Rand Ravich '84 Debuts New Show on NBC
If you recognize the name Rand Ravich '84, it may be because you are a dedicated reader of end credits. The Hollywood writer, director, and producer created the TV show Life, which starred Damian Lewis as a detective released from prison after being incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit. Ravich also wrote and directed the 1999 Charlize Theron/Johnny Depp vehicle The Astronaut's Wife and served as executive producer on George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
This spring, Ravich's work is back on the small screen with Crisis, a television show he created and is overseeing as showrunner. (It debuts March 16 on NBC.) The hour-long action-thriller follows the abduction of a group of high school students on a field tripâ€”who just happen to be the children of Washington, D.C.'s eliteâ€”and details how far their parents, including the President of the United States, will go to protect them.
“Now that I have kids,” says Ravich, who's the father of a 17-year-old and a 9-year-old,“I understand the confluence of your personal life and your professional life. The premise of the show is that these powerful people's children get kidnapped and the parents are asked the terrible question, â€˜What would you do to get your child back?' Because, as powerful as you are, your child is your weakness.”
Crisis stars Dermot Mulroney, recently seen on TV as a reporter on the HBO series Enlightened and as Zooey Deschanel's older boyfriend on New Girl, and Gillian Anderson, who will perhaps always be best known as The X-Files' skeptical investigator Dana Scully. But more than a star vehicle, the show is a sprawling ensemble piece, which gives Ravich and his writers' room a lot of different stories to tell and voices to create.
“It has a lot of charactersâ€”15 different points of view,” he says.“It's got several interweaving stories, and that's been a real eye-opener. [Writing this show] is a constant shifting of perspectives, and we don't have the luxury of being on the air while we're writing, so we don't know which characters are more appealing to the public and which aren't, which story lines are getting traction and which aren't. We only have our own instincts to trust.”
Ravich shouldn't worry, though; his instincts have served him well so far. Life ran for two seasons on NBC, ending in 2009, and, in addition to all of his big-screen work, he has also written and produced numerous TV pilots. Not bad for a guy who came to college hoping to be a doctor.
“I was pre-med, but organic chem weeded me right out,” he says, laughing.“I actually started writing plays in my lab book, since I couldn't keep up in class.”
After Haverford, he attended UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television, where he earned his M.F.A. in playwriting. Realizing he was more of a movie fan than a theatergoer, he eventually switched to writing screenplays after graduation. And then, lured by the immediacy of the television-making processâ€”as opposed to the years- or decades-long movie development processâ€”he moved to the smaller screen.
“In TV, you write a scene, you send it over, and they're shooting it that day,” says Ravich.“You're making things. Sometimes you wish you had a little more time, but you're getting things done. It's very addictive that way.”
Crisis, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m., doesn't carry on Life's tradition of naming characters after some of Ravich's beloved Haverford professors (one episode, for example, featured members of a“Dujardin” family, named for Philosophy Professor Paul Desjardins), but it does still carry on a legacy of his time at the College.
“You know, I still use lab books to write in, the ones with the quad rule,” he says.“It's all I have left of my premed experience.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Haverford magazine.