Gabriel Luna in MATADOR - Season 1 | ©2014 El Rey

Gabriel Luna in MATADOR - Season 1 | ©2014 El Rey

In El Rey’s freshman series MATADOR, Tuesdays at 9 PM, Gabriel Luna stars as Tony Bravo, a DEA agent who is persuaded by the CIA to try out for the L.A. Riot, the soccer team owned by international criminal Andres Galan, played by Alfred Molina. To the surprise of both his handlers and Tony himself, the undercover agent becomes a sports sensation, which allows him to go ever deeper into Galan’s world.

Created by executive producers Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie, Roberto Orci and consulting producer Andrew Orci, MATADOR has already been picked up for a second season. Dworkin and Beattie serve as show runners, with El Rey founder Robert Rodriguez involved directly in the show, having directed the pilot.

At a Beverly Hilton Hotel rooftop party thrown by El Rey for the Television Critics Association, Dworkin (currently working on the SCREAM TV series; other writing/producing credits include the series REVENGE, THE EVENT, MERCY, CRIMINAL MINDS, COLD CASE and SURFACE) is happy to talk about working with soccer, spies and El Rey.

ASSIGNMENT X: How did you and Jay Beattie become involved in MATADOR?

DAN DWORKIN: [Roberto Orci] brought us into the project.

AX: Because he needed show runners?

DWORKIN: Yes.

AX: Were you and Jay Beattie writing together before this?

DWORKIN: We were. We were writing together for about twelve years, we had a relationship with Bob’s company [K/O Paper Products]. We never actually met Bob Orci, but the woman Heather Kadin who runs his company we were familiar with, we’ve talked with her about various projects over the years, they had this thing, they brought us in, she was like, “I want you to meet Bob,” he pitched a general notion of, here’s the idea, DEA agent goes undercover on a soccer team, he has to actually work for the CIA to root out the [bad guys], and we loved the idea because he pitched El Rey along with it, this notion of a network where we could kind of have this creative autonomy that we wanted. We said, “We want to go in there, we’re not going to make this a traditional spy thriller, we’re going to get edgy and violent and comedic and cool and sexy and do all this crazy s***.” He said, “Great, you’re hired,” and we came on and basically what we did, with his help, we took the general premise and blew it up, we added the peripheral characters, we gave it the texture, we added the mythology and we just mapped out the series in a way. We kind of came up with the notion and the pilot concept.

AX: So did you have to learn anything about either spycraft or soccer?

DWORKIN: Sure. I did. I was not – I’m a sports fan – basketball, football – I’d never been a huge soccer fan, but like any other project, I came into this and said, “I’ve got to learn everything about it,” and then became a fan. Now I have this MLS app on my AppleTV, which I tune into all the time, I go to MLS games, I watch World Cup, it’s great.

AX: Working on MATADOR, have you found anything that’s analogous between spycraft and soccer?

DWORKIN: That was kind of a thematic idea Bob had, early on, show how those two worlds can mesh, like how we learn from the soccer pitch – two fields, right? The field of spycraft and the field of play. And yeah, there are instances, like you have to learn to be cagey on the field in certain instances, and that can translate into, “Oh, my gosh, I can learn a lesson here and learn how to be cagey in whatever mission I’m doing.” So there’s some overlap there.

AX: But you don’t want to emphasize it too much?

DWORKIN: No, because we don’t want to make it too cute. I think by watching the pilot you can tell it’s not a “cute” show. We want to have a little more edge. So there’s a little bit of overlap, but no one’s learning a lesson every week or anything.

AX: How graphic does MATADOR get?

DWORKIN: It tends to get violent at certain points, but … I’m a huge horror movie fan. Like, that’s my genre of choice. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be doing some horror show. We just did an episode where there are some incredibly horrifying things that happen to a character, very graphic, using very cool practical special effects, and I literally got a still the other day – I said, “We should send this to Fangoria.” I used to read it, [Neil Hopkins] used to read it – we were total geeks. I was really into Freddy Krueger and Jason and all that. I didn’t have a subscription, but I would buy it off the rack.

NEIL HOPKINS: There’s an episode where something happens to me. So he was just saying there’s something that happens to my character that is FANGORIA-worthy.

DWORKIN: It totally is.

HOPKINS: I think it’s centerfold.

AX: Did the character of Andres Galan change at all when Alfred Molina was cast in the role?

DWORKIN: He did. We realized we wanted to start using him more, maybe. When you have that guy doing that role, you realize you have someone – I mean, I’ve worked on a lot of TV shows, and having an actor you know you can depend on to every day, every minute, every line bring it the way you want them, it’s invaluable. He’s an Oscar-caliber guy, so we knew we would want to beef up this role a little bit more, and it became a little bit more a two-person show instead of a one-person show. He’s not featured in the pilot very much, but as you watch the series, he will evolve into a much bigger character and it becomes really a kind of mano-a-mano thing.

AX: Galan comes off in the beginning as a kingpin, but we come to realize there are people he works for. Does he want to break free of his bosses?

DWORKIN: I will just say he has a nuanced situation, where what he at first appears to be may not be what he is.

AX: How is working for the El Rey Network? Do you primarily deal with Roberto Orci and don’t have to deal with script notes from the network?

DWORKIN: Pretty much. It’s pretty crazily ideal for somebody who considers himself a creative person. Having worked in broadcast network television my whole entire life to work in this environment – unbelievable.

AX: How would you say MATADOR compares/contrasts with El Rey’s earlier scripted series, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN?

DWORKIN: For our show – I watched FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, too, and again, I don’t know if it’s reflected in the pilot, but especially Episodes Two and Three, it’s much more of a slower burn, there’s kind of a sexy, romantic vibe to Two and Three, and then we shift gears for Four and Five. But we have, in some of the stories we’re telling, a lot more romance going on.

AX: Could do an El Rey Network FROM DUSK TILL DAWN/MATADOR crossover, where the Gecko brothers decide they’re going to steal the ticket money from an L.A. Riot game?

DWORKIN: Well, did you see the crossover in the [MATADOR] pilot? At the end of the pilot, at the party at Andres Galan’s house, Tony is crossing through the party, he and Annie [Nicky Whelan] separate, and he’s walking through and there’s cocktail table, and he kind of double-takes, and you see it’s the whole cast of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN at the cocktail table. It lasts about one-and-a-half seconds, and then he walks on. That was Robert [Rodriguez]’s doing. He basically called them up the day they were shooting that and said, “You guys want to pop by the party?” And that was it.

AX: Are you looking at any stunt casting later on, like maybe Quentin Tarantino showing up or something?

DWORKIN: I’d like for Quentin Tarantino to direct an episode. I wouldn’t mind for him to be in one. Sure. He can come by whenever he wants.

AX: Are you going to direct any?

DWORKIN: Not in the foreseeable future. But who knows? Maybe end of Season 2, something like that, maybe.

AX: Can you tease the story arc at all?

DWORKIN: For Season 2? See, I’m thinking ahead. Can I tease the arc? Yeah, I probably can. I will say that the layers of the mystery of where Tony actually comes from start to slowly get peeled back and the mystery of where his father really comes from, which again is something that’s barely touched on in the pilot, but as the season progresses, you’ll see that he’s having these recurring dreams about his father, and his father is really the whole reason he loves soccer. Meanwhile, Andres Galan will become a bigger and bigger threat, and [the organization] with which Andres Galan is involved will become a bigger threat and everything will come to a head and it will be crazy and everyone’s going to love it.

AX: And is there anything else you’d like to say about MATADOR right now?

DWORKIN: Well, one thing I think we might have touched on it, but the show is funny. That’s something I want to stress. That’s something Jay and I set out to do in our pitch is, “We’re not going to make this a straight spy thriller. We want to make it funny.” So it’s an edgy kind of funny, but there’s definitely a humor to it. The show doesn’t take itself seriously. That’s the only thing I would want to stress is, you’re not going to get a straight show.

Related: Exclusive Interview: Alfred Molina on El Rey’s MATADOR TV series

Related: Exclusive Interview: Gabriel Luna on Season 1 of El Rey’s MATADOR TV series

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Article: Exclusive Interview: Co-Creator Dan Dworkin chats Season 1 of El Rey’s MATADOR TV series

 

 

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