The Chase is almost on. On September 20, NBC debuts the new fugitive-hunting drama (check out my review of the pilot episode here). In anticipation of premiere day, we chatted with series stars Kelli Giddish and Cole Hauser, as well as creator and executive producer Jennifer Johnson, about the show, the influences of their past work, and bringing on another crime show in this day and age.
Jennifer, coming off of Cold Case, you’d know better than anyone that we have a ton of crime dramas on the air today. What made you want to return to that genre to create Chase, and how do you differentiate it from all the other series on the air?
Jennifer Johnson: I would call this one visceral. Basically when I was approached by Bruckheimer TV to do this the way I latched on to the idea was that I had a family member who’d had a crime inflicted upon them and it was a home invasion. It was awful. And so for me it was so visceral, [with] this desire to go catch these bad guys. But then to differentiate it I wanted it to be a chase show. I wanted it to be about actually catching people on the run and not so much about the DNA and the footprints and the fingerprints but much more about kind of the DNA of the fugitive’s personality, of the fugitive’s desires, of the fugitive’s needs. So for me it’s completely different because it’s about anticipating where a person’s going to go. It’s not at all about solving a crime.
Cold Case, the crime is set up from the beginning but we have no idea who did it and we spend the entire episode trying to figure that out. This one we know usually in the first or second scene who did it and now it’s just about pursuing a person. It’s about figuring out what they like to eat, who they love, who their ex-girlfriends are, who their parents are, what their relationships are. You know, really looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “Where would I go and how would I outwit the person who’s pursuing me?”
So it feels so much more visceral and there’s so much more energy. It’s less talky and it’s more about the chase and the pursuit. What attracted me and the way I shape the idea was to keep it very visceral and to keep it very much about the action and about the psychology fueling the action as opposed to interview scenes. We do very few of those on the show. We do some, but we do very few of them.
Were you attracted to making the show about U.S. Marshals because of their fugitive task forces? Or did you have the idea of the show first and then decided to center it on the Marshals?
Jennifer Johnson: Two reasons. The first is, as I started doing research about fugitives, something unexpected to me was that it’s the US Marshals who are really in charge of finding them. Particularly in the past ten years, they have become the experts in finding fugitives. So in other words, if the Houston Police Department has a fugitive, and that’s anybody who’s committed a crime who’s disappeared for more than an hour, they always now turn to the US Marshals. They’ve set up regional offices around the country. Texas is practically a country in and of itself so they have the Gulf Coast Office Task Force, which is what our show is based upon. They are one of the busiest task forces in America. But they are the experts on catching fugitives and so that’s why I gravitated to the US Marshals.
The second aspect was I wanted to set it Texas and these guys really are cowboys. They are on the ground. And the truth of the matter is they don’t have to do much. It’s not a bureaucracy like a lot of other federal agencies are. This is about the guys on the ground making decisions in a pinch which you will see Kelli and Cole’s characters do. They don’t have to check with their bosses. They, in a sense, each US Marshal is their own boss when they are out in the field. So it’s very much about the cowboy mentality, the go-get ‘em mentality.
Cole and Kelli – the last time that we saw either of you was on a pair of short-lived FOX shows, in “K-Ville” and “Past Life.” Did you two learn anything from those experiences that you’ve been able to bring to leading this series?
Kelli Giddish: Well, for me, being able to be a lead of a show, Brittany, and knowing that I’ve got a ninety-hour week ahead of me. Just in a practicality kind of way in how I’m going to manage my time and energy to ratchet it up so many notches to be able to play Annie Frost. I mean, it’s a true joy and an opportunity. But it was great being a leading lady, having conversations with the show creator, having conversations with the producer and knowing how to use your energy in the most effective of ways.
Cole Hauser: For me K-Ville was K-Ville and Chase is Chase. I had an amazing experience on K-Ville and being down in New Orleans in a time where I think it was really special to be there just because of what was going on in New Orleans. And that show is based upon it.
This character that I am playing on Chase and where we is a completely different piece. This is a character that I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve always wanted to be opposite an actress, which I haven’t gotten the great opportunity to do throughout my career; usually they’re male driven films. When the opportunity arrived and Jen and everyone else, [Jerry] Bruckheimer and David Nutter came to me, I couldn’t say no. And not only am I happy with my decision but I’m excited to see where this goes in the future of this show.
Presumably you two had some training with or exposure to the real Marshals.
Kelli Giddish: I went down for a week with the Houston Marshalls. I didn’t know that they hated paperwork as much as I hated it. They loathe it. They want to be in their cars catching the bad guys. They don’t want to be filling out paperwork about the bad guys.
I didn’t know that they were in charge of protecting our judges, to be honest with you.
So that week in Houston completely filled out a lot of details about the attitudes that they take towards the job. I couldn’t believe, honestly, the will that they have, day after night after day after night, to catch the bad guys and they do. And I think that that is something that Jennifer has really done successfully with these scripts, with my character. They’re just dogged in their determination to keep our community safe and I didn’t realize the level at which they take the commitment to the job.
The temptation in a lot of these shows would be to put your characters in some sort of a romantic relationship, because of the gender difference, or to give them obligatory love interests at some point down the line. Is Chase going to break that mold?
Kelli Giddish: I think Jennifer has given a really great opportunity in the first scripts to get to know Annie and Jimmy and the rest of the cast and how much of a team they are. I think one of the strongest relationships in the show is between Cole and I, because they have been working together for five years, and to see a professional relationship like the one that has been written between us is absolutely great to play. And to not need that romantic layer added on top of it.
Saying that, we’ve also got Eddie Cibrian coming onto the show. So, later on the season, you’ll get to see her vulnerable side in terms of how she reacts to a man that kinda gets into her skin a little bit. I think it’s been a great incorporation of that aspect of [her] character.
Jennifer Johnson: What I can tell you is that it’s a day and a half or a two-day pursuit, because they’re on the tail of these fugitives. So once the story starts cooking, there’s not enough room for our characters to go to other places. It would be very difficult to have Annie stop and go out to dinner or [Jimmy] to go home and visit with his girlfriend. So a lot of the character work is developed between the team members.
We think of them as a family, a family unit in and of themselves. And it shifts the same way families do. So sometimes Annie and Jimmy are the mom and dad, other times they are the big brother and sister, and then it’s kind of all the siblings together. Jimmy and Annie are the head of the household. There’s chemistry between them but they have to keep it professional. We try to hit a lot of those layers in as many episodes as we can.
As Kelli pointed out, we do have a love interest coming in for [Annie] and we’re also going to meet Jimmy’s girlfriend Natalie in upcoming episodes.
Cole Hauser: The relationship between Jimmy and Annie, there’s a professional love for each other which I actually think is really cool. I think that at times, Jimmy feels obligated to really watch her back, to help her in many ways. She is so driven at times that pulling the reins back on her is something that he feels he needs to do. They’ve been together for a long time and they know of each other’s tendencies. There are days where Annie’s going through what she’s going through and Jimmy notices why and he acts accordingly to it.
Everybody’s asking the question, is there going to be romance? And, you know what? Maybe. But at the same time, it is two people that love their jobs and respect and love each other in a professional way.
My thanks to Jennifer, Kelli and Cole for an amazing interview. Chase premieres September 20 at 10 PM on NBC, and stay tuned to TVOverMind for my recaps and reviews of each episode.