International intrigue is the name of the game in the new NBC series CROSSING LINES. When a serial killer picking off women all across Europe, the International Criminal Court (ICC) creates a special unit to investigate crimes that cross international boundaries. Starring the illustrious Donald Sutherland as the ICC leader backing this unusual venture, along with William Fichtner as the American criminal profiler brought out of retirement to track down the most insidious of evil doers, the special crimes unit moves quickly to contain the threats that international boundaries normally cannot contain or prevent investigation. In a recent press conference call, star William Fichtner and executive producers Ed Bernero and Rola Bauer talked about filming all across Europe to bring authenticity to the series and what hidden secrets will be revealed as the series goes along.
Where was the base for the show? Did you have recreate all these countries in one place or were you actually able to film in the different locales?
BILL: We went on a filming tour last fall into the winter, but our home base was Prague where we began shooting.
ROLA: Prague was definitely our home base. We spent the majority of the 22 weeks in Prague. And I’d love to hear Bill’s perspective on this adventure that we put him on.
BILL: I’d love to talk about it because it surely was an adventure. Different than anything I’ve ever worked on before. Obviously Prague — I’m speaking from the perspective of the character of Carl Hickman, an ex-New York City cop — living in Europe, living in Amsterdam, it was great for an actor to have to not be searching and being a little bit of a fish out of water. Because it’s exactly what it was (not that I felt that way, certainly not in the beautiful country of the Czech Republic and the wonderful City of Prague), but that’s where we began. Also the opening episodes took us into a park in Paris and different places in Paris, France. So we shot there for a couple of weeks. And some of the episodes took us into the South of France and we shot there. So I think you can get the idea that as we went on this tour it was remarkable because the places changed and the people changed and the locations changed. It was fascinating and unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve shot films where we’ve gone on location but nothing quite like this. Prague just has everything. Sure, you can find the sleek office building, but you can find anything in Prague, and I really mean that. Including amazing places. I lived in Old Town Prague with my family when I was there. There were days there we were shooting at locations that were literally a half a block away that I could walk to work. And other times we were at our home base at the Barinda sound stages. But it’s a beautiful city, very modern and at the same time very old. So much was available not only for visually but for the experience. Not only as actors, but as people because this was our home. This is where we’re together. Many of the actors and the producers, we had our favorite Irish pub in Old Town and on Fridays and Saturday nights and it was a beautiful thing to be there and experience it. I’ll say it again that I’ll never forget. It was really truly that remarkable.
ROLA: If I may add to what Bill is saying, we also wanted to protect the look and the credibility of the story. We didn’t want to put any of our talent in front of a green screen, which is why we made sure that we had the ability to go to these places. We shot Prague for Prague. We doubled it also for other European cities, but we also made sure that Paris and Nice and the South of France were very much a part of what the story location was and not pretending to be something else.
What is it about you think this series that really speaks to people that they will really want to watch it?
ROLA: I think one of the things is the DNA in the project, as the title says it is CROSSING LINES. We’re living in a global world. We’re connected by the Internet. We are trying to have certain things that are common to each other through television. Hollywood has been an example of it in that films transcend the boundaries and are released everywhere. But what we sometimes forget is how we protect our families. And that is what the challenge was about for us. When we started developing the idea and we pitched it to Ed, he loved it because he said for him it reminded him of how America had been when there was not an FBI, when criminals could cross form one state to the other and where essentially there was no sovereign structured entity that could look after people, and from that Edgar Hoover had set up the FBI. Over n Europe it doesn’t exist. So criminals can travel the borders, can cross over without being really monitored or checked anymore, and Europe didn’t have anything that was proactive. There’s Europol, and there’s Interpol, but they didn’t really have a structure like that. I think what attracts people is that ultimately these crimes we can see them anywhere in the world, and this is a team that is proactive. You’ve seen it in different features where there have been teams from different parts of the world who come together and crack the case. I think that’s an international subject that allows an audience to really connect from a fear-factor of: How do I protect my family in a normal situation?
BILL: I also think that what also is going to be appealing we get incredible actors from around the world being on series and I love the aspect. I know the first time that I read the first couple of episodes of the show, I loved the fact of having the American guy be the fish out-of-water and to have the American guy join in with his sensibilities. Because we have a multinational cast, it’s not just a gimmick or something that’s like, “Oh, we’re the A-Team.” It’s not that at all. It’s just that our experts come from different places. Like you get the Italian girl with with the Italian with her own culture behind her. And Marc Lavoine, the leader of the team, the French singer and actor and his French sensibilities. All of this plays in and all of it comes through. I found that that was not just something that was kind of a nifty thing about the show, but part of the heartbeat of the show.
