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Dean Devlin: Building Another Ark

In the world of science fiction, Dean Devlin has heavy fingerprints on some of the most successful films of the genre. Though he started his career as an actor, appearing in such films as My Bodyguard, Real Genius and Martians Go Home, it was his casting in Moon 44 that would alter his professional path.

This collaboration with Roland Emmerich would pivot Devlin from in front of the camera to behind, where he penned his first screenplay, Universal Soldier. That began a decade-long alliance with the noted German director, producing such films as Stargate, Godzilla and the commercial smash Independence Day.

After The Patriot, Devlin went out on his own, first producing such films as Cellular and Fly Boys before turning his attention to directing with the films Geostorm with Gerard Butler and Bad Samaritan with David Tennant.

With the fertile ground of television luring talent, it was only a matter of time before Devlin’s Electric Entertainment company was overseeing numerous shows on various networks.

His latest endeavor is The Ark. Starring Christie Burke, the series is set 100 years in the future

when a spacecraft known as Ark One suffers a catastrophic event a year from reaching its

destination, Proxima b, causing massive destruction and loss of life. The remaining crew must

work together to stay on course and survive.


During the 73rd Berlinale, the HFPA had some one-on-one time with Devlin to talk about his latest project.

What made you want to debut your new TV series here in Berlin?

The Berlin Film festival has always been a very prestigious film festival but this is the first year they are allowing television shows to be shown. When I heard we were the first to be selected, I decided to get on a plane because I knew I had to be there.

What was the genesis of the idea?

It was actually a conversation I had with a friend of mine named Michael Wright. He was our boss at TNT when we did our shows The Librarians and Leverage, the original shows. We were just talking about how we missed the throwback spaceship show where you had a group of diverse characters in a contained space – basically a pressure cooker. It got me thinking about the kind of shows I grew up loving and feeling like there weren’t shows like that today. So, I thought if I got my chance to do a spaceship show, what would it be like? This is a love letter to those shows I grew up watching. Then it grows into a direction that I think people will find surprising.

There is a biblical reference to the concept of an Ark. You aren’t gathering two of each species to save the world so what would you say the essence of this Ark represents?

The Ark was built to survive a disaster, a disaster on Earth, and to have life go on afterwards. That is really the essence of our show. The backstory of the show is that Earth has a time clock on it. If we are going to have our species survive, we are going to have to do it elsewhere. This ship, the Ark, is the first of 20 ships to go and explore the universe to find a new place to start over again.

What is important in a show is to not only have a good protagonist but some good antagonists. How do you conceive what types of archetypes you wanted for the characters?

Our world just lived through a giant crisis. And rather than all of us coming together and singing kumbaya, we found ourselves at each other’s throats. As opposed to a standard antagonist, we have our people with very disparate ideas of how to lead and how to move forward. Sometimes these ideas come crashing toward each other. The thing about mankind, we tend to have our best version of ourselves rise to the top in a moment of crisis. That is what the show is about. Who is going to evolve faster?