Today we’ll be chatting with the Creator and Showrunner of the History Channel’s Project Blue Book about what it takes to create a TV show that is inspired by true events.
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Dan LeFebvre 02:04
I’d like to start by asking about the idea of making a show about UFOs. There are some people who immediately switch off when they hear the term UFO mentioned, either they just won’t believe what you say. Or they’ll simply watch it to find a way to tell you that you’re wrong. I can only imagine how difficult that is when you layer that on to the normal difficulties of trying to pitch and create a show that’s based on UFOs. So my first question is simply, why Project bluebook? Why did you decide to create a show around UFOs when you could create a show that doesn’t have nearly as much controversy surrounding it. David as the creator, want to start with you.
David O’Leary 02:46
Yeah, sure thing. And everybody’s that and Dan, thanks for having us on. Um, yeah, you know, I mean, listen, for me. And for Sean as well. UFOs have been sort of a life long obsession interest. I’ve always always had a deep interest in this subject matter going all the way back to when I was a kid. I’m not sure why, but I just like was always, you know, fascinated with the unknown. And it always rang true to me, I would watch unsolved mysteries in the 1980s. Or scare the hell out of myself and read Whitley strivers, communion when I was like nine or 10 years old. And it just, it always felt authentic and true. So like, especially, you know, some of the more famous cases, in terms of blue book, as I became an adult, and moved out to LA and pursued a career in writing and all that kind of stuff. This was sort of right before, like, you know, end of 2017 and like, UFOs kind of really hit the news again. And there wasn’t actually frankly a lot of UFO stuff on TV, The X-Files and sort of come to its end. And I become a bit of a UFO history buff and Project Blue Book always just felt like such an interesting, right sort of world for TV. In that it was period, you know, it had all these other interesting elements in the 1950s in terms of the Cold War, and the rise of the atomic age and all that kind of stuff. And then just a plethora of like incredible cases. And then really just focus on the characters who who sort of led that effort with Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Catherine Ed repels sort of the first director of Project Blue Book both who basically shifted sides and became you know, adamant believers that there was something worthy of rigorous scientific study here. So I think it began with that idea of, can we tell a story, you know, sort of historical drama through the lens of these characters. And I was fortunate that like, I guess there wasn’t a lot of UFO stuff at the time. I think Project bluebook presented a certain natural engine with sort of a kind of a different case every week, with a really interesting backdrop of getting the kind of tell it in this sort of noir 1950s He’s sort of shadowy sort of way. And we were just very fortunate that, you know, it took some time, but that eventually I found a home with a nice studios and history.
Dan LeFebvre 05:11
How about you, Sean? How did you get involved in this?
Sean Jablonski 05:15
I came a little later, once David had, you know, sort of researched and written the script and had connected with Robert Zemeckis, and I think they had had a series order by that point, you know, I’ve been in the television business for, it’s like, 25 years plus at this point, I think. And so I’ve, you know, every TV show needs to have a showrunner at some point. And David is talented as he is, had not been in that position before. And so if you’re going to start any business, you’re generally going to want somebody who has that experience to sort of be in there and help guide the process and understand what’s coming up in front of you, and how to run writers room that just just all of the things, you’re not going to know if you haven’t done it. So I essentially interviewed for the job, which began with meeting with David at a diner, we realized very quickly that like him, I, I’ve kind of been obsessed with UFOs my whole life, it’s been something that since I was a kid, I remember seeing one when I was 10 years old, swear to God. And so it’s just something I’ve always been fascinated with. So we were trading stories to the point where we stayed so long, I got a parking ticket. And then of course, you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go through the gauntlet of meeting the studio and the producers and the network and all that stuff. And it just felt like such a very sort of natural match. And then we just sort of move forward from there that, you know, we really connected on having the same passion in terms of that book. So I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to meet someone who shares that, you know, in terms of how I look at just even the phenomenon and want to tell those stories, I feel like, I mean, it’s very much in vogue right now, for people to be talking about UFOs in a very serious way. And I think like any new science, and it is a bit of a science now because we’re just starting to discover it. Because we have sort of mines that are being applied to it and the science and the technology, and the credibility of the people who’ve come forward. But for people to go back to your earlier point for people who can you know, when you talk about, is there controversy around UFOs? Or why stir that up? Or when people say that, you know, my first question is like, Well, what do you know about UFO? I would ask, like, What do you know about the history of UFOs, because a lot of people want to throw it off is something tinfoil hat wearing silly. Like, if they were here, they’d be landing on the front lawn of the White House, a little bump. But when you really understand the history, and the amount of cases and the amount of credible people that have come forward physical evidence, you know, visual evidence, all of this, it is without a doubt something that exists. And I count myself as true believer. And the second question I would ask somebody is, what do you believe about it? What do you have to believe to believe that it doesn’t exist? You know, when oftentimes people will sort of stumble and go? Well, I just think that this would happen, if there would be this, the aliens would have said something by now. And then when you dig into that, you realize, it’s just sort of a belief people have that sort of based on like, on a feeling, right, which is just like, Oh, I don’t know, I just feel like it wouldn’t happen this way, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, when you sort of dig into that, it’s, I would imagine the way people would have felt before, I don’t know, we discovered bacteria, when we didn’t have a microscope, you know, it’s demons inside your body, you know, that’s what it’s got to be. And then when the science caught up, and we were able to see what was actually going on, there’s still a bridge that has to happen, what people have to get on board and understand that the facts that are there, and the people that are studying are not crazy. And then all of this stuff gets worn out. So I feel like that’s a very important pursuit right now, especially in a world where truth is such a valuable concept. And so I love the idea that David and I, again, I think found a path and passion towards wanting to get those ideas out there that it’s be part of that notion of getting the truth out to an audience.
