NBC will premiere the new series Taxi Brooklyn, based on Luc Besson’s Taxi films, on June 25, 2014 at 10pm ET/PT. The action series is executive produced by Gary Scott Thompson, Thomas Anargyros, and Edouard de Vesinne and stars Chyler Leigh as a detective determined to find out who killed her father. After being demoted to foot patrol because of her reckless driving, Detective Caitlyn ‘Cat’ Sullivan finds an unlikely partner in a taxi driver named Leo Romba (Jacky Ido). Leo, who’s illegally in the country, makes a deal to drive Cat around as she investigates cases while continuing to look for clues about her father’s murder.
Together for a conference call to discuss the new series, Chyler Leigh, Jacky Ido, and executive producer Gary Scott Thompson answered questions about the lead characters and what audiences can expect from Taxi Brooklyn.
How did this series come about?
Gary Scott Thompson: “The show is based on a series of four films which were extremely, extremely popular in Europe and around the world. It was one of Luc Besson’s projects that he wanted to turn into a TV show. So after many, many sort of incarnations, I guess, that they had tried to make it work, someone from over there [in] New York and Brooklyn – that’s kind of where it started. It sort of departs from the series. […] We’ve got a lot of twists and turns along the way that are not in the movie, so it’s just sort of a jumping off point.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the series?
Chyler Leigh: “Biggest challenge was to stop laughing all the time. I think we had such a good time that it was a little challenging for the directors to rein us back in and then take everything we were doing seriously.”
Jacky Ido: “You know, the biggest challenge as Chyler just so eloquently put it was we kept laughing all the time. The crew is amazing. We had so much fun shooting in New York City. And for me, calling all the way from France, it was just a treat every day. [It was] much more of an enjoyment than a challenge.”
Chyler, how would you describe Cat?
Chyler Leigh: “When we meet her, Cat is in a very hard place in her life and you come to understand that she’s a very kind of tough talking but conflicted person who’s, at this point, very reckless due to what she’s been through with her family. She’s very determined. She’s very hardworking. She takes what she does very seriously, but has become a bit impassioned to find what’s going on or what happened in her past. And, at this point, has pretty much pushed everybody away in her life and is a bit disgruntled.
But you can see throughout the season that she does have that vulnerable side to her that’s to kind of keep those walls up. You see that she definitely knows how to kick some serious ass.”
How is the relationship between Cat and Leo in the beginning and how does it evolve?
Jacky Ido: “Well, the relationship is kind of tense in the beginning because, you know, she’s suspected of helping someone [in a bank heist]. So they started with like this little tension between them but also friendship that you can see developing there. And, also, they need each other because together they complete themselves or they complete each other. They kind of become like the super cop to solve all the cases.
So the relationship in the beginning is quite tense and then quite quickly it evolves to becoming something…sometimes you can say the ‘cat and dog’ or sister/brother kind of relationship. It’s interesting to see how it kind of evolves.”
Gary, given the fact that this is based on the four movies what are the challenges in turning a feature film franchise into a TV series? Or is it not a challenge because you have free rein as a writer for the show?
Gary Scott Thompson: “I think the biggest challenge is actually not alienating the original audience because they’re expecting one thing but when you go from one medium to the next, things don’t always translate. The movies themselves are extremely broad, and to do an hour drama that’s broad will not work on TV. You can’t be that broad. It has to really, at least, touch upon a reality base. So I think that’s the biggest problem anytime you transfer anything, whether it’s a novel or anything that you go back and forth between mediums, does not alienate the original audience and that you still have to try and get a new audience as well.”
Did Luc Besson have any hand in this at all? Did you let him see the scripts or let him have any input?
Gary Scott Thompson: “Luc has a hand in everything. He may not say he does, but he saw our cuts; he was there at the very beginning. I sat down with him here actually in L.A. when he was here at one point before we ever started shooting, to look over storyboards. And then when I was in Paris doing the editing, he was always a presence. He gives us opinions, suggestions as to what he wants and doesn’t want or what works and doesn’t work.”
How is the show different for you as an actress compared to other projects including Grey’s Anatomy?
Chyler Leigh: “Well, it is incredibly challenging in a lot of ways as far as physically challenging, it definitely pushed me further than I had been. I think just from a creative standpoint, I feel like I really hit a great stride in stepping into a character that I have never played anything like it before. You know, I’ve always kind of been the quirky, smart, witty kind of character. Then to be able to step into something like this was really exciting for me, and scary. But, you know, overall exciting.”
