October 13th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

JJ Abrams on 'Star Trek,' spies, and his little geeky army

If Jeffrey Jacob Abrams isn't the hardest working man in showbiz, he certainly comes close. With numerous TV shows and films on his plate, it's a miracle he can think straight, much less squeeze in some quality face time with the press. I caught up with him recently at a "Star Trek" DVD press event, and he talked about how the sequel was slowly coming together.

JJ Abrams

"We're just now starting talking about the second film. I will say that what we're discussing is all over the place because we don't want to rule anything out. The fun of taking something that is known and playing with it is undoubtedly appealing. The truth is, still, most people don't know the history of 'Star Trek', don't know the series. I didn't. I wasn't really a fan when I began working on the movie and I did my homework and I think the best version of a sequel will be a movie that won't require any knowledge whatsoever of what's come before. So it needs to work completely on its own terms.  It also needs to have nods for those fans so when they see it they go 'Oh my God, how cool is that, that they referenced that, or that that's there or he's there or she's there.'"

So we might see some other characters pop up from the series that we didn't before?

"A happy byproduct of our story is that they are now in sort of a parallel existence that allows for these people to cross paths with any of the stories and characters, places, that the first series introduced. It doesn't mean that we will necessarily be doing that again, but it feels like one of the benefits that would be silly not to  take advantage of to some degree. I don't want to say the sequel will be a reboot of an existing episode or series of episodes, but I think it is one of the tools in the tool box and it's something to really consider."

In addition to the slowly incubating "Star Trek" sequel, Abrams also has a new TV show to add to his frantic workload. NBC just bought the pilot for his new spy show.

"It was interesting because we didn't know if it was going to work when we were writing it, because this couple is in love and usually I have written characters that, you know, 'when will they,' 'how will they get together.' Or couples that it's like, you know, they're ripped apart by something.  To write a couple that's simply in love where they adore each other, they fight, they have issues but it never rocks the foundation of who they are, we've never done that before.  So it was hugely, weirdly, refreshing to write something where the main characters had a really good relationship. Like, it's so funny that, at least in my experience hasn't happened very often. So it was nice to able to write that. We're very excited about the show."

So how does he find the time to work on all these projects?

"It's certainly not just me out there. It's these people, these filmmakers, storytellers, executives who I work with. All of us together are sort of this weird little geeky army trying to entertain people."

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Channing

    @ Matt

    Don't fool yourself... Most of the shows you mentioned were "groundbreaking" in others words, there were never any type of shows or characters of this kind until those (one time) shows came along. Any shows after the Mid 90's had minor characters of color with minimal significance and little air time. There is a big difference between Lead player and secondary/back-up receiver. Get your facts straight. Give green tea a shot it helps keeps the nerves in check and keeps your skin from premature aging.

    October 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Matt


    You are way too oversensitive and not referencing your history as you suggest others should.

    Dihann Caroll was the lead in Julia.

    Bill Cosby was one of the leads in I Spy. (Don't forget the Cosby Show, either - wow, a whole cast of people of color!)

    Holly Robinson and Dustin Nguyen from 21 Jump Street in the 1980s.

    Teresa Graves in Get Christie Love.

    Roc, Eastwick (Lindsey Price is Asian), Lost, Criminal Minds, ER, Mercy...wow, look at that. Lots of people of color.

    Try decaf. You'll live longer.

    October 15, 2009 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. Channing

    @ James

    Abrams changed the ideology of Star Trek in that movie so it would not be a stretch to diversify the characters (or their skin hues) in any order he and his crack team of make-believe writers chooses to go.

    Racism has always been a big factor in hollywood (don't insult my intelligence by saying it isn't). Example, given 20 new shows on any given TV season at any time with the 4 major commercial networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX) not one of the these shows has a lead character of color. And what's even more insulting is that they usually have secondary characters that are of color (usually the light-skinned cute kind) on tap to support the main (caucasian) hero/lead. And if it's a hispanic or other non-caucasian actor in the lead role, that actor is usually very light-skinned or white looking. I'm not a racist just noting an observation...Look up your TV history and the facts speak for themselves.

    October 15, 2009 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Fred

    Any time you create for T.V or the Cinema you hope you are making something fresh or new you, the chances of making a hit or miss stand at 50/50, but either way does that mean that you stop trying? If you don't like it don't watch it, tone out, change the channel, don't buy the ticket, it's that simple.

    As for Star Trek, Mr. Abrams did a wonderful job to take something that has been around a long time and freed it from it’s extra weight, some good some bad, and given it a new direction what could be wrong about that? I happily await his next “SCIENCE FICTION” work.