Dan LeFebvre 09:24
You said you had an experience at 10 is that kind of when your interest in UFO started
David O’Leary 09:30
100% I was in I was in New York City, which is where I grew up and saw lights in the sky moving silently in formation there were these these long sort of hexagonal type lights. And I remember very clearly, I can still see it very clearly the moment where you look up and you’re like, Am I seeing what I’m seeing? Could it be what I think it is, it has to be something like just this. You go through this whole range of emotions and and of course I was a kid you know, But I still remember it very clearly to this day. So yeah, I mean, that’s where it had to start for sure. David, have you ever had an experience, so I had something weird happened to me much later. And it was actually after I sold the show, but before the show got picked up to series, and I actually like, didn’t share it for a while, except with like my wife. Basically, I was walking home it was when I was walking on I lived, I lived then I lived kind of near the grove for people living near Los Angeles, I was walking home through my neighborhood. Weirdly, I had a park a couple blocks away. And because of street parking, which was sort of a rare thing. And it was a quiet night, it was kind of late. And then the other strange thing was I was actually on the phone at the time, late with a friend of mine, which was also kind of just not used, but I’m so glad I was but I wasn’t by myself, because I think I would have freaked out even more. And I saw what looked like a teardrop shaped sort of self luminescence, almost like a green Chinese Lantern, or emerged from out of the trees, like 25-30 feet above me. And I stopped and I did exactly what Shawn does with so many UFO witnesses do and sort of be like, is that a drone? What is that I’m not hearing anything like worrying, then I don’t know if this happened or not. But it felt like it started it sort of stopped and was kind of flickering, and it sort of started to move towards me. And I panicked. And I ran on the phone with a friend of mine and he sort of laughing He doesn’t understand what’s going on with dude. And I duck under it. And then it just sort of like continued on kind of floating over the sort of the, like the air I lived in is sort of two storey houses. So it’s just like, you know what, 3040 feet in the air just over the houses and continued behind behind the same line of trees and stuff. Other than like, talking to my wife about it, I didn’t share it for like a year. I like didn’t want to be the guy with like a UFO show who like suddenly had this weird UFO experience. But I eventually did sort of talk about it. Because I also realized sort of to Shawn’s point too. And just like in terms of getting the truth out, like, I don’t know exactly what it was, and hey, maybe it was a drone. And I was just I freaked myself out or something. But it was very oddly shaped. And it was very weird and sort of how it moved. It was sort of like a balloon, like a little balloon. But so that was sort of the that’s the only time I think I’ve seen something where I really couldn’t identify it felt, you know, and then I think so much about you opposed to sort of how it makes me feel. It definitely felt strange. Like it felt it felt like something as opposed to just like, oh, that’s, you know, I just I couldn’t place what that would be. Especially because it was like in the branches of trees. And then later on like, actually, when we were doing the show, like we found out there are like, these cases of green fireballs, we even did an episode on them. I didn’t actually know that at the time. And that’s sort of like what it kind of felt like to me, so. I don’t know what that was.
Dan LeFebvre 13:07
Yeah, usually don’t try to fly a drone through the trees.
David O’Leary 13:11
Yeah, right. It was very weird. It almost looks like it came out of the tree. Like it was very like I thought it was in the branches and kind of emerged from like, it was very sad. Wow,
Dan LeFebvre 13:22
that’s weird. Well go back to the show. You’ve both worked on shows that are not based on true events, as well as of course, Project bluebook, which is what are some of the differences in the ways that you approach a show when it’s based on true events, compared to a completely fictional story shopping list with you this time.
