Show Programmer Tana Jamieson shepherded the first scripted series on A&E. Now she reveals what it's like to be at the forefront of a new wave of network programming.
What made Benjamin Bratt ideal for the role of the cleaner? How do you think his portrayal of William Banks mirrors the show's real life inspiration, Warren Boyd?
Tana Jamieson, Show Programmer for The Cleaner: For starters, Ben is a superbly talented actor. His natural charisma illuminates his character's crusade to help others while fostering his role as leader of his team and center of the show. Furthermore, Ben's personal warmth and humanity provide a tantalizing balance to his character's troubled past, while never losing the edge and roughness he brings to the role.
The Cleaner is A&E's first original scripted series. What is it like to be at the center of a brand new era of television programming for A&E? How do you think this series has paved the way for other original scripted programming on the network?
TJ: The show fits in with our other programming but at the same time is unique and not the same old cable show. The Cleaner with its cast and stories has already opened the doors to more quality one hour dramas for A&E.
Many of our loyal A&E viewers will notice similarities between the fictional drama of The Cleaner and real-life drama of Intervention. How does The Cleaner shed new light onto the issues of addiction and hope?
TJ: Intervention is a brilliant show, and we're thrilled that our A&E collegues and the show's producers have gotten due recognition with an Emmy nomination for OUTSTANDING REALITY PROGRAM. In part what's fascinating about the drama and the struggle of addiction is that every story is different - yet every story speaks to the human condition in a powerful, emotional way. We stumble, we fail, yet sometimes we can overcome...and always with the support of each other. As both shows strive to engage this theme, these issues, they proved distinct but complementary programming.
What do you think is the hardest part of creating a fictional series about a real-life issue that effects so my families today?
TJ: We are trying to entertain people so there are times that the real story is much tougher than we can script it. We want people to understand the problems but at the same time you do not want to get preachy or turn people off.
How did Warren Boyd respond to the portrayal of his life in The Cleaner? Does he still participate in the real-life interventions that started it all?
TJ: He has an office where the show is at but often he is not out there due to his heavy schedule as real interventionist. He loves being a part of the show and sees it as an obligation to get out and help as many people as possible.
How does the process of creating a fictional scripted series differ from the creative process on a non-fiction series?
TJ: There's more overlap than you might think. In both cases, we strive for provocative, emotional, relatable storytelling. Whether it's scripted or unscripted, the storytellers want the audience to connect to the lead characters, present them with a problem, complicate that problem with escalating set-backs, jeopardies, and new twists while making progress, and ultimately deliver an ending which is both satisfying, honest, real, yet somehow surprising. The overall goal of any storytelling is to lead the audience along a path of vicarious, subconscious enlightenment -- best case scenario! With a scripted show, the story is crafted before production, for the most part. With an unscripted show, the story may be more heavily crafted in post-production.