'Beauty and the Beast' Comic-Con panel: Kristin Kreuk transitions from Lana Lang to a hard-boiled homicide detective

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You know you want more Comic-Con coverage! During a panel this afternoon moderated with ninja-like precision by EW’s Dalton Ross, the CW screened the entire pilot episode of upcoming drama Beauty and the Beast (premieres Oct. 11). In the modern retelling of the classic fairytale, Smallville‘s Kristin Kreuk plays Catherine Chandler, an NYPD homicide detective who witnessed the murder of her mother years ago. She also remembers “a beast” attacking her mother’s killer and then saving Catherine’s life.

In the pilot, Catherine discovers the identity of the beast — it’s Vincent Keller (played by Ryan), a survivor of a military experiment gone very, very wrong. Catherine’s re-introduction to Vincent occurs as she investigates a murder, and it seems the show will be set up to cover a “case of the week.” We saw two attack scenes from the beast — but as they were from Catherine’s perspective, the action was a bit blurry and we don’t yet know many physical characteristics of the beast, his capabilities, the true extent of his “rage,” etc.

The Panel: Actors Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan, co-creators Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin, executive producers Brian Petersen and Kelly Saunders.

The Big Revelations: This isn’t a rehash of the ’80s series with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton — Kreuk said she’s only seen a little bit of that one and wanted to base her character on the creators’ visions, and she didn’t think she could measure up to Hamilton anyway. And though the show follows a procedural format with homicide detectives (and two kick-ass female ones, at that — score!), it will first and foremost be a love story — a forbidden love story. “We’re not all about the twists and turns but what is emotionally going on with our characters,” said Sherri Cooper. “There’s so many ingredients — romance, mythology, and the procedural element,” said Levin. “We’re trying to figure out the right balance of those things. The pilot was quite dark.”

Snap Judgment: “It was a lot better than I expected it to be,” said panel-goer Tanya Kurland, who wanted to learn more than what we saw in the pilot about the nature of the beast/Vincent. “I love the CW and everything, but the commercials I’d seen made it look pretty cheesy. I’d like to see more of the beast’s transformation aspect, the process of his changing. It seemed in the pilot that he has total control of himself. If there’s a thing where he doesn’t remember when he does it, that’ll be interesting.” Her friend Naureen Nalia weighed in: “I’m just afraid they’re gonna make it too pretty and lose that aspect.”

The show feels very CW — perfect makeup and hair, somewhat cheesy dialogue, a current pop music soundtrack. Kreuk and Ryan handled their various fight scenes pretty well, and chemistry between them seems promising. The pair will ultimately work as partners in the general interest of protecting people, the actors said, but their romance will be a tough go. It’s not a will-they-or-won’t-they, the producers said — more of a how will they?

Most Incisive Audience Question: “Kristin, what was it like going from playing Lana Lang [on Smallville] to Catherine?” Kreuk said she loved the transition. “At the end of Smallville, I felt like Lana was incredibly strong, really came into her own. So it’s cool because I get to start with Catherine. She’s got a certain strength and she’s also emotionally restricted in a way that Lana wasn’t. It’s a really good flip for me.”

Least Incisive Audience Question: “When will the show be on?” Oct. 11, people. Good one.

The Winner of the Panel: Jay Ryan, who kept faux-complaining that he still hadn’t received his cupcakes. According to Levin and Cooper, both The CW and ABC sought after Kreuk to play the role of the beauty. How did they eventually convince her to sign on? “We drove to her agent’s office and wooed her with cupcakes,” admitted Levin. “It worked. She’s so easy!”

Read more:
‘Beauty and the Beast': Watch Kristin Kreuk kick ass
Comic-Con 2012

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