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

The high-concept NBC drama will feature, on average, three "big kick-in-the-doors, action sequences" per episode.
Gregory Peters/NBC
'The Player'

The Player is poised to bring '80s action back to broadcast.

Or at least that's the plan, according to the NBC drama's cast and executive producers — four out of five of whom are named John — who turned up at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to promote the series Thursday. When it bows Sept. 24, Player will feature Wesley Snipes, in his first role as a series regular, as a Las Vegas casino pit boss, with Charity Wakefield playing a card dealer in games for high rollers. They turn to security expert Alex Kane, played by star Philip Winchester, who is grieving the death of his wife, to help them prevent the highest-stakes crimes before they happen.

John Rogers, who is billed as both the creator and showrunner of the series, said he approached Blacklist producer John Fox with the idea of doing a high-concept drama that would feature, on average, three "big kick-in-the-doors, action sequences" per episode. As it moved through the development process, the two Johns, along with the series' other producers, mapped out what will become a closed-ended thrill ride on a weekly basis.

Working in their favor is a team with plenty of experience in the genre. Winchester is best known for his action work on Cinemax’s Strike Back, which meant that he could do many of his own stunts on the NBC pilot. (Yes, that's really him riding his bike down Hollywood Blvd. in the pilot.) For his part, Snipes brings heavy martial arts expertise, which will also be utilized as the drama unfolds. "The stunts guy had a very easy day the day [that Winchester and Snipes] had their fight, they got to have coffee while the two of them tussled," Rogers said of his two male stars. And, of course, the many Johns have a slew of action flicks, including Transformers and upcoming The Man from U.N.C.L.E., on their collective resumes to draw from.

At one point during their panel, the second to last of the two-and-a-half-week tour, Rogers took issue with one critic’s characterization of The Player's plot-lines as borderline "ridiculous." The producer would much prefer "pulp," he told the Beverly Hilton ballroom, using that word as a catch-all for any drama that features "high velocity, big characters making big decisions" as Player does. Rogers added of his goal for this series: "We’re going to knock your socks off every week."

The remainder of the half-hour session was largely devoted to the producers assuring the room that the series’ premise could, in fact, hold up over a potential 22-episode season and beyond. "This show has the benefit of not only being hyperbolic in its action, but also has three very interesting, mysterious characters and there’s a mystery to unpack over the course of the season, " said exec producer John Zinman, adding that they're already hearing the pitch for episode 10 and know where the series goes beyond that. He added with a wide grin, "As long as these guys [the actors] stay healthy and we stay sane, this is sustainable."