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Q&A – Henry Bromell (Executive Producer)

Henry Bromell, Rubicon‘s executive producer, spoke with AMCtv.com about his favorite episodes from Season One, his thoughts on slower pacing and the origin of Truxton Spangler’s name.

Q: The fan love for Rubicon has really been snowballing over the course of the season. What do you think it is about this show that resonates with fans?

A: I don’t know. The filmmaking is really beautiful and quite different from even shows on cable. It’s much more filmic and so it feels like a movie. And then I think these are really interesting characters who work in API. We’ve never seen a show about guys who do that part of intelligence. It’s a little bit obscure, but it’s awfully interesting.

Q: How much did contemporary events shape the Season One narrative while you were writing and producing?

A: A lot, in the sense that this is in part about American intelligence gathering post-9/11, and we did some stories that I know were issues that real [intelligence gatherers] have to deal with. For example, if you have good intelligence that a guy you’re pretty sure is a bad guy is going to be in a building, and you could send in a drone and strike and hit him but you know that there will be 50 other people in the building, what do you do? And they make these decisions all the time, for better or for worse.

Q: Is there an episode that you’re most fond of?

A: I think some of my favorite episodes are the ones that are self-contained. There was an episode where a couple of our guys had to go to a Guantanamo-like place and help interrogators figure out if they’re being told the truth or not. In the process, they witness the end result of what they do. Or there was another episode where the FBI came in and locked down the whole place because there was a leak. It was almost like a play. The whole episode was that day: nobody could go and nobody could call out.

Q: Where were the interrogation scenes shot?

A: We rent a building near the South Street Seaport in New York, on the East River, down at the end of Wall Street, and we have everything in there. All the offices and even Will’s apartment is there. For the interrogation scene, we took a couple of office rooms and just sort of dressed them up a bit.

Q: Do you have a hangout area in the building?

A: Not really. We used every square inch in the building. It’s a riot: every square inch. We did an episode where Tanya has to work down in the basement sorting through papers — we literally had to find a room we were using for storage and make that a basement.

Q: So where did you go to get away?

A: There’s a roof that we film on, but often when we’re downstairs filming inside, the roof is a nice place to get a cup of coffee and kind of clear our heads.

Q: Do you have a soft spot for any particular characters?

A: I’m very fond of them all. I think Truxton is awfully interesting, this guy who has his hands in several dirty pies. And I like Kale Ingram a lot. He’s so good at keeping everything to himself. It’s really hard to read him. [Pause.] I liked Grant a lot. He’s really been fun to write. I think we like writing Grant because he’s the guy you’re supposed to not like. He’s a little pompous and a little full of himself and gets defensive, but we found as we wrote him that he’s also sort of lovable.

Q: One of Rubicon‘s most distinguishing characteristics is its unhurried pace. Since so many television shows these days are crammed with action, did you ever feel pressure to follow suit?

A: Not really. Part of the idea from the beginning was that it would be paced the way it is, which is really what I call movie pacing from 20 years ago, sort of “pre” the quick cuts that we’re now addicted to. For me, I just thought it would be a relief for everybody, and also fun to enter a world that moves at that pace. So we really didn’t think about it, and as we started broadcasting the episodes and read all the comments, I was sort of curious to see what would happen. Some people complained and found it too slow. They just couldn’t downshift. Other people were delighted and would say things like “finally somebody is moving less than one thousand miles a second.” What’s been interesting is that over time, some of the people in the blogs who were finding it difficult in the beginning now really like it. That’s exactly what I hoped would happen for those who weren’t used to it.

Q: You wrote the second episode and wrote and directed the season finale. Would you like to write or direct more episodes in the future?

A: As the head writer, I sort of co-write all the episodes. That’s my job, to come up with the stories and to work with each writer on his or her own outline and to help them write their scripts and give them notes for the rewrites… I would like to do more directing because I love to direct, but it’s hard. I’ve got to be writing the scripts and editing and all that.

Q: Last but not least, people love Truxton Spangler’s name. Do you care to divulge where it comes from?

A: I went to school with a guy named Truxton. He and I played football together, and he knocked me out once because he’s bigger and strong than I am. So I used his first name. And Spangler, where did I get Spangler? I honestly don’t remember now. But I really like the sound of the two names together.

Click here to read an interview with David Rasche, who plays James Wheeler.

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