With screenwriting credits that extend to film and television with titles like The Core (2003), Catwoman (2004), Transformers (2007), and Leverage (2008-2012), John Rogers has been firmly entrenched in telling stories for the movie medium. His latest work is developing the new T.V. series The Player for NBC.
Starring action superstar Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester from Strike Back, the show has a high-concept hook that brings back the episodic standalone structure of some favorite T.V. shows of the past. The Action Elite spoke with John Rogers at 2015’s San Diego Comic Con in the following interview:
How did you come up with the premise for The Player?
One of the producers of The Blacklist and I were saying that serialization is great and that having a conspiracy underneath is also great. But I miss the pulp ethos of the pulp novels where Doc Savage had a different adventure every book. You know? I miss that element where I don’t know what show I’m going to be watching every week. The thing about The X-Files was that I didn’t know what it was going to be about every week. Is it a monster, is it a U.F.O., is it a murder mystery? I miss that. We don’t have that show now. I was asked, “How do you get such a wide range of shows?” In one afternoon, we created the entire mythos of how the conspiracy in the show has been going on, and why the technology in the show is about 20 years in the future. It’s not super futuristic. There’s a big clue right in the middle of the pilot that gives you the way in. The pilot will reward you to pay attention. We want to make sure you have a great episode every week.
Talk about having Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester in this. It looks like it will have cinematic action in it.
It will have lots of big action and stunts. Having actors like Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester, who can do their own stunts, is super important. They have a fight scene in the middle of the pilot. Their stunt guys were off having coffee while they did their own stuff. Wesley is a real martial artist. When we first did one of the fights, the stunt coordinator came on and showed one of the stuntmen the moves. Wesley came in and the kid reached for him, and Wesley went bam, bam, bam! The whole crew flew back as the stunt kid went flying. He went down like a sack of hammers. Wesley said, “Yeah, we’ll do that one.” You can tell it’s Wesley and Philip doing their own stuff.
How did you come by casting Wesley Snipes?
The big thing is that we wanted this character to be menacing. He has quiet power. He puts on a suit and moves amongst the most powerful people in the world, but they’re all scared of him. Remember when Wesley Snipes was playing that badass in the 90’s? We should get someone like that. Someone was like, “You can just call Wesley Snipes.” What we didn’t know is that Wesley is a giant Blacklist fan. He loves the show. He’s been thinking about doing T.V. He bumped into James Spader in the airport one time, and was like, “Dude! I love your show!” When he found out that this is from The Blacklist partners and when he read the script, he liked the character. Maybe this character is the bad guy, maybe he’s the good guy. You don’t know. On alternating weeks, the viewers should not know. He’s not moral – he’s ethical. He has a very strict code of behavior and he firmly believes in his mission, even though his mission might be horrible.
How far ahead have you mapped out the show?
Oh, way out. As much as we say the premise is high concept, we didn’t go out to sell it unless we’d mapped out five years first. If you saw my previous show Leverage, the last scene in the last episode, I knew we were going to do that in year one. I know what the last scene of The Player is. How we get there, we will wander around a little, but basically the show is about power. The relationship to power – whether it can be contained or controlled, and what our responsibility is when we have power. That’s the moral center of the show. We must follow that all the way to the end.