David O’Leary 13:40
I’m going to steal a quote and I don’t know who to credit it to. But you know, what I think it was Mark Twain is like, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And I think you find that out right away. Now I’ve had the I tend to love historical pieces. I’ve done a few development wise, you know, over the years teslin, Addison Bonaparte’s, there’s been a couple other in there. And it’s been a bit of a learning curve, trying to apply storytelling to what actually happened. And whether it is the network exact saying I don’t care, we need better television. And what exactly happened in that moment, or just an instinct from a storytelling point of view, taking history and making a story of it, you can do a documentary, right there. That’s why they exist because in a lot of times, there’s great history that you couldn’t write this stuff. But when you’re trying to make a television show, and you need to sort of hit your act breaks, and you need to engage an audience, and you want to give your characters an emotional arc. You kind of have to it sounds like it’s simple, but it’s actually kind of hard. You have to sort of really give yourself permission to expand on it. Because otherwise you’re sort of I remember feeling a definitely had a lot of deference to the history and the people and you never want to mess with that. But at the same time, you have to Again, do your job and sell it to an audience. I just think you have to have the courage to kind of get out there and really tell the story that you’re you’re wanting to tell and and have respect for the people in the material. But be a little fearless in how you do it. Otherwise, you know, you’re never going to you’re never going to cross the boundary and just saying, nobody’s ever going to say what a really wonderfully factually accurate television show. Do you know what I mean? And get you get yourself ratings and an audience and I even know like something like the queen? I mean, how much can they have been in those rooms, where those people were talking and understand what was said. And lastly, I had a really good mentor I grew up under basically Tom Fontana, who was sort of my mentor into the business. And he said, if you’re going to do something historical look for those. Look at the history and then find the moments in between that might not necessarily even be written about, get in there and use your writing ability to figure out what could have happened, what could have connected those dots. How could have though, how could those characters have moved from point A to point B, that’s not being written about. And thankfully, audiences are very forgiving these days. And I have to say, like, Quentin Tarantino was a big inspiration. in a weird way. When I saw Inglorious Basterds, I went, wait, you can’t kill Hitler in a theater that never happened. And yet at the same time, I remember as an audience thinking, this is the most exhilarating thing I’ve seen, because it felt like he was having the courage to go, I want to tell the story that’s going to get people excited. And I think if you set the table for your audience that way and say, Look, this is inspired by true events. We are not telling that, you know, accurately, we’re inspired. You know, we’re inspired by it and doing it. I think you’re okay. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think we quickly realized exactly what Sean said that we needed to put entertainment and emotion first, you know what I mean? Like people are going to tune in otherwise, you’re just going to watch a documentary on Project bluebook. If you just want to know the facts, you know, it’s all there. You can read. There’s wonderful books we have, we’ve read them off. But we needed to tell a story that about people about human beings going through these events. You know, we kind of quickly realized the heart and the, you know, the heart and soul of the show was Hynek and Quinn, that relationship along with all of our other sort of six primary leads the generals, you know, Susie and Mimi, all that stuff. Meaning in hindsight, what we found a way to do I think, rather, hopefully, rather well was take those kernels of truth, and then weave them into a narrative yarn that was hopefully enjoyable, entertaining, emotionally evocative. But also encouraging people to be like, hey, like, that, like every week was a case that really happened to add within within an episode, we’d have little easter eggs of things that were really going on at the time, we’d explore other things that were sort of in the social fabric of the 1950s bomb shelters and, and, you know, paranoia and, and, you know, the CIA, you know, like people tapping your phones and all that stuff, Russia’s interest interest in UFOs, all that stuff. So yeah, we also had Paul Hynek, who was you know, J Allen Hynek son as a consulting producer on the show, and you know, that felt like any time we were, you know, doing something that made us a little squeamish, or whatever he was, oh, he would always say, which is wonderful. He’d say, I think my dad would love this. And so that really gave us a lot of permission. It felt like to kind of run with it and get a blessing.
Dan LeFebvre 18:36
Just for that, that topic. You’re talking about UFOs it, you know, unexplained right? And then government cover ups where obviously, we don’t know a lot of stuff that’s going on there. Did you find blue book to be more challenging to fill in some of those gaps, then completely fictional? Because there is just a lot of it that we don’t know,
David O’Leary 18:57
the thing we talked about very early on was that it’s we’re writing a line between, we can never say they exist, or the show goes away, because the whole idea is they’re searching for the truth. Right? So that was always a hard line to kind of kind of deal with and something we were very aware of every episode. And one of the challenges too, is like you realize it’s not a it’s not a cop show where you show up and there’s a body art guy show up? and somebody’s saying, No, no, no, I saw it in the sky. You know, it’s like, so how do you how do you tell those stories in given all of that sort of energy and interest and, you know, Revelation, every act kind of thing. That’s right. And the thing we realized was that we had to thrust our leads and our audience into the case, we had to thrust them into these events to some degree, so things would happen to Hynek and Quinn as they would investigate a case that would often start with the civilian witness or a military witness or multiple Witnesses seeing something they couldn’t explain it when the case wouldn’t be over, it would lead down a rabbit hole of more revelations. But as Sean said, it’s exactly right. We would always want to walk that line like, we’d always have like a plausible. Other answer. No matter how deep in we went. I mean, there’s an episode early on where we go to, you know, Operation Paperclip, we go into like this hidden base, and there it looks like. It’s like they’re staring at what looks like an alien, an alien in a tank. But there’s an alternate explanation there that’s given as well, so that there was always this sense of like, you know, which truth Are you going to believe? Because I think one of our goals too, is obviously we wanted to attract audience members who were interested in this subject matter. But we also want to, you know, we were also very cognizant that like, half the population, you know, doesn’t think there is much to UFOs. And we wanted to make sure that we, we presented an interesting sort of like dilemma where both sides could be like, oh, maybe, maybe the you know, the Lubbock lights were plovers, or like, or maybe it was temperature in river inversions in Episode Two, in 110, you know, the season one finale or things of that nature so, so that there was always this balance is like, yeah, as soon as you just say it’s, it’s real, definitively, it’s, the mystery is gone. The truth is, you know, that the quest is over.
