CBS describes their escapist summer series Blood & Treasure as “a globe-trotting action-adventure drama about a brilliant antiquities expert and a cunning art thief who team up to catch a ruthless terrorist who funds his attacks through stolen treasure.” The series is airing new episodes Tuesday nights at 10PM ET/PT throughout the summer on CBS, and it has been a highlight of this summer’s original programming on any network.
The show stars Matt Barr as Danny McNamara, a former FBI agent specializing in stolen arts and antiquities, who is paired with Lexi Vaziri (Sofia Pernas), a resourceful art thief who is haunted by the tragic loss of her father, which she blames on Danny. When terrorist Karim Farouk (Oded Fehr) absconds with a priceless artifact and kidnaps Danny’s mentor Dr. Ana Castillo (Alicia Copolla), Danny recruits Lexi to help him bring Farouk to justice and rescue Ana. As they chase down Farouk, they encounter unscrupulous individuals who may either be useful allies or dangerous enemies, including Aiden Shaw (Michael James Shaw), an arms dealer who acts solely in his self-interest, and Simon Hardwick (James Callis), an expert at procuring pilfered artifacts.
But that’s not all! Danny and Lexi are assisted by Father Chuck (Mark Gagliardi), a childhood friend of Danny’s who works at the Vatican Foreign Ministry in Rome. Their hunt draws the attention of Interpol agent Gwen Karlsson (Katia Winter), who wants Farouk brought to justice, but won’t allow Danny and Lexi to break international laws in the process. As they crisscross the world hunting their target, Danny and Lexi unexpectedly find themselves at the center of a 2,000-year-old battle for the cradle of civilization.
KSiteTV spoke with show creators and Executive Producers Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia (Limitless, Jericho, Human Target) for a taste of what audiences can expect from watching Blood & Treasure.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: Your show makes a good use of flashbacks to propel the current-day storyline. Was this always a part of the original design, and were there any flashbacks that didn’t end up making it to the screen?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: It was always part of the design. The treasure hunting genre is so much about how the past is never dead but how it continues to affect the present, so we knew the show would be steeped in not just world history but the history of our characters and how it propels them now. We knew we’d want to see that past on screen to feel it viscerally. It’s one thing to know Farouk killed Lexi’s father and destroyed her relationship with Danny, it’s another for the audience to be there when that moment happens and feel those emotions themselves. The plan was to have flashbacks in every episode—many of which we shot and had in cuts—but for a number of reasons we had to pare back on them.
Sometimes episodes were too long, sometimes it was pacing, etc. But we still have those scenes and they are still canon for the show so we’re hoping to get them out into the world one way or another eventually.
Both Danny and Lexi offer such different things to make for a perfect combo. Can you talk about what each character brings to the table?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: The moment Danny learns that his mentor was kidnapped and he is going to go save her, he knows he needs Lexi to do it. Danny is an antiquities expert who worked for the FBI—so he knows one half of the things he needs to know, but Lexi as a thief with underworld contacts has the other half. In his time in at the FBI, Danny made many contacts he can bring to the table, but he can’t get them into an underground art bazaar run by the Italian mob…only Lexi can do that. Danny can recognize a symbol in a former Nazi castle as important and a set of numbers as the death date of Cleopatra, Lexi can see that the symbol they are looking at is a combination lock and apply those numbers as the solution to it. The point for us is about showing how when they are working together, they can solve any problem between the two of them. When they work at cross-purposes they never succeed.
In doing a series like Blood & Treasure, did you speak with any experts in the field of antiquities to make sure the series would at least be a believable fiction?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: Yes, we had a consultant involved with the show and a researcher on staff (as well as a staff of very nerdy writers that brought their own research in). The production also had an Egyptologist to consult to get things right and sometimes that would slightly change the story we were telling…such as learning how Egyptian and Roman sarcophagi were constructed in layers that gave us a bit of a clue trail to follow so we could find pieces of it (such as the golden leopard in “The Secret of Macho Grande” episode) that would tell our characters they were on the right trail while still having more to find.
