It's been 18 years since Robert Rodriguez directed From Dusk Till Dawn, and while a series based on the movie might not seem like an obvious choice to help launch the new El Rey Network, executive producer Carlos Coto promises you won't be disappointed by the result when From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series premieres tonight. In fact, the movie only scratched the surface when it comes to the character and mythology, he said in an exclusive interview with Blastr.
“The movie has these great characters that are worth exploring. Great voices. It's obviously the voice that [screenwriter] Quentin [Tarantino] has and that Robert brought to the screen. The tone of it, we're very much preserving the tone of the movie, but we're also deepening it and expanding it,” Coto said.
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, like the movie, follows the exploits of Seth and Richie Gecko (D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz), who are on a violent crime spree. On the run from the law, the brothers take former pastor Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick) and his family hostage and cross the border to Mexico. They end up at a strip club that is filled with vampires, leaving the humans, both good and bad, forced to fight for their lives until dawn if they are going to get out the club alive. The series also stars Jesse Garcia, Eiza González, Wilmer Valderrama, Adrianne Palicki, Jake Busey and Don Johnson. The pilot for the series was written and directed by Rodriguez, and Emmy-winning special effects wizard Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead fame oversees the makeup.
"A crime saga with a supernatural edge"
“What happens is we've taken the short story of the movie and treated it as a novel in the series, and in telling that story have expanded the palette and expanded the scope of the universe to where we're laying all this really interesting groundwork for what's going to be seasons two through five, hopefully,” he said.
For Coto, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a crime saga with supernatural elements. “Or a crime saga with a supernatural edge, as I like to say. The movie itself starts out as this pulpy crime drama and then takes this hard left turn into horror. In a lot of ways, when you think about From Dusk Till Dawn, it was one of the original mashups. Now, everything's a mashup and people are always looking for ways to mash up genres. But this was one of the first movies that took two things and put them together. Some people argue that maybe it didn't do it with the best results, but it was this great left turn when you saw the movie,” said Coto.
“Our stories are built on the criminal underworld. They're built on things like Jim Thompson novels and Richard Stark novels and Charles Willeford and all these great hardboiled crime writers, which, by the way, is what inspired Quentin in the script. The whole purpose of their trip in the movie is they're on the way to a place called El Rey, which comes from Jim Thompson's The Getaway. It's actually the last chapter in The Getaway. These husband and wife criminals in the novel are headed to El Rey. He kind of borrowed from that, so we again took that as inspiration and we built our stories and our universe around that,” he said.
Merging “the supernatural and the crime genres a little more artfully”
According to Coto, Rodriguez has always wanted to explore the Mesoamerican mythology, which is the mythology behind the culebras, or vampires. “We've taken that to heart and really explored that. There's this whole length and breadth of ancient mythology that's never been touched and never been used. For me, growing up Cuban-American and being Latino, it's hugely liberating to be able to do this show and to draw from all this mythology that goes back to the time of conquistadors and thousands of years before that,” said Coto.
While the series will follow the general storyline from the movie, how in the world will they handle the sudden turn that takes the movie from crime drama into horror over the space of 10 episodes?
“It was a very difficult thing. I sat down and thought about it, because part of the appeal of the movie is the left turn, right? So what I did was use the advantage of television, which is you have multiple points of view. So we can actually take the audience to the point of view of...we call them culebras, we don't call them vampires. They're vampires, but they're a different kind of vampire. Culebra is the Spanish word for serpent.
“What we decided to do was, you can visit that world and by doing that, you merge the supernatural and the crime genres a little more artfully as the story unfolds. You can use the character of Richie, the Quentin Tarantino character, as well to do that. However, what we've preserved is that the characters themselves still take that left turn. If the property doesn't quite take the left turn because you're watching all the angles of it, the characters definitely go through the same shock of, 'Wait a minute, we live in a world with vampires?' It's the same shock that the characters in the movie have. 'I do not believe in vampires.' We got the best of both worlds that way,” he said.
Digging into the “nooks and crannies” and finding “the moment”
“Again, if the movie's the short story, this is the novel. You follow the same narrative trajectory, but you're exploring all these nooks and crannies that were hinted at in the movie, but that weren't there. The moment in the movie that always struck me and that made me fall in love... there's always a moment in every movie that makes you fall in love with that movie, or fall in love with that character. It's John McClane pulling glass out of his feet and telling Al Powell to apologize to his wife. It's Martin Riggs putting a gun in his mouth. You feel for this guy," said Coto.
“In this movie, for me, anyway, it's when Seth comes back to the motel after getting Big Kahuna burgers and he finds out that Richie's killed the teller, and he says to him, 'This is not who we are. This is not who you are. What's wrong with you?' It's this moment between two brothers that to me hinted at a really great, grounded emotional story about one brother trying to save another brother from a darkness that is pulling him a certain way and that he can't save him from. That's not to say that it's now this super-serious endeavor – it still has all the edge and all the humor and all the insanity that the movie has – but people forget that when they think about that movie. People forget that moment, but that moment's in their gut and they feel it. It's the reason they love that movie, because those two guys are real,” he said.
By the same token, you have a preacher and his family who have lost their mother. "It has clearly knocked the family off of its axis to the point where Kate, the daughter, doesn't even want to talk about it in the diner. She waits until Scott, the adopted Chinese brother, leaves the table so they can talk about it. There's this wound at the center of this family that again is only hinted at in the movie and sort of gets explored but doesn't really get explored. That right there...then you have a parallel story,” said Coto.
If the series is about “one brother trying to save a brother, it's also about a daughter trying to save her father and a father trying to keep his family together. There's these great, rich emotional stories that haven't been explored. Then we also have a new character, a Texas ranger named Freddie Gonzalez who is Earl McGraw's partner...That becomes its own specific journey,” he said.
“There's also the fun nooks and crannies that we're exploring, like, what happened when he went to the Big Kahuna Burger? It's set in this psychotic place in the universe. It's like the way Marvel properties use their whole universe. This is the Rodriguez/Tarantino universe. Whenever we can make a reference or tie something in, it's a great palette to draw on, a great canvas to paint on,” he said.
"Here's this machete. Why don't you come with me?”
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is perfect for the new El Rey Network, said Coto, which is why he jumped at the chance to become the series' showrunner.
“It's a fun film and it's such an iconic thing. But there's a deeply personal reason for me. There's a couple of them. One is Robert. I had a couple opportunities to go on another network show. I had come off four seasons of Nikita. The phone was ringing. But I sat down with Robert, and he said, 'Look, we're doing this network. It's for people like us. It's for U.S. Latinos. It's also for dudes who like Starsky & Hutch and Dark Angel and X-Files,' which is what is running on the air. But he said, 'I'm doing this crazy thing. I'm going to go out and I'm going to run through the woods. I don't know if this is going to work. Here's this machete. Why don't you come with me?' And I said, 'Uh, okay.' It just seemed like a much more exciting thing to do,” said Coto.
“I read somewhere once that you should do things that scare you. This was this great adventure, and it's turned out to be this fantastic, fun ride with him where we just went off and did it. Hopefully people will respond. There's a personal story for me. I lost a brother about 10, 15 years ago, and that story, the story that I'm telling is personally, for me, kind of an exploration of that,” he said.
Here's a look at From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series:
Are you ready for the culebras to take a bite out of crime?