Dan LeFebvre 21:22
Part of blue book, like from history was to come up with some of those stories, some of some of the plausible explanations for that. Can you give an example maybe of a plot point in there where you did depart from the history that they maybe the example that blue book gave and had to kind of come up with your own?
David O’Leary 21:42
Oh, gosh, I mean, we listen, you know, I mean, well, there were certain threads that we you know, as far as we know, the Hynix were never infiltrated by a Russian or a female Russian spy, as Paul Hynek would say, I don’t know, I don’t think that ever happened. You know, certainly we were adding certain narrative drama but but like, what is well documented was that Russia was very interested in not only their own UFO programs at that time, but what American knew about UFOs at that time, because they were like, is this top secret, you know, technology, things of that nature, you know, that we have yet to release. And we we always were excited by the idea that Oh, the Hynek family can be a soft target into sort of an intelligence gathering mission from Russia about that. And then things obviously complicated from there because even our even our sort of Russian spy character is sort of become sort of morally torn about which side she should be fighting for. And all those all those wonderful things. I think from a case standpoint, though, I think we always tried to reverse engineer what became the official explanation, like the plovers, like temperature inversions with the stuff over DC. Even Hopkinsville were as crazy as it seemed with the there was like a monkey that was dressed up in the space outfit that that’s all based on fact, actually, one of the guys in the family worked at a circus, and there was like monkey trained monkeys there like, because in a way, that’s almost too absurd to make up. I would be embarrassed to like fix that in the room. So I think we always started with something we’d kind of reverse engineered. And again, to go back to your very first question, try to sort of honor what was the initial, you know, truth of the actual story. And one of the joys of the of the show for me was like, when we would err, I was like, live tweet the show. And I would beforehand kind of put together the list of all the things all the cool little like truth nuggets that we had pulled from here and there and maybe turn them in a bit of a blender to tell a cohesive, compelling drama. But really to invite audiences to go like research this like, hey, this really was a real thing, or like you wanted this case is based off this event, so that there was always these sort of like footings that audiences can have been like, oh, okay, great. And then they can go off, they can go off and see the case. And then even at the end of every episode, if you watched it on history, there was like a two or three minute documentary piece about the case that inspired this week’s episode of bluebook. And that was sort of conceived from the very beginning, once we landed in history, to draw a line in the sand, so that we could clearly be like, Listen, we’re not trying to deceive, we want to, like tell a cool story, compelling narrative. But here’s the root of where this comes from. Now go off, you know, do your own research and come to your own your own conclusions. So it was nice to have that other sort of piece that would help planted in historical context. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre 24:34
I like what you said, Shawn, about the monkeys. Yeah. And that’s one of the things I love about the show that I do, being able to dig into some of that, because knowing that that’s based on fact, like that’s, that’s something that that’s, yeah, somebody could easily look at and be like, oh, what, obviously, that couldn’t have happened, but Well, yeah, actually, some of the crazy stuff does happen.
David O’Leary 24:58
Yeah, you know, I think true. Goebbels probably what like the gold standard in terms of trying to sort of tell an accurate story based on a historical event. And, you know, we again had to sort of decide early on that there’s got to be a slightly different version of the show and and also just we knew to that you know, and David had put it in there. There’s so much family and soap going on too that we could also sort of lean on that.
Dan LeFebvre 25:23
You mentioned a couple of them earlier some of the stories that you got to cover like the Lubbock lights and Operation Paperclip, but area 51 even got Hynix involvement in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What was your favorite episode in the series?
