This is why Kung Fu training montages are vital

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A little over a year ago now, we first spoke with the lovely Deanna Russo. At the time she was still filming what was to be the two hour pilot that aired on February 17, 2008. Since then the character of Sarah Gramien went from being a Professor at Stanford University, to a top secret ass kicking agent, to redeeming the wrongs of her fathers past by heading the rebirth of the Foundation for Law and Government. It takes a talented actress like Deanna to be able to adjust to these constantly changing roles of her character and make it appear as natural as she does.

We were thrilled to catch up with Ms. Russo again on her insight on the series thus far, hopes for the future, and what she's been up to during the hiatus.

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KRO: When we spoke with you last, it was before the series had premiered. Now that we are 15 episodes in, do you have a favorite episode?

RUSSO: My favorite episode happened to be the second one we filmed, but it aired as 9th in order, 'Knight Fever.' I loved this one because I nailed that bar fight scene. I did it about a dozen times in front of a room full of extras (which always makes me nervous) and never flubbed once. I was also wearing platform wedges which made me eight feet taller. It's a miracle I didn't injure anyone else or myself. Ask anyone, I'm a notorious klutz. This was no easy feat.

KRO: Has it been hard to form a relationship with KITT and act like its a person?

RUSSO: Not at all. KITT has a strong presence where ever he is. Don't tell my Garmin this, but frankly I think my GPS is boring. Once you go KITT, you never go back.

KRO: Do you think the switch from professor (in the pilot movie) to badass (in the series) was too quick for fans to take?

RUSSO: This is why Kung Fu training montages are vital plot points. I begged for one.

KRO: Can you please describe your takedown of anyone who doubts your ability to kick ass?

RUSSO: I grew up with two older football playing brothers. One is also a black belt in Karate. I had to learn to defend myself at an early age. In fact, it took a long time for me to be comfortable around other people making quick motions near me. I was never afraid of a mosh pit. My reflex would be to break someone's arm, but now I'm less aggressive.

As for how it appears on TV, fights have to be choreographed in a specific way that is good for camera. This means, the moves I would use in real life to fight someone bigger than me are difficult to film. Those particular moves are too close to the body and are mostly in the elbows. The camera needs big sweeping motions of hands and feet. In the episode, "Fight Knight", there are a lot of high kicks to the head. That would NEVER happen in real life. It'd be too easy to grab the foot and break their leg. Street fighters never kick, and if they do it would only be below the knee.

I would never take down anyone for talking smack to me. My father always taught me to wait until they push first. Then, I'd let them have it. That way, whatever damage I'd do would be considered self-defense.

KRO: Do you think the series objectified women too much early on?

RUSSO: Gary (Gary Scott Thompson - Showrunner and Executive Producer) would always poke fun at me and say, "Watch it or next episode you'll be in a bikini!" Gary always wanted the women on the show to look their best, and if that meant bigger hair and less clothing, then that's what would happen. I didn't feel it was ever objectification, more of a celebration of femininity. I can only think of one instance where I disagreed with the intention of a scene. They were going to have me under KITT's chassis, winding a nut until he'd shoot oil on my face by accident. I had two problems with this. First, the sexual innuendo was palpable and in my opinion tasteless, and second, KITT would never let any fluid secrete onto Sarah. They are more like brother and sister than anything else. Gary completely respected my concern and removed it from the script.

KRO: Has there been any improvisations to the episodes while shooting?

RUSSO: Justin and I are always messing with each other on set. In one scene, he stops KITT, opens the door, aims behind him and shoots a guy. I say, "That is such a turn on." That was probably my favorite ad lib. Paul is also constantly slipping in clever jokes. It's hard not to laugh when he's around.

KRO: Anything cut from airing that you miss?

RUSSO: There was a scene between Zoe and Sarah where I walk into her podroom, and she's blasting triphop. She says how she finds it incredibly relaxing. I always thought it was hilarious.

KRO: How was filming in Hawaii?

RUSSO: Honestly? It was miserable. I know, I shouldn't complain because Hawaii is paradise, but I had an awful allergic reaction around my eyes the whole time. They itched so bad I was close to gouging them out of my skull. I had to down both Benedryl and coffee to function. The best part was working with the same crew that works on LOST. I'm a freaky fan of that show, so I was beside myself. I skipped lunch one day just so I could go walk around the set of LOST. I got to touch Dharma cans of food! It was awesome.

KRO: Is it like working on a different show after the reboot?

