Martin Gero created and is an executive producer on NBC’s BLINDSPOT, which begins its second season Wednesday, September 14. Last season, we were introduced to Jaimie Alexander’s character Jane Doe, an amnesiac covered neck to toes in elaborate tattoos, all interlinked but each with their own secret, hinting at a criminal activity that must be stopped. The most prominent tattoo spells out “Kurt Weller,” which happens to be the name of an FBI agent played by Sullivan Stapleton.
The producers promise that Jane Doe’s identity will be revealed almost immediately in Season 2 and that Archie Panjabi of THE GOOD WIFE is joining the regular cast.
Gero says that Season 2 of BLINDSPOT will allow new viewers to easily follow the story, without betraying the audience that’s followed the series thus far. “I think we’re viewing Season 2 as even more important than Season 1. Part of the reason that we went so hard after Archie, who obviously I’m a huge fan of, was that we wanted to bring new viewers in. We have a new time slot [8 PM], and we don’t want it to be the type of show where if you haven’t seen the first season and you start watching because we’re on early or because of Archie or Luke Mitchell or Michelle Hurd that it will be just as fun for you. We always say we want to reward our loyal viewers and not alienate our casual ones. Although the first episode is heavily mythology-based and catches people up a little bit, we will nestle back into a tattoo case of the week. I think the show does best when it has that balance of great mythology and great procedural action.”
AX: When you were creating BLINDSPOT, did you know what the conspiracy was and then go, “How do I convey this,” and come up with the tattoos, or did you think, “What if somebody was completely covered with tattoos and had lost their memory?”
MARTIN GERO: No, it started with that idea first, it started with the macro, and then once I thought, “Oh, this is a good idea,” then I had to get very specific about how to execute an idea like that, and not in a movie way, in a television series way, that we’d have enough story to really last us.
It’s hard to do a show like this, because you can’t just be willy-nilly with your cases of the week, because the cases that come off of her body have to have a specific meaning and a specific reason that it’s there. And so as you start to collect more and more information, as the episodes go on, they think they start to recognize a pattern as to what these tattoos are, and hope to divine some sort of meaning from what they’re getting to who could possibly have done this.
I’d wanted to do a mystery puzzle show for forever, and something that the audience can engage in, and get a sense – I love THE DA VINCI CODE and GOONIES and even NATIONAL TREASURE, that kind of fun adventure where you feel like you can go along and solve it along with the characters. And so it’s just really hard to do in TV. Honestly, I wish I had a better story for you, but just this image of the woman came to me, covered in a treasure map, and with an FBI agent’s name on her back, and I thought, “This is something. I’m going to aim towards this. We can figure this out.”
AX: Were you a fan of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO?
GERO: Oh, of course. It’s such a striking image, but to take it up a level and bring a greater meaning to the tattoos was something that was really exciting for us.
AX: Were you into tattoo culture before this?
GERO: I was an arm’s-length fan of tattoo culture. I’m not cool enough to have any tattoos – I’m one of those guys who’s so worried about how it’s going to age on my body, and whether an idea that I like will be cool five years from now.
AX: Are there other touchstones for BLINDSPOT, in terms of the style and the storytelling?
GERO: Well, for me, when you think of a network television show, you want something to be really pop, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stupid. One of the things that got me really excited, ironically, about doing this show was finally watching THE GOOD WIFE, which is such an extraordinary character drama, but it’s a perfect procedural as well. So to be able to build something that you’re like, “We could tell fascinating character drama over multiple episodes.” I’ve written shows that are just character dramas, and they reality is, by Episode Twelve, you’re kind of struggling. You’re like, “Well, everyone’s already slept with everybody, and everyone knows everyone’s secrets.” So to have this built-in urgency to the episodes, to augment the character relationships, it’s an exciting genre for storytelling.
And we really tried to do was really ground it in a Michael Mann/Paul Greengrass kind of vibe. [Pilot director] Mark Pellington has really brought so much to the visual style of the show, he’s this extraordinary director we were lucky to have. What we found in the testing [of the pilot] is, there was an occasional action beat where [viewers] were like, “Ah, that explosion’s too big or doesn’t feel real.” And we were like, “That doesn’t feel real, but the girl with the treasure map on her body feels real?” And they were like, “Yeah, that super-feels real.” So that was just a great note as we developed stories further, to keep it away from a DIE HARD feel and to put it more in the BOURNE area, where it just feels like all of the action and all of the storytelling should feel very grounded. The types of cases are very prescient to what everyone is experiencing right now, it has a ripped from the headlines type of feel.
AX: Once you hired Jaimie Alexander, what did you discover about her that made you even happier that she’s playing your lead?
GERO: Jaimie is just straight-up the most professional person I have worked with, ever. A lot of actresses, for instance, once having gone through a very arduous, excruciating process of doing a full-body prosthetic, would just be like, “Hey, never again! That was fun for the pilot, but please, let’s limit that to never.” And she was the opposite. She was like, “Hey, we should do this. It looks amazing.” I think it’s exciting to be part of something that could potentially become an iconic image. When we went to Comic-Con [in 2015], there were people cos-playing the show, and we hadn’t even aired. So obviously, it’s resonating with people, and I think she certainly knows what it’s like to be part of that as part of the Marvel Universe, but to have something original and hers is exciting for her. So she’s just very game.
AX: How is working with Greg Berlanti as one of your fellow executive producers?
GERO: There’s a reason Greg has six shows on television. He’s extraordinarily smart, it’s been an amazing process to work with him and have him really shepherd this massive production and I think this stuff is always binary. People are going to find it and love it, or they won’t. But we feel pretty confident that they will.
AX: What’s your pitch for having people watch BLINDSPOT?
GERO: Well, first of all, it’s great, with an extraordinary cast. [Everybody says that], but we mean it. And I think it will feel familiar in a way that’s not alienating, but unique and original in its own way that I think people get really excited about. At the end of the day, if you’re not connecting with the characters, the show’s not going to work. And I think the character stories we’re telling are extremely unique – the situation is very strange, but really beautiful and emotional, and on top of that, like I said earlier, it’s a procedural for people that don’t like procedurals, it’s a character drama for people that don’t like character dramas, and we just sprinkle a great amount of action on top.
This interview was conducted during NBC’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour.
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Article: Interview with BLINDSPOT creator Martin Gero