‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’ creators get candid about the inspiration for their ABC’s new must-see dramedy. They discuss Yvette’s mysterious angelic status, gush about Jason Ritter and tease upcoming episodes.
I have been gushing about ABC’s heartwarming new series, ‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” from the moment I finished screening the pilot episode (ICYMI, check out my advance review of “Pilot”). This is one of those rare shows that truly has everything going for it.
The unique premise is fascinating and has a very broad appeal. It’s a hero’s journey about Kevin (Jason Ritter), a lost and relatable everyman who is tasked with saving the world with the guidance of a refreshingly no-nonsense and mothering kind of guardian angel, Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). Plus, Kevin is surrounded by very smart, caring and competent ladies: his doting twin sister, Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), and his straight-shooting niece, Reese (Chloe East). Like all families, they’ve had their ups and downs, but now they are coming together and bringing the best out of one another. You can’t help but fall in love with this charismatic cast (especially Ritter, who seals his national treasure status with this role).
I had the pleasure of chatting with ‘Kevin (Probably)’s’ creators, Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas. In our candid interview, they reveal the inspiration for their wonderful new series, share what they’ve learned from past projects, and tease upcoming episodes.
Butters and Fazekas have a knack for creating shows that are outside of the box and combine different genres. They’re the great minds behind CW’s ‘Reaper,’ as well as ABC’s “Resurrection” and “Agent Carter.” Their shows share some similar themes. Unconventional heroes deal with bizarre and mysterious circumstances. They also find the perfect balance between comedy and drama, which makes their shows so family friendly. Since ‘Kevin’ isn’t their first foray into the supernatural, I wondered what inspired the show’s intriguing premise.
“Tara and I are always hovering around that slightly supernatural world. We actually met as assistants at the X-Files…We learned a lot from those writers, they were very helpful to us. There were a lot of inspirations for Kevin, like weird inspirations, like ‘Close Encounters,’ ‘The Big Lebowski’ – like the relationships on the ‘Big Lebowski,’
We love sort of blending genres. We also ran ‘Agent Carter’ for ABC and that was very much like, it’s a drama, it’s a comedy, it was slightly science fiction, it was a super hero show. So that’s sort of our jam all day long, which I also think is why sometimes it’s hard for people to categorize the show. Because they watch and they’re like “I don’t understand what this show is.” And then you watch it and then you understand what the show is. But it’s not a cop show, it’s not a medical show, it’s not a sitcom.”
Butters adds, “It has a slight procedural element. He has a goal every week to help somebody.”
As you continue watching the show, you’ll notice that there is a theme to each episode as Kevin learns a new aspect of how to be more righteous and spiritual. In episode 2, “Listen-Up,” he learns that you must listen to the signs the universe sends you. You can’t ignore the signs, no matter how hard you try. In the first episode, Yvette had to point Kevin in the right direction by making him aware of Reese’s heartache. He had come home, but he was still very self-absorbed. What was so moving to watch was the chain reaction that push in the right direction caused.
Yvette and Amy nudged Kevin to reach out to his niece. When he tried to connect with her, she called him out on his crap and told him to be a better brother to her mom. When it came to his family, the sign was basically their state of being. We got an immediate sense of what this family is like. They’ve experienced so much pain, which should be taken seriously, but Kevin breaks the tension with humor, creating the ideal balance between comedy and drama. I really love the family dynamic and I think it is one of the best parts of this series because they are all very relatable. That’s probably because aspects of their family dynamic was drawn from the creators’ personal experiences.
Butters discusses what makes Kevin’s family dynamic special:
“I think a lot of the heart comes from his family interactions with his sister, Amy, and his niece, Reese. That dynamic between Reese and Kevin is a really fun one for television because it’s not as a parent. He is an adult figure, but not one that has to act like an adult. There is great opportunity there for a kid to feel safe and talk to them and say things they don’t want to say to their mom or dad. And I think that it’s patterned off some of Michele’s relationships with her uncles…”
“…It’s almost like a brother. Like I have an uncle who was only eight years older than me, so he wasn’t really like an uncle, he was more like an older brother in all ways. Like in great ways and also in ways – like – he would mercilessly tease me and riff on me. That was how my family was. You’d show your love by busting each other’s chops all the time. To me it’s fun.
In a way if you go back to like classics like Spielberg. Like E.T. They weren’t perfect families, they were broken families or single parent families, you know, they weren’t always loving to each other. They were mean to each other and they were loving with each other, they were raw and they felt real. I like that. You want it to feel real. It is like, “Oh, look at this perfect family.” There’s no such thing as a perfect family.”
