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The Recruit Creator Discusses Working With Doug Liman on the Series

Dec 29, 2022


[This interview contains spoilers for the last episode of The Recruit]Created by Alexi Hawley, Netflix’s latest action-packed series, The Recruit, is a refreshing break from tradition when it comes to gritty spy series. Instead of a confident, seasoned spy as the central character, The Recruit has Owen Hendricks (Noah Centineo) leading the way. Owen is a fresh-faced CIA lawyer, who only recently graduated from law school, who gets caught up in some dangerous stuff. Namely, Max Meladze (Laura Haddock), a former CIA asset who is threatening to expose the agency unless they exonerate her of a serious crime she committed.

Ahead of the premiere of The Recruit, Collider sat down with Alexi Hawley to discuss how he came up with this distinctly millennial series, how he got Doug Liman involved with the project, the casting process, what changed and evolved once the series started filming, and how he got Nathan Fillion for that very fun cameo. You can read the interview below or check it out in the player above.
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COLLIDER: I love this genre of storytelling, and I specifically love how millennial The Recruit feels. And so I’m really curious to know, how did the story come to you, and this cast of characters, come to you?

ALEXI HAWLEY: I mean, ultimately it came to me first through the idea of graymail, which is blackmail with national security. This idea that there are people out there who are trying to blackmail the government, the CIA specifically, because they say they know secrets. Most of them, they don’t. They call them The Crazies for a reason. But that seemed like a really fun way in, and a fresh way into the world.

And then in terms of the millennials, I mean that was, to me, the heart of this show is that instead of coming at it through a 30-something-year-old spy who’s really good at his job, to come at it through a kid right out of law school who, he’s barely gotten his jacket off before he starts down this rabbit hole. But who has roommates, who has complicated relationships, who has romance and all that stuff, also felt like a fresh take on a spy show.

Image via Netflix

How early on was Doug Liman brought in?

HAWLEY: Well, we set it up, ultimately, with Doug’s company, Hypnotic. So Doug was involved from the very beginning. The question always is, with an incredibly busy director, is he going to be available to actually do it? And so, luckily for us, the stars aligned and his schedule opened up. But yeah, no, he was involved from the very beginning.

I was a huge fan of Castle. And I know you’ve worked with Nathan Fillion, obviously, on The Rookie, so we have to talk about that cameo. How did that come to be? Was it an instant yes with Nathan?

HAWLEY: It was. I called him, [and] I said, “Hey, will you…” And before I even finished the sentence, he said yes, because Nathan is such a great guy. But I just thought this CIA director’s coming in at the last minute of the show, really, of the first season, and he’s got to come in and own the room. And Nathan is just such a great actor, and so charismatic, and he got excited ’cause he’s like, “I get to curse.” Which he never gets to do on network television. So yeah, it was super fun and I was grateful for him saying yes like that.

Were there any scenes that ended up changing, whether it be when a new location was found or something changing on the day? I’m always so interested to see how things change once you’re actually in the location.

HAWLEY: We were shooting up in Montreal over winter, which is, at best, freezing and at worst like negative 20. So there were a lot of adjustments that had to be made over time. We also had planned to do a lot of shooting overseas, on location, and COVID really hurt us on that. We were going to go to Morocco for some stuff, but they literally closed their borders because of COVID, and so we ended up having to make adjustments and shoot a lot of stuff in Montreal.

There is definitely a visual effects component of it, but in a way that’s meant not to be noticed. Sometimes that stuff’s supposed to be flashy, but for us, it’s like… the black site in Yemen, we shot in a parking lot in Montreal at the sound stages, and the world around it is created, but again, in a way that’s seamless.

Can you talk a little bit about the casting process? I think Noah [Centineo] and Laura [Haddock] are just wonderful in their roles. Were they actors that you were looking for for those roles specifically, or was it through an audition process?

HAWLEY: So Noah attached before we took it out to Netflix to sell it to Netflix. We brought him onboard super early. It’s obviously very important in this day and age to find a star for your show. It gives you the most chance of success. And it’s rare that the people that you love and really want to get are available, that’s the same thing with Doug. But we got lucky, and he was available, and he loved the script, and so he came on board, and then it was just a question of finding the right people.

And Noah’s an executive producer on the show, and he was very involved in the casting process and was very generous with his time. He would read with the actors and do chemistry reads because it was important to surround him. Because even though he is the lead of the show, there is a strong ensemble and we found phenomenal actors to fill those roles. And so it was a lot of fun to go through that process with him.

Image via Netflix

The ending of the season had me wanting to find a number to call Netflix and be like, “You have to renew this for a second season.” It was just so good. How far out do you have this mapped out?

HAWLEY: I know things about where I would want to take it, and where I’d want to go with it. I mean obviously, you hope for success, but as you could see with that ending, I didn’t plan for failure because I feel like in this day and age you just have to be bold, you have to be dramatic, to the expense of everything else. And you can’t worry about Season 2’s, or Season 3’s, or beyond. You have to go, “What’s the best version of this story right now?” And trust that people will come to it. And then you’ll get another shot at it.

Definitely. Can we actually talk about that cliffhanger ending and the way it all kind of comes together? I went back and re-watched some of the previous episodes just to see where things were slowly working towards that. But can you talk a little bit about the process of building to that jaw-dropping finale?

HAWLEY: Yeah, it was important to really sort of lay the breadcrumbs really early. You noticed in Episode 2, Max, when she’s threatening Yadira, the woman who tried to shank her in prison in bed, she’s talking about her daughter in a way that’s organic, a way that’s connecting because it’s involved with the threat. “You have a daughter, I have a daughter,” that kind of thing. And really just subtly lay those groundworks.

And also the Nietzsche of it all in the CIA office when they’re going through who we got to kill and who we don’t have to kill, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, because we knew where we were going, we managed to find all these little places to sort of move that story. So it felt inevitable, even though it was shocking and unexpected the second it happened. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it’s just you didn’t have enough information. Because I think audiences hate being surprised [by] it not being earned.

Image via Netflix

Can you talk about anything that you were surprised by, or learned during the process? Because obviously you talked a little bit about this being filmed during COVID, and that was such a brand-new era of filmmaking for a lot of people. So can you talk a little bit about that?

HAWLEY: Yeah, I had the benefit of having done The Rookie from the very beginning of COVID. I mean Season 3 of The Rookie was right when COVID had hit, and we delayed production trying to figure out how we were going to make a show in the time where everybody had to wear masks, and didn’t know anything about it. So the good news was that I had experience with that. But we shot in Montreal, and I’d never shot there before, and our sets weren’t ready right when they were supposed to be, so there was some scrambling. This is all first-year show stuff, this happens all the time, but there’s constantly stuff that you have to adjust to. You just have to try and keep your head and just go left when you can’t go right.

The Recruit is streaming exclusively on Netflix. For more from the series, check out Collider’s interview with Noah Centineo below:

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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