Burn Notice’s Matt Nix Talks about Michael Westen Being Pushed to the Brink! Podcast!
No.. this is NOT about a finale– but about a pivotal episode that changes the direction of the series.
Tonight’s episode plot:
Sam agrees to help his girlfriend’s delinquent son, who’s in over his head with a ruthless loan shark. Meanwhile, Michael and Fiona reconnect as they search for the person who sabotaged his last mission. But in order to see the truth, Michael will need to look past his emotions first.
This interview is with Burn Notice writer/creato/director Matt Nix
Matt Carter: Afternoon, Matt. How are you?
Matt Nix: Very well.
Matt Carter: Great, well first thing first, let’s just get into the shocker at the end of the episode. When was it for you that you made the decision that in order for Michael to move forward we had to see Nate ultimately die?
Matt Nix: I hadn’t thought of it quite that way but, the – I mean, answering that question, it’s – there’s sort of like a story version of answering that question and then a kind of a more behind the scenes version of that. In the sense that – I mean, one answer is, that one of the things I really wanted to do this season is – you know, we’re in our sixth season and I just really wanted to shake up the show, like, and do some really new stuff. So, part of that was just really putting the people that burned Michael to bed.
You know, like we’ve don’t it – so, Anson is the last of them and he’s gone and so then the question becomes what is something that keeps that sense of Michael’s mission, a propulsive sense for Michael, something that’s personal to him. And, you know, so in thinking about what to do with this season that was part of it. just this ideas that over the course of these five seasons or 5-1/2 season, Michael has, like, really grown closer to his family. He’s developed friends. All of these things that he didn’t have at the beginning of the series, he now has.
And so, and that means, you know, good things for him as a human being in some ways, but it also means that there’s a lot more that can be taken away. And so, in taking that away, it sort of launches him with a new sort of personal mission that lead to all sorts of complications going forward, vis-a-vis, the intelligence community and that kind of thing as he’s trying to figure out what happened with his brother.
So, it was a combination of a lot of different things. You know, and then also just the desire to do something, you know, that wasn’t – you know, we just sort of fallen into a bit of a pattern of like the big things happen in episode one and then the half season finally, and then in the second half season premiere and then in the second half of the season finale. And so, just doing something really big and exciting in the middle of the season, in the middle of by far our most serialized season ever, was also a priority. Just do – shaking up the – like, the shaking up the show – shaking up Michael as a character, shaking up the show, all of it.
Matt Carter: Yes, and you just touched on this but, for you as a show runner, how refreshing is it now to be able to use a little bit more of a serialize approach versus, you know, what we’ve seen past few seasons. And it’s not just for your show, but it seems that all of USA right now seems to be undergoing a little bit of a transformation and giving us some more long form stories versus, you know, some of what we’ve seen in the past.
Matt Nix: It’s great. I mean, it’s – yes, I love this kind of storytelling. And one of the things that, you know, it was kind of a discussion with USA and they were down with it for reasons, you know, for sort of network priority reasons. But for us, you know, one of the things we said was that, you know, if you just look at what are people’s favorite episodes of Burn Notice over the years. They tend to be the most serialized episodes. They’re the first couple of the year and the last couple of the year and people don’t seem to be – and actually, you know, people do watch those episodes in reruns. The fact that there’s a little bit of a previous (unintelligible doesn’t really seem to bother people. So, you know, although going all the way back to season when Victor died, you know, that was a very serialized pair of episodes at the end and our fans really seemed to respond to that.
So, you know, that was – this season in shaking up the show, you know, one of the things we did was, you know, we haven’t really had a traditional client all season. We’ve had, you know, (Barry)’s from last night’s episode was – is a client of sorts but his problem was really, you know, A, he’s sort of part of the team and, B, his problem was sort of generated by the team. It’s not like he had a problem in the abstract and he just needed our help with it. When I say our, I mean, the team.
Matt Carter: Yes.
