With this reimagining of cult television show The Fugitive Emmy nominated executive producer Nick Santora has raised the bar again for Quibi. With concise dialogue, dynamic construction and solid performances it matches Most Dangerous Game across the board. Nick recently took time out to talk about his involvement, that casting and his experience this time round.
How important was the casting of The Fugitive for you in making it work?
I know I am misquoting him but believe Martin Scorsese said something along the lines of ‘casting is ninety percent of it’. Casting is huge. You can have the best script in the world but if you get the wrong actors, even if they are very talented actors, you’re not going to have a good product. Luckily we got all the right actors for The Fugitive. I have never been happier in respect to a cast and they all embodied these roles beautifully. We brought in some incredible actors playing parts which audiences might not have seen them do before, like Glen Howerton from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia coming in to be a grizzled news reporter. Or a perfect actor for the role in the case of Tiya Sircar, where I actually wrote that role for her from only having watched her in The Good Place. From the leads Kiefer Sutherland and Boyd Holbrook to Brian Geraghty playing our bad guy, we just got phenomenal actors across the board on this thing.
Speaking more broadly in terms of Kiefer and his contribution, what do you think he brought to the project bearing in mind his extensive experience?
I think when people see that Kiefer Sutherland is attached to a project that piece of work automatically gets an air of credibility. They know it will be a quality project because he is not known for signing on to be a part of just anything. He has earned the right to be choosy about what he decides to do, while someone likes Boyd Holbrook brings with him a hundred percent professionalism every day. I have an expression, if you have a show or movie called ‘the’ something and there is one person playing that something, you better cast an actor who is not going to be difficult. Someone who shows up on time, knows their lines and has a positive attitude which is exactly what Boyd Holbrook brought with him daily. He crushed the role so we really batted one thousand when it came to our casting on this thing.
From your point of view how did the story lend itself to this particular platform or format?
If there is ever a story which suits the Quibi format of seven to ten minute episodes The Fugitive is it. There is cliff hanger after cliff hanger, stressful ending after stressful ending. You have an innocent person who has committed no crime being chased by someone who is convinced that this man is a murder. It is almost impossible not to come up with fifteen cliff hangers in such a scenario.
Looking at it from a more thematic point of view, do you think this story taps into our current situation in terms of global paranoia or misinformation?
Truth is I wish I was able to channel current events, political preoccupations or the general mood of people into my work. Unfortunately I am just not that guy and just try to write stuff which is exciting. By the way all this was written a year before the pandemic, so if people look at this and say ‘you can’t trust the media because of this, or you can’t trust the media because of that’ it is completely coincidental. I just don’t put any type of sub-text into my writing, because frankly there is a part of me which knows I couldn’t pull it off.
Dialogue in The Fugitive carefully covers back story, reveals character and doubles as exposition. Considering those elements how do you keep it so organic?
I absolutely loathe non-organic expositional dialogue and think that fans in whatever medium do as well. When you have a scene where a brother and sister say ‘Look, you know dad. Ever since the plant shut down he’s never been the same, which is why he’s been so depressed lately.’ No sibling has ever said that to another sibling in the history of their life. I hate that stuff and it drives me crazy. So I just work really hard to make the words these actors say sound as honest as they can. But the truth is when you have a short period of time, like seven to ten minutes, to get certain information out it might not always be perfect. However, I apply myself completely and have gotten very good at what I call ‘hiding the medicine in the sugar’. By which I mean putting the exposition into a fun scene so you won’t taste the medicine going down.
What lessons did you apply to The Fugitive that you learned on the Emmy nominated first outing Most Dangerous Game?
That’s funny because they were both made simultaneously, so I wasn’t able to learn anything from the first one. I was frankly making the same mistakes on both of them. It was a crazy six month period, where I literally had both of these things in production at the same time.
So the question would be how did you juggle both projects?
Well you’re in Canada and then you’re on a plane. Then you’re in Los Angeles and then you’re in a production meeting on one before having another meeting about another. Truth is there are people who are way more talented than I will ever be, so if you get the right people in front and behind the camera which I did on both, getting involved any more than necessary would only have messed things up. I like to trust my line producers and my department heads who do their jobs and always do them well.
How did the collaborative process between yourself and director Stephen Hopkins work on this particular project?
It worked quite well. For example, Stephen wanted to rehearsal some of the bigger more emotional scenes in the script. We gathered some of the actors together round a table in a room and they performed the scene. I am not a writer who believes every word I write is sacrosanct, so during this process I was able to ask these actors to just play certain lines rather than say them because I knew the scene would be better. We had a really good couple of sessions doing that and that was all because Stephen wanted to work that way. Personally I love that stuff because I think it only makes the work better and allows actors to get comfortable with their scenes. So it was quite collaborative and a pleasurable experience.
What is the defining structural decision you made story wise which separates this other previous versions?
The main difference is that Doctor Richard Kemble is not in this. It’s a completely different fugitive and where he was an extremely successful person, Mike Ferro in this version is a former convict who is financially struggling. He has stranded relationships within his family and has lost some to tragedy and we begin this with him feeling in the dumps, rather than on top of the world. I thought it would be interesting to have a person like that in this situation where he is wrongfully accused of something he didn’t do.
If you could offer one piece of screenwriting advice to anybody what would it be?
Write every day. I know a lot of people who talk about writing but the successful writers I know are constantly doing it. I write every single day.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to Flickering Myth today and take care.
The Fugitive is available on Quibi from August 3rd. Read our review here.