Interview: Producer Gale Anne Hurd On How Syfy's 'Hunters' Makes Aliens Scary Again

Gale Anne Hurd has made movies about aliens. In fact, one of the greatest of all time, the sequel Aliens. She also produced one of my personal favorites, Alien Nation. So the news that Gale Anne Hurd is back in the alien game should mean a lot. She is producing the new show Hunters on Syfy.

Hunters is about a race of alien terrorists who have infiltrated humanity, and the FBI agents who pursue them, including a Hunter working for us. Natalie Chaidez developed the adaptation of Whitley Strieber's book Alien Hunter for television. We got to speak with Hurd after her Hunters panel for the Television Critics Association. Hunters premieres Monday, April 11 at 10PM on Syfy. 

Can TV actually do action better than movies now?

I think TV does it differently. We don't have the budget or the number of days to do what Mad Max: Fury Road can do. At the same time, because TV has an opportunity to create and build characters and spend more time with them, when they're in jeopardy, whatever it is they do, there is just much more of a fan connection to and investment in, that it's harder to achieve in movies.

Fury Road is extraordinary but so many movies use shaking cameras and quick cuts so you can't even see the very expensive, dangerous things they're doing. Can TV give you a little more clarity?

Because we're working with the actors day in and day out, especially we've got a group of people who like each other and want to support each other the way that our cast and crew really bonded, I think that shows. We put our cast through a lot on Hunters. We really did. There were a lot of visits to chiropractors and masseuses to work some kinks out.

You did Aliens and Alien Nation. What is your view on aliens today?

Well, I think that we have an opportunity with Hunters, because I've never done aliens in a TV series, to make them scary again. What I mean by that is make them three dimensional. Characters that you get to know in a three dimensional sense are much more interesting and can be much scarier because you know them that much better. It's not just about can they be gory or can they be scarier looking. When you really dig deep and you expose who they are, that's what's really scary to me. Often the scariest people are three dimensional villains, not just the villains who do despicable things but ones that are a lot more complex. That's what we're able to do with Hunters.

But the Giger Alien is still one of the scariest creatures ever. How did they do that without having us get to know it?

I don't think you can do that with a TV series. Then you essentially become the scare of the week. With a TV series you really want to peel the onion so to speak and find out who each and every one of the characters are. Yes, absolutely, but that's a different kind of show. Our show has horror elements but I wouldn't say it's a horror series. So that's really one of the differences.

When did aliens stop being scary? When did this happen?

I think they began to be, in my mind, sort of one dimensional. Okay, they're coming to Earth, they want to invade, they want to take over. That just became a trope that we've seen time and time again. To me, that's not all that interesting. Their home planet is destroyed. They've overused their resources and now they're going to take ours. They're superior to us in all their technology and everything else, that's not all that scary either. I think the fact that aliens are living amongst us, we have no idea what their aim is, but we know that they're dangerous and we know that one on one they can take us on and win, but they don't have that critical mass or that technology to defeat our planet.

Were there any similarities to developing the alien race in Hunters to the Alien Queen in Aliens?

Absolutely, because part of developing the Alien Queen was changing the original idea of the life cycle from the first film. In this, we came up with an entire life cycle of the alien species and ways in which they are completely different from the human life cycle.

Hunters - Britne Oldford and Nathan Phillips

Were you on Hunters as long as Natalie Chaidez was?

I brought Natalie on.

So how long have you been on the show?

Gosh, must be four and a half years or something now, from the time that I first read Whitley's book and met with him and talked about bringing it to life.

Were you ever considering it for a movie?

No. To me, now the opportunities in television are just so much more interesting. You have an opportunity to tell character-driven stories that you don't have to wrap up in two hours. Set up the character, create the crisis and then finish up in a satisfying way. We get to start the journey with 13 hours of television.

Are you still developing movies? Because we haven't seen any from you in a few years.

Oh yeah. Well, I did Very Good Girls. That came out in '14.

Yes, that was a few Sundances ago so it seems longer for me. How is working with Syfy different than working with AMC and USA on your upcoming Falling Water?

USA, the journey is just beginning, but Syfy has been really great in that they basically have said we're going to be bold, we're going to push the edge of the envelope. They've never given a note about "pull back" or "that's too controversial a topic to delve into." They've essentially said to Natalie and to me, "Where are the stories of the characters taking us and let's go there." I think that's really important that they trust the show runners. AMC, they have had such extraordinary success and well-deserved, so it's the beginning of the journey with Syfy and USA but so far it's been fantastic. It's not only their creative production people as well as the marketing people have been completely cooperative.

Have you had productions in Australia before?

Yeah, I did a feature film that was released here called No Escape that Martin Campbell directed in the '90s.

It's funny, I was going to ask you, a movie came out last year called No Escape and I reminded everyone it wasn't the Ray Liotta movie.

I know, not mine.

Is it just enough time has passed?

I think so. A good title's a good title I guess.

Are you using any of the same facilities in Australia?

No, because that film shot in Queensland. It shot in Sydney for North Queensland, so New South Wales which is where Sydney is. We shot in Melbourne which is in the state of Victoria, but our stunt coordinator, Mitch Deans, was a stuntman who did our biggest stunt, one that won the International Stunt Awards Taurus Award for best high fall. So he's now our stunt coordinator on the show, and there are a couple of other people on the crew who worked on No Escape also.

Is Hunters a show where any of the characters can die in any episode like The Walking Dead?

Well, I think there will be things that absolutely surprise you. I don't want to get into whether it's a character's death or something else, but there are certainly a lot of twists and turns.

When did Falling Water come your way?

Falling Water came to me as a spec script probably about four years ago. I met with the late Henry Bromell and Blake [Masters]. We had a couple of meetings, realized we were creatively on the same wavelength. They had started a rewrite when Henry passed away. It was just a little too raw at that point. Then some time passed and Blake called up and said that Henry's widow had given her blessing and felt that it would honor Henry for us to continue. We did and at that point it moved really quickly. It moved in one development season.

Usually when we see dreams portrayed on screen, they're the same as real scenes are. Our dreams tend to be more surreal and abstract. What can we expect the dreams on Falling Water to look like?

I think you'll find that there are incongruities, the way there are in our own dreams. But I think what's interesting about dreams is a lot of times we work out the issues that we're facing in our everyday lives in our dreams, but dressed in a heightened and almost more magical way. That's really going to be one of the important elements in Falling Water is just how important dreams are and how they could have the potential to be manipulated.

***

Hunters premieres April 11 at 10/9c on Syfy.