Robert Rodriguez had been approached many times to create a TV series based upon his and Quentin Tarantino's 1996 cult classic, "From Dusk Till Dawn."
"I said, 'No, Quentin and I control the rights to it,'" the writer-director-editor said. "We really wouldn't want to do it for television unless, you know, at least one of us was heavily involved and I didn't see myself getting into television at that time."
Remember the old saying, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself"? Well, add "TV executive" to Rodriguez's long list of accomplishments. Last fall, he founded El Rey Network, a Hispanic English-language network featuring programming with "universal themes and stories [but] you don't even realize you're watching something that's considered Hispanic."
He felt "From Dusk Till Dawn," with its built-in fan base and name recognition, would be perfect as the network's first original series to show people "what the network was about."
"From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" retells the story of bank-robbing brothers Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richard "Richie" Gecko (Zane Holtz), and their infamous night with Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez) and her vampire pals at a strip club. These characters were played in the movie by George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Salma Hayek, respectively.
"I added into the original movie things that I researched," he said of things that were just teased at in the film, "[like] Aztec cultures and mythologies and a blood cult that worships snakes."
Like the movie, the 10-episode series, premiering 8 p.m. March 11, takes place from dusk till dawn, Rodriguez said, but he went back to that original research to add new characters, details and supernatural twists to the story. Those characters will be played by cast members including Robert Patrick, Don Johnson, Wilmer Valderrama, Jesse Garcia, Madison Davenport, Brandon Soo Hoo and guest stars such as Adrianne Palicki, Lane Garrison and Jake Busey.
"It was just a lot of fun. Quentin writes the best characters, so to take those characters and expand on them ... was really, really exciting and fun," said Rodriguez, who directed the first, second and fourth episodes and wrote the first. "I think that's what drew a lot of our cast as well was just getting the chance to play Quentin Tarantino characters in a television series, which has never been done before."
Rodriguez answered more questions about the series, the upcoming film "Sin City 2" and his network during a recent conference call. (El Rey Network is available in Chicago at Comcast 139 and DirecTV 341. Got to elreynetwork.com to find info for your area.)
When we meet up with the vampires in the series, will they follow the same pattern that the film did in that they're going to be nasty customers?
They will be nasty customers, but it's a lot different than you expect. We got to really dive into the mythology that we're creating here and have some unique differences to what was there before. I think it's much more cohesive. And the makeup, [KNB] and Greg Nicotero, who do "The Walking Dead," they work with me on "Dusk Till Dawn." That was the first time we worked together. They've worked on all my movies.
But post-"Walking Dead," technology is just different than in the old days even the makeup effects level. Their work is just stellar. It really is huge difference between the first film and there's the quality difference in the makeup and it is freaky to shoot. I was really captivated myself and I was the one holding the camera and I'm the one directing. ... It was really awesome. So I think people will be really thrilled by the advances that have happened and all the effects around.
There's such a rich tradition, vampire-storytelling tradition in Hispanic culture. And the first film drew quite a bit on that. But it sounds like you're expanding on it and starting to embrace some of the other elements that a lot of people probably don't know about.
Yes. I've had that final image from the original "Dusk Till Dawn," that matte painting of the pyramid. I've had it in my office hanging on the wall at the studio all these years just, one, because it was a rare piece of art; but two, just seeing it all these years, it really has just been going through my mind it's something that I did want to go back and explore somehow.
Getting the chance to do it now, you want to go all the way and create this vampire myth based on my Aztec cultural things that I found and cults that I've found and really do it up right so that further seasons could come from it. So it was really about retelling the story in a way that really built the foundation for the following episodes in the last half of the season and all of the season to come.