Robert Rodriguez had been approached many times to create a TV series based upon his and Quentin Tarantino's 1996 cult classic, "From Dusk Till Dawn."
"I said, 'No, Quentin and I control the rights to it,'" the writer-director-editor said. "We really wouldn't want to do it for television unless, you know, at least one of us was heavily involved and I didn't see myself getting into television at that time."
Remember the old saying, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself"? Well, add "TV executive" to Rodriguez's long list of accomplishments. Last fall, he founded El Rey Network, a Hispanic English-language network featuring programming with "universal themes and stories [but] you don't even realize you're watching something that's considered Hispanic."
He felt "From Dusk Till Dawn," with its built-in fan base and name recognition, would be perfect as the network's first original series to show people "what the network was about."
"From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" retells the story of bank-robbing brothers Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richard "Richie" Gecko (Zane Holtz), and their infamous night with Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez) and her vampire pals at a strip club. These characters were played in the movie by George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Salma Hayek, respectively.
"I added into the original movie things that I researched," he said of things that were just teased at in the film, "[like] Aztec cultures and mythologies and a blood cult that worships snakes."
Like the movie, the 10-episode series, premiering 8 p.m. March 11, takes place from dusk till dawn, Rodriguez said, but he went back to that original research to add new characters, details and supernatural twists to the story. Those characters will be played by cast members including Robert Patrick, Don Johnson, Wilmer Valderrama, Jesse Garcia, Madison Davenport, Brandon Soo Hoo and guest stars such as Adrianne Palicki, Lane Garrison and Jake Busey.
"It was just a lot of fun. Quentin writes the best characters, so to take those characters and expand on them ... was really, really exciting and fun," said Rodriguez, who directed the first, second and fourth episodes and wrote the first. "I think that's what drew a lot of our cast as well was just getting the chance to play Quentin Tarantino characters in a television series, which has never been done before."
Rodriguez answered more questions about the series, the upcoming film "Sin City 2" and his network during a recent conference call. (El Rey Network is available in Chicago at Comcast 139 and DirecTV 341. Got to elreynetwork.com to find info for your area.)
When we meet up with the vampires in the series, will they follow the same pattern that the film did in that they're going to be nasty customers?
They will be nasty customers, but it's a lot different than you expect. We got to really dive into the mythology that we're creating here and have some unique differences to what was there before. I think it's much more cohesive. And the makeup, [KNB] and Greg Nicotero, who do "The Walking Dead," they work with me on "Dusk Till Dawn." That was the first time we worked together. They've worked on all my movies.
But post-"Walking Dead," technology is just different than in the old days even the makeup effects level. Their work is just stellar. It really is huge difference between the first film and there's the quality difference in the makeup and it is freaky to shoot. I was really captivated myself and I was the one holding the camera and I'm the one directing. ... It was really awesome. So I think people will be really thrilled by the advances that have happened and all the effects around.
There's such a rich tradition, vampire-storytelling tradition in Hispanic culture. And the first film drew quite a bit on that. But it sounds like you're expanding on it and starting to embrace some of the other elements that a lot of people probably don't know about.
Yes. I've had that final image from the original "Dusk Till Dawn," that matte painting of the pyramid. I've had it in my office hanging on the wall at the studio all these years just, one, because it was a rare piece of art; but two, just seeing it all these years, it really has just been going through my mind it's something that I did want to go back and explore somehow.
Getting the chance to do it now, you want to go all the way and create this vampire myth based on my Aztec cultural things that I found and cults that I've found and really do it up right so that further seasons could come from it. So it was really about retelling the story in a way that really built the foundation for the following episodes in the last half of the season and all of the season to come.
With "Sin City 2" coming out later this year and this television series, you're diving back into two previous properties. So what it's like, years later, looking at these films again?
Oh yes. I always forget that it's been that long since the last "Sin City." It's been almost 10 years. it still feels so fresh in my mind -- I guess since we were always kind of working on [the sequel].
"Dusk Till Dawn" was different. I never really thought that was going to come back as a television series. But I always knew I was going to make another "Sin City." So that was a little pressure in my mind as far as how we were going to approach it. I knew we would shoot it in 3D for instance. I knew we were going to adopt certain books and come up with new story lines.
But it was still a real thrill to go back into that world, to shoot on green screen again and have the actor -- the amazing thing was the actors. The actors were really great in the first film, but that was the first green-screen movie any of them had done. It was really new back then. Nobody was really shooting green-screen movies at all. That was one of the first ones. And they still did a fantastic job but this time they came back now knowing what the result was from the first film, now knowing what it was all about. And everybody just gave even better, more stellar performances. So it was really cool to see that difference from the first film to the second film.
"From Dusk Till Dawn" was just -- it's cool. I went back into my old archives, found original art work I had done back at the time, original drawings I'd forgotten about, dug up all my own notes, dug up old versions of the script. Found a bunch of handwritten script pages that Quentin had written that we never shot. It was kind of really awesome to go back into the archives and unearth some of the stuff we had dome back then that never made it into the film and dig into it and adopt it for this new version. So it's kind of cool going back.
The other thing that really hit me was when I was on the bar set which was a recreation of the original bar. That was like a time machine. There were several people in my crew that also worked on the original "Dusk Till Dawn" and it really felt like we had gone back in time. It was quite a jolt to be there again, doing it again in a different way, bringing all the experience that we've had since the first film in all these years and bringing that to enhance this new experience. It was pretty amazing. Most people don't get that experience in their careers.
If the show does well, what are the chances that you'll want to turn some of the other movie franchises into TV shows?
That could happen. The reason we chose "From Dusk Till Dawn" was because I didn't think it was good idea to do an original new show and premiere it on a new network. You know, a show no one has heard about on a network no one has heard about. I thought to really help us along better and get people to really know what El Rey was, we needed the first show to be a title that everyone recognized, that people would seek out because they were familiar with it.
The second show we do is "Matador" by Bob Orci, that's an original show. The third show I think might be also an original. We haven't quite decided or announced at all which one it will be. It's possible it could also be an adaption but I'm kind of into the idea of doing some more original work. And if we have more people watching the network by then, that's completely doable. We wouldn't have to adapt something.
Are you trying for the same demographic that you have back in '96 or are you trying for a new demographic or are you trying to mix both the demographics from the past and the present with the new series?
I don't remember what the demographic was originally, but audiences are definitely caught up to the kind of stuff that we love. I mean, with "Walking Dead" doing so well, it seemed like a perfect time to come back with something like "Dusk Till Dawn" because horror is hot right now and thrillers and special effects makeup and that thing that we've been doing way back then has now really hit its greatest popularity ever.
I always talk about that with Greg Nicotero and the guys that I created these makeups and movies with and how things have changed since when we started out and, you know, all changed for the better. So I'm curious to see how people because it's a great time to do it, probably better than any other time before.
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