Arielle Kebbel as Officer Amelia Sach, Michael Imperioli as Detective Mike Sellitto in LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR  - Season 1 - "Russian Roulette" | ©2019 NBC/Peter Kramer

Arielle Kebbel as Officer Amelia Sach, Michael Imperioli as Detective Mike Sellitto in LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR – Season 1 – “Russian Roulette” | ©2019 NBC/Peter Kramer

NBC’s new Friday-night crime drama LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR is based primarily on the series of novels by Jeffery Deaver, and somewhat on the 1999 feature film adaptation of the first novel, THE BONE COLLECTOR.

In LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR, Russell Hornsby plays Rhyme, a former NYPD detective rendered quadriplegic by a serial killer known as the Bone Collector (Brian F. O’Byrne). When it seems the Bone Collector has resumed murdering people, the NYPD arranged for Rhyme to be a consultant on the case. Young detective Amelia Sachs (Arielle Kebbel) acts as his eyes and ears, courtesy of some high-tech gear that gives Rhyme a 360-degree view of crime scenes.

Michael Imperioli plays Detective Michael Selitto, an old friend who is Rhyme’s primary liaison to the police department. Imperioli rose to fame as mobster Christopher Moltisanti on THE SOPRANOS, for which he won an Emmy. The native New Yorker can currently be seen on the big screen in THE LAST FULL MEASURE.

Keshet Studios is one of the companies involved in making LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR. Keshet president Peter Traugott and executive vice-president and head of scripted content Rachel Kaplan are both executive producers on the series. Their joint credits with Keshet include the series DO NO HARM, THE BRAVE, and ABC’s upcoming comedy BAKER AND THE BEAUTY.

Kaplan and Traugott begin discussing how LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR came to NBC. Actor Imperioli joins the conversation partway through.

Russell Hornsby as Lincoln Rhyme in LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR - Season 1 - "Russian Roulette" | ©2019 NBC/Barbara Nitke

Russell Hornsby as Lincoln Rhyme in LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR – Season 1 – “Russian Roulette” | ©2019 NBC/Barbara Nitke

ASSIGNMENT X: How did you all get together to make this show?

PETER TRAUGOTT: Rachel and I work together, we’re colleagues, and it was one of our executives who works for us – it was five years ago, I think –

RACHEL KAPLAN: Five years ago. His name is Asher Landay, and he was a giant fan of the book series. And when we got to Universal, we knew that Universal had made THE BONE COLLECTOR movie feature, and we lobbied the feature department to try to convince them that a television series was a great idea. It took a little while to convince them, but they were incredibly supportive and wonderful, and they allowed us to find writers and get a script going.

AX: Did your LINCOLN RHYME show runner, Barry O’Brien, develop the series with you, or was that someone else?

TRAUGOTT: No, we worked with two writers named Mark Bianculli and VJ Boyd, who we initially developed and produced the pilot with.

AX: THE BONE COLLECTOR film starred Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. How did you come to cast Russell Hornsby? He’d played a police detective for six years on NBC’S GRIMM – did NBC in any way say, “Gee, we enjoyed him playing a detective for us on that, and …”?

TRAUGOTT: It’s funny –

KAPLAN: It was a very easy choice. We had seen THE HATE U GIVE (which earned Hornsby numerous best supporting actor awards], which was just fabulous, and he was so incredible. We hoped we had a pilot ordered [laughs], and I was desperate to get him. I’m not a huge that kind of genre person, so I didn’t know him that much from GRIMM. I knew him from THE HATE U GIVE, and I was desperate to do a show with him.

TRAUGOTT: Carrying any show is difficult, particularly a broadcast show, particularly one that could go twenty or so episodes, because it’s procedural, but also one that people have in the back of their minds Denzel Washington. I mean, how do you compete with that?

AX: With Arielle Kebbel, she has a superficial resemblance, especially in person, to Angelina Jolie. Was that any part of your decision?