David O’Leary 25:37
Oh gosh, I mean I would say I’m torn between three I think both Shawn and I share a deep deep love of the Close Encounters episode which in many ways in some ways feels almost like the culmination of the show like you can almost like like ended there because like we end we you know, we end obviously in a very different way. But he and I was thinking about that actually this morning of why that that episode read register so much. I think for all of us, I mean, some of it was just you know, the magic of it all coming together or intercutting between two different time periods. But I think one of the things for us too, is it’s one of the clearest departures in tone for us. We were a rather conspiratorial dark noir tone which is like I love that tone like most of the things I write are like sci fi mysteries supernatural mysteries, like I I can’t get enough of that but this episode, the case is ultimately has this wonderful sort of positive spin you know what I mean? Like it’s so much captures a sense of wonder instead of a sense of fear it sort of stands out because that’s the other side of this thing like we don’t want to forget that it’s not just about conspiracies and being deceived and public denial and disinformation misinformation all that stuff, but it is about the wonder of what’s out there and I think that that episode in some ways, encapsulated that that wonder and then the other two episodes I’m really I really love I love our like big finale episodes so like 110 into 10 for me also stand out as just like cinematic like movies. You know what I mean? Like I think Shawn and I are both really proud of how those episodes turned out as well. But I don’t know I mean like I could go on like we did two critical bottle episodes I think Shawn wrote them both which are also some of my favorites that was abduction in season one and I forget where we go what lies beneath in season two in season two sort of the revelation of who Suzy really is and all that kind of stuff and that’s like that’s we put all our characters just in a room essentially and had to tell tell an amazing story there so I don’t know yeah, they love all of them I definitely the bottle episodes are fun because it’s so character based and you know the challenge of worst show that has to go out and look at UFO is how do you actually how do you keep people in the house in order to tell the same show So yeah, those bottle episodes are great. Close Encounters. Yeah, I mean that and exactly what David said the finale is just there’s so much fun and and happened you know, that’s the other thing everyone you’d like the Close Encounters based on George Adamski, who was a guy who was just like that character, who we sort of had in the show, which was so much fun. And then, you know, Paul Hynek makes a little cameo as a camera operator in the Close Encounters scene, which was so nice as a way, you know, the sort of an homage to his father, and he was saying, just even being on that set was meant so much to him. And yeah, David put it perfectly with it. It took a break from the usual tone and showed the wonder of it, which was one of Paul Hynix cameo in an episode about his father serving as a click there are so many meta parallels because Paul was a consultant for us on the show and then we did an episode about his father being a consultant for Steven Spielberg who’s like the Mecca is closed it was just like for me I’m just like oh wow like that’s just like some incredible incredible miracle that that we were like somehow able to like pay that pay that off and then do it do it some justice
Dan LeFebvre 29:18
and I’ll just fits perfectly together if there is one UFO related incident and pretty much everyone is heard of it is the Roswell incident and that’s the case you started Season Two with with two episodes covering it did you feel that because that is so popular, Roswell is so popular that it was more difficult to cover than some of the others on the show. Like you had to be more accurate to the story and in a way
David O’Leary 29:43
it was hard to do because bluebook didn’t investigate Roswell. Yeah. That was our biggest challenge at first was having to go back and you go, Well, how can we tell Roswell when it happened? You know, five years before the was even born and so we kind of had to have a Roswell 2.0 but yeah take all the facts from the original and sort of make it feel prone you know and so that probably more ironically more than any other episode had the most kind of I guess would you say fiction to it because they never investigated it going back and sort of interviewing those witnesses well after the fact and then sort of making it feel crime you know it was it was intimidating but you know, because we’re such research beings and loved the story so much we knew right away it was a two parter just because there’s so much information in there and you know, you’ve added with it’s opening Season Two and you want to make a big sort of a way to sort of come back in which interesting story we get wasn’t our initial impulse to put Roswell as a season opener and that you know gradually through no breaking of story and then input from the network we got to a place where it was like nope, we’re doing Roswell to Open Season Two which was ultimately the smartest choice as a way to sort of bring the show back Yeah, that’s right at one point and for a while actually we really wanted to do Maury island as as as our as our opener I remember that you know, but it all sort of worked out like it sort of reveals itself as you break it like we found a much better way to do it you know, ultimately down the line. I think that episode was like episode six or something like that as of season two five thing 205 or 205 Yeah, but yeah I think for us I tracked in the case on Roswell just became about well you know, we we’ve done a bunch of research on Roswell and it just became well okay if a town was really silenced in traumatizing this way, what would be the symptoms of that six years later? And once we sort of realized or what if somebody was trying to get the truth out of Roswell and staged like you know like this crazy event in the desert where this were a saucer allegedly went down and sort of held the held the US government kind of hostage like I’m going to unleash the truth it created a way for like our guys to go back in there and then and then the other thing we sort of had the revelation of of it was like, Oh, what a great character journey we can take with Neil Donna’s character, and as a general returning to a scene of a crime something that he’s never fully been able to square and also delineating. You know, for those who watched the episode between Valentine and Harding that Thank you, Harding. In terms of like, who knows what and who might really be in control, because for for Season One, we play it we you know, we knew about them is sort of the the face of it a little bit more, but but then we sort of flipped the script a little bit like, oh, perhaps Valentine was more of a veteran more the seniors actually sort of hiding some things from partying as well, as, you know, it just it gradually reveals itself to us, as we find as we found a way to do it, you know, of like, oh, here’s a way to do it. That really is interesting.