RUSSO: It certainly felt like a different show after Bruce and Sydney left. They were such a huge part of the Two Hour Pilot that to move on without them felt wrong.

KRO: How do you feel about Sarah being in command?

RUSSO: It's a great change of pace for me. It was a nice break at first to be deemed boss and calling the shots from the KITT Cave. But then, after a couple episodes of that, I really missed shooting on location with Justin and our crew. We put so many hours in together, we became instant family. So when I was written out of the missions, it felt like I moved away from home

KRO: Where do you see your character next season?

RUSSO: I would like to see more conflict between Sarah and Mike. Now that she's essentially his boss, and still is ex-lover, I would imagine that would make for a strained work environment. KITT would be almost a child of divorce, listening to both sides bicker about each other. I would love to see Sarah exercise a little jealousy when Mike finally moves on and possibly meets someone new. Maybe Sarah meets someone but he turns out to be a government operative. Everyone's character development could explore a little more depth in the second season. I want to see where Billy lives, for example. I'm guessing it's with his mom.

KRO: If you had the kind of money that is in the FLAG account now, what is the first thing you would buy with it?

RUSSO: Wow. If I, me, Deanna Russo, inherited Charles Graiman's estate, what would I buy with it?? Honestly, I'd be compelled to put it all towards top of the line health care for all. Not to get political, but I believe a person's health is a right and not a privilege. Then, I'd get myself a pony.

KRO: Have you been to set/filmed anything for the series since the wrap?

RUSSO: I go in about once a week to re-record some dialogue that was bad for sound when we filmed. It's a nice little reunion seeing everybody. But we only have so many episodes left to finish in post-production.

KRO: Have you ever met Val Kilmer?

RUSSO: I did meet Val. I think I'm the only one in the cast who has. I caught him in passing on my way to re-record some dialogue. We didn't introduce each other. Instead, we shook hands and nodded at each other knowingly. That was about the extent of my Val Kilmer experience. I feel honored.

KRO: What are you doing with your down time?

RUSSO: I am going to Afghanistan on a USO tour to visit the troops. I'm also reconnecting with everyone I haven't seen all year, because when Knight Rider began everything stopped. It's nice to get back into writing, too. I'm pitching an episode to the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, hopefully they'll dig it. I really want to work with those guys.

KRO: Do you own a Mustang?

RUSSO: I do not! Justin does, though. He's been driving it since we wrapped because he misses KITT. Last time I saw him, he gave me a ride around the block for old times. It was a nice gesture, but it wasn't the same without John Bridell (the on-set voice of KITT) talking to us from the back seat.

KRO: Did you used to have a MySpace account?

RUSSO: I did have a MySpace account, but my friends (people I really hang out with) would post things on my page saying, "Hey! LVD is playing tonight! You better be there!" They didn't realize that some creepsters would be reading it and go to the LVD show to find me. I liked MySpace because I was able to stay in touch with people I didn't live near, but for my own security I shut it down. I do have a Facebook page, but I only add people I really know so I can try to avoid what happened with MySpace. I'm really sorry if I've ignored people's request, but I'm sure they'd understand if they knew why.

KRO: Have you heard anything about maybe being moved to a different network or going to more of a movie of the week format?

RUSSO: It's funny being the star of a TV show. I may be the face people recognize, but I'm the last one the network informs about any changes. They really do keep up in the dark. Any information I may or may not have heard is purely speculation at this point. I've learned that anything is possible in this business and not to believe rumors until it's already happened. The suspense is KILLING me, too, but we'll all know something soon enough.

KRO: If you could take one of KITTs features for your own car, what would it be?

RUSSO: I would really like my car to drive itself most of the time.

KRO: If you could add one feature to KITT, what would it be?

RUSSO: Maybe more cupholders.

KRO: A year has passed since the pilot movie first aired in February 17, 2008 - any reflections on the experience?

RUSSO: I have to say I've learned a lot about the magic of television. I really had no idea how much dedication it took from so many different departments just to get one show off the ground. I wish hard work was a direct correlation to success, but unfortunately that's not how the rules are written here. Knight Rider was the best thing that ever happened to me. If we aren't renewed, I'm really gonna miss it."

We would miss it too, specifically the relationships that we have built over the last year. I have never met a cast and crew so open and friendly to the fans and it's been a pleasure covering Knight Rider with them. To echo Deanna, if their passion for the project was a direct correlation to success, they should have many years to come.

More about Deanna can be found at her official website at deannarusso.com.

Be sure to visit our Second Season Campaign page to find out ways how you can tell NBC that Knight Rider deserves a second season.

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