Blindspot kicked off Season 2 with a bang. Or rather, it kicked off with torture, a fiendish escape, and a high-speed motorcycle chase. The season premiere aims to bring in new viewers and satisfy returning ones, which is why showrunner Martin Gero also directed the episode. We spoke with Gero about what he calls the “brutal marathon” of filming 23 hours of feature-film-quality action a year and why it was worth it to risk burning out to make the episode.
The Season 2 premiere does not mess around. We find out that Jane (Jaimie Alexander) has been tortured by the CIA for the last three months. She breaks out of the black site like MacGyver if he were some sort of video game demon ninja. The team allies with NSA liaison Nas (Archie Panjabi) to bring her in and convince her to go back undercover with her old organization — now code-named Sandstorm. The head of Sandstorm turns out to be Jane’s mother (Michelle Hurd), and Jane and her brother (Luke Mitchell) have been raised since childhood to be covert operatives.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here. Thanks to the NSA’s “radioactive lie detector,” Jane is able to at least lay the groundwork for rejoining the FBI while, at the same time, catch new viewers up on pretty much all of Season 1. Three new recurring roles are introduced, and Patterson is given a whole new stack of puzzles to solve courtesy of Mayfair’s decrypted thumb drive. The Season 2 premiere episode has to be exciting enough to draw in new fans and deep enough to avoid boring returning fans, and it has to set the tone for all of Season 2. It’s no wonder that the showrunner would want to be as hands-on as possible.
Gero is no stranger to the director’s chair. For the last show he ran, The L.A. Complex on the CW, “I directed, basically, half the episodes.” You’d think that directing multiple fight scenes, countless digital screens with important and complicated information, and a motorcycle chase through a forest would be orders of magnitude harder than directing motel-room banter. But Gero says no. “Whether you’re planning a really complicated shot with two people talking or whether you’re planning a really complicated sequence — we have a huge motorbike sequence that, thanks in large part to our amazing crew, turned out to be one of the best things we’ve ever done on the show — it’s just all planning. Knowing what you want and planning.”
A showrunner is involved in every aspect of the production, from budgeting to casting to writing to editing the final frames. “I basically have three full-time jobs here,” says Gero. So why add directing to the list? “That’s a great question. Because I’m an idiot, I guess,” he laughs. “It’s something I certainly missed.” In addition to The L.A. Complex, he also directed an episode of Stargate: Atlantis while he executive produced that show.
It’s not something they could have done last year. “The first season of a TV show when you’re running it is like you’re building a boat while you’re sailing it. You just keep looking down and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God. There’s so much water in this boat! Just keep moving! Just keep moving!’” Now, though, they know what can be done with the budget and crew and time (an episode is shot in nine days), and he can afford to step away for more than two weeks (directors have eight days to prep an episode). “The reality is, I’m surrounded by a group of 400 extraordinary people, and I could never have done that if I weren’t so confident in everyone else’s abilities.”
Things are even more complicated because the showshoots in New York, but the writers and postproduction staff are on the other side of the country in Burbank, Calif. Despite the distance, though, the actors still have a tight relationship with the writers — and Gero. Unlike directors, who come and go every episode, “The writers are always on set.” They don’t actually direct the actors, but Gero says, “We give them greater context for the moments that are around it. You can have a longer, deeper conversation with the writer than you can with a director. It really felt like we had been doing all this before already.”
The comfort and context of that relationship was especially helpful given that this is Panjabi’s, Mitchell’s, and Hurd’s first foray into the world of Blindspot. Gero is effusive in his praise for the cast coming into the season. “We have such an embarrassment of riches of actors on the show,” he says, lamenting that there just wasn’t enough time last season to give all of them the screen time they deserve. He promises that they’ll have that time this season, and adds, “What we were so impressed with was how wonderfully the new actors really incorporated into the ensemble.” Though, as we saw last year with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, just because you’re wonderful doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make it out of the season alive.
Blindspotairs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.