TV Tango Search

Search

|              FREE: Ask a TV Expert
   TelevisionCakeAd

WGN America ALMOST PARADISE: Interview w Christian Kane, Samantha Richelle, Dean Devlin + Overview

Michael Giordano - March 30, 2020

Almost_paradise_blog_main_400x400

 
 

 

On Monday, March 30, 2020 at 10pm ET/PT, WGN America premieres the high-octane crime drama ALMOST PARADISE. The series centers around Alex Walker (Christian Kane), a former US DEA agent, who was forced into early retirement. Once the DEA's most resourceful undercover operative, the combination of his partner's betrayal and a life-threatening battle with hypertension has sent him as far from the madness as he can go... a small tropical island in the Philippine Archipelago. He now runs the gift shop at the island's luxury resort hotel, gets his disability payments at the nearby US Air Force base, and generally manages his transition from Jason Bourne to Jimmy Buffett. BUT, the island's luxury resorts attract rich, powerful, and sometimes criminal elite from around the world, often on a collision course with Alex. He stumbles across a local undercover operation just when it is about to take a very bad turn. With the choice between helping the cops and certain slaughter, Alex steps in to save the day. This fateful act introduces him to two detectives – Kai Mendoza (Samantha Richelle) and Ernesto Alamares (Arthur Acuña): one, beautiful and by the book, the other, more welcoming and easygoing. Unfortunately, Alex is now also firmly on the radar of the Chief of Police, Ike Ocampo (Nonie Buencamino), who would like nothing more than to have Alex working for him. Somehow, the world of dangerous people and deadly situations has followed Alex to his refuge. Despite his best efforts to begin a tranquil new life, he's pulled back into a world of dangerous people and deadly situations, either through his friends in the local police department or running into people from his old life. And the problem is: he likes it.

 


 


On March 24, 2020 TV Tango sat down with series stars Christian Kane & Samantha Richelle and series creator/Executive Producer Dean Devlin for an exclusive interview.

 


Arthur Acuña (left), Christian Kane (center) and Samantha Richelle (right) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: How did the idea for ALMOST PARADISE come about?


Dean Devlin: It started on my honeymoon many years back. There were stories on the news how these local residents had taken the law into their own hands and captured a drug ring. It got me thinking about island justice and healing. I have a fondness for the Pacific islands - I'm half Filipino. This is the first scripted series ever done there. Most people only know about Imelda Marcus and her shoes or Manny Pacquiao. Any time the Philippines were shown in TV or movies it was almost poverty porn. But some of the most beautiful resorts in the world are found in the Philippines. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could tell a very comfortable, genre fun story but I could place it in a world nobody had seen before so I was very excited about that. It was very meaningful. I would see locals and some of my relatives there. It was also fun to connect with parts of my culture that I had never explored creatively before. There were a lot of things we could put in the show that added color and flavor.

Samantha Richelle: I'm Filipino, as well. I was raised in California but go back to the Philippines regularly. It's very special to be filming at a location like that. My mother is a filmmaker, she worked on Kid Kulafu [a story of Paquaio's lif]), I was fortunate enough to be able to be on the set and learn from the work on that film. It's really amazing to have ALMOST PARADISE as my first experience. From the people I'm working with to filming on the beach and living there for four to five months. It definitely has its perks and it's really special.


Christian Kane (left) and Samantha Richelle (right) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: How is the chemistry between the cast?


Christian Kane: It was so much fun to be on this little island, and at the end of the night, we'd all grab our bags and hang out at the bar. We'd talk about the day, our characters, what work we're doing the next day. You don't get to do that on other shoots. We really grew close because of that and we were always prepared because of that.


Samantha Richelle: I think none of that stuff would really matter if we didn't have good energy working together. Being on the island, on the beach, filming action scenes, it's nothing without these people. I was very fortunate to meet Christian and Art and Nonie and the crew behind the show and that really made the experience great for me. It's fun to be able to talk to everyone about this thing we're all working on. I like being able to come out of this project saying I've made friends for life.