Matt Nix: You know, Michael got him in trouble and Michael’s got to – and now Sam’s got to get him out of trouble. That’s a very different orientation for us than I am a resident of Miami and someone in my family has been kidnapped. And I think we were sort of sick of that, you know, we wanted to do something new. So this season is really about focusing on the team and making sure that everything that they’re doing is really focused on the characters, focused on what it means to them, very personal. And it fits well with this serialized form of storytelling.
Matt Carter: Well, great. Well, thank you so much Matt. Really enjoying this season so far.
Matt Nix: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Ann Bailey of The Two Cents. Please proceed.
Ann Bailey: Good afternoon, Matt.
Matt Nix: Hi.
Ann Bailey: I’m upset with you right now.
Matt Nix: Oh, you are? Oh, I’m sorry.
Ann Bailey: Seth Peterson is such a great guy. I just – it had to me. Why did it have to be Nate, you know? But, what…
Matt Nix: Well, you know, I – pardon me, go.
Ann Bailey: No, go ahead.
Matt Nix: Oh, you know, it’s – when I started on the show, you know, six seasons ago, one of the things that I talked about with my wife actually, because we had always watched shows together and she made the point about The Sopranos. That part of what made it compelling to watch was the sense that things could happen on the show that really mattered to you, and that things could actually change.
And, you know, as part of that conversation she basically said if you ever kill a character off and then say we didn’t mean it, he’s not really dead, you don’t get to sleep in our bed anymore. And so, partially just as a storytelling priority and partially to save my marriage, I – not save my marriage – partially to preserve my marriage, I realized, like, that, you know, I need to – if we’re going to take it seriously – this kind of storytelling seriously then we have to do things with real consequences.
And so, that was why, for me, you know, in looking at it, you know, it – we couldn’t – if we wanted to do something big on the show it couldn’t be hey remember Michael’s old neighbor Sugar the drug dealer who lived downstairs, he’s dead now. Isn’t that crazy? So…
Ann Bailey: Yes, I get it. What is this going to do going forward with Michael’s relationship with Madeline?
Matt Nix: Woo hoo, a lot. Yes, it’s – that actually – another thing just in terms of this whole story turn is that we all on the show – all of the writers really – and the actors too – wanted to do something that had emotional consequences that continued. Because even when, you know, when you’re on a show that – like, when we have to do very self-contained episodes people sort of have to forgive each other really quickly and be done with stuff.
So, you know, in relatively short order, you know, like a couple episodes. And we’ve had some of that with, like, Michael and Fiona’s relationship and things like that. But this is far – this has a far greater impact than anything we’ve ever done, just from an emotional perspective. There’s a really sea change and then talking to Sharon, I actually just – as an actor she was talking about how look, we had really long conversations and important conversations about how she felt this impacted her character and how that carries forward and that kind of thing.
So she, you know, she’s in this very difficult position of kind of blaming Michael for putting his brother in harm’s way but also realizing that, you know, her remaining son is still in danger and in a difficult situation and his situation only gets more difficult over the course of the season. And so, you know, to what extent can she forgive, to what extent was she responsible. I mean, all of those questions come up over the course of the season. And not just in one episode, I mean, it really carries forward.
I mean, it’s all sort – it’s a little bit similar to putting Fiona in jail. Like, we were like, okay if we’re going to put Fiona in jail, she’s got to be there for a while. And similarly, if we’re going to play the card of Michael’s brother dying, then it’s got to have real impacts for everybody.
Ann Bailey: Right. All right. Well I’m a big fan so I forgive you.
Matt Nix: Pardon me?
Ann Bailey: So, thank you – I said I’m a big fan, so I forgive you.
Matt Nix: Oh, well thank you. And, you know, the other thing I will say about the great gayness of Seth is that he is a great guy. And part of the think for all of us in this was just, you know, wanting – you know, he’s been – he comes on the show for a couple episodes or an episode here or there and then really giving him an arc and giving him some real stuff to do and, you know, in a way he’s never been more impotent to the serious. And so, that was a nice thing, I think, for him and for us.