Were there television series and movies that inspired the kind of show that you wanted to make?
STEPHEN SCAIA: Being a “summer series” for CBS, Blood & Treasure was built to be a blockbuster squeezed into a TV. To us, that means: big, cinematic and fun for everyone. One of the greatest compliments is how entire families (kids, parents, grandparents) have all been watching our show together. We’re inspired by classic Amblin movies and old-school Cannell 80’s shows—but get to use a bigger palette to paint from. So, we’re always talking a LOT about Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, but there’s also plenty of Ocean’s 11 and Mission Impossible (and dozens of other references to beloved action/adventure movies from Die Hard to The Rocketeer).
Can you talk about what a continuing antagonist Farouk is in this series?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: The season will tell one complete story so one way or another the Farouk story will end at the end of the season.
STEPHEN SCAIA: The goal, in success, is that in subsequent seasons would have a new treasure, a new villain, and a whole new part of the world to explore—the same way Indiana Jones and James Bond do it. It’s a great big interesting world out there, and we hope to show different parts every season.
Is it difficult to sustain the same primary “bad guy” for an entire season?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: It was difficult. We were certainly afraid of exhausting the audience but we also knew that there are a lot of mini missions with their own bad guys and twists and turns along the way that hopefully keeps that from happening. And at the core of it is that Danny and Lexi can’t really ever talk about Farouk without in some way talking about their relationship as it was formed and destroyed the first time through the hunt for him. So it’s not just about repeating “We’ve got to stop this guy” a hundred times over 13 episodes but about how they each approach the hunt so differently, and can they work together or will it pull them apart? Hopefully the audience responds to that question as strongly if not more so than just will they stop Farouk.
Will we get to learn more about Aiden Shaw?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: What we love about Aiden Shaw, played so beautifully by Michael James Shaw who we worked with on Limitless is how many layers he brings to the character. How he can play both confidence and vulnerability simultaneously. It allows us to constantly unveil parts of Shaw while being able to continually surprise with him as well.
For those who are loving the show already, how important is it that they should watch the series live on Tuesday nights to ensure that the series gets a Season 2?
STEPHEN SCAIA: VERY important. For us, it’s EVERYTHING. CBS is still a network that’s driven (and paid for) by advertisers, so in order to secure a second season, our ratings need to be solid enough that CBS will stick by us because they know advertisers want to showcase their product during our hour every Tuesday night. The second window viewing (CBS.com, All Access & Amazon Prime) sure doesn’t hurt, but in order to get a green light in the time we need to make another awesome/cinematic season (which means the proper time to write, travel the world for production, edit) we need CBS to believe in us enough to order more B&T ASAP. So…if you dig season one and want more, please tell 2 million of your friends.
STEPHEN SCAIA: We believe so. But, as stated above, what matters most right now is NIGHT OF viewing.
This series has a phenomenal cast. What was your impression when you first started seeing dailies of the show?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: We all felt like we really had something. I was up in Montreal for the start of shooting and just seeing Matt and Sofia as Danny and Lexi for the first time, you just felt the *click*. Like, oh, this is really gonna work.
STEPHEN SCAIA: Agreed…and not just our leads, but we got lucky with our supporting cast, too. I mean, James Callis, Oded Fehr, John Larroquette, Alicia Coppola, Katia Winter…I realize I’m just naming actors at this point BUT THEY ALL RULE! Not to mention some pretty great guest appearances by Mark Valley, Patrick Sabongui, Rick Gomez, Anna Silk (okay, seriously, someone take the keyboard away from me…)
There’s been a lot of love for individual characters on Twitter. Can you talk about that?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: In the room, even before we had cast the characters, we had the sense that different parts of the audience would respond to different characters because they’re all very different flavors. I’ve been kind of surprised by the universal love of Chuck… WE loved him but I didn’t know if him being a religious figure would dampen the reaction for a segment of the audience. It’s also tricky because you only have each actor for a set amount of episodes…7, 10 or 13 out of 13 for them to be regulars. So you see a lot of “Where did Shaw go?” “Where is Reece?” And it’s nice to see people like a character enough to miss them but you also want to explain, we didn’t just forget to write this character in an episode—the thing was constructed to use the characters we had for the episodes we had them for. Only Danny and Lexi are in every episode.