What was the toughest part of this role for you?
BILL: The 12-hour flight to London from LA. That’s just really challenging. I’m telling you right now, I can’t sleep on planes. Whenever I work on something it hits me in a challenging sort of way. It’s all challenging, but it’s all part of the joy of doing things. I guess it never hits me like it’s a real job or it’s a real challenge. It’s just all part of what I love to explore and to try to find who is this guy: What makes him tick? And what does he care about? And what’s his world about? And what does he want and what does he dream about? And all that stuff, all the actor speak that I have the most fun thinking about. Hopefully at the end of the day, fully realizing somebody that’s you made to be a real person. I have to tell you this that I had a tremendous amount of support and help from the material because I guess I’m a little old school but if it is not on the page, it is not on the stage, and Ed Bernero knows how to put it on the page. I mean it’s true. The first two episodes alone, as an actor, I’d love to keep reading it and reading them over and over and over because I think good scripts gives you more and more details and you get more and more layers as you work on them, and I was not disappointed working on this material ever.
Was it hard for you to remember to not use your one arm in scenes or is that something you got used to right away?
BILL: I love that question. Halfway through the season where we were on one take and I walked in and I was wearing gloves that had to be taken off and I couldn’t take them off, and I’m like, “Okay. Cut. That didn’t work.” But it didn’t happen that often because there’s only just a few moments throughout the season. One is in the very first episode that you actually see his hand and the damage that happened to it. But the rest of the time he has a glove on that covers the damage to his right hand. So I always had that one glove and once I slid that glove on every day as an actor, it was great. It was a great reminder. All of a sudden after a very short time I felt the right hand is something that I just don’t have. So was rare moments and when they happened they were usually pretty funny at least inside of myself thinking, “Come on, Bill.” But I had a glove, so I got a constant reminder.
How did the whole project come about and how did the each of you become connected with it?
ROLA: Originally we have been working predominantly as a limited eight-hour miniseries. You might know one of our productions Pillers Of The Earth, we wanted to get into the one-hour series and we looked around at all the different showrunners who were available or interested in working in a different independent way and were introduced to Ed Bernero. I’m sure you’re aware of Ed’s pedigree and his many, many years of experience. So we’re considered ourselves very luck to be able to have a chance to brainstorm with him and talked about this idea. He just immediately broke the story. I mean he said, “Oh my God. I have been wanting to do something in this direction.” At first I thought, “Oh, this is Hollywood speak.” But he truly did have it in his head because he broke the story in literally a matter of weeks. So we met and we’re starting to work together in February. We went straight to an order of ten episodes on the middle of July and we started shooting in the beginning of October. We shot ten episodes and had them all wrapped in the can in the third week of February. So it happened in literally one year from meeting and getting to know to developing, producing it and delivering it. So that was the genesis of it. We were concerned about what was happening in Europe, how similar it was to what has happened in the U.S. and how could one create a new team, a team European FBI that could transcend the boundaries and help people. That’s how it started in that. Then we sat with the broadcasters and we told them our wish list as filmmakers, as producers and the people we would like to have for each of the roles and Bill was number one for us in the role of Hickman. I mean we had to give them three names and he was number one. I have been hounding, tracking, stalking Bill for many years and when I gave his name to Ed, he was like, “Oh I love him. That’d be great. That would be fabulous.” So once we had a script we sent it to his agent.
BILL: Then I had a conversation with Ed Bernero. I read it and I liked it, but it’s a challenge. It was big thing. This is not like I’m going to commute to California and see the family. This was a big commitment because I wasn’t going to do this without traveling with my wife and my entire family, which I did. But I did speak to Ed and if it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. I thought the first two episodes were exceptionally well written. If I didn’t have that right off the bat, I don’t think I would have entertained it any further. I spoke to Ed, had a few questions and I wondered about characters and where it was going and every time I had a conversation with him, it was better than the one before. So it didn’t take long. Just a mater of a couple few shorts weeks and a lot of deep conversations with my wife, and once onboard we were and away we went. Glad it all went that way.
Was there anything about this role that wasn’t originally scripted for you that you added to the character?