Ann Bailey: Well, great. Thank you for talking to us.
Matt Nix: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby of scifivision.com. Please proceed.
Jamie Ruby: Hi, thanks so much for talking to us. I’m a big fan too and I was sad too but I forgive you. At least you didn’t kill one of the main-main characters, then that would’ve been more worse. So, you mentioned how, you know, (Fi) stayed in jail for a while and it wasn’t over right away. Can you talk about, is the fact that, you know, she’d been away and Michael rescued her and everything and, you know, that she didn’t listen to him and, you know, turned herself in, is that going to have, like, a lasting effect on the relationship? And can you talk a bit about that?
Matt Nix: Well, I mean, one thing is the reunion that they imagined is – like, I think that her being in prion sort of allowed Michael to acknowledge like, in a way it brought them closer. You know, like, he’s, like, her – the fact that she sort of makes this sacrifice to kind of save his soul at the end of season five, and then, you know, the lengths that goes to save – to get her out of prison. In a way, they’re as close as they’ve ever been when she’s getting out of prison.
And I – you know, the – I think the – this magical moment that they both anticipated of coming together and, you know, the fact that that coincides with Michael finally resolving, you know, finally wrapping up the last guy associated with his being burned. Like – and in that same moment having that torn away by Nate’s death, it does have a really lasting effect.
And, in a general sense, you know, the big thing at the end of last season was Fiona basically saying you don’t – like, Michael is really dedicated to his quest, you know, getting done the thing that he needs to get done. But, that can be costly and if he’s giving up all of his principles for the sake of doing what he needs – what he wants to do, is that – or for the sake of take care of the people he loves – is, is that acceptable and her answer was no.
And going forward, that central issue becomes – it becomes a greater and greater issues over the course of the season as Michael is now trying to, you know, dealing with his brother’s death and, you know, his dealing with that and his investigation into that and his, you know, thirst for vengeance and all of those things. It pushes Michael really to the brink in a lot of ways – personally, morally. You know, all of those things come into play and so, you know, I guess it’s sort of like the question – a question that she imagined was resolved only gets more central and worse, and the answers get more challenging and more challenging as the season goes on.
So, there’s a big impact and her yearning for, like, the resolution to all of this and the possibility that they might be able to be together in a less complicated way, you know, is snatched away at exactly the point where she imaged it could’ve been hers. So, that’s a big part of it.
Jamie Ruby: Oh, okay. And are we going to have more of MI6 coming to bother her again or is that done with?
Matt Nix: It’s – it is – her sort of association with the CIA, I mean, as part of her deal in getting out of the – out of prison, you know, she has to have some association with the CIA. Protects her to some extent going forward but, you know, that entity doesn’t go away. I mean, so it’s not a huge part of the season, but it’s not just – it’s not as if, you know, she’s best friends with British Intelligence at this point.
Jamie Ruby: All right, well thank you so much.
Matt Nix: You’re very welcome.
Operator: Our question comes from the line of Toby Jeffery-Greer from thevoiceoftv.com. Please proceed.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Hi, Matt.
Matt Nix: Hi, how are you?
Toby Jeffery-Greer: I’m okay, just waiting for the Olympics to start. Right, my son is very excited the opening ceremonies. So, I was wondering, does Nate’s death signal a darker turn in the show?
Matt Nix: Well, I guess I’d say yes and no. We actually have some really fun episode coming up with some real humor.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Right.
Matt Nix: And so, it’s not that going forward everybody mopes around a lot. At the same time, I think that, you know, over the course of all of our seasons, the serialized storytelling is always more kind of serous and emotionally impactful than the self-contained aspects of the show. And so, you know, so, you know, kind of the – in the early seasons, the client of week tended to be pretty light and/or lighter, and then the serialized stuff tended to be more, you know, more serious and a little darker. And now this serialized stuff is coming to the fore.
