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ATX Television Festival 2015: Dawson’s Creek Doubleheader

Updated: Sep 7, 2018

By Shelby

Event photos by Jack Plunkett

For members of our unnamed micro-generation (marooned somewhere between Generation X and the Millennials and best defined so far as The Oregon Trail Generation), Dawson’s Creek will always be inextricably tied to adolescence—to first loves and tentative kisses, to the heady rush of pop culture immersion and the mundanities of high school, to the exquisite agony of longing for, well, anything. That’s what makes Dawson’s Creek such a natural fit for the ATX Television Festival to feature, and feature is exactly what they did, with two panels dedicated to the WB monolith.

ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday, June 6, 2015.. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday, June 6, 2015.. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

On Saturday, ATX assembled its first-ever writers’ room reunion panel with show creator and original executive producer Kevin Williamson taking the stage alongside long-time EP Paul Stupin and writers Jenny Bicks, Rob Thomas, Gina Fattore and Anna Fricke. The panel was moderated by The Vampire Diaries showrunner Julie Plec, who previously worked as Williamson’s assistant, and before taking questions from the audience, Plec asked the panel plenty of fan-pleasing questions. After selling his first film script Scream (originally titled Scary Movie), Williamson was approached about developing a TV show and the winning pitch was based on his own experiences growing up on the wrong side of the creek in North Carolina. The four main characters—Dawson (James Van Der Beek), Pacey (Joshua Jackson), Joey (Katie Holmes) and Jen (Michelle Williams)—felt like home to Williamson too. “Every single character is an aspect of my personality,” Williamson said. “I felt like I was a little bit of everybody.” The one aspect of his personality that didn’t make it on screen during the first season was him being a gay man. “It’s no accident that the characters’ names were Dawson and Joey—two boy names,” Williamson said. That changed with the season two addition to the cast of Jack (Kerr Smith), who would go on to share TV’s first gay kiss in primetime during the third season. Much was made on the panel of how green some of the writers were when they came aboard. For many—like Fricke, who worked her way up from an assistant gig—it was their first staff writing job. Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas was on the writing staff on the first season, and it was his first time to write for television. “Like Jon Snow, I knew nothing,” Thomas joked, before sharing that he once wrote a script that was 110 pages of straight dialogue, with no action.

Plec asked Williamson the biggest question of all—did he always know the finale would end with Pacey and Joey together? He answered that he originally planned for it to be Joey and Dawson together and then flip-flopped again and again over the course of a week before coming to his big decision. “I wanted it to be about soulmates,” Williamson said. “That’s why I kind of did it both ways. I think Joey and Dawson are soulmates, I think Pacey and Joey are soulmates, and I think Pacey and Dawson are soulmates. Dawson always wanted to be a filmmaker, and his one true love was Spielberg. I think Pacey should get what he worked so hard for (Joey), and Dawson should get what he worked so hard for (a film career).”

On Sunday, Kevin Williamson got to see his words brought to life once more when an entirely different set of voices took on the challenge of a table read of the Dawson’s Creek pilot script. Throw in some beloved TV actors and some gender reversals, and what you get is a highly entertaining hour of live theater. The actors chosen for the script reading brought a little something for every TV fan out there. Mae Whitman (Parenthood, Arrested Development) took on the central character of Dawson Leery with Patrick J. Adams (Suits) as his Joey Potter. Abigail Spencer (Rectify) served as Pacey, and thus got to deliver what’s arguably the most memorable line of the pilot (“You blew it, lady, because I’m the best sex you’ll never have.”) to our new Tamara, played by Arielle Kebbel (Gilmore Girls). In the most meta move, Kerr Smith (Jack from the original Dawson’s Creek cast) took over the role of his best friend Jen. We traded one beloved Grams for another with Louanne Stephens (Grandma Saracen from Friday Night Lights) taking over. The new Mr. and Mrs. Leery also hailed from the FNL family, with Derek Phillips (Billy Riggins) and Stacey Oristano (Mindy Riggins) in their place. Nick Wechsler (Roswell, Revenge) and Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black) rounded out the ensemble by splitting the smaller speaking parts.

Each actor had fun with their role while still honoring the source material, but I think special shout-outs must be given to Stephens’ spot-on impersonation of Mary Beth Peil’s Jennifer!, Smith’s perpetual delight at playing a part in this world other than his own and Adams’ hilarious attempts to mimic Joey’s facial expressions. Here’s some photos of our updated cast:

Should Joey have ended up with Dawson or Pacey? (Or should she have gone full Kelly Taylor and chosen herself?) How do you think the new cast stacks up to the original?

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