Press Tour: J.J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron say ‘Believe’ is a ‘story of a family’

With Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) and J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) executive producing, “Believe” is pretty much guaranteed to get some hype (see a clip here) — and possibly eyeballs — when it premieres on March 10 after “The Voice.” The question is, of course, how the supernatural drama about Bo, a little girl with supernatural powers, who becomes a pawn as adults try to kidnap her will be sold to viewers. “We’ll have procedural elements each week,” executive producer Jonas Pate explained, “but then larger mythological elements will be slowly revealed.”

“I strongly disagree,” joked Abrams. When asked if the network has been accepting of the show’s approach to storytelling, he said, “NBC has been horrible about it. No, they’ve been wonderful about doing a show that you can come in and out of… or follow the [long story arc] if you choose to.”

When asked why he wanted to get involved, Abrams explained he’d been a fan of Cuaron’s and had wanted to work with him ever since meeting him “over twenty years ago.” But it wasn’t just about Cuaron. “The idea was so [strong] it didn’t have to be Alfonso, but because it was Alfonso, it was even more so. It was an opportunity too exciting to pass up.” 

The series will take a more cinematic approach, with Pate explaining, “We’re shooting on much wider lenses than a normal TV show.” Still, Cuaron wanted to make it clear “Believe” isn’t just about the visuals. “It’s pretty much the story of a family.”

Eventually, though, journalists had to bring up the issue of the many show runners who have taken on (and left) the show before Pate dirtied from directing to producing. “Whoever can do it… is the person who does it,” Abrams said. “This is not a cookie cutter show where you know exactly the person from something else they’ve done. “It’s a unique thing, so it was about finding the correct creative voice and it was clear we had it in the family, and luckily Jonas stepped up… the trick with a television show is it’s public, so if it doesn’t quite work, it seems like an issue. But it’s creativity.”

While some time was spent on lightweight questions (if they had Bo’s powers, stars Johnny Sequoyah (Bo) would “stop global warming” and Delroy Lindo (Winter) would “get rid of all the bad teachers in the system,” while Abrams would “make people blind to others’ differences”), future storylines were addressed. While star Jake McLaughlin (Tate) promised the show would not repeat storylines from the Fox series “Touch,” (“One of our writers worked on ‘Touch,’ so she’s integral to making sure we’re not repeating”), Pate promised that “the story of [Bo’s] mom, who died in childbirth, will be addressed.”

[SPOILER ALERT] Tate doesn’t initially know he’s Bo’s father, but that information is revealed during season one, a decision Pate addressed. “They’re on the run in the first few episodes, so we wanted to wait for a moment when we could honor that.”

“And there’s an uncertainty, too,” Cuaron said. “It needs to be more certain for him, because it’s a big commitment [to be Bo’s father].” 

“For my character, I don’t want to blurt that out. I want to manage him to see if he’s up for the responsibility.”

But just because Tate and Bo are related doesn’t mean their relationship is cuddly. “Where the heart of the show is, in a sense, is what you find out about our real relationship… it comes across as completely natural. What I loved about it is it has that prickliness. I’m not coddling her. I’m more of a tough love, do as I say not as I do kind of guy. She gives it right back to me, and that’s where the fun stuff is.” 

As Abrams explained, “That’s part of the humor. It has a humanity, and that means humor. I think there’s a spiritual side that’s very deep in this show, but we’re no “Touched by an Angel.”