    Note the word “Fiction” so do not take it so seriously and just have a good time

    October 14, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gus

    From what I've read, Stephen King sold the rights to the Dark Tower series to Abrams and Damon Lindelof a couple of years ago for $19. King has said that he always envisioned Clint Eastwood as he was writing the Roland Deschain character. But Eastwood is now too old to play the part over multiple years of production. The only other name I've heard seriously suggested is Hugh Laurie.

    October 14, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sheila

    Too bad his geeky little army keep writing ENORMOUS plot-holes into Fringe and his other shows.

    On Fringe, Olivia was never "plucked out of a moving car" as William Bell told her. I've never missed an episode, that never happened.

    The Fringe writers need to take more responsibility for their work than that or audiences will vanish.


    October 14, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RD

    OOOOH, I agree, Gus! Dark Tower would flat out ROCK!!!

    Who should play the Gunslinger?

    October 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chad

    Alias seemed repetitive.
    Lost was good the first season then got silly.
    Fringe is easily his best work.
    Star Trek was an abomination.

    October 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gus

    If you are reading this, please don't let all these projects distract you from bringing The Dark Tower Series to the screen (large or small) as soon as possible.

    October 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mazie916

    Steve, It did have a plot. Maybe not a typical plot. These are what I call "set up" or "intro" movies. When sequels are involved, you need these types of movies. They have plots but they are most about introducing you to the characters.or in this case, introducing us to these characters at an earlier stage of their lives – the beginning.

    The idea of a parallel existance allows Abrams to do things a bit differently and that excites me. I can't wait for the next one.

    October 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. james


    Priceless... I think you may be just a little bit over sensitive. Coming on to a forum and asking J.J. Abrams to make a hero in one of his movies/show multi-racial, or at least not just white is probably the most ridiculous thing i've ever seen. Do you honestly think it's a deliberate form of racism???? Or does he maybe create his characters in a form he relates to??? Maybe thats why Spike Lee does so many movies with WHITE Protagonists right? GET A LIFE. and as for Star Trek... Pretty sure that while the cast was multiracial, a first in its day, EVEN JJ ABRAMS CANT MAKE JAMES T KIRK BLACK OR LATINO!!! Jose T. Kirkez ?

    October 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Number 6


    Kool-Aid – Yum!

    October 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nolan

    JJ Abrams is the man.

    MI: III Rocked.

    Star Trek Rocked.

    Lost is the best ever.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dom

    Oh Steve, as if the movies need a plot. The franchise is a juggernaut.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. Marie

    Isn't that the same premise as MR. AND MRS. SMITH?

    October 14, 2009 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  16. Drachen

    Abrams did not do credit to Star Trek. It was a VFX whizbang for sure, but apart from that the opportunity to step away from everything that has hampered Star Trek in the past completely slipped through his fingers. The author of this articles asks how he has time to do so many different things at once, its easy, you sacrifice the quality level of everything that you do.

    Abrams, take some ADD medicine, and focus on one thing at a time.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  17. Channing

    Just a little thought on the potential casting for his next spy venture series... Why don't we make the star(s) (or Actual lead) of the series someone who is not of a caucasian decent... or, maybe even a mixed marriage (black/white, asian/white, latino/black). I'm well aware of how hollywood loves to "lightify" their characters but, seriously, we do have spies of different ethnic backgrounds and races in America (or the world for that matter). Make it a little believe-able or no one will be watching.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  18. Channing

    When Vulcan was destroyed in his first attempt at the helm of a Star Trek movie it catapulted the ideology of hardcore ST fans out of the stratosphere. Maybe he'll think about destroying an actual enemy's planet next time around.

    October 14, 2009 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  19. leftcoastblue

    Steve, Abrams' first movie was focused on reintroducing the major characters - which it did with style and gusto - but it most definitely had a plot. Perhaps it was too nuanced and, thus, managed to escape you, but it was there. Trust me.

    October 14, 2009 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  20. The L

    Abrams is hit or miss with me. I loved cloverfield, hated alias, loved star trek, had and on and off relationship with lost and I'm having a hard time getting into flashforward...will i try this show? Sure. There are enough hits to make me not want to miss the pilot at least.

    October 14, 2009 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  21. Debra R

    I liked the new movie. I am looking forward to the next one. it would be really cool to see some crossovers between the universes...personally I think Peter David's new frontier books would make an excellent series....I would love to see Adrian Paul in the tital role

    October 14, 2009 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  22. The Burg


    October 14, 2009 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  23. Steve

    Maybe the Star Trek sequel will have, y'know, a plot.

    October 14, 2009 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |

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