Mike Werb: Well, the Henry issue of course is that Henry doesn’t generally, of course he always leaps before he looks but he generally doesn’t put himself first. If he has any indication that Jasper has an interest in Maggie or anyone he would never got there, ever. That’s not to say that there won’t be some merry mix ups and confusions and misread intentions.

What about a potential love interest for Henry that might be separate from the group?

Mike Werb: I intend in season two to bring his, he has a girlfriend overseas. I won’t say more than that. But I intend to bring her in an episode.

Might it be more than an episode?

Mike Werb: Possibly. She’s more trouble than he is.

I feel bad for Uncle Brian –

Mike Werb: Yes. Uncle Brian goes through a lot in the season finale. If you think feel bad for him today wait until Tuesday. But Martin [Donovan] is incredible. We are so fortunate to have him on the show. He’s such an enthusiast for the show itself. He loves it. I was concerned that, like, ‘Martin, are you going to come back if we continue?’ He said, ‘Are you kidding? This is like the best job I’ve ever had. I love you people. I love the stories.’ He loves the educational value of it and the action and he finally gets to play some comedy. I’m sure Chris Nolan didn’t exactly let him cut loose on the gags in ‘Insomnia’. He has a horrible death in that movie but he’s awesome. The whole cast is great. God, I’m lucky, so lucky.

How much research do you do for each episode?

Mike Werb: I do a lot of research but the kind of entertainment value has to come first. I know with ‘Thor’s Slammer’ I’d always wanted Henry to be blinded in an episode and have to fight. I was aware that there was a tree called The Buddha Buddha in Malaysia where I had spent some time. I thought I’d just pull it in there. Of course it doesn’t quite work the way a bag of frozen vegetables over your eyes. It won’t take the sting away but I mean there’s always things like that which are really fun. I’ve always been very interested in the Roanoke colony disappearance and the Vikings. So it all just kind of got fused into ‘Thor’s Slammer’. And iolite is a very interesting gemstone. It’s really very cheap to buy. It’s really beautiful, almost as beautiful as sapphire. It’s quite cheap to buy but I guess in the Viking era is rarer. Some of it got edited out but the thing is that you could use iolite to navigate during a storm. That line got cut out for time because Maggie’s speech was much longer. You could hold it up against a storm, completely cloudy skies and you could see the position of the sun and you could find out which way you were heading. I just dumped all my geeky nonsense though.

Do you have a list of all of Henry’s special skills and will you ever publish that list?

Mike Werb: I do have a list and I’ve wavered on that because people on some sites have asked for it. I’ve wavered about that because I want to hold back some of the new stuff that’s coming on.

Can you tell us about a skill that we haven’t seen yet that you’re planning on bringing up?

Mike Werb: I’m a little reluctant to do that. The one that’s in the forefront of my mind involves the season two opener and it has to do with the cliffhanger though. But I will say that we’re going to be balancing a lot of the flashbacks. A lot of them that I’m planning for the next season will have to do not just with his extraordinary skills but will have to do with more emotional situations he’s gotten himself into, cultural issues, deepening the show. Somebody had asked for, and I think I am going to publish the list of his malapropos which is pretty funny with his etweeting, texting, etc. Someone asked for the Werbisms of the show so I’m going to publish all the words that I made up because if I use old words or words that were being used a lot last year it seems like I’m scrambling to be current. I never really want to do that. Henry is butting up against the social and kind of technological world of lesser civilizations will continue to be an ongoing issue. He is a prehistoric fish out of water. Social customs should always confuse him but sometimes intrigue him a lot, too, like in ‘Curse of the Rolling Stone’ when he was so resistant to Skyping and finally realized that that was a way to contact his parents.

I thought it was unfortunate that episode was put out of order – I thought he had talked to his parents before –

Mike Werb: Twice before and hasn’t he been sleeping in a hammock all season? That was the first episode that was shot. The climax is the most brutal, the most violent of all the episodes, that pipe fight and I think the network thought that it was a little dark since the show has so much humor. Although that episode does have a lot of humor in it. Maggie gets drenched in sausages and she’s a vegetarian. Maybe that sounds kind of sick but I thought that it was funny.

Is there a question that nobody has asked you about ‘Unnatural History’ yet that you want to talk about?

Mike Werb: Yeah, actually there is but I don’t think your fans will find it very interesting. I’ve infused almost every episode with baseball player names, specifically Minnesota Twins. Sorry if you’re from Illinois and a White Sox fan. Well, there are a lot of Minnesota Twins that are named throughout the season and Cartoon Network has been trying to get the Minneapolis ‘Star Tribune’ to do an article about it but nothing ever happens. But the three bad guys in ‘Thor’s Slammer’ are all very famous Minnesota Twins pitchers although I shifted the names slightly. Instead of Bert Blyleven it’s Benjamin Blyleven. Instead of Frank Viola it’s Viola Franks. And Johan Santana who now pitches for The Mets is Jona Santana and there’s a Killebrew in the season the finale and there’s a whole issue in ‘Public School Enemies’ about a Joe Mauer baseball card and then of course Morneau family. Julian and Dante Morneau are named after the Twins’ first basemen. I told you that it’d be pretty boring. I warned you. Broxton Garko who is the head of the Doom Rooms, Vasanth Saranga who’s a marvelous actor who’s in the finale too, his character is also named after the L.A. Dodger’s closer, Jonathan Broxton. Tips for any young writers out there. I get my names from pouring through the baseball rosters and the obituaries.

Any other upcoming projects?

Mike Werb: I have a project. I’m working on another pilot right now just for myself. I have no idea where it’s going to go but I can’t stop doing something. So I just started working the second that I wrapped post on this season finale. It’s pretty cool. It’s a sci-fi show. I’m working with Michael Colleary. We have a couple of projects. One with Lawrence Bender which is an adaptation of the post apocalyptic world involving ants. He’s the producer of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and most of Tarantino’s films. He’s a great guy. And another kind of, I guess I would call it a medical science fiction thriller that Michael Colleary and I working on along the lines of ‘Face/Off’, like that.