The supernatural crime saga “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” (on filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network) is a re-imagining of Rodriguez’s 1996 movie “From Dusk Till Dawn.” In Season 2 of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” the show travels between Mexico and the edgy, tricked-out Texas of Rodriguez. It also deepens and complicates the core relationships between the characters, while adding new faces and new dynamics. Our characters are all living in very separate worlds: Santánico Pandemonium (played by Eiza Gonzalez) and Seth’s brother Richie Gecko (played by Zane Holtz) are outside Houston, doing their best Bonnie and Clyde; Seth Gecko (played by D.J. Cotrona) and Kate Fuller (played by Madison Davenport) are scraping by South of the Border; and Freddie Gonzalez (played by Eddie Garcia) is protecting his wife and young daughter in the suburbs.
Carlos Madrigal (played by Wilmer Valderrama) and Scott Fuller (played by Brandon Soo Hoo) emerge from the Titty Twister, changed men. They will all come together once again. And all are headed for an explosive showdown with the dark and sinister Lord Malvado (played by Esai Morales) and his lethal henchman The Regulator (played by Danny Trejo). “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” will air its Season 2 finale with guest star Demi Lovato (as Maia, the sexy, sultry sidekick of Carlos Madrigal) on El Rey Network on Oct. 27, 2015, at 9 p.m. ET. The show has been renewed for a third season. Here is what Rodriguez (who is an executive producer of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”) said in a roundtable interview with me and other journalists at 2015 New York Comic-Con in New York City.
What was your creative process going into Season 2 of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”?
The whole reason why we did Season 1 the way that we did, which was remaking the film, was to set it up in a way so that we could have sequel seasons. We had just started the first season taking off from where the movie left off. Most of the guys [from the movie] were dead, so we had to keep some people alive, come up with a deeper mythology, and build the groundwork. So I thought, “Let’s just remake the story of the film” in Season 1 in a way that surprises people and expands the storyline. When you think one thing is going to happen, like in the movie, it doesn’t. It goes in a different way.
I just set the stage so that in Season 2, we could really start the story. It almost feels like a real sequel to the film. The brothers are split up, whereas in the original film, the brothers died. There are new characters. We found a lot of parallels between Mayan mythology and these cults in the crime world. We put together the crime world and the vampire world.
We really wanted to tell a story that set everybody on a new path. You never know what’s going to happen next. I directed the 10th episode [of Season 2]. It’s my favorite episode of all the episodes. It’s a real blowout.
We needed to end the season on a real bang. It’s pretty awesome. It will have you screaming. It pays off everything so well. There are some cliffhangers. You definitely want to come back for more. We’re trying to top the snake dance and all that. It’s very awesome.
What can you say about any villains in Season 3?
We have an idea of where we want to go, but it’s really fun to discover that when we start writing the third season. The ideas we have always get bigger and better. It’s kind of the fun of doing the season. You don’t want to lock yourself into something early. You discover a lot during the making of the season. You have sort of a mental road map, but you want to have a lot of room to explore and take advantage of the characters. It’s really exciting.
How far in advance did you plot out elements of Season 2?
We knew we would meet Uncle Eddie in Season 2. We talked about him all through [the writing of Season 1]. My showrunner kind of taught me that trick. We’re talking about Season 5 in Season 1. They know hallmarks of where they want to go, and they pushed as far back as possible.
In a movie, everything is very fast. When you set something up, you pay it off right away. In a series, you’re making 10 movies in a season, basically. So you have to be kind of patient and set things up more. It’s interesting. It’s a totally different dynamic. That said, in Episode 10, I made it feel like a feature. I wanted it to have this relentless pace and huge set pieces and payoffs.
Do you have any fun behind-the-scenes stories?
The [Season 2 finale], that was just so much fun, because I told Demi Lovato … that there was something about her energy that I wanted to capture. She was fantastic. We had so much fun that I just directed her music video [for “Confident”]. It’s awesome! It feels like an action film.
When you see Episode 10, you’ll see the seeds were planted for us to work together in a different way. People are saying it’s her best video. It also has Michelle Rodriguez. I made her [Demi Lovato] look different. She’s kind of a villainess, but she showed her a**-kicking prowess there, and we capitalized on that.
And then just the idea of staging something musically. The snake dance [in the movie “From Dusk Till Dawn”] was so iconic, I wanted to have another killing to music. There’s this very elaborate sequence [in Episode 10] that is my favorite thing that I’ve done in a very long time.
How long after you did the movie “From Dusk Till Dawn” did you think about making it into a TV series?
The film was in ’96. I never thought about doing it as a series, really. But I had the map painting in my office since the end of that film. It’s the painting where the camera pulls back and shows the pyramid. It was something that was not in the script. It was something I made up. I had that painting. I’d see it all the time. I’d always wished I’d done more with the mythology that I was trying to allude to.
But when I got a television network, that was the first thing: “Oh, we should do ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’” I kept seeing that painting. The mythology was haunting me … It’s a Hispanic network, and the mythology rings true for people who are Hispanic. A pyramid and the Aztec and Mayan mythology, we wanted to put that into the show. The painting served as an 18-year reminder of this seed of an idea that I never really cultivated. And now, it’s in a huge way.
It’s kind of strange and coincidental that the name of the network is the name of the place we’re trying to go in “From Dusk Till Dawn.” It’s also the name of a song. There was also a character in one of my other movies whose name was El Rey. It’s kind of this name that follows me around.
When I picked this, I didn’t know that I was going to have “From Dusk Till Dawn” as our first TV series. It feels like fate. Some of my crew members have been working with me that long. My prop guy, my first AD [assistant director], my camera guys — they walked on the set, and it was like a time machine. They remember being on the set for [the movie]. Danny Trejo shows up. He was in the [movie]. It was like walking back in time.
We never thought it would revisit us in that way. It’s a real thrill to come full circle in a career, and to have been around for that long. When you see things come around again, it feels more cyclical.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about launching a TV network? What are some things you might do the same or differently moving forward?
It’s something very different from anything I’ve ever done before. I come from the movie world. I never really cared for the process [of making TV shows]. People make a series that get cancelled the first day. So much is out of control.
Then, when I got my own network, I thought, “This is fun. I can put any show I want to put on.” You can make all the decisions and give yourself a chance to try things and explore. Anyone who says they have a set plan, they’re lying. It changes and shifts. It’s really interesting.
It’s different from a movie. A movie, you put out, and if it’s not setting the box office on fire, it kind of just dies. On a network, you can get feedback from an audience and change. If you don’t perform one day, you can perform the next day. You can make a shift in the schedule.
It’s really exciting. It’s a living, breathing thing that you can constantly put out. What I would do differently? I did think when I first got it that it was kind of a linear channel. But things are so digital now, and people have digital channels, but people who have digital channels want a linear channel too.
Do you want to make any more of your movies into a TV series?
None that jump out right away. I have ideas for original stuff. I think we might do a movie tie-in with it.
For more info: “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” website