American Odyssey, which premiered last night on NBC, centers on an international military conspiracy and the three American citizens who suss it out. After eliminating a terrorist leader in North America, Sergeant Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) discovers evidence that a major American corporation is funding terrorist cells, but before she can tell anyone her team is killed, and she’s taken prisoner. Back in the states, former U.S. attorney turned corporate litigator Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) and trust-fund baby turned social activist Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) discover the military-industrial conspiracy on their own terms. The series follows the three characters as they join forces to save their country and expose the forces behind the conspiracy.
Saturday, at WonderCon in Anaheim, California, series creators Peter Horton, Kay Foster and Adam Armus joined series-star Peter Facinelli on stage to chat about their inspiration for the new series and what to expect from season one. You can read Allison’s review of the pilot here, and check out the full panel recap below.
The idea of the series started with Simon Maxwell, who wanted to do a show about a modern-day take on Homer’s Odyssey. The three writers met at The Tavern in Brentwood, Los Angeles over a period long enough to gain “ten pounds”, according to Kay Foster, and came up with the concept of the 3-character story.
- After working on comedy (Nurse Jackie) and Fantasy (Twilight), Peter Facinelli wanted to do something more serious and intricate.
- Foster recalled that Anna Friel was drawn to the role because it was physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. She trained for three months with soldiers, and held her own.
- What do they look for in writers for the room? First is great writing (obviously), then they look at the writers’ personal experiences. The writers on the staff bring unique insight from their experiences – one was active in the Occupy movement, one spent a lot of time in North Africa, many of them are knowledgable in Wall Street. Another major comopnent is how the writer fits in the room. What energy do they bring? Are they enthusiastic?
If the show runs multiple seasons, the idea is for every season to be mostly self-contained, with each having a unique story arc (the EPs compared it to Heroes, which they also worked on) The start of a new season is kind of a reboot and different characters will be in different places next year. “There’s always an odyssey”.
- The writers take the experiences and trauma of real life soldiers into a account when they write the show. They’ve talked to a number of advisors, including Eric Haney, founder of Delta Force, for that reason. They consider their job when telling a real-life story, especially one around such a sensitive subject, to balance truthfulness with good story telling. Peter Horton pointed out that the benefit of a show like this is that it shines a light on the vets.
- Paranoia plays a big part in the narrative of Peter’s character – who can you trust? That paranoia carried over into his real life. He would go home a bundle of nerves every day. Peter’s character goes down a rabbit hole, and the paranoia is commensurate with that rabbit hole.
The show offers the audience an omniscient view of what’s happening. We get to know things the characters don’t. As a result, America Odyssey doesn’t have a Lost-style “mystery box”.
- The series was filmed in Morocco, but originally the producers pushed Toronto. The creators were adamant that it didn’t look realistic enough and eventually they ended up in North Africa.
- Once they started pre-production in Morocco they found actor Omar Ghazaoui blocks away from their offices. They had searched five countries for the right young actor to play opposite Anna Friel.
To catch up on all of our WonderCon 2015 coverage, click here.