Dan LeFebvre 33:00
Yeah, it was really interesting that, because I think a lot of people when they think of the government cover up, it’s like the government, and they’re all in it together. And as I was watching it, yeah, I definitely got the sense that even these two generals, they don’t even they don’t know, everything that the other one knows. And so you started to get that sense in there as well. Just really, really, really well done to put that together. The general
David O’Leary 33:24
that wound up going into Roswell from outside was twining who Harding is based on, and was credited a lot with, you know, some of those strong arm tactics that were used in the idea of when Brazell gets brought on to the base, the idea of somebody who had been in charge of terrorizing an entire town, and there’s, again, I’d encourage anybody who has even an inkling of curiosity to go to look at it, there are plenty of first hand accounts of people who were there. And then, you know, are you going to choose to believe somebody saying I was there, my life was threatened by a military official, and I was told if I spoke, I would be killed, and go, okay, there’s dozens and dozens and dozens of those witnesses who came forward and said the exact same thing. So you have to ask yourself, Am I going to choose to believe they’re all crazy, you know, they’re all making this up for the sake of, you know, a story. You know, it’s, it’s fascinating and also with, you know, Valentine, who was based on Hoyt Vandenberg, you know, ultimately he went on to be part of the Atomic Energy Commission, which was like an ultra super secret in charge of our nucular program. And I think he was, did he come head of CIA or was brought into the CIA or something. So it again, it felt like we were fortunate enough to find this truth in the history and really try to bring it out in in the storytelling.
Dan LeFebvre 34:48
There is a petition going now to bring the show back for a third season, I’ll make sure to add a link to it in the show notes if anybody wants to sign it. But let’s say that petition is successful and you’re able to make it third season of Project bluebook. Have you thought about some other stories that you might like to cover that you didn’t get to in the first two?
David O’Leary 35:07
Only a little bit, right? Some of the fans were just but other listeners may not we actually had a sort of third season writers room that I ended that where we basically broke on all of season 30. So for us, it’s been particularly hard, I think, to you know, and then and then basically COVID hit and I mean, literally, like the last day of our writers room was like the day world shutdown, like it was locked in 20, march of 2020, mid March 2020. So, you know, listen, we would love nothing more than to then to continue that journey. So especially because for us it in a weird way the show lives in our heads, like a season at the end of season, like we kind of knew where we were going, we mapped out a whole path. And that makes it hard to because I know how excited we are, Shawn and I are about that season. I mean, that season. That season is like some of our standard stuff. And like we were so jazzed to do it. And I mean, we can tease it a little bit too, because it’s, you know, it felt that it felt like such a natural progression. Again, also history on our side, there was the great UFO wave of 1953 54 in Europe. And so we decided to go, you know, as you know, sort of make it bigger. A lot of it takes place over in Europe, because that’s where that’s, that’s where the sightings were. It was it went from like a handful of sightings in Europe to 1000s a day, all of a sudden, it was like off the charts. And when you dig into the history of Europe, and the history of some of those cases, again, for us, it felt like this is what the show is it is about the phenomenon. And it’s not just an American phenomenon. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. And so we we got to explore some seminal cases. And it really did I mean, it’s like anything, it felt like we were hitting our stride. And we we broke every single episode. So yeah, there’s some wonderful, yeah, England, France, Italy, Italy, Russia, Russia. Like it was just like we Yeah, we it was it was, you know, we wouldn’t be heartbreaking. Yeah, it was heartbreaking. Really heartbreak are really heartbreaking.
Dan LeFebvre 37:31
Well, hopefully, hopefully, we’ll get to see some of that in the future. But I wanted to ask you about Dr. Hynix perspective on UFOs. Because in the real project, bluebook, he was kind of started pretty skeptical. And then his position changed as he was investigating these. So as you were researching and writing and putting together this. Did your opinions change at all? I know you were both big into UFOs beforehand. But did it change at all as you were creating the show?
