As Cosmos comes to an end, BFTV had the opportunity to talk to the super-producer who helped bring this amazing miniseries to life. Brannon Braga is best known for his work in the Star Trek universe, but he also brought us shows like FlashForward and Terra Nova. We talked to him about the challenges of Cosmos and what it was like going from working with Neil deGrasse Tyson (pictured above) to his current series, WGN America's witch drama Salem.
How was it like for him to return to FOX, with that pre-existing relationship? "It was great," he told us. "Terra Nova got cancelled, obviously, [and] that was a somewhat tumultuous experience. So coming back to work with Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice, it was cathartic. It was great. It was great to be able to do something that really succeeded for them. It's been a fantastic experience. And back at FOX Studios, there's another show I'm doing called Salem."
Brannon split directorial duties with Bill Pope, meaning that he had to helm the first episode and set the tone for all the others that followed, which was no easy task. "It was intimidating," he admitted. "I felt comfortable with creating a strong visual narrative and had a lot of tools at my disposal, including animation and top CGI effects, and Neil's brain, because he's a genius and very much the soul of this show.
"My biggest challenge was trying to create what I call that Cosmos feeling - the feeling of feeling connected to the material in an emotional way, and feeling stirrings of inspiration and wonder and wanting to know more, and maybe even getting a little teary-eyed. Those components had to shine through in that first episode."
He's produced a number of other amazing shows over the years, many of which haven't gotten their due, so we asked him to name which other piece of work he'd point folks toward. "Without question, Star Trek," he enthused. "I worked on Star Trek for 15 years. And I'm very proud of my body of work with Star Trek. I think that would be a good place to begin." (We're also going to vote for FlashForward, which he told us was designed to last a lot longer than its one season on ABC.)
If you're seeing a theme in a lot of his projects, there's a reason why. "I've always had an interest in science," he told us. "Part of my interest in science is because of [the original] Cosmos. Cosmos had a lot to do with that. It's a nice irony that I would end up working on the new one.
"I never studied [science] formally. Mostly just a tremendous amount of reading," he continued. "I went through a phase where I was really heavily interested in quantum physics - to the extent that I could understand quantum physics!"
But working on Cosmos presented an interesting problem for Brannon: he had to go from this epic science miniseries into working on Salem, which stars our old friend Shane West (Nikita) and is set back in the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Talk about a transition! How did he ever manage that?
"It wasn't a clean segue," he laughed. "Till recently, I was doing both at the same time. Now I'm just doing Salem. [But] it was an interesting two-world straddle, because Cosmos is about humanity at its best - and Salem is about humanity at its worst. The two were so radically different."
Unlike a scripted series like Salem, though, working on Cosmos is about more than just entertainment value for Brannon and the extensive crew that have worked to put these thirteen shows together.
"What's important to me is the fact that we're talking," he told us. "The fact that we're having a conversation means that Cosmos is having some kind of impact. That's what we intended with the series, was to reach people, young people in particular, and show them that science is fun."
The finale of Cosmos airs tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX; the whole series will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD here. Salem airs Sunday nights at 10 PM ET/PT on WGN America. For more on Brannon, you can also follow him on Twitter (@BrannonBraga).