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April 17, 2020
Online Originals

Paradise Found, Almost

For Dean Devlin and Christian Kane, a long collaboration has led to, well, Almost Paradise.

Melissa Byers

The entertainment industry is full of legendary pairings.

John Huston and Humphrey Bogart. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Dean Devlin and Christian Kane.

Devlin and Kane have worked together on three television series: Leverage, The Librarians, and now, Almost Paradise.

So, why does this partnership work? At first, Devlin says, "I hate castings. So I go, 'Yeah, just let Kane do it.'"

Then he turns serious and says, "The truth is we've developed a real relationship, creatively. We have such a shortcut now that if I'm on set, I don't even have to finish my notes to him. I'll start it, and he goes, 'yeah, yeah, I know. I know what you're going to say.'

Dean Devlin: There's this comfort that we have working with each other. There's a trust we have and the character that Kane and I created this year, it does a lot of things that Kane has never done on screen before.

"There's this comfort that we have working with each other. There's a trust we have and the character that Kane and I created this year, it does a lot of things that Kane has never done on screen before.

"And I ask a lot of him as an actor, as an artist and I think Kane trusts me that when I do push him, I push him from a place of camaraderie. That I know the sweet spot, but I also know that he could do more if I just push him hard enough that if someone else pushed him, he tell them to back off, but with me, he trusts me.

"I think you see it in his performance. He does things that we've never seen him do before on the show."

Kane concurs. He says, "As an actor, when I work with someone like Dean, it is the 13 years that we put into it with each other. But when he asked me to do something that most of the time I would second guess, instead, I just go do it, because I know he wouldn't put me out there and hang me out there to dry.

"I mean the show relies on him and it relies on me and I know he wouldn't put me in a dangerous spot as a creator and an actor. So when he says, go do this, even though I'm like, ah, I don't know if I... I don't even second guess it, I just go do it because I know he's got my best interests at heart.

"A lot of times new directors, new producers, stuff like that, you don't always trust. But with him, I just go do it and find out that I could have done it."

Their current series, Almost Paradise, sees Kane playing Alex Walker, a former DEA agent who moves to the Philippines looking for peace and quiet. Spoiler alert: he doesn't find it. The series offers both men new experiences and new idea to explore.

Kane notes that this character is far different from any he has played before, for Devlin or otherwise. He says, "That's the one thing that he touched on a bit is this character that I'm playing, I've played two other characters for him.

"This one is different and the reason is because he wears so much emotion. The other guys covered the emotion up with armor.

"And this guy doesn't have any armor. He's just out there for the world to see, and so he tries to cover it up a little bit with comedy and jokes that don't land sometimes and they're not meant to land, which is great because they do land because of that.

"He's got so much emotion that he carries around. It was a brand new character. My other characters had emotion, but kept it inside and this guy he lets it all out, and that was fun, as an actor, to play."

In fact, the fun bleeds from the set to the screen. Kane explains, "I'm from the old Garth Brooks school of thinking. Garth Brooks said, 'No matter what, no matter where you are in the audience, no matter if you had a proper ticket, no matter if you had a backstage pass, I'm still the one having the most fun.'

Christian Kane: I think as long as I'm having fun, it bleeds out into the living room.

"And I think as long as I'm having fun, it bleeds out into the living room. You know what I mean? And so I was, and it was kind of trial by fire. My favorite quote is, 'You learn to fight by fighting.' which is Bruce Lee. And we were thrown in to it and we just went, 'go.'

"There were so many things working against us that ended up working for us and vice versa. There were so many complexities out there and we just did it. We never looked up, we just kept driving through the wall. And it was so much fun to do that.

"And I think it does. I think like Garth said, I'm the one having the most fun. I think it shows on the screen. It's just like watching friends. Those guys were having a blast, man, and it bleeds out into the living room and you see it, feel on the couch. That's what we were doing."

One of the elements that could have worked against the production was working in the Philippines, a totally new environment for Kane.

He says, "It was very interesting when I first got there I was positive that everything there was trying to kill me. I had to take diving lessons right off the bat. I flew in, took diving lessons, got vertigo, which lasted for three days.

"I got attacked by a clown fish. They have clown fish down there. It's like three of them attacked me once while I was diving. It was a clown fish. And they hit hard too.

"I was freaked out. But I'm telling you, man, once we started rolling the camera, Dean was so great in writing this and instructing everyone to use the Philippines as a lead actor.

"So instead of a backdrop that no one's ever seen before, this is the first television series that's ever been filmed [there], an American TV first ever. He used the Philippines as the lead actor and so I got to work with the Philippines as an actor.

"I really felt like that and that was fun and I knew that I was working with an actor that no one had ever seen before because we've seen Korea, we've seen China, we've seen Japan in movies and television shows, but no one has really ever seen the Philippines unless you've been there.

"All the beautiful colors that are there and the spirituality and the warmth. These people invited me in. I never felt like a foreigner. I was learning, working with the Philippines as an actor, and that's something to be said right there."