David O’Leary 37:58
What changed for me was doing research on Hynek and realizing how smart he was in terms of hypothesizing the multitude of answers that might exist, right? Even in like his book, the UFO experience or, you know, his numerous books he he would hypothesize, you know, like, especially with some of these cases that delve into like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or through you know, seeing seeing actual occupants or entities or whatever you want to call them kind of entertained every theory under the sun from today are interdimensional in some way. Like the planet is also there’s somehow, too They are interplanetary spacecraft to they are asked in the future today are like, I remember like you spoke a little bit about sort of the robotic nature of that of the have had these creatures are described like, are we dealing with artificial extraterrestrial, artificial intelligence. Like, on and on, and I think that, that, that I mean, I, you know, just I always love that the notion that like, maybe the answers could be as complicated, complicated as the questions we could be dealing with a multitude of, sort of phenomena happening simultaneously. We’re just not, we’re just not sure you know, what, what sort of the answers are, but that that was the shift for me was like, Don’t hang your hat on really any one theory because it could be, it could be something else, it could appear one way but actually, I actually did something else. I always loved that, you know, I would say if anything to that, to that end is like it only expanded. I mean, I was already having had knowledge of it, sort of, you know, believed in the phenomenon and you know, I couldn’t profess to have the answers but had certainly done the research. But if anything, it just expanded. It expanded the scope of what was possible like, especially with interdimensional beings AI from alien civilizations, are they even here, you know, old that stuff. The biggest thing for me that I found doing this was how the sightings ticked up. Right after in around the time of our US basically getting new killer capabilities. There are so many incidents of UFOs in and around nuclear missile sites, turning the missiles on and off, in and around Los Alamos, once we got the bomb, this that’s when everything Shut up. That’s really when that’s really when Roswell happened. That is one of the most fascinating stories to me, because to me, it’s the clearest evidence yet and this is coming from high ranking military officials who testified in front of Congress about this again, this stuff is all available to go you can watch it, you know, and this is on my side for yourself. Yeah, yeah, decide for yourself if like the, you know, the high ranking Colonel Who said I was in the missile bunker when the this you know, object came and basically cut the power, then turned it back on, set our missiles to launch and we couldn’t do anything, then took it away. Again, you can decide if this guy just decided to make it up and ruin his entire career. But to me, that’s the clearest evidence. It’s one thing for a civilian to see something dark across the sky and go, I saw something I can’t explain. It’s another thing for military personnel who were overseeing our nuclear weapons, to have these objects come in and around and basically control them. Because to me, that’s communication. Right? I don’t, that is like, it’s it’s them saying, We can do this to you. And now it’s up to us to go, are they benevolent? Are they they? Are they saying they can destroy us? Are they trying to start a war, like, what is happening? It’s not just like, Oh, I saw something, I don’t understand it. They’re communicating in a way and have the ability to affect our world. That phenomenon blew my mind. And if you go down that rabbit hole and look at all the instances, not just in America, but in Russia at the same time, it’s it’s fascinating. It’s really fascinating. And it goes all the way back all the way back to the beginning of this of this phenomenon. I mean, Ed repelled in his book talks about how they would expect to see UFO sightings over like, like, atomic detonations in the South Pacific on sort of top secret military weapons testing programs in the 40s. And in the late 40s, in the 50s. So it’s, it’s it’s a fascinating sort of aspects of this. Yeah,
Dan LeFebvre 42:38
that’s a really interesting point to bring up. Because if you put it in a historical context, World War Two, it just happened. So there was a lot of explosions going on, you know, and that didn’t bring anything out. But it but the nuclear side of it, does what you
David O’Leary 42:56
had the Foo Fighters in World War Two, really, that was a very, sort of a big thing back then. All the pilots describing what these objects were, and we touched on that I think a little bit in the first season. And historically, it’s not like UFOs began, right, then they’ve Columbus talked about UFOs, you know, so, but there was a clear, like, explosion of sightings, you know, well, maybe unintended. right around the time we got the bomb, that is when the wave just took off. And that’s also where the military, you know, had really, you know, gotten involved. And again, you know, the really, it began with, you know, why am I forgetting his name? The sort of, you know, first thing flying saucers in Oregon? Oh, Timothy Arnold. Yes, in 1947, which happened literally three weeks before Roswell. And one of the things in Roswell that that is interesting, they did nuclear testing and around that, but that was also the Roswell was the home of the fybel ninth Bomb Squadron, which was the squadron that dropped the Enola Gay was in Roswell. That’s what dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. And all those all in and around there, the White Sands Missile base, the Alamo. I can’t remember the other one. But all those nucular testing things were around the end of the amount of saucer sightings were just off the charts.
Dan LeFebvre 44:25
Wow, that’s fascinating. I guess I never had put it together that the Enola Gay was there in Roswell.
David O’Leary 44:32
Yeah. When people think of Roswell they always think of it as a kind of a sleepy desert town kind of random small thing it’s got it had a huge Roswell army interface airfield had huge huge sort of military significance at that time it was very important and in that whole area that was was a massive testing ground for top secret weaponry and stuff like that. So I don’t think it’s at all you know, as the Sean’s to John’s point anyway, a coincidence that this was a hub of sort of UFO activity at the time
Dan LeFebvre 45:01
when I know I asked you about your your favorite episode it’s hard to pick a favorite but do you do you have a favorite story from the set as you were creating the show?
