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"From Dusk Till Dawn" premiered on the El Rey network this week, but that's just the tip of the iceberg for the fledgling cable channel. The show, created by Robert Rodriguez primarily to appeal to English-speaking Hispanic audiences, has the fingerprints of the man behind "Desperado," "Sin City," and "Spy Kids" all over it.
"Since it's my own network, I'll always be doing stuff for it," Rodriguez told Yahoo TV. "This is an opportunity to do television in a way that nobody gets to do television. Traditional TV involves executives, notes, and even when you've submitted something, "maybe they put it on the air, maybe they don't."
[Related: 5 'From Dusk Till Dawn' Posters]
But with El Rey, those limitations don't exist. Rodriguez says, "I can go to someone like Bob Orci and say, "Hey, what ideas do you have for a show? And he says, 'Oh, well, a secret agent soccer player called Matador.' So I said, 'All right. You're on for 13 episodes, primetime, you have this budget per episode, and off you go.' So you can just greenlight things. If you believe in talent, you can move at a good clip."
"Matador," by the way, is going into production this month and will premiere following the World Cup this summer. Produced by Orci and Alex Kurtzman — the team behind "Sleepy Hollow," the new "Star Trek" reboots, and the "Transformers" franchise — it's pitched as a new take on James Bond: playboy soccer player by day, covert CIA operative by night.
Rodriguez on his first foray into television:
Mark Burnett — the man behind "Survivor," "The Voice," "The Bible," and "Shark Tank" — will also be producing a show due out later this year that will be an English-language lucha libre show. The high-flying professional wrestling circuit is huge in Mexico but, due to language barriers, is little known in the United States. Rodriguez says Burnett "knows things about storytelling; he knows about character," which will help the Mexican cultural institution cross over. "That's one of my favorite things, lucha. To see how he can bring that to life is pretty exciting."
In addition to original content, El Rey will also be home to licensed programming, including "Dark Angel," "Texas Justice," "Starsky & Hutch" and "The X-Files," as well as old grindhouse pictures like "Switchblade Sisters" and "Dolemite," along with "other things we're just big fans of," said Rodriguez. "We're curating all the content so that it's all here playing for a reason. It's really cool. It's really fun."
That sense of fun is one of the things that sets Rodriguez's work apart; another is his work ethic. Often described as a "one-man film crew," it's not that he can't let go of control — he is usually his films' writer, director, producer, editor, and often, composer — it's that, "They're such fun jobs that it's hard to let someone else have all the fun," he says.
Doing everything is the best, he adds. "I mean, I can't direct without operating the camera. I like being in there really close to the actors, really feeling how the shots are going. Doing music for the show, doing effects — it's really important to getting those just right. Editing — I'm one of the main editors. I edit on every episode. It's just part of how I work."
Which is what he's doing for the network as well. He told the NY Daily News that in addition to directing (and editing) episodes of "Dusk" and "Matador," he'll also be very hands-on with El Rey.
"With this network, I do everything but turn on the TV for you."
"From Dusk Till Dawn" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on El Rey.