Devlin, a Filipino-American, wanted to showcase the country. He says, "Thing is, I'm a Filipino American and this is the first time in my whole career I ever got to do anything that explored that part of my heritage.

"And growing up in the United States, being half Filipino, when I would talk to people about the Philippines, they only knew two things. They knew about Imelda Marcos's shoes and they knew about Manny Pacquiao and that was pretty much it.

"And anytime you saw anything in a movie, it was always some kind of poverty porn. And being that this is the first television series ever to shoot there, we wanted to show off the breadth of the country. Most people have no idea that some of the most beautiful resorts in the world are in the Philippines.

"So our show takes place on an island that is populated with resorts. So every week we're either in our main resort or in another resort.

"So we showcase so many different places, so many different parts of this, whether it is the poor part of town, or a richer part of town, or the city hall, police station, we try to show a whole lot of different looks and the people, the culture, the food.

"You know, we tried to show a lot of the spirituality of the island and really give people a window into this world they've never seen before. And the hope is not to create, 'Oh, they're the other,' but to create, 'Wow! We have so much in common. We're so alike, we're so part of this world community.'"

The show has a light and beauty that were very much planned. Devlin explains, "Well, you know, our shows are not these dark and edgy serialized dramas. They're not overly grounded shows, but they're also not silly comedies. We have a very specific tone we try to hit.

"We try to make that the drama is earned. That you're emotionally invested in our shows. But we also want to have a lot of fun. We don't like the look to get too gritty and too dark and too photo documentary style, which is very popular today.

"We also don't want it to be overly bright that you see every single thing. So we work very closely with our DP, with our gaffers, with the group to say 'Where do we live, where is that exact right tone?'

"The first two episodes this season were directed by Marc Roskin who has worked with me since 1991 so we have a long partnership of creating film and television, so I really trusted him to come in there and set the look and set the tone.

Dean Devlin: ... this is a 98% Filipino group and we really wanted to show off some of the best talent in the Philippines.

"But the other point of this is a 98% Filipino group and we really wanted to show off some of the best talent in the Philippines. They have wonderful DPs, wonderful lighting people, wonderful casting, wonderful production design.

"Most of our stunt people were all local people. We wanted to show off how much talent, and of course the cast, outside of Christian, it's nearly entirely Filipino. So it's a chance for them to show off how good they are, and it's an opportunity for us to see the work of people that we've never seen before."

Casting took place in the Philippines, with Devlin and Kane choosing the actors. Devlin says, "Christian and I, we flew out very early in the production and we did casting sessions. It was so interesting because normally when I do this, I don't have the lead actor.

"So sometimes you find an actor who's very good or interesting, but you don't know if the chemistry is going to work. But we have this incredible luck of having Christian there and he read with every single one of them. So we not only were able to see who's terrific, but we got to see when there is magic.

"And both with Art [Acuña] and Samantha [Richelle], after each of them interviewed, Christian turned to me and went 'Yeah, I want them.'"

Kane adds,"I was in the writer's room about a week before we went to Manila. We went to Manila to find them and he had this really great chart up on the wall. He said, 'brains heart and soul.'

"And he said, you're the brain. Now we need to go find Kai's character, which is the heart and we need to find the soul, and that's all Samantha Richelle. She's nothing but heart. She's a sweetheart. She's ready to learn. She's ready to get in there and mix it up with the boys.

"She did more stunt rehearsals than I did and she was fantastic. I felt that off the bat. I thought there was a genuineness about her, which is the heart. just the heart.

"But with Art, it was like he had his depth, he had this soul, and I knew that I was going to be able to play off of him, because I knew that I was going to be confused. My character was going to be confused a lot about what was going on in life because all he wants to do is sit on the beach.

"He does it the whole season, and that was Art. So right when he walked in, I was like, 'we got to get this.' Dean felt it too."

The cast bonded quickly. Kane says, "We did it so fast. You know, we were all still locked on this Island, which is a great thing because we were always together.

"Even after we got off work, we'd go and talk about the work we just did and the work we were going to do tomorrow. Sometimes even the work we're going to do two episodes from now.

"We would just sit there and talk about the show and never got tired of it. Never got bored or never had too much work. It was all fun for us. And I think that was a big thing of everybody gluing together so fast.

"That's why I explained to people, you have to, certain characters you have to set up, you have to have a great plot and then you have to give a little bit of backstory. We've get to know about these characters, most importantly we need to care about them.

"And we did so fast and now we just get to play. We don't have to talk about this stuff anymore. We still develop characters throughout the year, but it's so much fun because now we get to go over their story. Let's run. And it's just so fast and it's there.

"Like Dean said, they just keep getting better and better. I was asked the other day, which was my favorite episode. I always have a favorite episode. I don't have one on this. I really honestly don't have one on this.

"And I don't have an episode that I don't like, which is strange because I've had a couple of episodes I didn't like in other shows. Crazy."

Devlin and Kane are hoping the audience will feel the same. Devlin says, "Just stick with us. It's going to be a great season"

Almost Paradise airs on WGN Mondays at 10 PM. It is also available for purchase on Amazon.

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