That’s very true. Perfection is an illusion. Because they’re written as a real family, I think we all can see a little bit of our families in Kevin’s. I can totally relate to the way Reese is always looking out for her mom. My sister and I would immediately jump to my mom’s defense whenever our uncle would playfully tease her, as older brothers always do.
Amy has always been there for Kevin. Now he’s come home and wants to be there for her, but doesn’t know how to go about it. When he starts messing up right off the bat, Reese challenges him at every turn and stands-up for Amy. She is heartbroken enough as it is after her husband’s death, Kevin can’t just re-enter their lives and break her heart even more.
As we’ve come to see over the first two episodes, Kevin is a work in progress and he’s surrounded by people who are trying to elevate him. It’s not just his family. In “Listen Up,” we learned how he ghosted his high school sweetheart, Kristin, when he was in college. Once he realizes how horribly he treated her, he makes up for it in the sweetest way. He just needed the slightest nudge from Yvette this time around when she acknowledged that “Closing Time” is a sign. I’ve said it before – Yvette is like Kevin’s personal Jiminy Cricket whenever he’s slacking in life morally.
When we first met Yvette she said humans would refer to her as an “angel”, but she’s more than just an angel. It’s not your stereotypical religious construct. Her angelic nature is very much an enigma and it is one of the reasons we are eager to tune-in each week.
How did Butters and Fazekas come up with the character of Yvette?
“Part of that came from wanting to give the freedom to kind of expand past the archetypes people are familiar with. We’ve seen angels on TV and in features and in books, you know, and I feel – Every religious text is written by a human. It has that – they’re putting something of themselves into this context – so she’s there to erase a stereotype and say, “You can’t really know who we are.” So that gives us the freedom to make her a more interesting character. She is a force for good, she just goes about things a little differently.”
For example, the way she calls Kevin out on his behavior and the sneaky way she has the tractor run over his car wouldn’t be described as angelic.
Fazekas asserts, “But she got her point across.”
She sure did! Sometimes you need to pull the rug out from under someone to make sure they learn. Yvette’s methods and mysterious celestial state of being are elements which continue to assure viewers that this isn’t a stereotypically preachy and religious series. In fact, the show was originally called “The Gospel of Kevin,” but it was changed because ABC feared it sounded too religious.
Did they make it a point not have a religious message, but a spiritual message of faith, hope and love in general? Or was that something that changed over time?
Butters clarifies their intentions for the title and show:
“We thought The Gospel of Kevin was just a funny title, because there’s that little joke in there. For some people it just leaned too religious, so we were very much for wanting to make sure this was a show that could potentially appeal to everyone whether you believe or don’t believe, that there’s something in it for you. That was part of the reason why the title changed. You know what? We are very happy to have – I think it tonally fits the show.”
Fazekas jumps back to Yvette and elaborates on the importance of her role:
“Yvette is different. In [Episode 3] she’ll use lightning as a motivator. That will scare him into learning the lesson he needs to learn. …One of the things I’m excited about is expanding Yvette’s character and learning more about Yvette. And sort of the fact that, she is here, living amongst humans has an effect on her. We’ll see that in upcoming episodes.”
To put things into better context, here are ABC’s descriptions for episodes three, four and five:
“Sweet Little Lies”
On his quest to become a better person, Kevin helps a young couple plan their wedding. In doing so, however, he sees the consequences of lies – both his own and the couple’s. Meanwhile, Yvette attempts to organize the other celestial beings, and Reese witnesses her uncle’s strange new talents first-hand.
“How To Be Good”
When the universe leads Kevin to help Lucille – a mean-spirited diner owner – with some family drama, he quickly finds himself stuck in the middle of a tricky situation with her equally difficult sister. Meanwhile, Reese entertains the thought of Kevin having special powers, and Yvette begins to struggle with the side effects of being on Earth.
“Brutal Acts Of Kindness”
After draining his bank account in service of others, Kevin looks for a different way to help a single mom who’s drowning in her son’s medical bills. Meanwhile, Reese uses a school project to learn more about her uncle, and Yvette struggles with the full range of human emotions.
Get ready for loads of fun up ahead!
Butters and Fazekas tentatively tease upcoming episodes, but they’re very careful not to reveal any spoilers. Read ahead without fear…
Will we see other celestials like Yvette?
Fazekas: “Yes you will. Over the first 13 episodes, you’ll meet several. And they’re always fun and different than Yvette. They have even a different point of view and we’ll learn about how they came to be in the position they are here on earth helping try to save the world.”
