This is the beauty of the Television Critics Association tour: One moment, you're talking to people from an epic-scale Hollywood production -- a "Gotham" or "Sleepy Hollow" or such. The next, you're talking to an amiable guy who stars in the first New Zealand series to jump straight to American TV. "The Almighty Johnsons" is a clever show, at 10 p.m. Fridays on Syfy; here's the story, about its star, that I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
LOS ANGELES -- Emmett Skilton’s home town seemed designed
This was a bayside spot in New Zealand. There was nowhere
else to go – “only one road in and one road out of town” – and no reason to
want to leave, he said. “It was beautiful -- sunshine, crystal-clear water ….
as a kid, I liked to play outside all day.”
He could pretend to be other people in other worlds. Still,
he never pretended to be Odin, the ultimate Norse god; now he’s playing him on
In “The Almighty Johnsons,” Skilton is Axl Johnson, an
ordinary lad who learned on his 21st birthday that his brothers and
uncle are Norse gods … and he’s Odin, the leader of all gods. That odd notion
Bridge international gaps. “Almighty Johnsons”
is reportedly the first fully New Zealand series to run on an American network.
Resist Syfy Channel trends. Whimsical shows
(“Eureka,” “Warehouse 13”) are gone; serious, rich-looking ones dominate. Dave
Howe, the channel president, talks of having “the smartest, cutting-edge and
provocative science-fiction.” By comparison, “Johnsons” is pure whimsy.
Fit neatly into Skilton’s world.
Like Axl, Skilton grew up in small-town New Zealand, with
three brothers. Axl is the youngest; Skilton is the second-youngest. The
difference, he says, is that none of his brothers is mean – “we had a very female
influence from our mother and grandmother” -- and none is, to his knowledge, a
Their dad is a psychiatric nurse, their mom is a kindergarten
teacher and Skillton grew up with a sense of fun. At 13, he was chosen for an
improvisational theater group; then came the New Zealand Drama School, some
theater and small TV roles and the “Almighty Johnsons” try-outs.
“At the final auditions, the actors (playing Axl’s brothers)
were extremely short,” recalled Skillton, who’s 6-foot-3. “I thought, ‘Well,
I’m not getting that role.’”
He did, though. (Hey, why can’t Odin tower above all other
gods?) “Almighty Johnsons” was cancelled after its second season, was revived
after fan protests, then was buried for good after the third season.
By then, it was ready for international sales, with 36
episodes, muted accents and one familiar name: Keisha Castle-Hughes – who in
her teens was an Oscar nominee in “Whale Rider” and Mary in “The Nativity
Story” – is 24 now; she plays Gaia, Axl’s friend and platonic housemate.
The show was sold to Australia, the United Kingdom and even
Russia, Skilton said. The U.S. was a tougher market to crack. “Acquisitions
tend to not do as well in the ratings” as original productions do, said Howe,
the Syfy chief. Still, he has some and couldn’t resist this one. “We liked the
That encouraged Skillton to move. Now he lives in the Hollywood
Hills and has meetings and auditions. He’s also picked up a new hobby: “I had
no idea that you could go snowboarding right here.”
Well, almost anything’s possible in Los Angeles, especially
for someone who’s been a Norse god.
“The Almighty Johnsons,” 10 p.m. Fridays, Syfy;
rerunning at midnight.
Third episode is July 25; before that, the first
two rerun Tuesday night (technically, Wednesday morning) at 1 and 2 a.m.