|POOLING TO PARADISEPARADISECOMEDY|
For Dean Devlin, the idea of the new WGN series Almost Paradise came about 14 years ago during his honeymoon in Hawaii. He connected with the island and was intoxicated by island culture, island justice and island spirituality — and wanted to make a show set in Hawaii. His soulful connection to island life made sense considering he is of Filipino descent. With that in mind, the idea for the show shifted.Christian Kane in ‘Almost Paradise’. Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
“As the years went on and I kept thinking about it, there was something there that wasn’t authentic to me,” Devlin told Deadline. “It was only a couple of years ago that the idea came to do it in the Philippines and then it changed everything. Then I got really excited about the project.”
Devlin is known for working on series such as The Librarians and Leverage and blockbuster features like Independence Day. It’s no surprise that he has found a career in Hollywood as his mother was an actress who appeared on the original Star Trek — the only Filipino actress to appear in the series as far as we know. That said, Devlin is making history on his own as he created the first American TV show that was entirely shot in the Philippines.
The series stars Christian Kane — who Devlin previously worked with on The Librarians — stars as Alex Walker, a former DEA agent who was forced into early retirement. After going through major obstacles including betrayal and health problems he decides to uproot to Cebu in the Philippines. But it isn’t long before he gets pulled into the dangerous world of the criminal elite of the Asian archipelago.Samantha Richelle in ‘Almost Paradise’ Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
Devlin recently wrapped Almost Paradise and they left the Philippines right before airports started to shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. He told us that telling a story connected to his DNA is something he has never done before and the fact that he got to employ Filipinos for the series made it even more exciting.
The series stars Kane in the lead, but also includes Filipino actors Samantha Richelle, Arthur Acuña, Nonie Buencamino and Ces Quesada. On top of that, he directed episodes alongside fellow accomplished Filipino directors including Irene Villamor, Hannah Espia and Dan Villegas.
Devlin talked to Deadline about shooting Almost Paradise which debuts tonight on WGN in the Philippines, the underrepresentation of Filipinos in film and TV and how the series showcases the Philippines like it has never been seen before.
DEADLINE: Was the majority the cast and crew of Almost Paradise Filipino, Filipino American...
Right now, everyone is looking for some kind of reprieve from being locked up at home due to the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon, but The Office executive producers Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman think they’ve figured out a way to make light of the situation by crafting a new workplace comedy series inspired by the sudden rise in employees working from home due to the outbreak of coronavirus forcing people to practice social distancing.
Deadline was first to learn of the currently untitled coronavirus comedy series, though it’s not necessarily about the pandemic. Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman, better known to The Office fans as the frequently maligned Toby Flenderson and one of Jim’s business partners at their company Athlead, are creating the series that is said to focus on “wunderkind boss who, in an effort to ensure his staff’s connectedness and productivity, asks them all to virtually interact and work face-to-face all day.”
The series is in the works at Big Breakfast, the comedy production banner Silverman runs, where he’ll executive produce the series along with and Luke Kelly-Clyne College Humor and Kevin Healey Scare Tactics. They’ll also be working with Howard Owens’ Propagate Content, which will have Rodney Ferrell serving as an executive producer as well.
Silverman, who was also once an NBC executive, explained the inception of the series and his hope for what it will become:
“So many of us are jumping on daily Zoom meetings — for work and beyond. We are in a new normal and are personally navigating ways to remain connected and productive at work and in our home lives. With the brilliant Paul Lieberstein at the helm, we think we have a series that not only brings humor and comfort during this troubling time but will also be an inventive and enduring workplace comedy for years to come.”
While the prospect of trying to craft a series around the coronavirus outbreak sounds like a bad idea at this time, there’s no indication that the pandemic will actually play a part in the overall concept of the series. In fact, it would be easy to pull something like this off without introducing such a grim plot device.
What I’m envisioning with this series is a show with a format that echoes what we’ve seen accomplished with movies like Unfriended and Searching. Both of those films play out entirely on computer or mobile device screens and successfully tell a solid narrative. Modern Family did something similar with an episode that unfolded across the ensemble cast’s various screens, and it worked pretty well. But if that’s what this series will be like, can that concept be sustained for an entire series? Or will they need to take...