'The Player' Creator Teases "Batshit Crazy" Twists for Wesley Snipes Series

John Rogers tells THR why he initially said that the NBC series "wouldn't work" and what has surprised him about Snipes.
Gregory Peters/NBC
NBC's 'The Player'

The Player isn't afraid to wear its weirdness — or its many explosions — on its sleeve. 

NBC's Las Vegas-set crime drama features Wesley Snipes as Mr. Johnson, who heads up a game in which wealthy people gamble on whether security expert Alex Kane (Philip Winchester, Fringe) can stop major crimes before they happen. 

Creator John Rogers spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about why he initially said that the show "wouldn't work," what has surprised him about teaming with Snipes and where the series is heading.

Read more 'The Player' Producers Promise Action, Pulp and Wesley Snipes Stunts

How would you describe the show in a sentence or two to convince someone on the street to watch?

A century-old conspiracy of the rich and powerful are gambling on crime, and one good man is now trapped in the middle. 

How did this series come together?

My friend John Fox, the producer on The Blacklist, had called, and we've known each other since I was working on features, and we occasionally bounce ideas off each other. And he was the one who said, "I have this idea about gambling on crime, but I can't grasp the framework." And I actually told him it wouldn't work. And I said, "Look, who's gambling on crime? Who would be so amoral? It would be the richest, most powerful, most amoral — oh, that's a great villain." There's been a lot of things in the news about predictive policing, the sort of profiling you do when you're hunting terrorists. We describe Cassandra King, who is Charity character on the show, as if the Jessica Chastain character from Zero Dark Thirty had broken bad. And then we said, "Who's the most interesting person to put in this?" And it's a man with a capacity for violence who would be tempted by this world, but who's trying to be a good man in the middle of it, and that really was the birth of the show. A big moral conundrum with an interesting individual dropped in the middle of it — and then explosions.

What will each episode entail? 

The fun of it is, we can gamble on any crime, and a lot of fun has been the writers coming in and saying, what's the one crime story you always wanted to write but couldn't make happen. He's not a cop — it's just his job whatever the bet is. So in the first couple episodes, we range from, can you stop a violent heist crew, to solve the mystery of a sniper who's hunting people from the towers of L.A., to keep a mob family safe while trying, to figure out exactly which one is trying to kill the other one. And then we have a straight-up serial killer hunt with a serial killer nobody knows exists.

What is it like to work with Wesley Snipes, and what is something that would surprise people about him?

What's been great about working with him is, first of all, [he's the] ultimate professional. The thing that surprised me most is how much fun he's having. In the pilot, he comes across as very dark because it is a pilot told through the point of view of Alex's character. But you see a little bit of his humor in the end of the pilot — he's playing a role in order to fool somebody. Mr. Johnson enjoys his life — he enjoys being this man of mystery, he enjoys being a mastermind. Wesley brings just some little great attitude or tone or style to every episode — some moment when we're watching the dailies that we did not anticipate. Mr. Johnson is not a good man, but he's an ethical man, and you have to respect that. 

At Comic-Con, Wesley discussed performing his own stunts. What are some big action scenes that are in store?

We shot a six-hour-long fight sequence the other day with Wesley in the middle of it because he insists on doing his [own stunts]. We have people jumping out of a C-130 [military aircraft], we have blowing up multiple cars on the highway. We are trying to give you the visual candy that lets you know you're in a big action show. At the same time, the show never forgets about the fact that you're very invested in these people's agendas.

Are there any big surprises or twists in the premiere?

There are two nice twists at the end of the premiere, but they're not just random twists. They motivate the characters to go on to do something, and they are things that we will explain, [so] that basically the audience is like, "OK, I'm asking the same questions as the characters are." And every episode, we either drop a clue, or flip a switch, or reveal something about someone's agenda, and the fact that we have not just the secret agenda of the conspiracy, but each one of the characters has their own agenda within it, allows us to really without stalling go, "This is the week where we find out a little a bit about the Cassandra's plan." "This is the week where we find out a little about Phillip's plan." "Oh, crap — that's where Mr. Johnson goes on his days off. That's terrifying!"

What kinds of storylines are you looking forward to telling later in the season?

One of the things we're looking forward to is opening up the mystery of the world behind the house as the audience gets more familiar with the show. The intrigue and the power plays — within the house and the game and the gamblers — begins to intrude on the show, and opening up the show's world like that is really cool. We're very much looking forward to [developing] Alex's emotional arc. He's a man who has issues with violence and a temptation towards it and tries not to do it but is constantly tempted because it allows him to right wrongs. 

What sets this show apart from everything else that's currently competing for viewers' time?

We just didn't want to be a clone of another show. When we sold it, I said to John Fox, "This concept is kind of batshit crazy, and I like that about it." The Player is not like anything-meets-anything. We are a weird, unique little action show that nobody else is doing right now, and we will stake their territory out very proudly.  

The Player airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC