From writer/producer Roberto Orci, the 13-episode El Rey series Matador is an action-packed, fun, sexy, dangerous look at the world of an undercover CIA operative masquerading as a professional soccer star. The story follows Tony “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna), who becomes a professional soccer player for the LA Riot, in order to use his skills as a covert operative to get close to ruthless billionaire team owner Andrés Galan (Alfred Molina) and execute missions for the CIA.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer Robert Rodriguez talked about why Matador was the perfect show for his El Rey Network, ordering it straight to series with 13 episodes, his belief in passion projects, why From Dusk Till Dawn was the right first show for the network, looking forward to Season 2, what led to The Director’s Chair, directing more episodes of the El Rey shows, and where he sees filmmaking technology heading. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ROBERT RODRIGUEZ: Thank you! It’s a really cool series. I greenlit 13 episodes. Even the first draft of the pilot that I read had some of him as a spy in there. They said, “Now that we know we have 13, let’s just build it slow. It will be better for the character.” It’s really part of a whole story. All of the things that we set up will pay off really good.
When this was presented to you, what was it that sold you on it and made you feel it was right for the network?
RODRIGUEZ: Bob [Orci] came in and said, “I heard you’ve got a network. I’ve got a show idea. It’s about a soccer player who becomes an operative. I’ve always wanted to do a Hispanic James Bond.” And that’s something I had always wanted to do. I did a series of Spy Kids movies about a spy Gregorio Cortez, played by Antonio Banderas. That was based on my uncle Gregorio Rodriguez, who was a special agent for the FBI. I was so inspired by my uncle that I wanted to do a movie series based on him, and turn him into a spy. So, I just thought it sounded cool. We talked about it for half a day and I said, “Let’s do 13 episodes.” We threw some ideas around, and it just seemed really solid. He’d always wanted to do it. Mine were Spy Kids and Sin City. Those were the ones I had envisioned for a long time and always wanted to do, and then finally did them, and those were my biggest success. So, when he said that, after all of the stuff he’d done, this was something he still wanted to do and nobody else would probably do it because it had to have a Hispanic lead and soccer was an important element, I thought, “Well, let’s make sure that, even if it doesn’t get big, the show still works. Let’s make the character not even dig soccer that much. Let him be the eyes of the audience.” That made sense.
Matador has a very different tone and feel to it than From Dusk Till Dawn has. Was that something you set out to do, when you were setting up the programming at El Rey?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. From Dusk Till Dawn seemed like the best first show to start with because it was a show that only we could do since Quentin [Tarantino] and I controlled the rights. We had them locked down. It’s the first time Quentin’s characters are on TV, and it’s the first time I’d done TV, so we decided to do that first. That’s our The Walking Dead. But then, we wanted to show that that’s not all we’re going to do. So, when Bob brought me this, it was perfect for a second show because it’s a broader audience. If From Dusk Till Dawn is our 9 o’clock show, Matador is our 8 o’clock show. Just about anybody can watch it, but it’s still edgy and cool. Somebody got a cleaver to their head in the first episode, but it’s not a gore fest. It’s all about this really cool character. We wanted to start with a really defined identity, and then broaden it out with each show.
RODRIGUEZ: It fits right into the network. We’re very much about curated content, movie fans, explaining why things are there, and picking things that audiences don’t usually know about to turn them on to something that we’re genuinely fans of. It gives that filmmaking authenticity, and it’s a show that nobody has done before. I thought, “Wow, what if a director interviewed another director?” I didn’t want it to be from someone that knows nothing about movies. I know how a director usually works, but I still don’t know how a director did a specific shot. And the interviewee hears questions that they’ve never heard before, which is so exhilarating because they’ve never thought about it before. It’s new information. Even if you’ve seen every interview with Quentin Tarantino, there will be stuff that you’ve never heard about his history because I was there and I recorded it and I can bring it up. It opens up a window to what the creative process is. It’s like a film school, but it’s also a creativity school. Even if you don’t ever care to make a movie, it will teach you about writing or any kind of artistic expression or anything about how you run a business. Because it’s so specific, it actually broadens its appeal.
What are you excited about exploring with Season 2 of From Dusk Till Dawn?
RODRIGUEZ: There’s a lot of stuff. I gave the writers room some ideas and they’ve been developing them. We start shooting later this year. I can’t say what we’re doing because that might change, but everybody is really excited about it.
Are you looking to direct more episodes of the shows on El Rey?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I was supposed to always do one or more episodes of Matador. I can’t wait to do a bunch of episodes of From Dusk Till Dawn. When we’re talking about storylines, I’m like, “Oh, I’m doing that one!” Even Quentin said, “This isn’t a backhanded compliment, but the episode with the snake dance is the best thing you’ve directed in a long time.” I was like, “Thanks! That’s cool! That was a nine-day shoot.” It’s fun. I can experiment, and it’s very quick. It’s not a big time commitment. It’s not like a movie where I have to block out months of my life and run a marathon for a month. It’s like a quick sprint.
RODRIGUEZ: Like Oculus Rift, or anything like that? I’m not sure. There are some things that people have asked if I wanted to try, but I haven’t seen anything really new. A lot of it is just variations of old stuff. On Sin City 2, we got the latest 3D cameras by Jim Cameron, that had just come off of the assembly line. They’re like Ferraris. They’re so cool. The first movie that I did in 3D, the cameras were so clunky and they were always breaking down. I was like, “Wow, the improvements in technology are amazing!” I’ve seen new types of cameras that are really hi-def, but that’s just variations. There’s nothing really, really new yet.
Even though the technology has changed and gotten better, a lot of filmmakers still love to use film when they can.
RODRIGUEZ: Well, it still has a great feel to it. Even when I make digital stuff, I add grain and texture because it’s a blank canvas. It still has to improve a lot. It looks very electronic. They’re not finished. A lot of people are adopting it, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s got to get better still. You can try to match the digital stuff to film, but it doesn’t happen. It’s just got a magic to it. Kids today are going to think the opposite. They’re gonna see film and go, “I have no emotional connection to that because I play video games every day and 48 frames looks like my video game.” It’s gonna change.
Matador airs on Tuesday nights on El Rey.