Melissa George Stars in HUNTED Drama Series, Debuting on Cinemax, 10/19
From "The X-Files" writer and producer Frank Spotnitz comes HUNTED, an eight-episode drama series set in the world of international espionage. Golden Globe nominee Melissa George (HBO's "In Treatment") stars as Sam Hunter, a skilled, gutsy operative for Byzantium, a secretive private firm involved in global intelligence and espionage. After surviving an attempt on her life that may have been orchestrated by members of her own team, she returns to work, but doesn't know who to trust. Shot on location in Europe, the primetime suspense show debuts FRIDAY, OCT. 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) on CINEMAX.
The cast of HUNTED also includes Adam Rayner ("Hawthorne," "Dragon Age: Redemption"), Stephen Dillane (HBO's "Game of Thrones" and "John Adams"), Stephen Campbell Moore ("The Bank Job," "The History Boys"), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje ("Lost," CINEMAX's "Strike Back"), Morven Christie ("The Sinking of the Laconia"), Lex Shrapnel ("Captain America: The First Avenger"), Indira Varma ("Human Target," HBO's "Rome"), Dhaffer L'Abidine ("Sex and the City 2") and Patrick Malahide ("Billy Elliot," HBO's "Five Days").
In addition to Frank Spotnitz, who wrote four episodes and co-wrote another episode, writers on the series include Simon Allen ("M.I. High"), Smita Bhide ("The Blue Tower") and Christian Spurrier ("MI-5"), who each wrote one episode, and Amira El Nemr ("Luther"), who co-wrote one episode.
Directors for the series include SJ Clarkson ("Life on Mars"), Daniel Percival (co-executive producer of season one of the CINEMAX series "Strike Back"), James Strong ("Downton Abbey") and Alrick Riley ("MI-5"), each of whom directed two episodes.
HUNTED is produced by Kudos Film & Television ("MI-5," "Life on Mars") in association with Big Light Productions for CINEMAX and BBC One.
HUNTED marks the second recent original primetime series on CINEMAX, following last year's Emmy(R)-nominated hit action drama "Strike Back," which was the first original primetime series on the network in more than 15 years, and is currently in its second season. The third original CINEMAX series to debut will be "Banshee," which is executive produced by Alan Ball (HBO's "True Blood") and slated to debut in Jan. 2013.
HUNTed Follows two primary story lines: Sam Hunter's journey to discover who is behind the attempt on her life and Byzantium's mission itself, both of which have larger implications. As the story unfolds, it becomes hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Uncertain of its clients' motives, the Byzantium team often finds itself working in a gray area, forcing Sam to operate in complete secrecy for her own safety.
Frank Spotnitz envisioned HUNTED as a complex international thriller, noting, "I love the spy genre. It's one of my all-time favorite things. I grew up watching so many spy movies and shows. Because the viewing choices have never been greater on television, no longer does the work have to be homogenized the way it used to. It has allowed writers and producers to do really interesting, sophisticated work. I think that television's never been better than it is today because of that - because of the freedom you have as a creator."
As he researched the background for his characters, he was intrigued to find real firms and people to inspire the show's stories and people.
"I was working on the character of Sam and her moral complexity when I discovered that there were all these private security firms," Spotnitz reveals. "I didn't know that there are actually thousands of these private spy agencies around the world. They draw their personnel largely from special forces and government spy agencies. They are really interesting because their operatives aren't told who their clients are, and I realized I haven't seen that before in movies or TV.
"I first met a woman who had worked for a private security firm. She is nothing like Sam's character, but in terms of her biography, she is pretty much like Sam, and has done the kind of work that Sam does. She's a very attractive young woman who worked for the British government and then worked for a private security firm after serving in Afghanistan. After that, I met a number of operatives from different security firms in London."
"You don't want to cross Sam," says Melissa George of her character. "She is still the firm's best operative, but since the attempt on her life, any trust she had for the firm and her co-workers is gone. That is why she is so determined to go back to work and face her team - she really believes that one of them is behind it. She is a very complicated person and not easy to get to know."
Sam's troubled childhood not only figures into the mystery of the series, but is key to understanding George's portrayal of her character. Spotnitz observes, "What happened to her as a child has helped make her who she is, and that has made her very good at what she does. You have to believe she has that strength, you have to believe she has that intelligence, and you have to believe she is beautiful enough to be the type of woman that could go and seduce these men."