Christian Kane: You see it in our characters. Alex sees early on that he's getting under Kai's skin. But Alex keeps going forward. And all he does is try to get under her skin. It's like Moonlighting. It's got that whole dynamic so it's very fun to have that kind of fun with another character when I'm used to being the guy who has his buttons pressed.


Samantha Richelle: It's really interesting to be able to play my character off of his. Alex comes into Kai's world and gets sucked in and she doesn't really like that very much - it's very disruptive. It's fun to see their banter and how they interact on screen. As Kai doesn't really like it, she's still forced to work with him because her boss trusts Alex more than her. There's an underlying jealousy and it's fun to play off of.



Christian Kane (left) and Samantha Richelle (right) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: What do you like about your characters?


Christian Kane: I didn't really have to search for this character that much. It was kind of like the wild west filming out there, we were in this new place that no one ever filmed in. There are a lot of the characters I've played that I've wrapped up into Alex. There's a lot of fighting in my previous roles, the character I played on The Librarians was very smart in his own way, like Alex. But Alex is more emotional about things than the others I've played. Seeing things through Kai's eyes, he starts to care about this town and this island and these people. All the research that I've done up to this point led to me being able to play this character.


Samantha Richelle: She's a badass chick. I wish I could be her. She's very strong-willed and very compassionate, as well. She loves her job and what she does and she loves the community and I think she's everything that I strive to be. I would like to say that we're quite alike when it comes to being told that we can't do something. We try to go against that and show everybody who we are.


Christian Kane in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: Do you think Alex is running away from something?


Christian Kane: Alex is definitely running away from something. When he first gets to the island, he's running away from his past, he's running away from the responsibilities of the real world. He just wants to relax and you never see a point where that's happening for him. He's always struggling with stuff and it's always fun to play that, to see that guy struggle.


Dean Devlin: Alex Walker is a very broken character when he comes to this island. And he gets this hint that he needs a little bit of this island spirituality to get by. I don't think he's running away from something, I think he's lost his mojo. The things he's believed in didn't pan out the way he thought they would. The cost of what he sacrificed for those ideals seemed too great a price to pay for the results he got. He's come there without a sense of being and his journey is to re-find it. Alex had been undercover for the good part of fifteen years. He's great at playing other people, in stressful situations. But he's not great at just living his life because he's never done it. I think that theme is something that's playing in our daily, stressful lives. Sometimes you're forced to be mindful of how you live your daily life.


Christian Kane (foreground) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: What themes will ALMOST PARADISE take on?


Christian Kane: The great thing that Dean did, being half-Filipino, is bring out his roots. He shows that it's not the Filipino people that are bad, it's these other elements coming in and being the corrupt influences. It's not the Filipino people that are the bad guys, it's all these other people coming in and setting up shop thinking they can get away with it. So it's fun working with the Filipino people and taking these bad guys down. America's never had a television series filmed in the Philippines - the Phillipines is like a lead actor in the show. All of a sudden, there's all this new culture and Dean and the crew know how to utilize that and get the audience into it.

Dean Devlin: You'll see that each episode evolves and gets better. In a way, Alex Walker is the audience, travelling places and seeing things for the first time as we do. The more he gets out of that on a healing level and a family level, it deepens the story. It makes it more fun but also more interesting and exotic. It's not a super edgy, dark and dramatic show. This is a fun action adventure show. One of the things that we wanted to do was not make the Philippines and the Filipino the “other.” I think the thing that people are going to be most surprised about is how similar we are.


Arthur Acuña (left), Christian Kane (center) and Samantha Richelle (right) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: The show switches between levity and drama pretty regularly. Can you talk about the choice to keep that balance?


