Action heroes usually come in two varieties: they’re an unstoppable character like James Bond, who rolls with every punch (or nuclear missile) coming his way; or the burned out former hero who has to somehow pull his crap together to save the day (think of Bruce Willis in the first couple of Die Hard films). But with Whiskey Cavalier, we’re getting a guy — in the form of Scott Foley — who’s coming off of a painful breakup and wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Not that you’d want to ask the actor whether the character will be less … weepy … as the series goes on.
“What’s your problem with emotion, man?” he asked at the TCA Winter Press Tour panel for the show.
Uh … nothing, Scott. Honestly.
Growing more serious, he added, “I think he carries the weight of the experience with him, but it’s not a constant in the episodes you’re going to see in the first season. It was really a great way to introduce a different side to a sort of leading action man, and I thought it was an interesting way to jump into the show. I have a very strong belief that it’s time to sort of reinvent that trope that is the leading man in an action series. To me, at least, something unrelatable to a lot of the tropes you see in the men that we know who save the world on the television shows we grew up on.”
In this, he’s referring to the more “robotic,” always keeping their emotions in check sort of heroes. “This,” he said, “is something that I think is modern and more interesting, for me at least. It’s much more relatable to have a character like this than someone sort of stoic instead.”
Whiskey Cavalier is described by ABC as a high-octane, hour-long action dramedy that follows the adventures of tough but tender FBI super-agent Will Chase (code name: “Whiskey Cavalier”), played by Scott, 46 (whose previous series include Felicity, The Unit, True Blood and Scandal). Following an emotional breakup, Chase is assigned to work with badass CIA operative Frankie Trowbridge (code name: “Fiery Tribune”), played by Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead). Together, they lead an inter-agency team of flawed, funny and heroic spies who periodically save the world — and each other — while navigating the rocky roads of friendship, romance and office politics.
As series creator David Hemingson explains it, the concept was a direct outgrowth of a relationship he’s had with one of his two best friends over the past 30 years. It began four or five years ago when he received a call at 2:00 in the morning.
“When a call comes at 2:00 in the morning, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, who died?'” he reflected. “So I pick up the phone and it’s my buddy, who shall remain nameless FBI agent. And I’m, like, ‘Are you okay? Are your parents okay? It’s 2:00 in the morning!’ He goes, ‘Oh, man, I’m so sorry.’ He pulled this terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. ‘Listen, I’m breaking up with my girlfriend and I’m having a hard time. I created this playlist because we’ve been having a hard time. Could you just edit the playlist, because the guys from the CIA think it’s way too heavy into The Smiths, and too shoegazey.’ And I’m thinking, this guy just thwarted a plan, he’s off saving the world, and he’s calling me about his breakup with his girlfriend. And I started thinking to myself, ‘This guy is the first guy through the door, gun out and up. He is an American hero. He is an amazing guy. And at the end of the day, what he wants is what we all want, which is love, which is connection.’ So I started wondering why we always portray these guys as cold, hard lotharios. Why aren’t we portraying these men and women as people who are desperate to trust somebody and urgently want connection? And so the whole thing was an outgrowth of a late night phone call.”
Whiskey Cavalier is a show that is loaded with action but also has a lightning fast rapport between the two lead characters with quite a bit of humor as well. “The humor is hugely important,” said David. “We call it the total tightrope. I feel like, like life, comedy and drama kind of intermingle. Within the genre, a judicious use of comedy, doing it well and doing it from a character based standpoint, kind of takes it to a whole new level. I started as a comedy writer. I call myself genre fluid; I go back and forth. But I love drama and comedy and fundamentally believe that they’re inextricable. We’re really striving to kind of seamlessly combine the two.”
This was a significant part of the appeal of the show for Scott, who believes in a way it’s honoring a tradition of television. “I wasn’t interested in just doing an action show or a drama,” he noted. “I wanted to do a show that reminded me of the shows that I grew up watching, like Remington Steele, Moonlighting, Hart to Hart and Simon & Simon. I miss those light one-hour shows. And for me, I wouldn’t be interested in doing this if the comedy wasn’t there.”
Whiskey Cavalier will premiere on ABC on Wednesday, February 27.