The World Cup may be over, but TV viewers can still get their soccer fix from the El Rey Network’s original series “Matador,” which debuts Tuesday night.
And if you don’t like futbol, this still may be the show for you. After all, the titular character Tony “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is not only a player on the fictitious L.A. Riot, he’s also a spy. Yes, it’s got a little bit of everything — perhaps too much for some people at first blush. Luna told TheWrap that he’s heard the groan or two in every room where the soccer/spy thriller is introduced. But he’s not worried at all, he says — just watch it.
“The proof’s in the pudding, man,” Luna told TheWrap in a one-on-one interview following Thursday’s “Matador” TCA panel. “If they watch it I think they’ll like it … Yeah, it’s a little crazy, fantastical. But, its got the sense of a graphic novel, a great comic book, a great story of double identity and it’s a little bit — we’re coming with these big broad strokes, but we’re also doing something very intricate, cool and realistic. It’s a fantasy, it’s television; I think it’s okay to have fun and to write a show that’s a bit dream-like and a bit unbelievable.”
Luna promised that beyond Tuesday’s debut, “It only gets better.”
Just before the Luna interview, TheWrap sat down with showrunner Bob Orci and El Rey Network founder Robert Rodriguez to gauge what success for “Matador” — one of the big tests for Rodriguez’s shiny new El Rey Network — might look like. After all, the industry won’t be getting ratings for a while on the new network.
“Just the fact that we’re talking about it, to me, is already success,” Orci stated. “The fact that we actually got to make it, got to make the version of the show that we wanted, got to totally stick to our guns in terms of what we wanted to see, in terms of having there be a hero that I could look up to and that my friends could look up to and that my family could look up to … but then also just have it be just a great palette — just a great movie quality to it.”
Also read: El Rey Network Renews ‘Matador’ for Season 2
Rodriguez added: “We’re not rated, but if we had ratings, you wouldn’t want to look at a rating and go, it doesn’t compare, people don’t know about your network as much. But most people watching it, they’re loving what they’re seeing.”
“You know, ‘Breaking Bad’ was very low rated,” Rodriguez continued. “Once it hit Netflix and everybody could catch up, then it went up. ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ is about to hit Netflix, so people will hopefully get hooked on that and say, ‘Now I want to see the second season.’ The same with ‘Matador.'”
“There’s all these different ways, so you don’t want to judge something early on and go ‘Yeah, ‘Matador,’ we’re going to pull it,'” Rodriguez summed up. “That’s stupid. People who do that all the time, they get scared, because they never trusted their instinct to begin with. The only way they can measure their success is by looking at a result sheet. We’re a completely different network, we’re not at all like the other ones. If we did that, we lost by copying them. We’re starting a whole new structure, a whole new way of thinking about it and that includes our measuring stick of success.”
Back to Luna. To close, TheWrap asked the show’s lead some fun questions about the cast, storyline and his own experience. “Matador” kicks off Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on El Rey Network.
TheWrap: Best soccer player in the cast?
Gabriel Luna: I’d say Peter Gadiot, he’s spent some time in Holland. He’s half — his father is Dutch, his mother is from Mexico. Peter has more of a European influence in his life and the game — he’s pretty good. He’s got good feet.
Your character was hand-picked because he runs a 4.3 40-yard dash — do you know how fast you can run?
In high school, the fastest I ever ran was like a 4.67, that’s pretty fast. But then, I only weighed 168 pounds. Now, if I was clocked, I could still probably run sub-5.
Can you handle your tequila better than your character on the show?
Yeah, I don’t usually drink. It makes me want to fight, but I can drink.