Getting to ask cool people cool questions is one of the best parts of being a GeekMom, so when the opportunity to interview Tom Taylor came along I jumped at it. My Geekling loves The Deep, but I’ve never really sat down and watched it. In preparing for the interview, however, I watched two episodes of the new season that started airing on Netflix on September 22.
It is, officially, my new favorite kids’ show. Previously, I’ve lamented the dearth of smart, nonviolent adventure shows that appeal to both girls and boys. Watching The Deep and talking to Tom Taylor, I found precisely the show I’ve been seeking. The Deep follows the Nektons, a family of underwater explorers. As the mom who keeps looking for smart, kind boy characters, Ant Nekton is pretty much perfect. He’s smart but mischievous. He’s active in that way my own child is, not meaning to break things but sometimes doing it accidentally.
The pirates who are the “bad guys” are the foils to our heroes not because they fight but because they are greedy. They desire treasure for its monetary value while the Nektons desire only to learn and explore.
The best part of the show is that all of these characteristics are purposeful.
Since my Geekling is the one who watches the show, I let the eight-year-old take the reins. As a teacher, writer, and mother, being a GeekMom often affords me rewarding experiences with my kid. Sitting down and putting together the interview questions, we talked a lot about what you want to know from someone and the best ways to ask the questions. Being able to bond over being curious seems pretty much in line with Taylor’s goals for The Deep, and his patience with us and thoughtful answers made me a fangirl.
GeekMom: What inspired you to write The Deep?
Tom Taylor: I wrote The Deep for my kids. They’re 7 and 11 now. At the time, they were very, very little and when I was writing Star Wars and some stuff for DC, but none of it was appropriate for my kids. That made me very sad because I love comics and wanted to share it with my kids. I wanted to make great comics and read great comics with my kids. So I decided I would just make my own. So, myself, and a guy called James who had kids the same age as mine, and we created this family that was completely nonviolent. The stories were full of action and mystery, but the resolutions never came about because of punching a bad guy. It’s always by being really skilled and really talented.
GeekMom: Why did you decide to make it a family of four?
Tom Taylor: I think it’s just an even number. An even number is nice. I’ve got a family of four, and I understand how that dynamic works. It’s really a family of five with Jeffrey.
GeekMom: How hard was writing The Deep?
Tom Taylor: Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. We have a great team of people all around the world. We have people in Canada, Germany, France, and LA. We have a writing team in Australia. Some of the hardest stuff is coming up with the original story lines. We’re up to 39 episodes and that takes a lot to come up with something unique and new for each episode. But, it’s a lot more fun than other jobs I’ve had.
GeekMom: What is your writing process?
Tom Taylor: Basically, there’s these things called deadlines. They’re these things where if you don’t meet them, your children don’t eat and your mortgage doesn’t get paid. My process is to try to stick to deadlines. I’m a comic book writer as well, Wolverine and Batman and Superman, and without deadlines I’d probably just keep going, “It’s still not finished. It’s still not finished.” It would take me a year to do each one.
When you’re doing a TV show, it’s even more important because when you’re the writer everyone is waiting on you. They can’t do the story board without the story. Everybody’s waiting for you, and if they’re waiting on you, it puts pressure on everyone.
GeekMom: Which comes first: the story or the cool science fact the story is based on? Every episode is based on a really cool random fact.
Tom Taylor: We have pages and pages of things. People send us stuff. “Hey did you see this incredible thing?” “Did you see the Baltic Sea anomaly, this thing that looked like a spaceship that crashed to earth?” So we take that and run with it to see where it goes. So we certainly like to make sure that everything we talk about—sometimes it’s a myth—is based on something. If you’ve seen the episode with the mimic octopuses, what real life mimic octopuses can do is incredible, it’s just insane. So we just take that and tweak it a bit to make it more involved. And people look into these things after we’ve finished, and they love it.
GeekMom: I have to say, as a former English major, I loved the Moby Dick episode and the idea that he could be alive.
Tom Taylor: We worked it out. We tracked it back and went well, “yes, some of them live 200 years.” So it is possible, and for a creature like Moby Dick even more possible. We wanted to do a Moby Dick episode, and it was clear that Daniels would be in it and it just barreled on.
GeekMom: Why did you choose the ocean and sea animals instead of another setting?
Tom Taylor: Most people think of exploration and they always think of space. They think we want to rocket off and go to another planet. The thing is, they go to another planet and there’s nothing there. You go to the next planet and there’s nothing there. You go to the next planet and maybe you get some water out of a rock. But we have this incredible frontier right here at home, we have the ocean, which is 90% unexplored.
There are creatures living down there that we have never seen, and we have no idea about their existence. We have colossal squid which is one of the biggest creatures in the entire world, we’ve never seen one. We’ve seen them washed up on the beaches. We’ve seen giant squid now, but not colossal squid. We’ve never caught one. We have no idea what they do.
There’s this whole fascinating world that’s part of our world, and we can’t get to it. In some ways, it’s scarier than space. It’s more hostile. The pressure of the water. The fear factor. It’s all so exciting. It surprised me that no one had ever done a show about it before.
GeekMom: Why did you decide to do a comic book about it?
Tom Taylor: Because comics are my favorite storytelling medium in the world. I’m a a massive comics fan. I’ve been writing comics for a long time now. I’ve written all sort of comics. I’ve written Iron Man, Wolverine, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Star Wars.
I love comics, and I love reading comics. I love passing comics on to other people. I wanted my kids to love comics. So I wanted to create comics that I thought they’d love so that I could hook them on to something I love. Basically, brainwash them.
GeekMom: Why did you choose to be a writer?
Tom Taylor: That’s a great question. I have a history of writing in my family. My uncle’s a writer. My grandfather was an editor for a big newspaper. My cousin ran the writing program here at a university in Australia.
I always kind of wanted to be a writer. I didn’t really think it would happen. But at some stage it started happening. Then I was a New York Times Bestseller. And I realized it as working. Before this I was a professional juggler, and I ate fire. I had a lot of things I had to act. As much I enjoyed acting, some of the words I had to say weren’t very good. I preferred to tell my own stories instead of other people’s stories.
Every kid makes stuff up. All I’m doing is that I’m playing with the best toys. The toys I couldn’t afford as a kid, people now pay me to play with.
As we started wrapping up the interview, my Geekling started thinking about the shows and how they don’t have one big treasure. Taylor overheard the musings and responded,
“The main thing is that it’s not a treasure every time. They don’t care about the money. The treasure is exploration. They want to find Lost Lymeria. If you’ve seen the end of the last season, you know that’s home for them. That’s more important than any cash in the world or any gold or diamonds.”
More to the point, thanks to Taylor, I managed to have exactly that experience. I got to explore ideas with my kid because of him and because of The Deep. And he’s right, that’s more important than any cash or gold or diamonds.
Thank you, Tom Taylor, for all the great stories you’ve given us and here’s to many more.
If you fall in love with The Deep like I did,
Season One of The Deep is currently airing on Universal Kids weeknights at 7:30 pm ET.
· Season Two of The Deep will arrive on Netflix on Friday, September 22.
· The collected edition of The Deep graphic novel arrives November 28. Fans can pre-order here.
• Fans can access more info and download free games and activity sheets from www.thedeepanimated.com