So, I wouldn’t say – it’s not like I, you know, sort of woke up in the morning and was like okay, Burn, now this is going dark. But, you know, to the extent that emotional consequences continue, it’s sort of unavoidable. Like, you know, if you have an ongoing storyline called, “Madeline Does Not Forgive Michael for the Death of Her Son”, that’s not really a laugh riot of a, you know, of a storyline.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Right.
Matt Nix: So, you know, and yes, I – it’s important to preserve the fun of the show and so it’s not like we – it’s not like that just gets abandoned or anything. But, I think the maturing of the show has been in a direction of, you know, more like characters with ongoing emotional lives and things that tend toward the darker.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Okay. And, will Michael ever have complete resolution to being burned or will it always be? It seems like we’re going to get it and then something else happens.
Matt Nix: Well, there are – the short answer is yes. I mean, Anson is the last guy. He is the last guy.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Yes.
Matt Nix: That does not mean that there are not complications in the vis-à-vis the intelligence world.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Right.
Matt Nix: So, you know, and it’s funny actually. Sometimes, like, you know, people will say like oh, and it’s a guy behind a guy, you know, which, you know, in previous sessions. To which my response has always been, well, like, if somebody, like, you know, conspiracies involve multiple people. You know, like, it’s not literally there’s one person behind another person. But, you know, if you look at any conspiracy in history, you know, it’s not just a single person acting alone.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Right.
Matt Nix: So, you know, the idea that he was burned by an organization, we’ll there are multiple people in that organization. It’s not that, you know, everybody’s not the head, they have different jobs. But, you know, that organization has been wrapped up, they are done there. But there are other complications, you know, as you might imagine, you know, you just wrap up one of these big conspiracies and, you know, that’s – it’s not like you didn’t know anybody, it’s not like they weren’t doing anything else.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Yes.
Matt Nix: It’s not like they’re, you know, — and so, it has (unintelligible)…
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Well, he didn’t shoot himself.
Matt Nix: Yes, exactly, he didn’t shoot…
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Yes.
Matt Nix: …himself. Yes, exactly. But…
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Okay.
Matt Nix: …like, I can actually – you know, it’s not as if, like, I will say this, it’s not as if, like, Anson’s secret boss did it, you know. So – because I’m, you know, I’m – it’s sometime – like, I’m sick of that, you know. So, it doesn’t…
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Well, I was going to ask how patient do you think your audience is, so I’m glad to hear that you’re tired of it too.
Matt Nix: Yes, no, I mean, it’s – but part of it is – yes, it’s, like, things get real complicated vis-à-vis – let’s just say Michael isn’t going to hold back in trying to figure out who killed his brother.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Okay.
Matt Nix: And, you know, Michael off the chain isn’t, you know, necessarily playing by CIA rules, isn’t necessarily, like, the asset they want, you know. So, that turns in -you know, and he has friends in the CIA and he has pa tractors in the CIA, and so there’s a whole world of compilations ahead for him that don’t have to do with the people that burned him, you know.
And, ultimately, you know, I can tease this – like, he finds himself rather worse off than he was vis-à-vis the intelligence community by the end of the season.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: Okay. All right, thanks so much.
Matt Nix: Thank you.
Toby Jeffery-Greer: You’re welcome.
The podcast is the other 50% of the interview. All new people– including me!!
BURN NOTICE is going digital for online, mobile and regular series fans as Michael Westen tries to return to his old job at the CIA while fending off the tenacious Anson. To learn more about this season, you can watch all new interviews with the cast; take a virtual tour of the Burn Notice set; and test your spy knowledge with trivia questions. Want to know more about Michael Westen’s life? Dig into Michael’s life off-screen by reading volumes one and two of the award-winning comic book, BURN NOTICE: A New Day. If you do these couple of things and also play other show games, you can earn points towards cool show swag on the fan club website for Burn Circle.
This season the action isn’t just on the screen but comes alive online too!
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