Embodyingboth strength and vulnerability, Sam is a contradiction. These characteristics make her an asset to the team, allowing her the flexibility to maneuver within her missions and adapt to the circumstances she encounters.
George underwent rigorous physical training for the role, including instruction in martial arts techniques used for hand-to-hand combat, weapons disarming and high-impact blows. She learned the Keysi fighting method, which focuses on self-defense by studying natural instincts and evolving modern urban environments, and was previously showcased in the feature film "The Bourne Supremacy."
"The training for HUNTED was the hardest thing I think I will ever experience," George recounts. "Frank was adamant on having an actress who will go the distance and fight for real - if I couldn't physically do it, we wouldn't shoot it. I learned Keysi, a technique of realistic street fighting that employs moves that are very basic, but deadly. I have never in my life felt more adrenaline than when we do the fight scenes. I don't sleep the night before, and I'm anxious to make Sam as skilled as she is written on the page. For the first time, I forgot about me and was purely fighting for my life as Sam. I don't want to be an actress for hire and pretend; Sam is so wonderfully layered and deserves whoever portrays her to do her justice. I think I actually want to be her."
She continues, "When the trauma of her past resurfaces, it sends her down a certain path. In many ways, she identifies with Eddie, the child she is tutoring in her mission. Because of their similar experiences, he has a huge effect on her that she wasn't anticipating. She struggles with caring too much, which can be a liability in her business."
From the top operative who can make or break a mission and the team leader whose personal life is in sharp contrast to his work life, to the boss who has no trouble reconciling his missions with the goals of his questionable clients and the new member who is less comfortable with the morally ambiguous situations they face, the characters on HUNTED offer different perspectives on the story.
"Each member of the team has a distinct point of view about what they do," Spotnitz explains. "The boss, Rupert Keel, refuses to judge his clients, thereby avoiding any morality associated with it. New team member Ian Fowkes is somewhat like us, discovering the true nature of the work bit-by-bit. He calls certain things into question, like many of us would."
Episode #1: "Mort" Debut date: FRIDAY, OCT. 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) Other CINEMAX playdates: Oct. 19 (11:00 p.m., midnight), 20 (9:00 p.m., 11:50 p.m.), 21 (12:45 p.m., 11:00 p.m.), 22 (11:50 p.m.), 23 (12:20 a.m.), 24 (8:00 p.m.) and 31 (7:00 p.m.), and Nov. 7 (6:00 p.m.), 14 (5:00 p.m.), 21 (4:00 p.m.) and 28 (3:00 p.m.) Sam Hunter (Melissa George), an operative for the elite private intelligence and security firm Byzantium, is finishing a mission in Tangier when an attempt on her life leaves her critically injured. Not knowing who tried to kill her, she disappears to a remote location to recover, regroup and retrain. Returning to work unannounced nearly a year later, Sam surprises her co-workers, who are suspicious about her disappearance, especially Aidan Marsh (Adam Rayner), her secret lover. Her bosses, Rupert Keel (Stephen Dillane) and Deacon Crane (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), retain doubts about her, but need their best agent for an important new assignment. The team devises a plan to have Sam infiltrate a family headed by powerful millionaire Jack Turner (Patrick Malahide), a man with a criminal past whose ambitions are at odds with Byzantium's secret client. Written by Frank Spotnitz; directed by SJ Clarkson.
Episode #2: "LB" Debut date: FRIDAY, OCT. 26 (10:00-11:00 p.m.) Other CINEMAX playdates: Oct. 26 (11:30 p.m.), 27 (9:00 p.m., 11:45 p.m.), 28 (12:45 p.m.), 29 (11:40 p.m.), 30 (1:15 a.m.) and 31 (8:00 p.m.), and Nov. 7 (7:00p.m.), 14 (6:00 p.m.), 21 (5:00 p.m.) and 28 (4:00 p.m.) Brought into the household by Turner's son Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore) to tutor his son Edward (Oscar Kennedy), Sam and the team continue surveillance of Jack Turner's secret activities. They know that he is bidding for a multi-billion dollar dam in Pakistan, but his true motives elude them. Meanwhile, team members Zoe Morgan (Morven Christie) and Ian Fowkes (Lex Shrapnel) track a briefcase that was delivered to Turner. Written by Frank Spotnitz; directed by SJ Clarkson.