Jacky, how does it feel to be on a TV series?
Jacky Ido: “Actually it feels amazing because I’ve been wanting to portray a character on a TV show because it gives you much more latitude to explore the character and grow with him. So I was excited, respective of playing Leo.”
Chyler, did you cut your hair after Grey’s or specifically for this show?
Chyler Leigh: “The short hair…you know, I cut my hair about a month after Grey’s sort of as my own symbolic moment of moving forward and just trying something that I’ve wanted to try forever and never really had the guts to do it. Now I had some free time to be able to explore and I did. Boy, I chopped a lot of hair off. I love it.”
Gary Scott Thompson: “And then I chopped more of her hair off.”
Chyler Leigh: “He did. Yes.”
Gary, you wanted it short for this role?
Gary Scott Thompson: “I did. It made sense to the character. I wanted her to be so far from Lexie as well because the characters, they’re different. I wanted her to actually feel typically different from Lexie and so she could just go because it’s very physical. She was doing a lot of running and shooting and driving and sending her all through the streets of New York. So it’s a very, very different character than Lexie.”
How did you initially find out about the series and these characters?
Jacky Ido: “I was contacted by Luc Besson and he told me about the project, that they were going to shoot a TV show in New York, so I was really excited about this. And later on we met with Gary and we had auditions. That’s how I came on the project.”
Chyler Leigh: “And for myself, I got a phone call from my manager who knows Gary very well and had been approached by Gary about coming on board and just getting myself into the project. I read it and it scared the life out of me. And, I loved it. So, you know, after that it was a conversation with Gary kind of just going over everything and talking about this kind of series and what it would involve. That was sort of it, sort of went from there. It all happened very, very quickly.”
Who’s the better driver in real life?
Chyler Leigh: “Hands down, that’s me.”
Jacky Ido: “That would be Chyler. I give it to her. She’s a crazy driver compared to me. I’m a grandfather with a wheel.”
Chyler, you said that she’s kick ass and the character is really challenging. Can you talk about preparing yourself both physically and mentally to take on this character?
Chyler Leigh: “Well, you know, as I mentioned it all happened very quickly. It was only a matter of weeks before actually signing on to the project and then filming. So I had luckily, you know, been keeping active and whatnot. I had a good basis. But just stepping into something that’s physically challenging as this, I mean obviously when you walk into a project like this because obviously you have stunt people that come in and help do the things that we can’t if it’s from an insurance standpoint or just physically can’t do, that’s what they’re there for. And so, luckily, they have brought on a girl who’s fantastic, who stepped in in a lot ways for me when needed. So from a physical standpoint, there wasn’t a whole lot of time beforehand to prepare. But I feel like we caught up pretty quickly, went to actually filming.
From a mental standpoint, I think just given what we do, it’s a very schizophrenic business. We just have to kind of jump from one person to the next, different personalities. And so for me it was just trying to get my mind in the game of playing something different but also tapping into areas of my own life that maybe I don’t exercise often, which is that aggression. I’m a very easy-going person that’s just sort of fun-loving and whatnot so I tried to bring those aspects into the character that was already rooted in a, I want to say, darker place. But I guess that would be the easiest way of explaining it.”
Jacky, you have a successful international film career. What inspired you to make the change now to doing an American television comedy?
Jacky Ido: “My answer would be very simple: it’s Leo Romba. The character was just so amazing when I first got this script [and] started reading about him. I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. In so many aspects of it he’s like me. I love his sense of humor; he’s a life-loving guy. And to be able to portray someone who loves life to this extent. Also, someone who had experienced being a viewer in Europe but growing up in Europe watching television, American cop shows that were dubbed in French, and then being projected in that kind of universe that was a stereotypical – the characters, the archetype you find in the cop shows, that’s a dream for us, of French viewers being in the middle – in the midst of that and taking part in in solving those cases. So it was something that I couldn’t just stay away from. It was something that I really wanted to do.”
Did you get to do any actual driving in your role?
Jacky Ido: “Very little. I had a stunt driver doubling for me who’s amazing. He’s like Michael Jordan with a wheel. He’s incredible. So, yes, I took a lot of pleasure just standing on the side and watching him perform some of my stunts.”
Chyler Leigh: “I tried to take on as much as they would let me. I wasn’t allowed very much. So no, again, same thing. I had wonderful stunt people that were working with us and took over the wheel. But I tried to get away with as much as I possibly could. I think I scared people a few times, which was really my ultimate goal. I feel like I hit that very well.”
-By Rebecca Murray
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