An All-American family is taken hostage.
That’s the very short version of what Hostages is all about.
However, Toni Collette isn’t just playing the mother of this family. She’s a high-profile doctor with easy access to a President that some people (such as Dylan McDermott) want dead. So with her family taken hostage, will Collette’s Ellen Sanders actually kill the Commander-in-Chief, per the orders of her takes? And, if she doesn’t, what will happen to her captive family? And can this concept remain believable over 15 episodes?
I sat down with Executive Producer Rick Eid to talk about getting the intriguing new series off the ground; whether the bad are truly bad and the good are truly good; and whether the 15-episode order is a pro or con in this era of television...
TV Fanatic: Things start off pretty fast in the first moments so I'm curious from a creative standpoint, is that just because of the market place now? You can't just draw out a slow build to the story?
Rick Eid: I think there's a little bit of that. I mean you want it to come out with 'this is the show.' Give people a vision of concept, then again the title is Hostages, so you kind of know they are going be taken hostage at some point when the title is Hostages. I think we wanted to immediately establish this isn't a show a procedural about hostage negotiation.
So when we saw the family taken hostage you're like, 'Oh, that's not what I was expecting. They're a hostage. Great.' It has to work well, and be organic to the way we decided to tell the story. From a commercial point of view, there was definitely 'let's let the world see that this isn't a CBS procedural.'
TVF: I was watching the pilot and waiting for a little glimmer of, 'Okay, is the family even who we think they are?' Are there going to be secrets coming out about them? Is that a part of the show or should we pretty much expect that this is just a normal family?
RE: We're trying to keep the show as credible as possible, and real as possible. The trick with a conspiracy show is you can turn over every card, and he's in on it, and he's in on it, and… Godzilla! Before you know it, everybody in America is in on this conspiracy. You know? So we're trying to have limits, have integrity to the show and not just when you think this is a family, they're from Mars. [Laughs]
We're not trying to play into that stuff. So, there will be big twists and turns and there’ll be things we didn't see. It's fair to say that the family is as presented because we look at it as really as a family drama masquerading as a big geo-political thriller. That's really important to the show, it's the family dynamic and the relationships and their issues.
TVF: Would you call it a hybrid? Part thriller, part family drama?
RE: Yeah, it is a hybrid. It's not a suspenseful thriller. That’s first and foremost. It needs to be a tense, Hitchcockian, and psychological thriller, but the next layer of the show is clearly the relationships between the family members, the hostage takers, and the relationships develop between both of those groups.
TVF: I assume we're going to find more out about Carlisle, Dylan’s character, and then also the other hostage takers, but they all seem to have little bits that we are already interested in them. Is that definitely a part of what we'll see moving forward?
RE: Everybody's got their own storyline. Everybody's got their own thing, their own secrets. Yeah, they're all characters we're taking seriously as people, storylines that existed before this operation took place. The thing we always ask like, 'What were they doing the week before this thing happened? Before they get the call to kill the President, what were they doing?' We're definitely trying to explore that honestly.
TVF: How about with the President (James Naughton)? Do we actually get into his life, or is he just more the thing everybody is kind of jockeying against or for?
RE: You get to know more about the President. The President’s definitely part of the show, in a good way, in a very exciting way. That’s one twist we don't want to give away, but the president is integral to the show in that who he is and connects to everything. [TV Fanatic broke the casting news in July about the recasting of the First Lady, now played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio.]
TVF: Do we find that killing the President maybe isn't the only objective, or is that the clear objective for this group of hostage takers?
RE: Well, what we'll find out is that Dylan McDermott’s character, that there's a much bigger conspiracy going on than just Dylan, and that his motives for killing the president would be different than the people he's working for. So it's sort of like two people with the same objective, but for different reasons.
TVF: The bad guys don't really seem all that bad so it makes me think maybe the good people not that good...
RE: I think everybody is flawed. I've always looked at the show as it’s a show about a flawed family that's taken hostage, and that the fact that they’ve been taken hostage and they're put in this super stressful, extraordinary situation, it's a magnifying glass on those flaws. It forces them to deal with issues that would have been swept under the carpet had they not been taken hostage [and] some of the hostage takers, like the Dylan McDermott character, they're not monsters. You know, they are in fact trying to kill the president, so it's real. It's not bullshit.
TVF: With the fifteen episode order, assuming this does go season after season, do you think that fifteen episodes is the best thing for the show, or what happens if next year the network says, ‘Hey, the show did so well we want to do twenty two?’
RE: I'm a writer first, before being a producer. You’re like, 'We'll do forty two.' You know what I mean? Let's just do them. They're fun. You know, we'll find a way to do it. But I picked a show like this because you don't want it to ever tread water, and just given the time realities of conceiving the series' story lines, fifteen is good. Frankly, I think if it gets picked up it'll be more like eighteen. That would be my guess.â€¨
Hostages airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. Visit TV Fanatic as soon as tonight's premiere concludes for a detailed review.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.