Wesley Snipes has long been acclaimed as a big-screen actor in the realms of drama (THE WATERDANCE, JUNGLE FEVER, BROOKLYN’S FINEST), comedy (TO WONG FOO THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, JULIE NEWMAR, WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP) and action (the BLADE trilogy, PASSENGER 57). However, Snipes hasn’t been a series regular on television since 1990’s H.E.L.P.
Now Snipes is back as star and producer on NBC’s THE PLAYER, Thursdays at 10 PM. The Florida-born actor plays the enigmatic Mr. Johnson, who oversees a Vegas-centered gambling competition in which a player – the current one is Alex Kane, played by Philip Winchester – is sent to stop criminals, with high-stakes bets placed on the outcome. The series is the creation of John Fox, who also produces THE BLACKLIST, and John Rogers, whose work includes LEVERAGE and THE LIBRARIANS.
As THE PLAYER relies in large part on unwrapping its characters’ mysteries, Snipes doesn’t want to spill spoilers, but he says what he can about his new TV game.
ASSIGNMENT X: What can you tell us about THE PLAYER?
WESLEY SNIPES: It’s the best show on television. It’s amazing. It’s a high-concept action drama with great conspiracies, unpredictable plot twists, great action and plots.
AX: Had you been looking to do television before this came up?
SNIPES: It wasn’t really on the trajectory. From a producing perspective, yes, but not as an actor. I hadn’t considered it seriously, but a couple of things had been happening, a couple of projects came close that were very interesting. I saw what happened with a good buddy of mine who was on TRUE DETECTIVE, and he talked about that experience and said that it was wonderful, that I should explore it and give it a try, so as an artist who desires to work in every medium, to have the experience of every medium, I decided to go for it.
AX: How are you finding the experience?
SNIPES: So far, so good. The scripts are interesting. I marvel at the process and the talent that these people have.
AX: In the first episode, Mr. Johnson demonstrates that he can physically subdue the Player, Alex Kane. Did you have to learn anything, or at least bone up on anything you already knew, in order to do the fight scenes?
SNIPES: We added some new things, some new flavors, so we pick up on skills and we see if we can apply those skills to the show to make it intriguing and not cliché. All of the fight choreography and the fight development is important, because the stuff that we do is in some ways kind of realistic, and we move with the kind of energy that one could get injured very quickly, very badly if you don’t practice and prepare.
AX: How much of THE PLAYER existed before you came on board?
SNIPES: The script was already written. I think my character was written as a sixty-some-year-old guy, real different from me [laughs].
AX: So he became younger and more athletic?
SNIPES: He became African-American. That was a big switch.
AX: Well, he could be a sixty-something-year-old African-American …
SNIPES: But not Mr. Johnson. They spiced it up and then they took into consideration that I’m not only a dramatic actor, but I’m also a physical actor and I have the ability to do martial arts, so they added those elements to the role.
AX: Will we see you with a sword at any point?
SNIPES: Oh, yeah, at some point, yes. We’re going to do blade work, we’re going to do hand to hand, we’re going to do some weapons, other weapons, we’ll be all over the place.
AX: As a producer, is your input mostly on the writing?
SNIPES: The real professionals are carrying the heaviest load. I come in when it comes to the action side of it. That’s where maybe you hear my voice the loudest.
AX: What other projects do you have that we should know about?
SNIPES: I have a very interesting television project that we’re very close to locking in and we have two feature films. One is titled ARSON.
AX: What would you most like people to know about THE PLAYER?
SNIPES: It’s fun, intriguing, it’s on Thursday nights after THE BLACKLIST, it’s from the same team of producers, and get ready for a nice ride.
This interview was conducted at NBC’s party for the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
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Article: Exclusive Interview: Wesley Snipes on THE PLAYER