“Necessary Roughness” operates in a very new world when it returns for its third season on Wednesday.
“We didn’t blow up the premise,” executive producer Craig Shapiro said of the changes on-set of the USA drama in Atlanta. “We just moved it a little sideways. It’s a logical evolution. That’s what we’re calling it.”
Pulled off the football field, the series now revolves around a behemoth talent agency, which opens up Long Island therapist Dr. Dani’s (Callie Thorne) range of clientele beyond football players.
The changes are fueled by a desire to expand its audience. Ratings for the series fell during its second season. About 2 million viewers tuned into its second season finale versus the 4 million viewers who tuned in the previous season. USA asked the producers to explore new horizons for the series.
“I think we felt like we had a core audience that likes our whole sort of world of ‘Necessary Roughness,’ but there is what I call ‘the samplers,’ who it wasn’t shiny enough for them,” executive producer and the director of the episode shooting the week we were on-set, Kevin Dowling, explained.
“Even Shakespeare had to play to the groundlings,” he continued. “‘How do you make it shiny but still keep the basic core of it?’ So, we said, “Uber agency.'”
To give the show more sheen, USA approved of building a new set. The set for V3, the show’s new “uber agency,” is inspired by “a little Google, a little CAA, a little Apple — the Cupertino Headquarters,” described Shapiro.
At two stories and 35,000 square feet, seven episodes in there are still rooms that the production has yet to use. “It’s been spectacular,” Dowling said.
“To get that in a third year of a series is a great vote of confidence,” he continued. “Normally, you don’t build huge, big, very expensive sets if you don’t expect, as [USA co-president] Jeff Wachtel said, “I didn’t order a third season, I ordered what I hope will be a third, fourth, fifth, sixth season.”
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Of course, there’s some extra shine generated by the presence of John Stamos, who plays the talent agency’s charismatic founder, Connor McClane. In fact, the role was written for the still youtful looking “Full House” star.
“It began to evolve that ‘OK, someone’s got to run this joint, who’s it going to be?’ And, immediately, we said, “OK, I don’t know if we’re going to get him, but it’s John Stamos,'” Shapiro said.
Stamos, who only knew that the show revolved around sports (he’s not a sports fan) and that “Rescue Me’s” Thorne (whom he is a fan of) starred, gave the show a look after being approached for the role.
“It was one of those roles that I thought, ‘I’ve got to start playing adult characters with power,'” Stamos said. “I think you get caught up in Peter Pan syndrome. You’re fifty years old; you’ve got to start playing some adult characters. When this came around, it seemed like a perfect fit.”
While “The Vampire Diaries” and “Alias” alum David Anders plays bad cop to his good cop, Stamos warns against sizing up his character too early.
“The way the character turned out is this interesting, duplicitous guy who you think one side’s good and one side’s bad, but you don’t know,” the actor said.
Though Marc Blucas (and his character’s on-again-off-again relationship with Dr. Dani) is out — he’s now on ABC’s upcoming series, “Killer Women” — Mehcad Brooks and Scott Cohen return.
They’ll be joined by guest stars Autumn Reeser, Raphael Sbarge, Ioan Gruffudd and New York Giants player Justin Tuck.
“Necessary Roughness” debuts its 10-episode third season on Wednesday at 10/9c on USA.