David O’Leary 45:11
I have to and I’ll tell them really briefly one is in abduction which Shawn wrote but he got unfortunately was for whatever reason not able to be on set for but I gotta I got to be on for like nine and 10 or maybe he was up for a little bit I don’t think he was up there for this part when the character is recalling his sort of abduction experience because it was what’s called a bottle episode we hadn’t do it we couldn’t rely fully on the effects that we were trying to keep the budget the budget down that’s what a bottle episode is. And our director Alex gray has had this brilliant idea of like he’s supposed to be levitating in a ship right and like sort of finds himself in this alien environment. So they really strong up the offers and I think is Malcolm Goodwin or goodwill forgive me if I it’s Yeah, and they strongly am off and they shined all these shimmery lights on on him in the background on a screen and then they blasted the entire sort of soundstage with with with smoke and it was this magical alien kind of like experience come to life like you could not see in front of you the camera guys are like you know all the crew was so quiet and it was just it looked incredible to your like it felt like you’re watching a VFX shot happened in front of your eyes you know it was like a portal open to another dimension if you were looking at what we were actually filming so that was incredible and then my you know i mean obviously all their like fun kind of anecdotal moments with the cast are amazing too but the other thing was in 110 we blew up a car and that was that was just like we all sat around and like literally had popcorn and like blew up blew up in a in a sort of a outside and an amphitheater kind of an environment against a green screen and that was that it blew up a nice in the 1950s Carter food and that was just a fun day to see all that happened to I have a zillion photographs I’ll just say briefly I think it was literally day one of Episode 101 we showed up on set and it was the the font that what played for the farmhouse in the in the first episode and it was early morning cold Canada and there was this fog that had just blanketed the entire area and with this sun piercing through it was some of the most dramatic looking landscape I’ve ever seen and it was the arrival of our characters through this fog you know up to this farmhouse I it’s like I don’t think we could have gotten we couldn’t have wished for anything better and it was day one so it’s just basically everybody’s connecting everybody’s come in with their A game and so excited to be there and it felt like the like the gods were smiling on us saying this is the right way to begin he talked a little
Dan LeFebvre 47:59
bit about potential season three book in the first two seasons Was there anything that you wanted to add in there but you couldn’t for one reason or another?
David O’Leary 48:10
Well we had a whole episode ideas that for one reason or another we had we had to scrap you know i mean there was all all kinds of like, you know curious weird I mean there were sort of like UFO cold spots popping up in there in the early 1950s and like we thought about doing an episode that sort of explored that idea that sort of like how people use this arrival of this sort of new phenomenon into the public consciousness towards their own sort of self serving ends and now people could get kind of roped into that to that kind of thing gosh I mean there was all you know there’s always things there’s even within episodes there scenes we had to cut of course or little moments that like for timing purposes we’re like ah, we just can’t we can’t we got to pick and choose I’d say to David you know your his very first his early draft of the script you know and it was always described as you know X Files meets Mad Men because there he had a really wonderful touch with the soap that was in there and is it again it was as much about personal life and Joel who was the kid There was even a storyline with him. And through the natural process of any TV show creation development, you know, where the rubber meets the road you got to start leaving pushing things aside in favor of, you know, the engine of the series, which is our two guys in the cases. And I think we tried hard to make sure that we like Susie and Mimi and all of that to kind of create another world we could go into that reflected the Cold War era times but I mean, for me, I loved as much the character stuff as anything and I thought there was certainly more stories to tell with you know, Mimi and Suzy and to have a female perspective as well as a home perspective and to see what’s really going on, you know, during the Cold War, back home, you know, we tried a little out with the bomb shelter early on, and Season One, you know, which was a real thing you know they would put ads in the newspapers for that stuff and how the kids would feel at school and you remind me of we haven’t we came up with this whole storyline with Joel as like this 1950s boy kind of stand by me as sort of storyline with like, he had a crush on his like, neighbor, this other girl and then like, but then you get to sort of explore the fear of Russia and the Cold War through the lens of children. The irony being Of course, that they’re like, while they’re like sitting while Joel’s at his neighbor’s there really is a Russian spy next door having dinner at his house, like all this wonderful stuff that like it just, you know, you got to pick and choose where a UFO shaft so it was like, you gotta, you know, but it would have been nice to, you know, to do some of those things as well, you know, yeah. Forgot about all that.
Dan LeFebvre 50:50
Thank you guys so much for coming on to chat about Project bluebook. I know until there’s a season three hopefully there’ll be a season three. But until then, can you share a little bit about what you guys are working on?
David O’Leary 50:59
Sure. Well, I mean, you know, again, it’s it’s a pat, you know, the world is such a passion for us. David and I are working on something right now that we’re you know, I don’t want to say too much because we’re in the early stages of let’s say negotiations, but it’s back in the UFO world. And we look forward to bring in those stories back to television, hopefully in the in the coming in the coming year, I should say. So, you know, it bluebook whet our appetite. We’re excited to serve another meal coming up soon. Yeah, we just wanted to also give you know, in regards to the save bluebook campaign, you know, a huge shout out to Carson who’s led that effort. I know he created a website called save Blue Book calm, which is amazing. And just a wonderful way to he’s collected so many, you know, artifacts from the show and imagery from the show and, and all of our fans who remind us that the show mattered to them because that that is the most important thing. And that’s why we that’s why we did it. So we’re forever grateful we never give up hope. You just never know you just never know what’s going to happen. So we have a season three ready Win, win win as soon as someone’s ready to take it on. So you know, thank you to all the fans.
Dan LeFebvre 52:16
Thanks again so much for your time, guys.
David O’Leary 52:18
Yeah, thanks. You’re wonderful. Thanks so much, Dan. Thanks, everybody.