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The classic thriller The Saint is plotting a return to television with a new pilot that recasts Adam Rayner as the suave adventurer Simon Templar, with Eliza Dushku as his on-again, off-again romantic interest and Greg Grunberg as Detective Garces.
While the faces may be new, the revival (which doesn’t yet have a network) won’t neglect longtime fans of Simon Templar. For starters, Roger Moore, who starred in the 1960s TV series, is executive producing and will appear on screen.
“We have a very fun and interesting new take on The Saint,” co-producer Jim Martin teased Spinoff Online. “It’s not a reboot and it’s not a remake. You know how J.J. Abrams managed to create the new Star Trek franchise without burning the longtime Trekkies and Trekkers? Well, we know that the long and storied history of Simon Templar has borne a ton of Saint fans, and we plan on embracing that fan base. Not only are we including Sir Roger Moore in our pilot but, we are also lucky enough to get Ian Ogilvy, who starred as Simon Templar in 1978-79 incarnation The Return of the Saint.
In the 85 years since his debut in Leslie Charteris’ 1928 novel The Saint, Simon Templar has appeared in more than 75 books (36 of which were written by his creator), 15 films, 11 radio serials, two TV shows, a series of made-for-TV movies, and a decade-long comic strip. But as Martin explained to Spinoff Online, there are still more stories to tell.
Spinoff Online: What drew you to this project?
Jim Martin: 2012 was the 50th anniversary of the Sir Roger Moore TV Series’ premiere! What better time than now to get back in the Saintly game? In addition to this, the estate of Leslie Charteris, the creator of The Saint and epically cool writer of the books, has been trying to get The Saint back on the air for years. Apart from the Philip Noyce/ Val Kilmer movie in 1997, there was a series of two-hour movies of the week starring Simon Dutton as Simon Templar in ’89, after CBS tried to fire up the franchise again in 1987 with Andrew Clarke as The Saint in Manhattan.
Personally, I’ve been a fan of The Saint since I was a kid and I’d watch the Sir Roger Moore series in repeat with my grandfather and my parents (whenever I could find it on TV, to be honest). And the project has been somewhat of a dream for me for a long time. It’s been a strange series of events that led me to get involved. Long story short, I pitched a pilot to MPCA, who had the rights. They liked my pitch, but I had no showrunner credits to speak of, so as they say, “Sorry, no” was the answer. As MPCA approached the second half of 2012, they needed to get something going to shoot or risk losing the rights again. I talked to Alex Coscas, co-executive producer on the project and longtime friend. and told him I could bring in my friend Jesse Alexander (of Heroes/Lost/Hannibal fame) to write/executive produce. Brad Krevoy and MPCA made Jesse and I a deal, and we were off to the races, writing the pilot and a bible…
In other incarnations, The Saint travels the world. Will that also be true in this series?
Scenes for the pilot were shot in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Pedro, London and Switzerland.
The Saint is just what you alluded to — an international show. Based out of London and New York, Simon will travel to exotic and intriguing locations that stretch from Shanghai and Singapore to Paris and Mumbai.
Friends, family? What kind of social milieu will The Saint find himself in your series?
As far as his social scene? Simon Templar is an aspirational character who plays amidst the aristocracy, with the crème de la crème, while constantly undercutting those in his social sphere and stealing from those he deems “unsaintly.” Simon has very few friends, but those he trusts with his life. His BFF and associate is Patricia Holm (Eliza Dushku), a beautiful tech guru with the skills of an assassin. His wheel man and op-tech liaison in L.A. is Doyle Consentino (Yani Gellman). There are other players in the series that he runs into frequently — Special Agent John Henry Fernack (Enrique Murciano) seems to be always just a fraction of a step behind ,and Rayt Marius (Thomas Kretschmann) is a longtime antagonist and violent psychopath whom Simon is forced to thwart.
From what I’ve read, Simon Templar’s nefarious past is only hinted at in the books. Will that figure in your series and his “conversion” from petty criminality into hero?
I like to think that our plan for Season 1 will bring that conversion and realization into the light. Simon’s origin may be a mystery, but his driving forces are not, and there’s a lot of questions that we have to answer, and between you and I, we have some amazing plans for the next few seasons (fingers crossed).
Simon Templar’s moral code derives, at least in the books, from a certain idealization of the Knight’s Templar, who, historically, protected European pilgrims to the Holy Land and also acted as bankers. Will you get into any of this history in your show and how it might inform The Saint’s actions?
Tell me about your cast. How do you go about choosing someone to play Simon Templar?
Casting this show was a joy. We got to see some of the best actors in the world, and we managed to only pick the best. Simon Templar is interesting, when you think about it. He has to toe the line between criminal and hero. He has to be dangerous but loveable. He has to be charming and charismatic but also a physical force to be reckoned with. Oh, and he must be English. I like to think that we found the perfect package with Adam Rayner. I think once audiences see this pilot. they will agree. And what can we say about the beautiful, talented and all-around bad-ass Eliza Dushku? She’s been on my radar as someone I’ve wanted to work with for years, and when we started casting and she became available, I jumped at the opportunity. She’s a rock star … and it doesn’t hurt that she’s from Boston as well! Enrique Murciano is a revelation. I didn’t know how brilliant this guy was until I met him in the room before we shot. I knew I loved his acting, but goddamn, I love that man! He’s great. And the hits just kept coming. Yani Gellman is amazing. Greg Grunberg is a stud (and a friend from a long way back on Heroes). Greg. as Dectective Garces, is assigned to Special Agent Fernack’s LAPD’s liaison.
Beatrice Rosen is without a doubt one of the best casting choices I’ve ever been a part of. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do with Katherine Valecross, we didn’t even know what age she was to be … but when Beatrice taped we said, “Get her in this show somehow!” and we did! James Remar is a favorite of mine who brings it to such a high level when he’s on set. Sonalii Castillo read for a part when we were auditioning and we fell in love with her and changed the part to her name! Jason Brooks came in as Captain Miller and knocked it out of the park — he’s as funny and handsome as he is talented. It’s amazing! Michael Ornstein as Kal Barko — please. How good is that guy? I mean, just his looks, his eyes, his nuance. So great. Oh! And Sammi Hanratty! How amazing is she? Any 17-year-old that can make words that adult men write sound that realistic is a rock star. She’s going to be so huge. I hope she hires me some day.
Any unique production details? Anything you find particularly unique or exciting about The Saint returning to TV?
There are so many interesting and exciting things we’re doing with The Saint’s return to TV. The pilot was produced independently, so we have the ability to go anywhere! We also did some amazing things with special effects, visual effects, locations and performances that I just can’t even express how excited I am. Simon Templar is back, and the television landscape is his playground!