Christian Kane: It's the only way to go these days. Dean always incorporates that into his shows. This day and age, if you can watch a show and get to laugh and cry at the same time, then we've done our job. You have to have a whole cast and crew that know how to do that. The people I've worked with on the other shows have really helped me learn how to navigate that. That comedy level makes the drama so much deeper. It's such a gift as an actor to be able to play something that hits you in the heart and the funny bone at the same time.


Dean Devlin: I have this little rule, three things that I'm super interested in. One, I prefer that the art I make is fun. Two, I'm kind of addicted to the cheer moment, that moment where you just go, “yes!” The third thing I'm interested in is emotional resonance. And that tends to temper the first two. I find that the work I'm interested in lays in finding that balance. Trying to have as much fun as possible without sacrificing some real emotional resonance.


Dean Devlin

Question: Dean, what's it like to work with Christian for so long?


Dean Devlin: We've been working together a while now. It's been a phenomenal partnership and one that's grown. To be at the conception level and to watch an actor grow the way I've watched Christian over the years, it's a very privileged place to be. From day one he was talented. To see him mature as an artist and to see the enormous generosity he has toward the other actors and crew. Doing a show like this in the Philippines had never been done before and Christian was the man on the ground walking everyone through it. I would listen to the dailies and I would hear Christian going to other actors and crew explaining what we're trying to accomplish and giving tips. That only comes after an enormous amount of experience. For me to have a partner in front of the camera helping behind the camera in the way that he does, that kind of trust can only come from a long journey taken together. The funny thing is that when I first came up with this show, I told Christian I had the perfect role for him but he's too young to play it. But by the time I actually got it up off the ground he was the right age.


Samantha Richelle (left) and Christian Kane (right) in ALMOST PARADISE.

Question: If you could have a super power, what would it be?


Samantha Richelle: Being able to teleport would be really cool. Being able to be in one place in one moment and then another in the next.


Christian Kane: It'd be really fun to be invisible but the one I'd really want is being able to fly. You can't necessarily do something to protect the world but I would love to be able to fly.


Dean Devlin: If I could have a super power it would probably be to read minds. I think the best thing we can be as human beings is empathetic. The more you can understand the needs of someone else and see the world from their point of view, the more empathetic you can be.


Character Descriptions



 

Alex Walker (played by Christian Kane)



Originally from Oklahoma, Alex Walker spent twenty years as a successful undercover operative with the US DEA, fighting in the trenches of the Drug War. Jaded from his time undercover and the betrayal of his ex-partner, he prefers to spend time alone, or he likes to think he prefers to spend time alone. That betrayal and the prior years of trauma and isolation also triggered a debilitating hypertension in Alex, forcing him to retire from the only job he knew. He arrived in the Philippines to do just that, the plan was the retire, relax and come to terms with the demons from his past but, when it comes to helping people Alex can't seem to help himself. Put a puzzle and crime in front of him and despite himself Alex will butt in. That is exactly how he met Kai Mendoza and Ernesto Alamares, two local detectives. Now, as Alex tries to manage his anger and high blood pressure, he is assaulted by opportunities to help out his new friends. It turns out, when helping them, he's slowly learning to heal himself.




Kai Mendoza (played by Samantha Richelle)



Kai is the heart of the team. After losing her mother – a community spiritual leader - at a young age, Kai shook off her rebellious, law- breaking teenage persona and was determined to become a community leader herself. To Kai, that meant becoming a police officer. The youngest person to ever make detective in the Cebu police department, Kai is a woman to be reckoned with. She has worked tirelessly to get where she is and is constantly fighting against gender norms to prove herself over and over again. When Alex enters the picture, Kai sees him as a pain in her a**; he is entitled, unprofessional and confirms her worst fears about mansplaining American know-it- alls. As they grow closer, she realizes that a lot of Alex's attitude is protective armor and that they have more in common than she suspected.




