It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: a kidnapped child. In the new NBC drama CRISIS, the terror is heightened by the fact that a school bus full of high-ranking political and affluent business people’s children are the victims of a mass kidnapping. The show asks the scary question: how far would you go to protect your child? The answer is: you would do anything. And that is terrifying when the parent may be the President of the United States with nuclear codes at his finger tips or a business woman who has no qualms about handing over millions of dollars in ransom that could be used to fund a terrorist attack – all in hope of getting their children back.
With dozens of panicked parents willing to take the law into their own hands, who have infinite sums of money at their disposal and more power than any one person should ever have, CRISIS shows how using children as bargaining chips is a much more effective way to get exactly what they want – and when they want it. And just what do these kidnappers want? That’s even more terrifying.
In a recent press call, stars Rachel Taylor and Lance Gross talked about their characters as an FBI agent and Secret Service agent, respectively. Caught right smack in the middle of this kidnapping and working for agencies famous for not wanting to cooperate or work together, in CRISIS, the immediacy of this threat and the fact that there are so many children caught in the crossfire forces them to team up in unexpected ways.
The show is being promoted by the fact that one does not really know who to trust: who is good and who is bad? Do you find this uncertainty exciting to play?
RACHEL: For me, I look at it as we just accept the information and the given circumstance that we have in any particular scene. I’m kind of excited by the idea that Rand Ravich, who is the creator of the show and really kind of a mastermind at this particular kind of genre. I’m excited by the kind of possibilities of all the shifting kind of thrown in the air. We also worked with Phil Noyce on the pilot, who is a great director who knows this genre really well. So what I feel like we really tried to create both on the pilot and then the first episode is this kind of really solid in his foundation of who are characters were and how they kind of behaved. So then we had that kind of solid basis to offer it from. But I have to say, as an actor and as a kind of a fan of the show in my own kind of weird way, it’s kind of exciting to feel like things could change on a dime at any minute; both while watching it and reading it and also while working on the show.
LANCE: Yes, its super exciting for me. I mean as the cast members were kind of reading these scripts and they’re page turners. And we as the cast, to not know what’s next, I like that element of surprise. But Rand gives us enough information because if there something too important that’s coming along down the line, he wants to prepare us for that. But it keeps us intrigued as actors and its fun as you just never know who to trust and it’s always exciting for us.
Did you do any particular research into like FBI or Secret Service before you started?
LANCE: Yes, I talked to anyone that I could. There was a retired Secret Service agent and I got a lot of good information, but with their job there’s certain things that they can’t reveal. Also we had on site training. We had gun training. So we definitely prepared for these roles in advance. Rand actually gave me a great book that became my Bible along the way. It’s called “Standing Next To History” by Joseph Petro. It was about a retired Secret Service Agent who worked Ronald Regan’s detail. So I got a lot of good information from that. That was the fun stuff, training for this role.
RACHEL: I spoke to a former FBI Agent, a retired guy who was so valuable and interesting here in Los Angeles and a former female FBI Agent which was super valuable. Just given the kind of personal sort of conflicts that my character carries throughout the series. So it was cool talking to her about the culture of being a woman in the FBI and I infused a lot of our conversation that I had with her into my performance. We spoke less about kind of the technical aspects of being FBI and more about a kind of sophistication of what being an agent does to your inner person. It’s intriguing really because all of our jobs affect us on a kind of deeper level in some way they affect our families and personal relationships. So I’m intrigued. Being a federal agent is a fairly important task. So I was kind of intrigued by what you do at the end of the night? Do you come home and you take a shower and you just leave your work at the office? And we spoke a lot about that kind of psychological cross over. So it was a very valuable conversation.
Can you talk for a second just about getting to work with Gillian Anderson [THE X-FILES]. Did you ask her anything about playing an FBI Agent?
RACHEL: I didn’t specifically, but I will say just in general she’s a very valuable presence to have on the set. She’s an incredibly elegant actress and very thoughtful and intelligent one. She really kind of doesn’t miss a trick. So I just really watched and learned from observation of her actually. She has a very intelligent presence on a set. So while I didn’t speak to her about playing an FBI Agent, specifically, because I think that’s one of the important things, you don’t want to do like a generalized impression of an FBI Agent. You want to kind of find the things that specifically make the character who they are. I really feel like she’s very kind of cold and kind of fractured. So I try to lean mostly on my own personal insight and feelings about the character, but in general Gillian is incredibly elegant as an actress and very valuable for me to watch her. I do feel very fortunate to work with all of this cast. It’s been a really great learning-curve for me.
Can you preview one specific moment that really set out who your characters that you can give a sneak peak to viewers about?
