James Patterson On ‘Zoo,’ His Views On Killing… by Uinterview

James Patterson, the best-selling author, published his novel Zoo in 2012, and is now heavily involved in its TV adaptation for CBS.

James Patterson Video On ‘Zoo’

Patterson thought up the plot of Zoo after becoming increasingly aware of stories in which animals were displaying abnormal behaviors.

“I kept seeing these stories about bizarre animal behavior; like alligators doing weird things in Florida, crocodiles doing weird things in Africa, like imitating dogs — the sound of dogs to lure dogs down to the river. There was a thing where literally hundreds of fish were jumping into boats in Lake Michigan and it’s like, ‘What is going on here?’” Patterson told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “And the notion of turning that into a fable about what man is doing to the Earth and how the Earth might fight back a little bit, so it’s not realism. This couldn’t really happen, but it’s like 1984 or Animal Farm — one of those where this isn’t gonna happen but here’s a fable about it, here’s a story.”

Zoo is returning to CBS Tuesday for its sophomore season, which Patterson believes will be better than the show’s first season. Thinking about what makes him return to a show, Patterson was vocal about wanting Zoo to have more surprises every week.

“I felt at the end of the first season we needed to change it up in terms of surprising people more. So this season it’s kinda like nobody’s figured anything out, so every episode it’s like, ‘Oh my god, it’s not what I thought it was gonna be,’ and surprising people,” Patterson said. “You want people at the end of a show and the next day to say, ‘Oh did you see what happened on Zoo last night?’ — ideally anyway.”

Patterson added, “I think the characters all deepen, I think what happens to them is surprising. You don’t expect the romances that happen this season, you don’t expect the personal relationships, the ups and the downs, you don’t expect the different things that happen around the world. I like surprises.”

With his book Zoo, and now his series, Patterson has displayed a curiosity in how the human race can have a negative effect on the environment and wildlife. Some animal rights activists felt that the killing of Harambe, the gorilla at a Cincinnati Zoo earlier this year, was unjust, despite the reality that he may have posed a threat to the life of the young boy who had entered his cage. Patterson’s reaction to Harambe’s killing is nuanced. While he is sorry that Harambe was killed, the threat to the child, at least to those in charge at the zoo that day, was great.

“I guess zoos, you can begin to question a little about what goes on there. Is it good to hold animals captive? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?” Patterson said. “But I think in terms of just a story, that story in particular, just raises the conflict issue — what would you do? You got a small child, however the child might have gotten there, and you have this massive-sized… So what are you gonna do? The gorilla is now thrashing the child around, maybe that’s caused by people screaming, it probably was, but nevertheless, it’s happening so I don’t know. I’d had to have been there. I do think it’s difficult when a child is in that much danger to go, ‘Oh okay, let’s take the gorilla’s point of view.’

Zoo‘s second season will premiere on CBS Tuesday, June 28 at 9/8c.

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Q: How did you come up with the concept for ‘Zoo’? -

I think the genesis was I kept seeing these stories about bizarre animal behavior; like alligators doing weird things in Florida, crocodiles doing weird things in Africa, like imitating dogs — the sound of dogs to lure dogs down to the river. There was a thing where literally hundreds of fish were jumping into boats in Lake Michigan and it’s like, ‘What is going on here?’ And the notion of turning that into a fable about what man is doing to the Earth and how the Earth might fight back a little bit, so it’s not realism. This couldn’t really happen, but it’s like 1984 or Animal Farm — one of those where this isn’t gonna happen but here’s a fable about it, here’s a story. Not that this is gonna change the world, but I think if you just keep beating at this thing eventually a generation’s gonna come up and go, ‘Hold it, we can’t operate this way.’ At one point everybody’s smoking or an awful lot of people and it takes 20 years on mass for people to go, ‘We can’t do this’

Q: How involved were you in developing season two? -

I read all the scripts, I look at all the cuts as they come in, I try to gently give them my thinking on things. I don’t know whether they just agree with my notions, but I felt at the end of the first season we needed to change it up in terms of surprising people more. So this season it’s kinda like nobody’s figured anything out, so every episode it’s like, ‘Oh my god, it’s not what I thought it was gonna be,’ and surprising people. You want people at the end of a show and the next day to say, ‘Oh did you see what happened on Zoo last night?’ — ideally anyway.

Q: How do you rough out the story for each season? -

It’s like doing chapters in a book or sections in a book. You just decide what’s gonna happen, what’s the beginning, middle and end of that episode and how does that feed into the next one, and the next one and ultimately where you’re going — a combination of what’s driving that episode in terms of plot and what’s driving in terms of the characters and how the characters are growing.

Q: What do you like about season two? -

I like the second season better than the first season. One piece of it is this notion of a surprise every week, you just don’t know what to expect. I think that’s really cool. I think the characters all deepen, I think what happens to them is surprising. You don’t expect the romances that happen this season, you don’t expect the personal relationships, the ups and the downs, you don’t expect the different things that happen around the world. I like surprises. That’s why i like series like at least the first couple of years of Lost — until they started really stretching more than I wanted them to.

Q: How do you like working with James Wolk? -

He’s great, he’s a movie star and he keeps getting better and better. This year you’ll see, he just keeps getting better and better. He doesn’t get a chance in this show to show his comedic side as much, but he’s a very good comedian and the drama side just keeps improving and stretching. He’s a really good choice and I enjoy him. He’s a really nice guy too.

Q: How do you feel about the killing of Harambe the Gorilla? -

Well the reaction is what it always is when there’s a tragedy. It’s a very sad thing. It’s been happening ever since there’s been zoos. It’s always an x number of tragedies or anything else — since we had highways, you can’t shut down highways for sure, I guess zoos you can begin to question a little about what goes on there. Is it good to hold animals captive? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? But I think in terms of just a story, that story in particular, just raises the conflict issue — what would you do? You got a small child, however the child might have gotten there, and you have this massive-sized… So what are you gonna do? The gorilla is now thrashing the child around, maybe that’s caused by people screaming, it probably was, but nevertheless, it’s happening so I don’t know. I’d had to have been there. I do think it’s difficult when a child is in that much danger to go, ‘Oh okay, let’s take the gorilla’s point of view.’ I don’t know the answer.