The 10th Kingdom is a fantasy miniseries that first aired on NBC (US) and Sky One (UK) in February of 2000, and in Spain in November of that same year. It tells the tale of a young lady, Virginia (Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Father of the Bride), and her father, Anthony (John Larroquette, Night Court), who, living in less than optimal conditions in a tiny apartment next to Central Park in New York, are pulled through a magic teleporting mirror into a parallel world of fairytales. As they try to go back to their real world, they are accompanied in their journey through a fantasy land by a handsome man who is actually a half-wolf, simply named Wolf (Scott Cohen), and a talking Golden Retriever who is really Prince Wendell, a cursed human prince (Daniel Lapaine).
This miniseries is simply phenomenal. Award-winning screenplay writer Simon Moore, who also wrote Gulliver’s Travels (1996) and co-wrote Traffic (2000), wondered what may have happened after the ‘Happily Ever After’ of old fairytales, and his vision became the screenplay to this miniseries. But it isn’t just greatly written. It’s also endearing, funny, entertaining for both kids and adults, and, it’s immensely furry!
As the Evil Queen (Dianne West, Hannah and Her Sisters, In Treatment) is released from her moldy prison cell, a great menace looms over the Nine Magical Kingdoms of the fantasy realm. The Evil Queen, stepmother to Prince Wendell from the 4th Kingdom, uses magic to exchange the body of the prince with that of a Golden Retriever, so she’ll be able to easily train the phony prince (with the soul of a dog) into giving away his kingdom. The real prince, physically turned into a dog, runs away through a teleporting mirror into our real world (the 10th Kingdom), searching for help, and that’s when he finds Virginia and Anthony.
The miniseries has a great cast, and most of their scenes were recorded on location, throughout different places in Europe, with gorgeous scenery. Though not much was heard from the production team for some years afterwards, the TV premiere had many followers and VHS orders; and it currently has a cult status, with over 800 very positive reviews on Amazon for the Blu-ray release. It also has a petition for a sequel at Change.org, a Facebook fan group, and a Twitter fan group @T10Kfan
The use of animal anthropomorphism is all over the place in this lengthy adventure. Wolf is the main furry attraction. He looks like a charming and elegant human, except, he has a fluffy tail, a passionate devotion for juicy meat and tasty young ladies, and, literally growls and howls! There are whimsical scenes in which he has to control his inner wolf instincts, almost always in a playful manner, which are delightful to watch. The prince’s phony poser, the dog trapped in Prince Wendell’s body (obviously played by the same actor as the human prince, Daniel Lapaine), is nothing but furry too! Panting constantly, as he’s being trained by the Evil Queen to behave like a normal person he utters the lines “I demand to be a happy puppy!”,“Can I have a biscuit?” or “I found a juicy pile of bones, and buried them.” Meanwhile, the main four characters come across a shepherds village that’s celebrating their local festival. And guess what costume the villagers run away from, at the parade… A wolf’s oversized head, of course!
As furry as many things are, the miniseries is valuable too in that it can be watched and enjoyed by everyone, with a gripping story where everything has a reason for being the way it is. Nothing on screen happens for the sake of it. Every scene establishes the characters, their motivations, their background, their conflicts, their personal growth, and ultimately the underlying course of events that brings them to their destiny. It uses references from classic tales, but it’s an original idea, a fresh different story on its own that has stood the test of time, while other classic tale movie remakes haven’t.
Joining me to discuss the series is Scott E. Cohen, actor from New York City (US), who plays the role of Wolf. He’s had several appearances and main roles over the years on television and on the big screen, including the series Necessary Roughness (2011-2013), and a role alongside Natalie Portman in The Other Woman (2009). He’s worked in a ton of stage productions as well, on Broadway and off Broadway, including Three Changes with Maura Tierney at Playwrights Horizons, and Drunk Enough To Say I Love You at NYSF with Sam West.
Mike: So, before we start Scott, I feel I should give you a bit of context. I watched the miniseries when it premiered here on television, with my little sister (I was a teenager back then). And we absolutely loved it! It remains one of my favorite series.
Scott: That’s so great to hear! It changed a lot of people’s lives. We are very proud of it. There’s a lot of family connection with it, and helping people through rough patches in their lives. Simon Moore and myself are trying to get a sequel made! But we need fans to speak up and demand it. So please sign the Change.org petition and spread the word on social media!
M: Your performance in this production seems more amused, more carefree, compared to the serious tone of most stuff you’re usually involved with on screen. In interviews you repeatedly say you’re proud of the work you did in the miniseries. Did you have fun playing the part?