KAPLAN: I don’t really think so. She really nailed both the vulnerability and the strength. It’s such a strange dichotomy, and I think that was very much the characteristic of that role.

AX: And in casting Michael Imperioli, did you have a feeling that people associate him with playing either a cop or a criminal, so they’re just going to feel that he’s correct in the show’s environment?

TRAUGOTT: I would say less that, and more that they associate him with great acting, and he’s iconic, really someone you want to watch in whatever he does.

KAPLAN: We were so lucky. We were like, “No way he’s going to – oh, yes!” [laughs]

AX: Were you looking to do this type of character right now, or did you particularly like this material?

MICHAEL IMPERIOLI: I take things as they come. I don’t design what roles I’m going to want to do or should do. I learned a long time ago it doesn’t really work that way [laughs]. But I got the script, read it, I was like, “I could do this without a doubt.” I liked the story, I liked the characters, I just felt an affinity for Selitto, and I was like, “I could do this.”

TRAUGOTT: And lucky for us. That’s a role that could just be like a tertiary role, but with Michael in it, there are so many great things the character is going to do over the course of the first season.

AX: Are you writing more towards the character of Selitto since casting Michael Imperioli?

TRAUGOTT: Absolutely, yes.

LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR - Season 1 Key Art | ©2019 NBC

LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR – Season 1 Key Art | ©2019 NBC

AX: Can you tease anything that you’ve particularly enjoyed doing as Selitto?

IMPERIOLI: There’s one episode where he deals with a case that he was involved with awhile back, that didn’t have a satisfactory conclusion for him. What I like about this is that the crimes that they’re investigating start to resonate and reverberate in terms of their past and their histories and stuff, and their emotional inner life. That’s fun.

AX: LINCOLN RHYME is set in New York. Are you shooting there?

TRAUGOTT: We’re technically in New Jersey. The stages are in New Jersey, but we go into New York [for some exteriors] on days out.

KAPLAN: We’re in Meadowlands, which is pretty spectacular. We are literally in the infrastructure of the hockey ring/sports arena.

IMPERIOLI: In that arena is our stage. I saw U2 there in 1983.

KAPLAN: I’m pretty sure I saw the Grateful Dead there in, I don’t know, it was maybe ’87.

AX: In the original novel and in the film, Lincoln Rhyme starts out as suicidal. He is irritable, but not at all suicidal in the series. Can you address that change in the character?

KAPLAN: It just felt like we had a lot of storylines to service in the pilot, and to properly fit suicidal tendencies into the storyline, it didn’t feel like we had enough room in forty-two minutes.

TRAUGOTT: In a feature, where it’s going to have a beginning, and a middle, and an ending, it’s one thing to arc that out, but in a TV show, we hope we’re going to be on for a long time.

KAPLAN: He was coercing a bunch of people to help him die, and that just felt like [too much], with trying to find the Bone Collector, and the Bone Collector coming back. We had a lot of different things that we wanted to do.

TRAUGOTT: Tell me if I’m wrong, but at the very beginning, I remember with Mark and VJ, I don’t remember if it was in the pitch, or in one of the early outlines, he was suffering a little bit more from that. Am I making that up? We kind of developed out of that.

KAPLAN: I don’t remember that.

AX: What would you all most like people to know about LINCOLN RHYME: THE HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR?

TRAUGOTT: I think it’s really entertaining. I think it’s a really, really fun ride every week.

KAPLAN: If you enjoy piecing together crimes that are being solved by sophisticated crime solvers who look at the reasons behind why crimes are happening in an unusual and unique way, this is a show for you.

IMPERIOLI: I think it combines the best of two other NBC shows, the kind of high-stakes out-of-the-box, intricate stories like on BLACKLIST with a very kind of street-smart, blue-collar, grounded, gritty New York vibe like SVU. I think to get both of those in one show is pretty cool.

This interview was conducted during NBC’s portion of the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with LINCOLN RHYME: HUNT FOR THE BONE COLLECTOR actor Michael Imperioli and executive producers Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan on Season 1

 

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