A look at Fox’s PAST LIFE (with comments from MJ ROSE)

Obviously the upfronts are exciting and stressful for television folk. Actors and producers are hoping and praying they get picked up or renewed.

But the Fox upfronts were particularly exciting for one mystery writer. MJ Rose saw Past Life, the series based on her novel The Reincarnationist, get picked up.

“Have you ever experienced déjà vu or met someone you thought seemed familiar? Do you believe in karma, fate or love at first sight?

From writer David Hudgins (“Friday Night Lights”), and inspired by the book “The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose, comes PAST LIFE, a new drama series about an unlikely pair of past-life detectives who investigate whether what is happening to you today is the result of who you were before.

DR. KATE MCGINN (Kelli Giddish, “All My Children”) is not your typical psychologist. Confident, outspoken and highly educated, she works at The Talmadge Center for Behavioral Health in New York City, a world-renowned institute dedicated to the study of the science of the soul. After experiencing a past-life regression in her 20s, Kate became a believer in reincarnation. Using regression therapy and her natural gift for reading people, Kate helps solve the mysteries of her troubled clients who suffer from present-day problems caused by past-life traumas. She believes there are levels of consciousness and explanations for human behavior that science can’t begin to explain. Accustomed to skeptics, but not bothered by them, Kate is an unapologetic believer and a force of nature who marches to the beat of her own drummer.

Her partner, PRICE WHATLEY (Nicholas Bishop, “Home and Away”), is a different story. A former NYPD homicide detective, pragmatic and cynical, Price is a damaged soul who constantly battles grief and guilt over the accidental death of his wife. Price feels that Kate, though not certifiable, certainly operates on the fringes of science. It’s a volatile relationship, but with Price’s solid detective skills, and Kate’s penchant for out-of-the-box thinking, together they make a formidable, if somewhat dysfunctional, team.

A fast-paced emotional thrill ride, each episode finds Price and Kate working with their colleagues to unravel a new mystery involving the past-lives of their clients. DR. MALACHI TALMADGE (Richard Schiff, “The West Wing”) is Kate’s mentor and the center’s namesake, an avuncular but gruff elder statesman who is a legend in the field of cognitive research. DR. RISHI KARNA (Ravi Patel, “Scrubs”) is the rookie of the group, a baby-faced therapist from Calcutta who loves bad American TV, Cuban jazz and driving everyone crazy.

Produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television, PAST LIFE is executive-produced by David Hudgins and Lou Pitt. Hudgins also serves as writer. Deran Sarafian (HOUSE, “Lost”) directed the pilot.”

I spoke with MJ about Past Life.

On seeing her words brought to the small screen: “The last thing I expected when I wrote The Reincarnationist was that the book would go on to have a second life as a TV series but it sure fits the concept. Writers aren’t supposed to use cliches – but there’s no way to explain how thrilled I am than to say I’m over the moon. This is a such an amazing opportunity for my books to reach a wider audience – books that yes, are suspense, but are also about something that is emotional and has resonance.”

On casting and the crew: “I was at the shoot of the pilot in Baltimore in March and was so impressed. David Hudgins (Friday Night Lights) did such a terrific job of creating something that is at once unique and yet is true to the essence of the book. And with Deran Sarafian (House) directing. Everyone in the cast is superlative but I have to say to have one of the characters from my all time favorite TV shows – West Wing – play Malachai is just perfect casting. If you read the description of Malachai in the novel – it’s almost as if I wrote it thinking of Richard Schiff.”

For more on MJ Rose and The Reincarnationist, check out her official website.