S: I had some of the most fun ever! It was filled with challenges both in acting and personally. Traveling across the globe to shoot over 8 months was thrilling and hard. I felt like I was in a band touring. It was different, but I think the show is different than most of what gets made. Very seldom are we asked to play parts that demand so much research and instinct as this did for me. I am very proud of it mainly because of the effect it has had on so many people. It seems like, just when I forget about it, people pop up and talk about how it has moved them or changed them. Wolf was an amalgamation of everything I love about being human.
M: As a half-wolf, your character has a tail. Maybe you know many of our readers enjoy wearing tails at conventions and gatherings! Most of the time, storywise, your tail is hidden inside your pants, because wolves have a bad reputation. Did you actually wear your hidden tail when it didn’t show on screen?
S: I wore it when I felt like I needed to be aware of it. It was my choice, but often the lump would be too obvious for shooting. Yet I felt it important for myself and others to be aware that I had something that was unique and deeply connected to who I was. It was a big tail!
M: Did you have one or many tail props?
S: I had a moving one that was remote controlled, and one that laid there. My son played with the remote controlled one on set, when he visited. He was 4, and he loved it.
M: That’s so cute!
S: But the behavior was more important to me in the end. The question for me was always if I could behave like a wolf. That’s where the scratching came from, the eyebrow movement, the eyes.
M: Performing like an animal is not as easy as it looks, experienced fursuiters would agree. Yes, I think the role would have suffered if they had given you many more props. The props don’t make the character, they’re a tool. It was also fun that you weren’t obviously a wolf so you could fake being a regular person, throughout the story, if needed.
S: Agreed! We actually shot with masks for transformation, but I really wanted to “be” the character, and convinced them all to let me try to do everything without any mask or costume. I wish I had pictures of that.
M: I wanted to show you some remarks from the making-of, to see if you’d like to comment on them:
Simon Moore (Writer):
“A big question for me was, how to introduce the character of Wolf. How to come up with somebody completely off-the-wall crazy, but nevertheless be endearing and intriguing.”
Herbert Wise (Director):
S: Sure! I think this was a challenge that was introduced to me the first day I shot. We had two directors. The first I worked with was David Carson, and the first scene we shot was when I show up to Tony’s apartment. He took me aside and had this long conversation with me before I started shooting along with a jacket not fitting me I remember, or something, there was some kind of costume thing going on, maybe me deciding what I really wanted to look like… I think it was more that actually. But he told me to reach for the stars, go as far as I want, and he will bring me back if he needed. This way we saw Wolf off-the-wall and the script would do the rest really, show his more vulnerable side.
Herbie was (he just passed away) a genius. His take on Wolf was all about what was his conflict inside and how to communicate that through sheer internal angst and desire. He gave me the confidence to sit there and know how I felt would be seen. I loved them both for different reasons. And Simon is a wizard… truly. I can watch the film over and over and discover new things along with how Kim Williams performs… she was amazing.
M: In the scene where you have to climb up Virginia’s long hair, Kim’s hair, like in the story of Rapunzel…
… was that really you going up her mane?
S: Yes, that was me! I was hooked into a harness and climbed up hair that had a rope hidden in it. The harness was set up so I didn’t fall but they helped me a few times getting up. It was a real tree in the forest, at Pinewoods outside of London.
M: And the inner tree was filmed in studio.
M: When ‘Full Motion Video’ (FMV) was a thing, you were part of an ambitious cast in the videogame Ripper (1996) for the PC (with Christopher Walken, John Rhys-Davies, and others). That shooting was almost fully green-screened. On the other hand, there’s rarely any green screen on The 10th Kingdom. Would you say the use of green screen makes it harder for actors to act well?
S: Yes. I am about to start a TV show that is all green screen. It’s harder, but your imagination kicks in and it’s fine. The problem is being confined to a space, a reality that is not there for you. For big action sequences I think it’s easier because your imagination is bigger, and fills it all in. But for little things like a room, a desk, etc., it’s harder. Ripper was one of the first to do that.
M: I caught you at work, so you’ll have to go on set in a couple of minutes. But I have one last petition. You see, we have a meme, a joke, in the fandom. Furries whose persona is a wolf, or a canine, are fined $350 for howling, for awooing. As most famous wolf of the ten kingdoms, I’d like to make a request. Could you gracefully extend the royal pardon you were given by King Wendell to all wolves, to include any charge for awooing in public?
S: Why would they be fined for being natural?! This is a horrible punishment!!
M: Thank you very much for your time, Scott!
Reader, please make sure to sign the petition for a sequel to this much deserving miniseries at Change.org! If you’re further interested you can join and/or follow the fan groups at Facebook or Twitter. You can find Scott’s social media accounts @scottecohen or as Scottecohen on Facebook. And, since it’s now, at last, formally legalized: Awooo!