The show hasn’t even aired yet and there were already people cosplaying Jaimie Alexander’s character, Jane Doe, from Blindspot at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con. The new NBC series will make its debut on September 21st, and executive producers Greg Berlanti and writer/executive producer Martin Gero along with star Jaime Alexander made the trek to San Diego to discuss the fascinating series about a woman found naked, covered with tattoos, in a bag in Times Square. She has no idea who she is or how she got there, or why a specific FBI agent’s name is among the tattoos on her body.
Sitting down to talk about the show during roundtable interviews at Comic Con, Berlanti described the show as a thrill ride. “As compelling as the opening scene is in the pilot, it just gets more and more dynamic as the episodes go on. The way that the writers have begun to unfurl her mystery, who she is or who she might be, is compelling. The actors are just so incredibly dynamic, particularly when you see them in a movie thriller or a movie action adventure, but the fact that they’re there every week on the screen is, I think, going to be really exciting for the audience,” said Berlanti.
“This first season is going to be intense,” said Alexander. “The great thing about this season is that there’s very few things that are repeated in it. You know how procedurals get so boring, but you get obsessed with them? Like Law & Order SVU, it can be the same thing every episode and I don’t care. It’s so good. This show moves fast so you can pick up on certain things. If you miss an episode you can, obviously, understand what’s going to be happening. It’s just the nature of that type of show. But, there’s going to be new things every single episode that catapult the storyline. It’s so intense. It’s written very much like a film, which I love. That was one of the most appealing aspects for me, and the fact that Mark Pellington directed our pilot and is doing episode two and I think episode four. He’s an executive producer now, I believe, and his tone and how dark it is is just so cinematic. I think TV is really paving the way for strong female characters that are relatable. [Laughing] Screw movies.”
The opening scene with Alexander’s character discovered in a bag was actually shot in Times Square in New York City. “Times Square, that was the first image I had; it’s the first image in the show. It is the genesis for everything and we really needed to do it right. I was so afraid we were going to have to do it with an enormous amount of visual effects because Times Square is pretty busy at night. I don’t know if you’ve been to Times Square but it’s pretty busy – even at two in the morning. So, we hired an amazing amount of PAs. We had 45 amazing PAs – PAs are the lifeblood of the film industry – and some very cooperative cops. We started shooting at 10, kind of the crowd and stuff, thinned it out,” revealed Gero. “Usually in film you start with your wide shots and get closer and closer. We started with the zipper and then it was like we could control this much [indicating a small circle], we can control this much [opening the circle up a bit], and then as it got to three or four in the morning, with the help of the cops and our amazing PA team, we shut that place down. There’s not a single visual effect in that entire opening sequence. We emptied Times Square for real. It grounds the show in a real way and creates a sense of scope that is pretty exciting.”
Gero, who agrees it’s fair to describe Jane Doe as a female Jason Bourne, provided a little insight into the plot without giving away any spoilers. “There’s a very complicated backstory. There’s a very complicated reason this is all happening. The tattoos are kind of a treasure map and so with all treasure maps, there needs to be an end point. There needs to be somebody that made it. Right now, and in the pilot and as we go on with the first season, trying to figure out who did this and why is the central drive of the season.”
While following the clues tattooed on Jane’s body drives season one, Gero says that there’s plenty of story to cover additional seasons after all of the tattoos have been explored. “If we’re lucky enough to go many, many seasons, the tattoos will take us to a certain point and then there is a planned hand-off to something else that the tattoos are still incorporated in. Every tattoo has sometimes double, triple meanings…even in the second episode you realize, ‘Oh, we have to look a little closer at some of these things,‘“ explained Gero. “I don’t want to say what the end point of the tattoos is because it’s kind of a specific plot thing that will feel like a twist, but there’s a large plan going on that the tattoos are the first two seasons of.”
For her part, Alexander wanted to make sure the tattoos are actually visible in scenes. She didn’t want to cover them all up with clothing. “Tattoos are awesome. One of the reasons I wear them so much in the show and I’m not covered is because I said to them, ‘Don’t skimp out. If we’re going to do this tattoo thing, I want to wear them all the time. I know it’s going to be hard. It’s totally fine.’ The worst thing that happens in television or in film is that they’ll just cover you up because they’re cheap. They’re like, ‘We don’t want to put her through that. Let’s just put a jacket on her.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, no. I’m doing a tank top. Let’s do it,’ because it’s such an important part of the show.”
The tattoo process takes seven hours, according to Alexander. “I can’t sit down so it gets a little rough towards the end. But we have a great crew, it’s the guys from Tinsley Studio and they do everything that’s badass. It’s so great, and they’re such nice guys. They come and we blast The Beatles on Pandora and watch Daniel Boone reruns because that’s the only thing on at 3:30 in the morning. We just get through it. And then once I’m in them and I start moving my arms around, it kind of cracks them a little bit, and then I’m able to move around really easily. It doesn’t bother me. Some people get claustrophobic in them. The poor stunt girl who’s been with me for way too long, she’s like, ‘I can’t believe you’re making me do this.’ I’m like, ‘You had to wear a double corset on Thor. Relax, it’s not that bad.’”
In addition to Alexander, the cast includes Sullivan Stapleton as FBI Agent Kurt Weller who’s tasked with working with Jane to find out who placed her in the bag and why her memory is gone. Johnny Whitworth (The 100) plays a mysterious man who is somehow involved with Jane’s situation. Although Gero didn’t want to give too much away about the story or about Whitworth’s character, he did say Whitworth’s part of a larger organization. “There is not just one person behind the tattoos, and Johnny is part of that.”
Berlanti says Kurt Weller and Jane Doe’s relationship is going to be unique due in large part to the fact there’s so much they don’t know about Jane’s background. “They’re drawn to each other by circumstance and also by emotions, in terms of what they’re both going through. We’ll learn what that is as we go along. It’s a unique dynamic that you haven’t been portrayed in quite this way. I think the fact that she is this really vulnerable amnesiac but also this really strong dynamic character who is determined to figure it out and he really is the counterpoint to that is also really exciting.”
Jane seems to rely on Kurt almost instinctively from the beginning, and Alexander says that’s because the one thing Jane does have is her gut intuition. “For some reason with this guy, his name is tattooed on her back so consciously she’s saying, ‘I need to stay close to this guy because he’ll have some answers for me. Also, there’s these moments where they have this connection and it’s like, ‘I get you and you get me. I can help you and you can help me so we need to know each other.’ We’re going to explore all kinds of things with them. It’s not going to be what you think – it’s not a love interest right away, if ever. I do know we have great chemistry; I’ve been told that. He’s my buddy. He’s cool. What’s really going to be happening is he’s going to aid her in finding out who she is. She’s going to aid him in opening up a little bit because he’s got a lot of dark secrets. He’s got a lot of things going on. Each character is so multi-dimensional, but it’s not overloaded,” said Alexander.
Asked to sum up Blindspot, Berlanti replied, “I would say it’s in that vein of grounded thrillers that still have action and adventure – and heightened – but that the people and what they’re going through make it believable.”
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