'Blindspot' Has a Plan: Where the Show Will Go After the Premiere

Creator Martin Gero knows who tattooed Jane Doe and why.
Courtesy of NBC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of NBC's Blindspot.]

After an audacious opening sequence and a premiere episode explaining just enough about the condition the mysterious Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) finds herself in, the real work for NBC's Blindspot begins.

Namely, how does a show built upon an amnesiac covered in tattoos — including one of the name Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton), the FBI agent who becomes her handler — work on a week-in, week-out basis? Series creator Martin Gero (The L.A. Complex, Stargate: Atlantis) does in fact know where the show is headed and how Jane ended up in that duffle bag in Times Square. He and fellow executive producer Greg Berlanti discuss what viewers can expect from the show as it moves forward.

How do you see the show being structured week-to-week in terms of cases vs. character stories?

Gero: For me, what really got me excited to do a show like this is I think it can be a procedural for people who don't like procedurals and it can be a character drama for people who don't like character dramas. ... I was a Law & Order addict, but my favorite episodes were always the ones where you're like, "Oh no, Lennie's daughter is in trouble!" ... Every episode for us is a Lennie's daughter is in trouble episode.

Jane is obviously obsessed with who did this to her, what is the purpose of this map, does it have information about her, or is she just the messenger? For Weller, it's kind of an eerie thing to have a girl tattooed with your name on her back. So he's kind of desperate to find out who she is, and as of episode two comes up with a working theory that is incredibly personal to him — as it would be, obviously.

So week-to-week, there's going to be an investigation, a case that emanates from the tattoos, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. For us, what's really important is the character drama that's going on about this woman who's trying to find herself and this guy who's trying to put to rest some of his demons.

Jane has flashes of her ability to speak Chinese and fight in the pilot. Is that something you can repeat in every episode?

Gero: You have to be selective about it. We do have a bunch of special skills [for her] that we're going to show over the season. It becomes a bit of a gimmick if every week, she gets out of trouble because she's like, "Oh wait — I do know how to hang-glide." So we're being very selective about that. But what we are doing almost every episode is having her experiences trigger these very visceral flashbacks within her. The problem is they're completely without context. They sometimes work with what she's learning about herself, and they sometimes work at odds with what she's learned.

Have you mapped out who's behind Jane's predicament?

Gero: Yes. First of all, in today's environment when you're pitching TV shows, it's impossible to just walk in with a great pilot idea. ... On a show like this, when I pitched it to the networks, 10 minutes was spent on the pilot and 40 minutes was spent on season one, two and three. Also we have the burden of —  you see all the tattoos in the pilot. We really had to know where we were going because we have a treasure map. We needed to know where it ends and what its purpose was.

It was one of those things where I was bemoaning it —  "How is this ever going to get made? Why am I spending so much time putting work into season three?" But now that it's made, I'm so thankful we have that map, because there's no other way to do it. It's not a show where you can go, "What's going on in the world? Let's do a case about that." Each tattoo has a very clear raison d'etre, so to speak, as far as a bigger, overarching plan that the people who did this to her have. So we're rock-solid on that.

Having a plan is great, but you still have to be open to discovering things, right?

Berlanti: It's nice to have a plan, but you also have to have a plan that's flexible, because there are things you discover. As Martin has developed it, I think one of the things that's become more apparent is how much is the show a procedural every week and how much mythology is he uncovering and turning over. It's finding that balance, finding out which characters within the posse have what kind of dynamic and what particular kind of chemistry. And then there are our partners in the process at the studio and network, and really the audience and what you learn from testing as far as what's working or not working.

I think the best way to deal with those things is to have enough of a plan that you can augment it. The danger when you try to execute something like this and you have something as specific as this number tattoos on her body and she's been dumped there by some group or some person, you have to have an idea of where to go with that.

You give a nod to the craziness of the premise in the pilot. Why did you feel like that was important to do?

Gero: When we showed people the pilot, what they reacted to negatively — which was very little, thankfully — but they felt like some of the action set pieces were a little too unbelievable. What was amazing was we were like, "So that's unbelievable, but an amnesiac found in Times Square with a treasure map on her body, that feels real?" And they were like, "Absolutely." [Laughs.] You can only ask an audience to make so many buys, and I think what we've done is ground the show so hard in reality, because absolutely,  the premise is out there. That's the one buy we're asking people to make, but everything else, we play by the rules of the real world.

 

Greg, what's your involvement like on Blindspot, since you also have so many other shows on the air?

Berlanti: With any new show, I'm there as much as I'm anywhere else. The best role I can serve is to guide and help and be of service to Martin. Some days that means helping him break a story, some days that means helping him do a cut. Some day's it's just giving feedback. I tried it the other way one time in my career, where I thought, "Oh, OK, this person's got that, and I'll just be over here." But you want to be on the ground floor of all those things. Whether or not they work, you know you gave it everything you have to help it succeed.

How will the relationship between Jane and Weller develop over the course of the season?

Gero: I definitely think they have an enormous amount of chemistry, and they're in the middle of something that not anyone else can really understand. That breeds an intimacy that can't help but make the feelings confusing. I think how complicated those emotions are is rich storytelling ground. So it's not a straight line of will they/won't they. It's "what's healthy?" Is what they're feeling real, or is it just because they're going through this? As of episode two, you get a real strong sense for who Weller thinks she is, and that comes with an enormous amount of baggage for him.

... For us, the title Blindspot is kind of twofold. Obviously she has a huge blind spot where her memory used to be; she has no idea who she is. But he has kind of an emotional blind spot for her. He's a guy who's used to being able to look very objectively at every situation. As the series continues, he finds it harder and harder to be objective about Jane, which is kind of a novel and confusing question for him.

What did you think of the Blindspot premiere? Are you in? Blindspot airs Mondays on NBC.

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