What can they tease about Yvette’s side effects?
“Well, she definitely – the longer she’s here – the fact is they haven’t spent that much time here so it manifests in funny strange ways that they start to feel differently, which is just a fun way to have that fish out of water storytelling. Even though she’s like a human, earth is basically effecting her in a different way.”
Only Kevin can see Yvette, so it’s not like she’s an angel using a human vessel. What’s the deal there?
“I don’t want to give away the whole story of what they are. But I do think there are fun things we explore over the first several episodes. You know, you just learn so much about Yvette. I just love the chemistry between Kimberley and Jason. The more you see them in scenes together and the more their characters grow, it really, really is fun. Like there’s a great sequence in [Episode 4]. It’s one of my favorite ways that Yvette teaches Kevin a lesson and basically reminding him that he wasn’t always – like he may be on the right path now and he may be working at being a better person – but he wasn’t always that way. That’s the thing I kinda love about the show. You can get at some of these larger concepts like what it means to be a good person, what it means – like one of her lessons is about judgement. Who are you to judge other people? …We do it with humor and heart. It’s not meant to be finger wagging at all.”
Will Kevin have more visions?
Fazekas: “His visions are – basically whenever he completes his sort of mission, he’s going to get a piece of the puzzle and he’s going to start putting the pieces together, and yes, it will point them to who the righteous person that he has to anoint.”
Butters: “What I like is that in each episode you can come and enjoy the story of whoever he kind of inserts himself in their life and helps them. That is episodic storytelling. Then throughout, if you watch them all together, you see the progression of his life and family stories with Reese and Amy, his rekindling of relationships with Kristin and friendship with Tyler, and Nate and Amy – all of those play out over multiple episodes, but also there is this mythology or at least bigger storytelling of him putting the pieces together to find the first righteous. So I feel you can watch it episodically and enjoy it, but you can also watch it all in a sitting on a Netflix type of a thing and get a lot out of each episode.”
Will we ever visit Kevin’s dark side that led to his suicide attempt?
Butters: “We certainly don’t forget about it. We talk about it and see sort of glimpses of his old life. That’s something that we go to when necessary. I like that it is a show that can sort of talk about – as much as we want to be funny – we can also talk about serious things and have a serious emotional core. In the same scene you can talk about something really profound or sad and then laugh at something.”
The haunted truck scene between Kevin and Amy is a perfect example of the balance between comedy and drama.
Butters credits Ritter’s talent and charisma. He has beautifully brought Kevin to life and has created a character viewers want to see more of.
She gushes: “I feel we are so blessed to have somebody like Jason Ritter. I can’t imagine who else would do this. He goes back-and-forth between all of that tone so easily and makes it so the funny is hilarious and the dramatic stuff is wonderful. I love him. I could watch him do anything.”
I think many of you will agree with her on that. I’ve greatly admired Ritter’s work throughout his career and he’s reached a whole new level with the brilliant performance he delivers each week as Kevin Finn.
Ultimately, Butters leaves fans with this confession…
“It’s a show that I, personally, whether I work on the show or not, it’s the kind of thing people can use just because I want to see Jason every week…and JoAnna and Kimberly… It’s a group of people that onscreen, I enjoy.”
I whole-heartedly agree! If you haven’t seen ‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’ yet, start binging away. There truly is so much to love about this show. If you’re already a fan, please spread the word and tell your friends and family to tune-in. We all know ABC put this gem in a cursed time-slot that’s led to a slew of cancellations for some fantastic shows. I have faith that Kevin can beat the odds, both on-screen and off. But he needs your help. Do not let this phenomenal show be another casualty of the curse.
Here are some things you can do to give the show and ratings a boost:
- Watch live. If you DVR the show, then watch the commercials. If you fast forward, it won’t count for full ratings. Probably because it ties in to advertisers.
Live tweet using #KevinProbably. Tag @ABCNetwork, @ABC_Publicity, @KevinProbably so that the network sees that you’re watching and invested.
Thank advertisers. Companies need to know they can make money by supporting this show. Instead of fast forwarding, take note of the advertisers airing commercials during the show and thank them for supporting ‘Kevin Probably.’ Tag the network and advertisers/companies in your tweets.
E-mail ABC. Tell them how much you love the show.
Post comments on ‘Kevin Probably’ social media accounts.
Rate and write reviews for the show on the ‘Kevin Probably’s’ IMDB page. (This will increase its popularity/ranking on IMDB and draw more attention to the series.)
‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’ airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.