Martin Gero & Sullivan Stapleton Talk NBC’s BLINDSPOT
Blindspot is proving to be NBC’s hottest new property.
The rookie TV show created by Martin Gero and starring Jaimie Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton premiered on Sept. 24 to over 10 million viewers and has already secured that all important ‘back 9’ episodes order from the Network.
The series follows Jane Doe (Alexander), an amnesiac working with the FBI to uncover the meaning behind a series of cryptic tattoos adorning her body. With each clue pointing to a new threat, Jane and Agent Kurt Weller (Stapleton) work to bring a shadowy organization to light and discover who Jane really is.
We sat down with both show creator Martin Gero, and series star Sullivan Stapleton this week to talk about the compelling dichotomy of the show, just how significant those tattoos really are (hint: a lot!) and what fans can expect to see over the course of an already successful first season.
Catch full highlights of our calls below.
Blindspot is a procedural for people who don’t like procedurals
Martin Gero: I’ve said from the beginning this is a procedural for people that don’t like procedurals and a character drama for people that don’t like character drama. I think we can find a way to do both really well.
Our story of the week, so to speak, comes from one of Jane’s tattoos and is closed-ended and like a little action movie in and of itself. But then what’s great about the show is that we’re able to do a layered character drama on top of that. And I think with ‘previously-ons’ and people finding out information within the show, it’s the type of thing that will reward the loyal viewer but won’t alienate the casual viewer, which I think is so important on shows like these.
Certainly, for me, especially when you’re doing twenty-two a year, sometimes you find out about something and you’re like, “Oh man, I don’t have twenty-two hours to catch up on the first season!” And so for us it’s very important that the show has an entry point for anybody at any time.
Sullivan Stapleton: This is an awesome, awesome story. It’s obviously been created by Gero who’s a great man. Actually, it was the premise for the show that actually excited me to see where this will go throughout the season. Its shot in New York and, you know, with the people who created it – the NBC and Warner Brothers family – it was an easy ship to jump onboard.
Kurt Weller is not just another TV FBI Agent
Sullivan Stapleton: You find out more about Kurt as we go on, but yes, it’s interesting to find out what drives him to become an FBI agent, and then also what his connection is to Jane Doe. It’s been a great start.
That’s what I love about this character of Kurt. He’s not the cookie-cutter FBI agent and it’s not just, you know, each case as a procedural event. We get to explore his past and the connection between himself and Jane Doe and yes, you see the drive that makes this man who he is.
He is a very layered man, you know, very focused at work but yet, you do see some of his more emotional characteristics too.
On how much of the series is already mapped out
Martin Gero: There’s a real concrete plan for the first three seasons, and then I have an idea on how to take it past there if we get there. So the crazy thing about pitching these shows nowadays is people have been so burned by an idea that can last ten episodes. So you really have to — even in the origination of the pitch — come up with an enormous amount of backstory, which at the time feels like an enormous waste of time because you’re like, “No one’s even bought this show. What am I doing?”
But the second it gets picked up it’s like, “I’m so thankful that I put in the groundwork when it was a little crazy.”
We have all of the ten full episodes for the first season mapped out and we know what the second season is and how to get into the third season. And then hopefully we’ll see.
Where did the inspiration for Jane’s tattoos come from?
Martin Gero: When I started developing the show, I made a book of like a hundred tattoos that I really liked. And then we hired a graphic designer eventually to layer them on her body in a rough placement. Then we hired Tinsley Transfer, which specializes in cinematic tattoos. And this guy Christian Tinsley and his team really took the design to a whole other level, brought an amazing amount of detail and brought an amazing amount of stuff with it.
But for us there’s a lot of story on her body that needed to be incorporated. So yes, it’s really a team effort between the writers and Tinsley Transfers, and we’ve brought in this guy (David Quong), who’s a magician and puzzle-maker for the New York Times. He’s amazing. And so he’s one of our chief puzzle consultants and makes sure that these things make sense and they work, which is super important to me.
Jane and Kurt have an instant connection, but how will Jane’s presence impact the other members of the team?
Martin Gero: She slowly becomes very close with all of them. There’s a line in episode three where they’re struggling to find what Jane’s role is, how to work it week to week or day to day. And Patterson says it’s kind of like a tangram, which is like these Japanese shape puzzles. And she’s like, this team has been in one piece for so long. And we’re just trying to figure out how to incorporate this new piece, what shape that team is going to be.
So she really has an impact on all of their lives and the great thing about doing a show like this is week to week you get to deepen all of the characters, not just Weller and Jane. Patterson’s going to have her own stories and – sorry. I’m thinking of them just as their actor names. And then Zapata and Reade will start to have their own stories.
But it’s all directly tied to how Jane is impacting all their lives. So it’s a fun line to trace as who welcomes her with open arms, who’s suspicious of her, who’s worried about her. It runs the gamut and all of their lives are changed for good and for bad by knowing Jane.
Obviously Kurt has been a part of that ‘one piece’ team for some time now
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, I mean, we are great friends, the whole group of us and we all enjoy making the show but yes, we’re developing this TV team as having been together for years and so we are quite close and understand each other. You will see these relationships develop throughout the course of the season, and we’ll delve into people’s back stories, and the different connections between each of the characters.
Did you meet any real FBI agents in order to learn more about your character?
Sullivan Stapleton: Yes, I did. I met up with a couple of agents. We talked about how they approach work. It was an honor to meet the men that do this for real and to hear some of the stories they told me was really eye-opening and exciting.
What’s the most interesting aspect of the show for you personally?
Martin Gero: For me it’s all about the characters. If you’re not interested week to week in what the characters are doing, it’s really hard for the show to work. In the pilot you really have to have these amazing set pieces to really draw people in. but even our opening, which is so enormous in Times Square, I think what works about it is you’re genuinely concerned for this woman. It’s a hook into the show visually but it’s also like “Oh, my God, what’s happening to her?”
And so for us the type of action we do on the show is very character-centric. It’s not just massive explosions and car chases. It’s about this woman and this man trying to figure out what the hell is going on with them.
And so for me, I’m just really excited — A — to have a canvas that’s this big that you can do some really amazing stuff on, but –B — at the end of the day it’s like the story that we’re telling about these, I think, rather unique characters and the drama that they’re involved together is what really gets us excited. I think that’s the one.
How interconnected are the cases, really?
Martin Gero: I don’t want to say much more because that bleeds into spoiler area, but I will say all of the cases are interconnected. There’s nothing random about any of the cases they investigate. I can think of one that seems semi-random, but the rest of them are – the cases that come from her body are there with a specific purpose in mind.
And part of the puzzle is trying to figure out who’s doing this and why. And the really clearest information you have about that is the cases start to develop — at least outwardly — a theme. And that theme is very telling, and it’s something that our characters are struggling with.
They seem disconnected, but as presented – like if you put them all up on a board, their similarities start to tell a story, if that makes any sense, which makes it very hard to come up with cases because they all have to fit a very specific plan that these bad guys are doing.
And so you can’t just come in and be like, “Hey, I have a great case idea!” And you’re like, “Well, no. that doesn’t fit with our villain’s overarching goal.”
So it’s occasionally frustrating in the writer’s room, but I think it gives it a homogeny that is really interesting.
Blindspot continues Mondays on NBC.