WHISKEY CAVALIER: Bill Lawrence on Embracing a Lighter Drama Series - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

WHISKEY CAVALIER: Bill Lawrence on Embracing a Lighter Drama Series

February 27, 2019 by  

Whiskey Cavalier

WHISKEY CAVALIER – “Pilot” – Following an emotional breakup, tough but tender FBI super-agent Will Chase (code name: “Whiskey Cavalier”) is assigned to work with badass CIA operative Frankie Trowbridge (code name: “Fiery Tribune”). Together, they must lead an inter-agency team of flawed, funny and heroic spies who periodically save the world – and each other – while navigating the rocky roads of friendship, romance and office politics, on the season premiere of “Whiskey Cavalier,” airing WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Larry D. Horricks)

After a post-Oscars debut, WHISKEY CAVALIER has its official series premiere on ABC on Wednesday, February 27.

The series follows FBI agent Will Chase (Scott Foley)—whose code name is Whiskey Cavalier—and CIA operative Frankie Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan), an unlikely duo who are assigned to work together and lead-up a inter-agency task force. As they save the world, the duo form a reluctant partnership. The Dave Hemingson-created series is charming, funny, and leads Foley and Cohan have electric chemistry.

WHISKEY CAVALIER executive producer Bill Lawrence—whose television credits include creating/co-creating SCRUBS, COUGAR TOWN, SPIN CITY—talks about working on a different kind of (fun!) show, balancing will they/won’t they, and more…

What appeals to you about the genre and working on this show?
Scott Foley has been all of my shows, he’s a buddy of mine. We started in the business at the same time. My favorite thing about Scott, still, is that no matter what Instagram post he puts up, someone always [comments], “Nobody cares, Sean.”

Including WHISKEY CAVALIER director Zach Braff.
 “Nobody cares, Sean! Nobody cares.” We always shot the s—. The thing I hate about jaded television people is the ones who won’t admit they love TV. Scott and I still love it. We loved MOONLIGHTING, we both watched HART TO HART when we were kids. We talked about episodes today!

Not a lot of people saw this, but we were doing a weird comedy, UNDATEABLE, that was live. Scott used to drive by our set after SCANDAL, unannounced, and if he showed up, he’d literally walk on set. Half of those appearances were unscripted and unplanned; we’d just do it as we’d go. And he loves comedy. So when SCANDAL was ending, he was desperate to do a romantic comedy. And his other skill set is these action things; he had been holding a gun for a long time. And not only are we not seeing this stuff on TV, but they’re not making these movies anymore, which really bums me out. Make more KNIGHT AND DAY types of movies. That was really the catalyst.

I can find plenty of TV that bums me out. And I like a lot of it. Serial killer? Sign me up. But there aren’t a lot of popcorn, good time, have fun, watch people banter, romantic comedies. It’s just not on the air right now.

On your past shows, you’ve done a more traditional will they/won’t they (with SCRUBS) and went against the grain more recently with COUGAR TOWN. How are the writers intending to handle this pairing?
I view it as less of a “will they/won’t they” because I feel like our prototype, MOONLIGHTING, those shows end when they get together. You’re also talking Scott Foley, who had FELICITY, who is like, I’m more interested in the ensemble and I’m having fun with this crew and keeping that low-level romantic comedy stuff under the surface. I think it’ll be a back and forth unrequited romance for a few years; it’ll be more traditional that way.

Even a few seasons ago, shows could get away with keeping characters apart for the majority of the series. But more, in recent years, the trend has been to get these kinds of couples together sooner versus later. How has that shift in the landscape impacted how you might tell this story?
We’ve thought about it a lot. If you’re going to keep leads apart, you have to do meaningful relationships with those leads and other actors and actresses, who aren’t just played as plot points; people get invested. Sometimes that’s very doable. We had a lot of success with Scott Foley and Sarah Chalke, and Zach Braff and Elizabeth Banks [on SCRUBS]. But you have to service an actor or actress as something more than a plot device so audiences give a s—. Otherwise, you can’t wait as long. They can go to the two-season, ten episode version of this and fast forward to when the couple gets together.

But one of the fun things about this show is that you can play with tropes of the genre like going undercover as a couple, etc. How has that been worked into the first season?
It’s such a blast. I can honestly say I would watch this show. It’s fun. We’re using all the tropes, we’re being as sexy as we can. We’re blowing stuff up. It’s a weird genre piece, because it’s not a typical network show. It’s as throwbacky as you can come, in some ways. We’re playing with all those things.

What can you tease about the overall arc of the first season?
The first season, the most important thing is not only building a relationship between Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan’s characters and having that romantic chemistry, but if you’re not going to [immediately] deliver [a relationship], you have to assemble an ensemble, and one where there is a requited romance within that. Conflict, character issues. We’re trying to do a fairly episodic show with some serialized stuff, emotionally, for the characters. We got really lucky that the ensemble has the clout and have all starred in their own shows. Josh Hopkins and Ana Ortiz, I’d watch their chemistry throughout the year. That’s a love-hate thing we can play games with. Watching young Tyler [James Williams] maybe or maybe not kiss Scott Foley’s real wife has been funny for me.

Is your real wife, Christa Miller, kissing anyone on the show?
My real wife is not. She said, “It’s the first show you put me on that I haven’t been in bed with someone else we work with.”

Is there room for her character to return in a potential season 2?
Yeah. I’m not good at being away from my family.

On that note, the show was filmed on location—most of it in Prague, but using other aspects of Europe when needed. How did that impact what you were able to do in season 1?
You’ve been around me enough to know I’ve taken some swings that don’t work. Network TV is an interesting monster right now, with a dwindling audience. Streaming shows are much easier, because all they go is, “Hey! Is this going to appeal to a small subsection of people who are going to be passionate about it? If so, here’s your money.”

On network TV, you’re still trying to find you way in. One of the ways we first pitched this show was, one of the ways you guys are getting your asses kicked is in dramas, because you can’t go to Tokyo, show a stock shot, and then be inside a room with a bunch of Asian extras from Los Angeles. I said, “If we can make it cost effective, we’re going to have these guys racing down in speed boats in London, running by the Eiffel Tower, snow-skiing in Austria, and doing that stuff.”

I hope, in a way, even if it’s subtext, people will realize we’re doing something cool; it’ll seem fun…this pilot, one of the cool satisfying things, people we have showed it to in screening audiences have been like, “Wow, did they really do that?” It’s been an experience I haven’t had in TV.

WHISKEY CAVALIER, Official Series Premiere, Wednesday, February 27, 10/9c, ABC


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