Coming soon to Channel 4, Hostages is a thrill-packed drama which looks set to appeal to fans of Homeland.
Like the hit spy-thriller, Hostages is a US remake of an already successful Israeli series. It stars Toni Collette as Dr. Ellen Sanders, a top surgeon in Washington, D.C. who has been called upon to operate on the President of the United States (James Naughton).
Masked men invade the Ellen’s the night before the operation and take her family hostage, threatening to harm them unless Ellen does as they ask – kill the President…
Stars Toni Collette & Dylan McDermott and Executive Producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Rick Eid discuss how they adapted the series and reveal what’s in store for audiences:
What’s the premise of the show?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Hostages is a character drama about a family that’s taken hostage and they have to lead their daily lives while they’re being hostages. The mother of the family, a doctor, is asked by the hostage takers to kill the President as she operates on him. It’s a very tense situation that plays out during the series. It’s very clever, there are a lot of twists and turns, and some shockers, and that’s what an audience loves. It’s what I love! And the characters really pull the viewers along with them.
Will there be action?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Definitely! Our name is synonymous with big adventure and there’ll be adventure and action in the series.
What attracted you to this particular role?
Dylan McDermott: I always respond to material. Whether it was “The Practice” or “American Horror Story” and certainly “Hostages,” the scripts were all spectacular. And I really responded to Jeffrey’s writing. I thought that he did an incredible job writing it. This character is very special. He walks the line between good and bad, somewhere in the grey area. I was instantly intrigued. You also don’t know where it’s all going – you think you know, but all of a sudden your mind is blown.
Toni Collette: When I first read the script, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a real page-turner that’s subtle and smart. The character of Ellen I found interesting in that through her experience of this hostage situation, she actually grows and finds her strength. I found that really exciting. One of the things that drew me to the script is that all of the characters are so complex and three dimensional and relatable and real. Nothing is just black and white and as an actor that’s what you want. It’s really interesting dealing with characters that seem real.
Dylan’s character has a reason for doing what he is doing, and a good reason at that, but is there the potential of the character becoming too sympathetic?
Rick Eid: He’s not too good. At the end of the day, he’s trying to kill the President. He’s a flawed guy. He’s doing something extraordinary and criminal for what he believes to be a really good reason. So I don’t think we run into an overly sympathetic character at all.
Dylan McDermott: Yeah. I think that I’m doing bad things for a good reason. Anytime you say that, you know that you are getting a mixed bag with a person. I think that there’s a lot of duality in this man..
Did you have to do a lot of special training?
Dylan McDermott: I met with the FBI in LA and we talked at length about everything, from dress code to terrorism. The FBI is really changing and I was really educated about it. I met with some really cool people that were really helpful.
The character of Ellen is a different person depending on whether she’s dealing with her family, the kidnappers, the President or the people at the hospital. How much was that a factor in your decision to take the role?
Toni Collette: I’m always drawn to characters that seem real, and by that, I mean complex. Here’s a woman who is wearing several different hats. She has a very highpressured job that she’s incredibly successful at. She’s a mum. She’s a wife. She’s somewhat compromised at home even though she’s successful at work.
And the thing that I really love about her the most is quite simple: I think here’s a woman who, in a way, has been toeing the line her whole life and she’s put in a situation which makes her walk straight across that line and figure out who she really is and discover her true self and I love that. I think it’s about finding one’s strength and living authentically.
What sort of flaws do you see in Ellen’s character?
Jeffrey Nachmanoff: I think it’s less about flaws than about the fact that a lot of people have secrets, things that we don’t know about them. We’re peeling back the layers of an onion, and as the series goes forward, we’re going to have a chance to peel back things from her past that will impact her storyline and will ultimately impact the relationships she has with both her family and with Duncan.
Rick Eid: And we explore the concept of the career woman. We’re trying to address all the complexities, in a realistic way, about a topnotch surgeon and some of the sacrifices she may have to make in her marriage and her family to accomplish her professional goals.
