Mad Dogs might look like a romp through the jungle but executive producer Shawn Ryan says it’s also a look at the plight of aging American men.
“This is a show about the uselessness of the middle aged man,” Ryan said during the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “American men are raised as kids with this idea of American exceptionalism. The idea of the American dream. You can achieve things. … These are men who have hit a ceiling, who aren’t going to achieve the dream they had when they were 20 or 25.”
Ryan (Terriers, The Shield) was tasked with adapting Mad Dogs from creator Cris Cole’s British series. He said he wasn’t interested in remaking a show that already stood on its own, but was intrigued by the opportunity to “craft these characters as American characters.”
The series stars Michael Imperioli, Billy Zane, Steve Zahn, Romany Malco and Ben Chaplin as 40-something friends who go on vacation to Belize, where things to awry.
The American version of Mad Dogs, which will stream on Amazon Instant Video for subscribers to the e-commerce company’s Prime service, follows the British version for its first four episodes but then diverges, explained Cole. “The British show was conceived as a four-part mini series,” he said, adding that because Amazon gave them 10 hour-long episodes, he could be more complex with the story and characters.
Chaplin stars in both the British and American series but as different characters. He noted that it was a challenge to switch roles. “It was only when the story started diverging that I became more comfortable,” he explained. “That pilot was a difficult thing to shoot.”
The cast and crew shot the series on location in Puerto Rico, which was a stand-in for Belize. Ryan noted that it wasn’t an easy shoot. “It was very hot, humid,” he explained, adding that Zahn got dengue fever while in the jungle. The actors were put through really difficult stuff. I was amazed how they were able to keep up their quality throughout.”
Zahn: “I’m happy being a crazy circus person going from Chicago, freezing your ass off to being in the jungle and having dengue fever. It’s hard to explain but I love it.”
Mad Dogs premieres Jan. 22 on Amazon Prime.