Ernesto Alamares (played by Arthur Acuña)



Ernesto is the soul of the team and connected to the vast spiritual world of the Philippines. His drive as a detective is to keep the people in the community safe and to keep the traditions in his community alive. Despite his quiet peaceful demeanor and spiritual roots (or maybe because of them) Ernesto is a master of Filipino martial arts and rarely uses his service weapon. He is the one male detective who was willing to partner with Kai and he is protective of her with their colleagues. Ernesto intuitively feels Alex's damage in a way that Kai doesn't. He makes it his project to help Alex heal himself using Filipino tradition.




EPISODE GUIDE


If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by WGN America, this guide includes descriptions of each one-hour episode, which feature three stories.


"Finding Mubuhay" (Monday, March 30, 2020): When ex-DEA agent Alex Walker moves to a tranquil, out-of-the-way beach in the Philippines for his health, he's surprised to discover the area has developed over the years into a luxury resort destination. Despite his best efforts and against doctor's orders, he soon finds himself falling back into his undercover operative ways when he's pulled into a drug sting operation run by the local police department.
Written by: Dean Devlin & Gary Rosen. Directed by: Marc Roskin.

"It's Personal" (Monday, April 6, 2020): When the body of a friend of Detective Ernesto Alamares washes up on a beach, it's Alex who realizes the international smugglers who just checked in at the resort may be involved. While Ernesto tracks down the murderer, Alex goes undercover with Detective Kai Mendoza to catch the smugglers, but Alex's hypertension flares when he realizes what kind of contraband is being trafficked.
Written by: Dean Devlin.Directed by: Marc Roskin.

"Reef Eel Soup for the Soul" (Monday, April 13, 2020): When Alex discovers that a group of mobsters are shaking down local street-food vendors, he goes undercover as a Spanish crime lord to bring the criminals to justice. But when he learns that a murderous international businessman is pulling the strings, he realizes that the implications for the future of Cebu are far worse than he ever imagined.
Written by: Ty Freer & Nick Keetch. Directed by: Francis dela Torre.

"Pistol Whip" (Monday, April 20, 2020): When a crew for a reality TV show exploring sunken WWII battlegrounds arrives at the resort, Alex's need for rent-money ensnares him in an illicit dive operation with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Written by: Calvin Sloan. Directed by: Dan Villegas.

"Unbecalming" (Monday, April 27, 2020): When a typhoon hits the Island, criminals and their hostages are trapped inside the police station. Alex must find a way to save his friends... as well as a sworn enemy – a US State Department bureaucrat there to “do a deal” with an arms dealer Alex had recently captured.
Written by: Kerry Glover. Directed by: Milan Todorovic.

"Rise of the Kalangay" (Monday, May 4, 2020): Alex, feeling competitive, races to solve a murder before a celebrated detective can find the killer. Things take a turn for the personal when Alex realizes the crime leads back to the murder of Kai's mother fifteen years before.
Written by: Sean Presant. Directed by: Hannah Espia.

"Uncle Danny" (Monday, May 11, 2020): Alex's con-artist Uncle Danny comes for a visit to make amends and Alex finds himself caught between protecting the world from his Uncle and protecting his Uncle from Kai and Ernesto... and a very pissed off mafia leg breaker.
Written by: Gary Rosen. Directed by: Francis dela Torre.

"Lone Wolf" (Monday, May 18, 2020): When Alex takes a job protecting a country singer he idolizes; he quickly learns that you should never meet your heroes. But when the singer is kidnapped, Alex must figure out who is really behind the crime and rescue him before it's too late.
Written by: Ty Freer & Nick Keetch. Directed by: Irene Villamor.

"A Wedding to Die For" (Monday, May 25, 2020): Alex's curiosity entangles him in Kai's undercover assignment at the wedding of a notorious triad boss, which turns ugly after a member of the wedding party is murdered.

"Something Walker This Way Comes" (Monday, June 1, 2020): Alex races to save his daughter when his old partner comes to town to finish the job he started.