BILL: Every character with every show this is like everything. You take a first step and by the time you take ten steps you’re better on your feet on the tenth step than the first step. So we started from the beginning. We had a super strong base right off the bat. It’s so clear in the first two episodes who the character is. It’s the backstory that for me as an actor that I like to fill in because even though that’s not something that may be said in the production, but it’s the understanding of the base of where somebody comes from and who someone is that really feeds who they are today. Those are the conversations over the phone and in Prague, over many a pilsner with Ed Bernero that I just loved talking to him about and sharing my ideas of who I think the guy is. So the backstory elements get deeper and deeper. But so much of what was there from the beginning, who he was and what his difficulties were and some of the crutches that he was leaning on in his life, Ed Bernero put that in the story, I’m happy to say. So it was just a mater of most of it was just to go deeper with all of the thoughts that he’d already put out there for me.
There’s an event at the end of the pilot episode involving a kidnapping. Is that an event that finally emotionally invests the team into their mission? How guilty and responsible is Hickman feeling going forward into season?
BILL: I don’t want to give too much away, because one of the things that I find that is fascinating about this show is that it isn’t just the weekly events. It’s who these people are and the events that are happening and shaping their life. It continues on from episode to episode. So I’d love to speak about what the kidnapping is, but I don’t want to say too much.
ED: Not the kidnapping, that comes up later. But it’s an interesting question and actually something that Bill and I talked quite a bit about during the whole season about how committed the character [Hickman] is to the team and when he sort of commits completely to them. I think for both of us the complete commitment is going to happen more next year. I think that he was pretty betrayed by the police world and I think he’s very reluctant to sort of join another group and be part of another team. What happens in the pilot in the first two hours is certainly something that sets him on the course. But I think the most important moment is when Louie asked him if he wants to feel like a cop again, because Bill and I had many conversations about his state of mind and what he feels like and how he feels betrayed and sort of lost his identity not only with his wounding, but also the betrayal of the police department and his sort of leaving the NYPD. So it’s an ongoing process for him. I think it’s something that the Hickman character may never fully embrace being part of the team.
BILL: What I love is there’s many things that I love about Hickman and that’s just the point. There are many things. I think he is a character that has more than one plate spinning. And one of those elements of his life is the bigger picture of why he’s in Europe in the first place, which by the end of Season 1 you will know exactly what that is. So there’s also for as much as Hickman gives to the group, there are things that the group can give to him. All of that begins to reveal itself throughout the first season. And that single thing alone is one of the big through lines for the character and one of things that I really love about that journey because it’s always more than just one thing.
ED: There’s also quite a large element of the characters all in some way, shape, or form using each other too. It’s not all just all for the same goal. I think you find out through the whole season that almost everyone has a little bit of an ulterior motive for being where they are and joining this team in the first place.
What moments that you’re real excited this season for fans to see without giving away spoilers?
ED: Overall, this is the longest I’ve ever gone without something being on the air. I’m more used to being in the studio system here in the States where you do something and it’s on that September. So just in general, I’m just excited about people seeing the show. It’s this is the first time I’ve ever had the benefit of having the entire thing completed before it ever went on. So it’s really exciting to me to know where it’s going and that it’s all sort of put together in the way we wanted it to be put together. And I’m excited to see it. I’m always most excited to see how people accept the family of the show, that the character moments come to mean more as the show goes on than they would have in the beginning. So most of the things that I’m interested in seeing is how the people react to the fact that they’re seeing people with French accents and German accents and Italian accents. It’s just something kind of really different for American television. And I’m just interested in seeing how it plays around the world. For me, every bit of it is exciting. There’s not any sort of particular moment that I’m looking forward to. I love the surprises too. I think there’s a couple of surprises in the first two hours that I don’t know that many people will see coming. But overall I’m just excited about the show in general.
ROLA: I think one of the things that we’ve seen in this is Ed’s created fabulous character arc and you’re going to be in for surprises on the nemesis of what brought Hickman over [to Europe]. I think you’re going to be intrigued to connect the dots. So we still have the crime of the week and we still have the team resolving cases. But there is a number of layers of mystery that come in. And when you start getting towards the eight, the ninth and the tenth episode, there is a real second layer of a story that makes each one of those characters stronger and quite exciting. Ed finished it off by having us have a cliffhanger on the tenth episode. He’s probably going to get a lot of hate mail because of it.
To see what gloriously chilling surprises lie in store in the new series CROSSING LINES, be sure to tune in for the 2-hour premiere on Sunday, June 23rd at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.
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