RACHEL: This is a tough one. I think Rand will be mad at me if I give too many specifics away. But Lance and I had a scene recently in a car. We really kind of together for the whole season really and we really have a very interesting relationship and very interesting friendship and professional partnership, the characters that is on this show. I remember we’re shooting a scene in the car where our characters were just kind of talking about their pasts and I felt like that. There was a real watershed in terms of our characters relationship together. I think for Lance and for myself probably feel like one of the most exciting things to share is where the relationship goes.
LANCE: I agree with Rachel on that because the thing about this is our characters are from two different agencies. I’m Secret Service and she’s FBI and with this situation that’s happened we kind of join forces. In the beginning we bump heads a lot just because it’s like this whole FBI/Secret Service thing. We each have our pride, but just along the course of this season it’s fun to actually bond with each of our characters and by the end of it we’re definitely partners. So that was the fun stuff for me.
So is Agent Finley (Lance Gross) going to play a big role with the FBI?
LANCE: It’s actually a large role that he plays with the FBI. He pretty much comes on as a honorary FBI Agent because he has a wealth of information so he’s useful to the FBI to solve this case. So he’s in it.
Many people will compare this show to others like 24 or HOMELAND or HOSTAGES. Do you have anything to say about any similarities or differences?
RACHEL: Yes, I think it’s a familiar genre, the espionage/crime genre for sure. But I think that CRISIS has this bone kind of peculiarities in a way. There’s a strong sentimental factor to our show. Some of the parents of children are from humble back rounds and all the way up to the President’s child, and we ask the question: how far they would go to save their child’s life? So there is a certain emotionally moving component to our show that I think kind of sets us apart.
How appealing is the position of a Secret Service Agent now that you have had a chance to play one? Is that something you see yourself doing if you weren’t an actor?
LANCE: I’ve always had this weird fascination with the Secret Service. They’re so mysterious. You don’t know too much about them. You just know that they’re there to protect. I feel like I’m a protector naturally so taking on this role I was just so excited about it. Their willingness to step in front of a bullet and put their life on the line for whoever they’re protecting. I don’t know if I would actually go into that profession as a career because I love what I do so much I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. But I have tremendous, tremendous respect for what they do and I’m always fascinated by it. I find myself watching news coverage of the President and I’m always drawn to the people that are protecting him. Like what they’re doing? I always wonder about their lives. So this is the type of role that’s going to keep me intrigued for years. Out of all the roles that I’ve played this is my favorite one.
RACHEL: For me, I think I’m practical. I’m not sure as an Australian woman how much success I’d have joining the FBI for real. But I will say I have developed most incredible respect for what men and women who are work for federal agencies or who spend their lives and their livelihoods protecting and securing this country. I’m very intrigued at how one does that for real on a day to day basis, and they seem to develop the most kind of extraordinary strategic and tact and analytical ways of thinking. They truly do become tacticians. So I’m a “girl’s girl” and I’m less intrigued by shooting weapons and fighting and that kind of stuff, but I’m very intrigued by the kind of intellectual aspects of what these people do on a day to day basis. It‘s really kind of extraordinary and Lance and I had the privilege of working with a guy who helped us on set when we were filming in Chicago. He’s just such a smart dude, just incredibly intelligent. That tactical way of thinking. So I was like, “Man, you’re smart! And I’m an actress.” It was very impressive to me.
Is there was anything about these roles that you have added to the character that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
RACHEL: That’s a good question. I read a ton different kind of TV scripts over my time and this is a really good one and Rand Ravich and all of the writers that work for him is an incredibly elegant writer who really does sneak in a bunch of really interesting character details that if you’re a detective about it you can kind of see them kind of matriculating over the course of the season. Really all the clues are on the page, but it’s our job to kind of use our imagination a little bit. I’m very different from my character in real life; like I’m a very kind of warm feeling person and the character of Susie Dunn is quite cold and fractured emotionally. in a way. So one of the things I try to do is to look for a moments to pry’s her heart open a little bit and that was probably — if I could claim one thing — I think that was the thing that I tried to do was define little moments of humanity and heart for her. I don’t know if they are going to end up in the show. I mean it’s possible that I’m off base and they’ll edit it out or whatever. But that was one of my private little goals.
LANCE: For me, like Rachel said, Rand did a pretty good job with mapping this all out for us, where everything is on the page. For me, I just kept telling myself: you’re a Secret Service Agent, you have to remain calm in situations. So there’s a relaxed element that I wanted to bring to it even though that this is a huge crisis that we’re going through. I kind of tried to find places to insert that in. Like Rachel said, I don’t know if it’s going to be on the cutting room floor. But I would think that would be the thing for me. Just a calm, relaxed vibe about Marcus Finley.
To find out how FBI Agent Susie Dunn and Secret Service agent Marcus Finley end up teaming up during this political crisis and kidnapping, be sure to tune in for the premiere of CRISIS on Sunday, March 16th at 10:00 p.m. on NBC.