On the face of it, NBC’s fall drama series The Player, starring Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester, is an action-thriller, and pretty much what you might expect from action stars Snipes and Winchester. But, the series is also from the pen of The Blacklist‘s producers, and so, the series promises to be so much more. I had a chance to talk with Snipes, Winchester and executive producer John Rogers during San Diego Comic-Con about The Player, and what viewers might expect from the Las Vegas-based thriller.
Snipes stars as Las Vegas pit boss, the enigmatic Mr. Johnson. But this dude is no ordinary pit boss; he’s the dealer in an extraordinary game that pits criminals against very bad ass (and violent, apparently) ex-military operative (Winchester).
Set 20 years in the future, the show is inspired by a “pulp novel ethos,” according to executive producer Rogers. Although the trend is more towards serialization, Rogers missed the sense of not knowing what to expect in each week’s story. In The Player, wealthy gamblers bet on crime, and on whether Winchester’s Alex Kane can stop it. But there is a story arc framing the series, said Rogers, and one plotted in great detail. “We know how the story will end–the final scene,” and more or less how it will get there, though detours and tangents are always the surprising possibilities.
More than anything, Rogers reflected, the series is about power, the responsibilities and obligations of it–and the pitfalls. The main characters of The Player are flawed and conflicted. Rogers described Snipes’ character as “menacing” with a “quiet sort of power.” You never really know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy, but he definitely “has an ethical code.”
Snipes, known mostly for his action roles in film, especially the fan favorite Blade series, has embraced this new character. It allows him to explore a full range of acting possibilities: action, emotional beats, and drama–even martial arts. And he does many of his own stunts (as does Winchester). He reflected that the role sort of takes him back to his repertory days in theater when he would get to play lots of different characters, and Mr. Johnson is all of that rolled into one character.
Rogers described Alex Kane as sort of the hero of Zero Dark 30 if she’d gone bad. He’s suffered a terrible loss with the death of his wife, and all he wants is revenge for her death. Winchester noted that Alex is “good at the violent aspects of his job,” and “not so good” at the more people-centric part of his work. He sees Alex as a sort of John Mclane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) character, ultimately.
The Player premieres Thursday September 24 at 10 p.m. ET, following The Blacklist.