A shift for USA Network from the very beginning, the dark series “Graceland” ends its first season with several questions answered and others left open for the recently announced second season.
Dark and venturing into the dangerous belly of the illegal drug trade, “Graceland” follows a group of undercover federal agents living in a beachfront safe house. Such a departure for the network, “White Collar” creator Jeff Eastin worked out the entire season early in production in order to show the network where the series was going.
“I pitched a huge percentage of it in the beginning, and we knew well in advance where the series would go,” Eastin told TheWrap.
“We knew about the drug addiction, we knew going in that this would be a season about revenge, that everyone would be seeking revenge on these people, on the guy who burned down the estate, who killed Lisa, the woman Briggs loved. So, all of that was worked out with the writing staff, who really were exceptional. We got into the details later, but the broad strokes — we knew that literally when I was pitching the show to USA, those were laid in.”
On last week’s penultimate episode, rookie cop Mike (Aaron Tveit) and Paige (Serinda Swan) find themselves always one step behind Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) and Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren). That leaves Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) in danger as she unknowingly works with the season’s Big Bad, Jangles (Vincent Laresca).
We spoke with Eastin about the decisions he and the show’s writers made and talked about how fans should approach Thursday’s season finale airing at 10/9c after the “Burn Notice” series finale.
TheWrap: You’re on Twitter. Did planning “Graceland” so early become an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to reacting to fans’ opinions?
Jeff Eastin: I’m very active on Twitter starting with “White Collar,” and you know there are advantages and disadvantages. For a show like “White Collar,” I think there are more advantages, because you can adjust a little bit. A show like “Graceland,” I think it was definitely an advantage to not have that feedback. He lives in such a grey area that I’m afraid that if I had been watching the social media feedback at the time I might have been inclined to soften the edges on Briggs because one week people are hating Briggs and one week people are loving him.
Like Mike, it’s tough to figure out what to believe about Briggs. What is the most important thing for fans to remember about Briggs going into the season finale?
His desire for revenge really brings him down and creates the disillusionment and destruction that happens throughout the whole season to Briggs and the people he loves. To me, Briggs sets up for revenge, and that’s the only evil he ever really does. The rest of the time, I think it’s important to remember about Briggs is that his heart is in the right place. He’s not seeking to hurt people. What he’s seeking to do is try to make things right, but that’s where things really get destroyed.
With all that Mike has experienced with Briggs, what’s still driving his desire to clear Briggs?
It’s really Mike’s journey throughout the season. He’s the protagonist, he’s the guy that makes the biggest change. He starts up new and comes into this and Mike does have a very intense drive to be the best. They’re the two guys with the biggest secrets, and Mike can’t open up! And he can’t do it, because essentially he’s got these secrets. I think for Mike, a lot of what is driving him now is the desire for the truth, but even more so, I think it’s to best Briggs. Mike’s the new guy and Briggs is a little smarter, a little better, a little farther ahead, and the consequence of that is that Mike wants to be him for that reason.
While reading the episode reviews, many people are a bit taken aback from the sudden history that has popped up between Briggs and Jakes. Is that something you’ll explore more?
Season 1 was really about Briggs’ journey and how it affects everybody else. Season 2 is really much more about the characters. You’re going to see more explanation. There are great storylines–for example, in a good one we hint at this stuff that happened between Briggs and Jake in the past and we’re going explore that as well as a lot of the other characters. Charlie–I think her back-story is a favorite of the network right now–and we’ll get into that.
It was interesting that you revealed Jangles’ identity already. Was there some discussion in the writers’ room over that decision?
We gave it away in the episode when Charlie and he are at the diner and the camera pulls away and you see the bullet hole in his shoulder. It’s so dark that I don’t think you can really see the blood seeping through, and the jacket — but we had some debates about that. It’s always interesting because we try to hold it, most of the audience will guess it anyway, because whenever you set up a “whodunit” like that any new character immediately becomes suspicious. So, we had some big debates and we decided it’s going to be tough to keep it hidden anyway. For example, when I was watching twitter, I’d say about 10 percent of the audience picked up the fact that the guy who stabs Mike in that episode is wearing the same suit as the federale. So, the people are already on top of it. So, really for us it was really approaching it from a different way. Usually for a show like this it’ll be dropping hints for the sake of the audience, but in this case it’s for the sake of Charlie and the idea here was to kind of watch her moments of discovery as she starts to put it together.
The majority of what we did was always heavily thought out. And it’s up to you guys to decide whether we did a good job or not.