LeeAnne H. Adams and Brian J. Adams have been married to and working with each other for years. They have created and developed myriad shows and features for Amazon, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Studio 7 and several other platforms. Their latest project is for BYUtv and is called Dwight in Shining Armor. Wanting to learn more about their careers and this show, I was able to interview LeeAnne and Brian for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you two loved experiencing? Are there any stories you still enjoy revisiting?
LeeAnne H. Adams: When I was nine years old, my favorite movies were Star Wars: A New Hope, ET, Raiders of the Lost Arc and (inexplicably)…Annie. That sums up my tastes pretty well. I love any type of well-told story. Sci-fi, fantasy, history, adventure, comedy, drama…I love it all. I developed a love for Shakespeare at a young age (probably because of the wide variety of tones and themes in his work). I’ve enjoyed re-discovering many of his plays with my sons.
Brian J. Adams: When I was eight years old, my buddies and I ditched school (sorry, parents) to go see Ghostbusters in the theatre—it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Around that time, I went to see The NeverEnding Story; I really liked it, but I was bummed when the credits rolled, because I took the tittle very literally, and I expected the movie would never end. Goonies was huge for me. But the best movie of all time, in my young mind, was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also watched WAY too much TV as a kid (sorry again, parents) almost every day I watched old re-runs of: Gilligan’s Island, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Yanes: On this note, what are some books (both fiction and non-fiction) you two think all professional storytellers should read?
LeeAnne: A few of the best examples of engaging story-telling I’ve encountered and learned so much from are Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and Wit by Margaret Edson.
Brian: I’ve learned a lot from biographies. The three best biographies I’ve ever read are Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, and Neil Simon’s Rewrites.
I agree with LeeAnne on this: I LOVE Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse. I also love The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger, and anything else P.G. Woodhouse wrote, especially the Jeeves and Wooster series. I’ve learned so much by reading these books.
Specifically about writing, William Goldman’s books Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell totally changed my life. I also learned a lot from Story by Robert McKee, The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
Yanes: When did you two know that you wanted to have careers being professionally creative?
LeeAnne: I started writing plays when I was twelve years old. My friends and I would rehearse them for months and then perform them for our families. Our goal was usually to make enough in ticket sales to have a pizza party. Since then, I’ve never wanted to be anything but a writer, either for the stage or the screen.
Brian: I started out as a songwriter and a musician. I was almost always in a band from the time I was thirteen through college. We played gigs around my hometown. I was always the writer, guitar player, and singer. Writing those songs and putting on those shows, was the foundation of everything I do today. I learned a lot, and I fell in love with the arts through that process.
Later my band became the house band on a public access TV show, which lead to me eventually hosting that TV show. It was a one-hour live TV show—sort of a mini Saturday Night Live/David Letterman Show. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was the head writer/producer of that show. It didn’t seem like writing—we just had to come up with a lot of funny stuff to fill an hour of live TV. Some of the stuff worked, some didn’t, but I learned a lot in that process too. And we had so much fun!
Yanes: Dwight in Shining Armor is another scripted series picked up by BYUtv. I have spent years in the academy but I’ve never encountered a university television station like BYUtv. Could you two take a moment to talk about what BYUtv is like?
LeeAnne and Brian: BYUtv is unlike any other network. We met with them early in 2018 when they were actively looking for scripted content that would appeal to kids, teens and their parents—a very difficult thing to create. From that first meeting, we have felt aligned with them. We want what BYUtv wants—to create a show that draws the family together and has something that everyone can enjoy.
Yanes: You two are the creators of Dwight in Shining Armor. What was the inspiration for this show?
LeeAnne and Brian: It started almost ten years ago with a “What if” question that one of us (honestly don’t remember which one) posed to the other while we were brushing our teeth one night. “What if Sleeping Beauty was still out there sleeping and a modern guy woke her up?” That was the germ of the concept, but the story really broke for us when we had the idea that it wasn’t just a princess that was magically sleeping (and magically awakened by our hero’s kiss) it was a whole world from another time.
Yanes: During the process of developing Dwight in Shining Armor from an idea into a real TV show, what were some elements that really came to life once filming began?
LeeAnne and Brian: The characters came to life in a way that was thrilling. There were characters that we saw one way on the page, but then the actors interpreted them in a way that was so much better or funnier or more interesting. Then we started to write for that voice. Many of the characters that we thought would only be one-offs in one episode we ended up loving so much that they became recurring characters in our story.
Yanes: Dwight in Shining Armor has a great look to it that allows it feel both classic and contemporary. How did you two decide on Dwight in Shining Armor’s visuals?
LeeAnne and Brian: This is a story about worlds colliding. We try to remember that in every part of the story-telling from the humor to the music to the set and costume design. We worked closely with our director of photography, Bengt Jonsson, to create a visual style that also feels like worlds colliding—like the classic and the contemporary have found a way to co-exist.
Yanes: You two already have impressive careers. With that said, how do you two think you’ve grown from creating and developing Dwight in Shining Armor?
LeeAnne and Brian: We hope we’ve become more collaborative. We work with brilliant people at BYUtv. We have an immensely talented cast. Our producers and directors and crew bring their wonderfully varied skills and experience to set every day. We want to harness all that creativity from all those sources to improve upon our ideas and make Dwight in Shining Armor something spectacular.
Yanes: When people finish watching Dwight in Shining Armor, what do you hope they take away from it?
LeeAnne and Brian: More than anything, we want them to have FUN. But beyond that, we’d like to show that there are lots of ways to be heroic. Brute force isn’t the only way to solve problems. Creativity, cleverness and diplomacy can also save the day.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you two working on that people can look forward to?
LeeAnne and Brian: We’re writing another season of Dwight in Shining Armor right now and we’re super excited about where the story is going! We’re also developing a 60-minute drama and another 30-minute comedy (which are both under wraps right now).