LOS ANGELES – Fairy tales have a lot to say to contemporary audiences, according to producer Kevin Williamson.
That’s why he has given them more than a few new twists and, in this season of “Tell Me a Story,” set them in Nashville.
There, he says, the plots of “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Beauty and the Beast” will co-mingle.
“But you don’t quite know who the sleeping beauty is,” says actor Paul Wesley. “I’m in that storyline, but I have no idea.”
Williamson, who also created “Dawson’s Creek,” says that’s by design. Cinderella and Prince Charming, for example, could switch roles midway through the season.
With “Beauty and the Beast,” “we’ve seen a man rise up over adversity before,” Williamson says. “We want to see what beauty really means to this female beast.”
To get the mashups to work, “Tell Me a Story” uses family as its core. “It gives everything a reason,” Williamson says. “The storylines flow with each other, much more eloquently and gracefully.”
Using the music industry as a backdrop, he can show how these morality tales play out. “They were created to warn children of the dangers of the outside world,” Williamson says of fairy tales. “They were to teach you right from wrong and obey your parents or this is going to happen.”
In last season’s episodes, “The Three Little Pigs” became a template. While “Tell Me a Story” didn’t deal with huffing and puffing and blowing a house down, it did address the virtues of hard work. “If you put in the work, you’ll survive,” says Wesley. “My character’s fate was not good because he was lazy and he wanted the easy way out. It’s just a lesson that’s universal.”
Because Disney sanitized many of the stories for its animated films, most don’t know how truly dark the originals were. “That’s been fun to re-explore,” says actress Danielle Campbell.
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Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays the matriarch of the Pruitt family, was surprised, too, at how dark the stories could be. “I started to read them to my children and started changing things in them so as not to traumatize them,” she says. “I love the idea of taking them as the base for the storytelling and just going from there.”
Because they’re not set in a faraway land a long, long time ago, the stories have to have logical exit strategies. “You can get away with so much with special effects,” Wesley says. “Here, we have to deal with real-life consequences. I enjoy playing in that real world.”
Nashville is pretty interesting, too.
“It’s not the city you think it is,” Williamson says. “I always think of it as country music, a place near Graceland where my mom liked to go. And then I get to Nashville and it’s very hip and happening. Every genre of music is there and it’s just this beautiful city I’ve fallen in love with.”
“Everybody behaves in the city and it really feeds into the scenes that we are trying to play,” says Natalie Alyn Lind, who's cast as one of Moss's children. “It’s cool that we get to go out in it and use the more iconic spots.”
The music industry plays into the plot. The actors who play Moss’s children are steeped in it.
“Just being in Nashville and out of New York (where the first season was set) has just given the show a whole new vibe,” Williamson says.
The second season of “Tell Me a Story” premieres Dec. 5 on CBS All Access.