Toni Collette: The pressure that Ellen is put under is unbelievable. The stakes are incredibly high.
There’s a kind of understanding between Duncan and Ellen isn’t there?
Toni Collette: Yes. I loved the dynamic between Duncan and Ellen. It’s not overt, it’s a very subtle and strange understanding that grows unto something much stronger and more confusing. In a way, despite what he’s doing to her family, Duncan enables Ellen to grow and frees something up in her.
How will the characters grow through the series?
Jerry Bruckheimer: You’ll see the drama and changes in their lives playing out week to week. You’ll see when the daughter has problems with her boyfriend, the son had problems outside the school gates, the husband has situations in his life which are drawing him away from the family.
Not only the family, but the hostage takers too?
Jerry Bruckheimer: Sure. This is a character drama and we spend an enormous amount of time layering the characters, whether they’re on the good side or the bad side.
How much of the season was mapped out before you made the pilot?
Jeffrey Nachmanoff: It’s a purely serialized show, and because it’s 15, it’s a real gift to us because it lets you really shape an arc without having to stretch it out. You can really tell the story you want to tell just like it’s a novel. There’s a beginning, the middle and an end.
How closedended or openended are the 15 episodes? Presumably, we are not going to have the hostage situation in the living room at the end of 15 episodes?
Rick Eid: Well, the show is definitely openended in that, you know, one episode leads to the next, and we’ll see pretty quickly that the family is back to their “normal” lives. So they are back out into the world, but under close surveillance. It’s not a family trapped in a living room for the entire season. We always would remind people that it’s really a metaphor.
It’s not a show about people held hostage physically the entire time. It’s about how these people are held hostage to who they are, to the decisions they’ve made, to the situation they are in. This ordinary American family’s life has collided with a much bigger conspiracy, and that changes them all forever.
There’s a certain elegance in the concept, as you said, of the choice between becoming an assassin or your family being killed. Are you concerned about leading too early with this really strong, singular conflict?
Jeffrey Nachmanoff: Well, I think that it’s a cat and mouse story. I’ve always been a fan of Hitchcock films, suspense films.
The way I tried to make the series work is to give the audience that same feeling and that same suspense. Suspense is a little bit different from surprise in the sense that we are not making a horror film, but you feel on edge because you don’t know how it’s going to play out. You know what he wants. You know what she wants. The two things are on a collision track.
And what’s kind of fun and surprising is when you put a switcher in right before they collide. Every episode is another turn of this screw. Without giving away too much, the second episode picks up very much with the story how Ellen didn’t do what was asked of her. She chose Option C. She didn’t kill the President, and nor did she directly defy him. What is the fallout from that? What happens as a result of that, and what are the consequences?
And you are not concerned that there are only a certain number of times you can put that switcher in right before they collide before people say, “They are never going to collide…”?
Rick Eid: Our goal is not to point a bunch of guns we don’t fire. We are hoping the elegance of the conundrum that you point out is played out over the first season in a really acute, stressful, suspenseful way. We are not going to try to avoid the question. We are not going to shy away from the dilemma we threw out there.
The series is based on an Israeli concept. Can you talk about how it was changed or adapted from the original?
Jeffrey Nachmanoff: It was really done on parallel tracks from the point of inception, once we took the idea of the construct and the problem of the show. I think there’s been some crosspollination as well. There are some places where there is some crossover and some places where it completely diverges.
How will international audiences react to the show?
Dylan McDermott: One of the themes of the show is terrorism, and terrorism is on everyone’s mind. It taps into a global concern. There’s an emotional thread to the show that many people also have to deal with.
Have you ever worked with anyone else in the cast before?
Toni Collette: I haven’t, but it’s really incredibly how quickly actors relax with each other. It’s been really easy and fun on set. There’s been a lot of laughter, despite the content of the show.
TV is doing really well in comparison with movies right now, would you agree?
Toni Collette: Yeah, there’s such great writing in TV at the moment, especially for women.