You’ve currently got a Twitter contest going on to win a piece of Cleopatra’s tomb. Would you like to promote that?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: YES. People can retweet (not quote retweet—or it won’t be counted) this link: https://twitter.com/matthewfederman/status/1139619276782895104?s=20 to be entered.
How did you both begin working together?
STEPHEN SCAIA: Matthew and I met as PAs on “The West Wing,” where we shared a tiny office in a tiny trailer in a parking lot on the Warner Brothers lot. It was an incredible experience—not just because it’s one of the greatest TV dramas of all time, but because of how much we learned about making TV, even as PAs. We still use things we learned from that experience every day.
How has Blood & Treasure felt different from any series you have done before?
STEPHEN SCAIA: It’s the SCOPE of Blood & Treasure that makes it feel so different. Not only did we not shoot anywhere typical of a Broadcast TV drama (LA, NYC Toronto, Vancouver, etc.) we shot the show on THREE different continents and interesting/exciting cities all over the world: Montreal, Rome, Turin, The Alps, Venice, Marrakech, Tangier. We say all the time how it was as much an adventure making the show as the show itself.
How is Blood & Treasure different from anything else one might find on CBS?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: CBS defines their shows by Fall and Summer. Fall shows are what you think of when you think of CBS—generally procedurals, often crime related. But their Summer shows they talk about as being summer novels, big and fun and serialized, you can really play by a whole other set of rules. It really worked out for us because we initially sold it for fall but to their credit they asked us to redevelop it for Summer and it was the single most important decision of this entire process.
What made Kyle Newmaster the right choice for doing the Blood & Treasure score, and how does that score amplify the viewing experience?
STEPHEN SCAIA: Kyle and I met on a project a few years back that had a very similar vibe, but didn’t end up happening. But, like in the best of circumstances in this business, we became friends. So, when the opportunity came along for Blood & Treasure, Kyle was a perfect choice. We always wanted the show to sound like an adventure as well as look like one, so he’s been able to bring a really fun Williams-esque vibe to the series…along with his entire orchestra, which never ceases to be totally rad. It’s not every day you get to go to the same sound studio where they recorded scores for the Star Trek movies (and TNG!), Simpsons, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission Impossible…the list goes on and on.
What can you tease about Tuesday’s new episode “The Ghost Train of Sierra Perdida?”
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: One of my favorite moments of the show happens this Tuesday. I won’t say what but it’s a perfect Danny/Lexi moment.
STEPHEN SCAIA: Actually, I’m curious which one Matthew means…there’s TWO really great Danny/Lexi moments in this ep…hmm…
Is there a particular episode or sequence coming up that you’re really excited for people to see?
MATTHEW FEDERMAN: There’s so much I’m excited for people to see and I really think we land the end of the season, so I hope people can catch up to watch it live because there definitely will be spoilers out there.
STEPHEN SCAIA: Agreed. We really tried to make a show where each ep has something for everybody. I’ll tease one non-spoiling specific: lots of people internally on the show (producers, execs, actors, etc.) have already seen the final episode and ALL say the final scene of the season is their very favorite. And, if the rumors are true, there won’t be many dry eyes when it’s all done. Just sayin…
For those who haven’t checked the series yet, how would you sell the series to them?
STEPHEN SCAIA: Do you like things that are awesome?! Do you like smiling ear-to-ear for an hour each Tuesday night?! Then have WE got the show for you: Action, Adventure, Romance, Comedy and LOTS of explosions. Blood & Treasure Fever, CATCH IT! (not to be confused with the actual fever everyone from Blood & Treasure got in Morocco, which we’re pretty sure was some kind of pneumonia—can’t say we didn’t give 110% to entertain you!)
You can see a general trailer for Blood & Treasure below, followed by a promo for tonight’s show “The Ghost Train of Sierra Perdida!” Enjoy!